Thursday, March 5, 2015

Surgery and Stitches and Bandages...Oh My!

Over the last few years I have been sick with recurring abscesses in my right breast.  They have been happening for no other reason, that any of my doctors can figure out anyway, than my immune system sucks something awful.  Normally they see a breast abscess in nursing mothers (and as I have discussed, I am not one) and heavy smokers (I am not one of those either).  What has left my doctors stumped has been the lovely fact that normal people can have bacteria find its way into their body and their immune system, with the help of an occasional antibiotic, can fight it off.  So, the regular course of treatment for a breast abscess is antibiotics, draining if necessary, and then the abscess is gone.  In my case, my body doesn't fight it off so my doctor had to keep going in and either aspirating the abscess with a needle (which would cause an autoimmune flare up) or drain the fluid through an incision (which would cause an enormous autoimmune flare up).  In both scenarios, I would be put on heavy duty antibiotics.
Once my breast surgeon started reading up on the awful mystery that is autoimmune disease, she understand to get that my body, more specifically my immune system, was not like the others. After years of this, we finally put a plan together to bring me into the operating room and remove any and all diseased tissue and ducts. It was a great plan...then she left for her dream job at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York. Thankfully she left the details of our plan for both the other doctor in her practice and the doctor who would be chosen to replace her.  Unfortunately the other doctor in her practice (let's just call him the Grumpy Dinosaur) didn't agree with her plan.  When I presented again with symptoms, he wouldn't do an ultrasound that was in the room, something that is standard procedure, and wouldn't even talk about the surgical plan my surgeon and I put together.  He only said that surgery was a bad idea because there was no way to do it without losing my nipple.  He put me on an antibiotic and sent me on my way.  So I just decided to bide my time until they found a replacement for my doctor.  
When I couldn't take the pain anymore, I called the office and told them I needed an appointment right away.  Since I saw the Grumpy Dinosaur last, the receptionist assumed I wanted to see him and told me he wasn't available for two days.  I asked if the new doctor had been hired and she (thankfully) said yes.  Since I didn't want the Grumpy Dinosaur to treat me ever again and I was starting to get really bad sign of infection, I took the appointment for later that day with the new, and I must say wonderful, Doctor C.  When I got there a few hours later Doctor C was ready for me.  Not only did he ready my entire file (notes from my previous surgeon included), but he actually used an ultrasound!  He did a needle aspiration, prescribed antibiotics and we put a plan in place for the surgery, which, contrary to the Grumpy Dinosaur's nasty ramblings, would not involve me losing my nipple.  
On February 25th I let Doctor C bring me into the operating room and remove all of the diseased tissue and ducts that have been the constant source of making me sick off and on for years, but most recently really sick for the last 2 months or so.  He removed a good amount of tissue that he said, "was seriously diseased and looked nasty," removed the infected ducts and kept my nipple in place. Doctor C even called my house the next day to see how I was feeling and to give me the good news that there was no breast cancer found in the tissue samples (YEAH!!!!!!!).  I have spent the last week recovering from both the surgery and an enormous, ass kicking flare up from hell.  My saving grace has been my boss, at the job I started one week before I first saw Doctor C, has been letting me work from home.  I am truly grateful for that. I saw Doctor C today and I have been cleared to go back to work on Monday provided that I come home an rest after.  
Whenever things get rough you tend to find out who your real friends are. Christina, who is an essential oils guru extraordinaire, came over and brought me her special blends that help combat inflammation. Tika came over to follow my mom to the mechanic so my car could be inspected while I was recuperating and sat with me for a while to just talk, laugh and even cry while we caught up. Greg has been texting me each just to make sure I am on the road to healing. Lindsay has been checking in to see how I am and if I need anything. Anne Margaret has been checking in to see if I need to vent about this crappy post-op flare up.  Marianne gave me a whole bunch of bandages, hypoallergenic medical tape and other good things she had left over from her surgery after kicking breast cancer's punk ass all over the playground.  Last, put certainly not least, my mom, who has been my nurse through each and every single abscess procedure.  She has been setting her alarm for the middle of the night to make sure I got my pain meds on time and that I was ok.  Mom, all I can say is thank you and I love you.  I am very lucky to be your daughter.
So, this is why I haven't written too much over the last few months.  I have been fighting the good fight. Hopefully this surgery will make this a fight I never have to do battle with again.