Friday, December 17, 2010

Not on My Christmas List: Axillary Lymph Node Dissection

Dr. Cross called this afternoon.  The pathology report came back positive.  The lymph node is malignant.  Surgery is a go for December 23rd; I'll know more details on Monday.  It will be outpatient and I'll be home and on painkillers that evening...and probably for several days. 


I did ask if we could still plan to drive south to see my in-laws on Christmas day, returning the next day (not our usual norm, but neither are most things this year).  He thought that might be fine, as long as we stopped every hour or so and I got out and walked around.  Don't want any blood clots.  He said he'd be available and I could call with any problems.

As far as surgery goes, he will be removing a lot of lymph nodes.  This is called an axillary lymph node dissection.  He said maybe 15 to 20 will be removed; it all depends.  Said he'd know when he got in there.  I want them gone, gone, gone...and ASAP.  He agrees with me.  Only thing is, I will now be at a MUCH higher risk for lymphedema...a very unpleasant and lifelong side effect of this type of surgery.

Many of you are asking why this wasn't done in the first place.  Well, in the first place, during my mastectomy, they did something called a sentinel node biopsy.  This is where they shoot dye into the breast a few hours before surgery.  This dye goes to the sentinel node, so the doctor knows which one to remove.  He removes the nodes that the dye highlights, a pathologist checks then and there for cancer, if none is found, that's it. If they find something, more nodes are removed. (In my surgery, the three nodes removed were clean and clear.  No cancer.) 

They then take these nodes to the lab and do even more in-depth testing to make sure there are no cancer cells hiding there.  If this were the case, I would have been back pretty quickly to get more nodes removed. 

I vividly remember the happy call I got from Dr. Cross telling me my nodes were clear.  And I have that lovely path report saying they found "no evidence of malignancy" in those same nodes.  So, the fact that this lymph node has now presented with cancer is most disturbing. 

Again, I am the woman in that vast minority whose body doesn't do what they thought it would.  They should know by now that this is how my body rolls.  Nothing has gone as planned.  My body is a freak of nature.  (We've all known that for a long time, haven't we?) 

I asked him about chemo and how soon that will happen.  He's thinking it's possible that I will start the week following surgery...about two weeks before he'd normally want it to happen.  He said, and I agree, that we need to hit this hard and fast.  (Considering my last chemo - the one that didn't work - ended Sept 30, I think it's too late for fast.)  After chemo, six weeks of radiation will follow.  I'm ready.

I am trying to visualize this time next year...when this is all some kind of bad memory and only lends to my storytelling.  I know I will be dealing with cancer for the rest of my life, though.  I'm just praying it's a long enough life that they find some way to deal with triple negative breast cancers and can make my life last even longer.  I have way too much ahead of me that I do not want to miss.  Pray for the researchers, scientists, anyone and everyone who is taking this seriously, sees the urgency to find a cure for this hideous and evil disease, and is doing something about it.


  1. Oh Patti - there are no words = only prayers in the Spirit with groanings he interprets to the Father. Satan keeps trying to knock you down -Still praying and speaking complete healing - God is still a God of miricles. Still praying for a hedge of protection from Satan's arrows and a sense of peace, calm, and comfort for you and your family along with wisdom for you and those treating you in the choices that you face. We especially be holding you in prayer on the 23rd. Love you.

  2. Love you and praying for you daily <3

  3. If your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Matthew 17:20 I hear some creaking already...

  4. Patti, love you guys and praying for a peaceful holiday season!!! Would like to bring goodies on Christmas Eve!!!

  5. thinking of you this evening with love and prayers. Brenda

  6. Patti, thinking about you and praying you are on the mend from your surgery. Looking forward to an update when you are up for it. Rhonda