Biopsies, Grafting, and Reality

Truth be told, leading up to the surgery I didn’t think it was a big deal. To be honest, I still hadn’t accepted the fact that I had cancer. In my head, it was just another surgery that I needed to have, for another ailment that I had. However,  the night before the surgery,  reality started to sink in. I started freaking out. What if this ailment was worse than scans showed and I ended up needing my arm amputated? What if I didn’t wake up from the anesthesia? Needless to say,  trying to relax and fall asleep were a nightmare. Eventually, exhaustion kicked in and I got a couple of hours of sleep.

Early that morning, my other mom, Louella, my Aunt Bev, hubby and I drove to Cooper Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. Surgery check-in time was at 6 a.m. Surgery was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. We checked in at 5:50. After checking in, we were escorted upstairs to the waiting area. A nurse then came to escort me to my shared room, where I changed into a gown, cap, and footies.
Around 7am my surgeon came in to go over the impending procedures. However, he only mentioned the wide excision and skin graft. I told him that the general oncologist, in which he referred, recommended that the surgeon remove a couple of lymph nodes as well. My surgeon told me that he hadn’t seen any notes from the oncologist, but he will go check my chart. Already anxious, this issue makes me even more anxious​. By the time my surgeon returns to my room, I’m pissed! However, my anger quickly dissolves when he tells me that he located the recommendation and apologizes for the oversight. He tells me that in order to identify the sentinel lymph node, which is a must for the procedure, I would need to be taken to radiology for a lymphoscintigraphy.

The problem was Radiology didn’t open to til 8. My surgeon called the department head to get me in ASAP. Once in Radiology, a nurse injected me with radioactive dye. I sat for approximately 30 minutes, then was scanned. When I returned to my room, I was notified that both my oncology surgeon and plastic surgeon had started other procedures they had scheduled after mine and my surgery time was pushed back to 12:45. 😕 Being the time fanatic I am, I hate wasting people’s time. Immediately I felt awful for my aunt and my other mother. They told me to stop apologizing, that is was fine. But I still felt bad.  My hubby is my rock and he was already planning on caring for me all day so there was no need in worrying about his time being wasted.

Around 12:15 the surgical nurses, physician assistants, and finally surgeons started coming in checking and rechecking my charts, asking me to confirm then reconfirming my information, and mark sites. Before long I was being wheeled away from my family and into surgery. The surgery took 4.5 hours. I awoke around 6pm. I was kept in the recovery a little longer than normal due to my oxygen levels being unstable. However,  once they leveled off, I was reunited with my family. While hubby went to get the car, my aunt and other mom helped me get dressed. Then, they HAD to help me to the bathroom, AND inside the bathroom. 🙁 That’s when the reality of how serious this surgery was set in.

1) Having my family there.

~My aunt is like the mother on the movie, “Terms of Endearment.” Every patient needs someone like her in their corner.

~My other mom is very inquisitive. She questioned everything the nurses and doctors said. She wanted to why certain procedures were necessary and how those procedures would affect me overall.

~Hubby was there for me mentally. He knows me better than anyone. He knew we I needed a hug, a kiss, a smile. He’s awesome!

2) Finding out that there is such a device called a vein finder! I’ve always had the worse luck with IV placement. I have small rolling veins. I’ve made it a point to tell everyone from phlebotomists to nurses this and none of them asked me if I would like them to use a vein finder. Instead they would use me as a pin cushion, blowing veins time after time. Not anymore! Now, I will always request a vein finder for IV placement.

3) All of the nursing staff were awesome! They were knowledgeable, smiling, energetic, and helpful. They tended to me and my family as if we were rock stars!


1) Procedure mix up. Had I not spoke up, I would have needed a second procedure for node biopsies.

2) No literature was given on my procedures. Yes the discharge paperwork was given, but that’s it. No pamphlets on treating surgery sites, what to expect from the sites during the healing process, were given to me or my family. Yes, the surgeons spoke with my family about these issues, but let’s be real. When a loved one is sick, has a 4.5 hours long surgery, is in a recovery room, but you’ve yet to see them, would you be able to remember everything said to you?


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