Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Medical Update: Surgery Preparation

As I mentioned in my previous post, my oncologist decided to suspend my chemotherapy treatments last week in order to see if my tumor has shrunk enough to go ahead and proceed with surgery. Yesterday (1/31) I had an MRI to check the status of the tumor. You might remember that a few months ago we discovered that I am allergic to the contrast dye used in MRI scans. So this time they gave me a three-day treatment of Benadryl and Prednisone to prevent me from having an allergic reaction. Thankfully, it worked great – I had no reaction at all! And better still, the MRI scan revealed good news: my tumor has shrunk by more than 50%! While we it would have been wonderful to have the tumor go away completely, the doctors were satisfied with my progress and have scheduled my surgery to be on Friday, February 11th. 

So today (2/1) we made the 90 mile drive to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in Charleston to get everything arranged for the surgery. We started by meeting with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Patrick O’Niell. He filled us in on a few details for the reconstruction portion of my surgery and then sent me off to get a CT scan of my abdomen and to take care other pre-operative details. The CT scan uses different contrast dye than the MRI, so we did not think I would get an allergic reaction. But with all of the reactions I have been getting lately, I should have known better. I had an allergic reaction to the CT dye as well…my throat became swollen and it was a little hard to breath. The doctors were able to complete the scan and then gave me Benadryl and a few other drugs to counteract the reaction. They said the reaction would probably have been more severe if I had not had so much Benadryl in my system from the MRI scan the day before. 

After an hour or two of observing me to make sure I recovered from the allergic reaction, the doctors sent me on to the pre-operative department to fill out paperwork for the surgery and meet with an anesthesiologist. Before this “orientation” I knew how the DIEP Breast Reconstruction surgery worked in a technical sense, but this gave me more practical knowledge of what to expect, how to prepare, etc. In a lot of ways, I began realizing just what a big surgery this will be. The surgery itself will last about seven hours and I will spend about four days in the hospital afterwards. Of course, the hardest part of it all will be being away from Lydia, Hudson, and Samuel for those days! But I know they will be in good hands. 

Tomorrow (2/2) will bring the final step of the surgery preparation process. We will go up to Bluffton, South Carolina to meet with my breast surgeon, Dr. Virginia Herrmann. She will give us a few more details about what has happened with my tumor and about her plans for her portion of the surgery. Dr. Herrmann is not only a very well-trained and experienced breast oncologist and surgeon, but she is a very caring and encouraging doctor (as you can see in the video below). And as an added perk, Dr. Herrmann has spent many years in the great city of St. Louis! 

Thank you for all of your prayers for my MRI and for wisdom for my doctors. We are so thankful that God has brought me to this point and are looking forward to moving on with this next step in the process of treating my breast cancer. As the day of surgery draws near, please pray that Matt and I will have peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:6) and wisdom to prepare for every detail of the coming weeks. Also, pray that I will be able to enjoy some good quality time with my children in the coming week since I will be away from home for the days following surgery and will be unable to care for them as usual in the weeks following the surgery. And, of course, you can pray that this surgery would be successful in removing every trace of cancer from my body. And…why not…I’ll go ahead and ask for prayer for my hair to grow back quickly! Thanks!

Alright…this was a super-long post. If you made it this far you deserve a little reward (besides the picture of my bald head)! So here’s a funny story from the Fray house: Lydia has been waking up in the middle of the night a lot lately, usually due to scary dreams. While it’s sad that she has these dreams (and a little annoying to be woken up at all hours of the night to comfort her), some of the dreams have made for some great comic relief. For instance, last night Lydia woke up at about 3am crying and calling for daddy. Matt stumbled through the darkness towards Lydia’s bedroom and said, “Lydia, what’s wrong? Did you have a scary dream?” Between sniffles, Lydia said, “Yeah, the chickens…the chickens…the chickens took Hudson’s jacket and then they pushed me down!” Matt said, “Well, how did that happen? Were they big chickens?” Lydia said, “No, just mean chickens…mean chickens!” As he tried not to laugh at her (she’s a little sensitive about that), Matt instructed her that in all future dreams where chickens of normal size are involved, she is allowed to just kick them if they are ever mean to her. Then he prayed with her and they asked Jesus to help her not have any more scary dreams.