Surgical Oncology – That journey ends here….

Last week was my six month post mastectomy check up with the surgical oncology dept.
I know, the math doesn’t quite add up….as, its now 7 months since I said bye bye to the ‘girls’.

I was actually half considering canceling the appointment.
With hindsight, I wish I had.
It was the most pointless, not to mention uncomfortable, consultation I’ve ever had.

It all started with a standoffish and extremely condescending nurse…..and I really don’t like condescending people.
After she’d taken my vitals, she handed me a gown.
Now I realize that most patients are there pre surgery, and that the nurses aren’t always aware what the appointment is about, so I asked her if it was really necessary for me to undress, and explained that there wasn’t, in my opinion, anything left to examine.
Apparently, that was not a good question to ask.
She stormed to the door, threw it open and shouted out in the hallway to the doctor, ‘she wants to know if it’s really necessary (in a sarcastic tone) to undress?’
I swear I could’ve died on the spot.
I didn’t hear a reply, but she turned back to me, said a firm, ‘Yes!’ and then left the room.

I’ll be the first to admit, after that little episode, I was no longer in the running for the ‘most upbeat attitude of the day’ award.

A few minutes later, the doctor entered the room.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the surgeon himself, but his PA.
I wouldn’t have minded too much, but the last time I had a consult with her, it didn’t go down too well with me.
I’m not a difficult person by any means, but to be told by someone that ‘she wishes she’d had my pathology results instead of hers, and that she’d had to have chemo and pretty much all I had to have was a mastectomy and maybe radiation’ really wasn’t what I’d wanted to hear back at my pre surgical visit, and to be honest, wasn’t very professional.
Breast cancer is not a battle of who got it worse.

So I was really hoping this consultation would go much better.

Her initial attitude was promising.
She greeted us like we were old buddies.
We chatted a little on how I’d been doing.

Then I mentioned the concerns I have about the increasing pain and weakness in my left arm.
How it was getting so weak now, that I had recently been trying to get out of the bath tub when my arm totally gave way on me and I fell.
How I’d split open my elbow, bashed my arm against the tub side, resulting in a nasty bruise, and then hit my head on the way down.
That it’s gotten to the point where I can hardly even raise my arm at all, I wake up every night in pain and every morning it feels worse than it did the day before and if, god forbid, I slightly twist it without thinking, I’m in full on almost pass out nauseating agony.
She told me, ‘keep doing your exercises and if it gets any worse, your doctor can maybe refer you for physical therapy’.
(Did I mention, I hadn’t been given any exercises to do?)

Then came the physical exam.
She was happy with the healing. No abnormalities found in the lymph nodes in my neck or under my arms.
She informed me the surgical oncologist doesn’t think it’s necessary for me to have my ovaries removed at this point, or that I need to take Tamoxifen, I was so thankful for that.
I did feel a little uncomfortable though when she pointed out how ‘nice and soft’ my implants felt.
But then I’ve never been to a surgical oncology post op checkup before, maybe that’s something they usually check and comment on, who knows.

But after that it got very uncomfortable.
She brought up the subject of further reconstruction.
Now it wasn’t the subject matter that I felt uncomfortable with.
Heck when it comes to the words ‘breasts’ ‘nipples’, ‘areola’ etc; I have zero embarrassment left.

No, it was how she responded to the answers I gave to her questions.
She asked me if I had considered nipple reconstruction.
I told her I’d already discussed this with my PS and that it wasn’t something I wanted to do.
Her response, ‘I had it done.’
I wasn’t quite sure why we she felt needed to know that, or why she thought it was relevant.
So I just laughed it off and said that at almost 50, and with no intentions of entering any wet tee shirt competitions in the very near future, nipples were not a big priority for me.

So then she suggested tattooing.
Again, I said it had been discussed and I wasn’t interested in that either.
And again she felt the need to share that she’d had it done.
By now, she was making me feel like I was giving the wrong answers, as if my decision to not go through with further reconstruction was somehow unreasonable to her.
My (in fact our, if I include hubby) comfort level had dropped quite a lot by this point.
I began to feel the need to explain myself, make excuses for why I didn’t want to do what she did.
So I told her that I’m enjoying not having to wear bras at this stage because as there is nothing but skin, I’m not feeling ‘underdressed’ or that I’m indecently ‘exposing’ myself.
And yes, she just had to share with us that she wasn’t wearing a bra that day either.

So at that point we pretty much tried to wrap up the appointment and get out of there as fast as possible.

I promised to attend further check up appointments every six months, then once a year.
(I didn’t promise it would be at THAT hospital)
She then handed me her card and ‘looked forward to seeing me again.’
(Yeah, that’s not going to happen)
As she was leaving the room, she apologized to hubby for the TMI,  but reminded him he’d just spent his afternoon with two braless women.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen my husband speechless before.

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4 Responses to Surgical Oncology – That journey ends here….

  1. I like your courage and conviction!!


    • Tracey says:

      Thank you Cybele, I was fortunate that my journey with Breast cancer was a short one, physically, I blogged with the hopes that someone, somewhere, with the same diagnosis could get some comfort (understanding of the process) out of my posts 🙂


  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Tracey! Such a long time. I can’t state enough how much your blog has helped me through my surgeries last year. Your attitude about the whole thing confirmed the fact that I did not have to have a whoa-is-me attitude. Your funny posts really helped me through the rocks in the breasts, the procedures, and the drains!!!! And as I check back 6 months later, we are still on the same page. No nipple reconstruction or tatooing for me. Although I am single, and don’t have a loving husband, such as yourself, I am so happy and confident with my decision, and I have never looked back.

    We have continued to live our lives after dealing with it. Just another bump in the road. It’s great to see your blog focusing on your passion. Your pictures are beautiful! I looked at your Christmas pics, and they are just delightful…even the solemn girl…I thought it was beautiful.

    I don’t surf the web often, but hope to come back and visit soon! I have website of my quilting, but I have a hard time posting them. Correction, I don’t take the time. I’ve got to!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tracey says:

      Well hello there!! 🙂
      So nice to hear from you. I thought about you this Christmas, and was wondering how you were doing.
      I’m assuming the healing process went well in the end? Did you manage to quit smoking? (I didn’t…totally no willpower.)
      It makes me happy to hear that my posts helped you 🙂 It can be a difficult journey, especially emotionally, and at times people don’t understand the struggle we do go through.
      Because we don’t have to suffer through horrendous chemo treatments and such, people seem to think it’s a walk in the park, but as you know, it’s not, and to know someone out there really ‘gets you’ can be a blessing.

      Thank you for the kind words on my pictures. I’m enjoying taking them even more so these days. Hubby bought me a photography course right before my diagnosis. I did start it, but then left off when I had surgery.
      I’ve picked it back up, and am determined to finish, and hopefully improve greatly with my photography skills.

      You must have a ton of patience if you quilt. I actually made one once, it took what seemed like forever to finish, and it was only a small one. 😉

      Again, it’s really nice hearing from you. 🙂


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