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Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

Looks like it has been about 4 weeks since my last update.  I saw Dr Chetta again on June 27th where he pulled another 24cc of fluid out of my breast wound and pushed some betadine back in there to try to cauterize whatever was causing the "leak".  He gave me my release to go back to work on July 8th (which was this Monday) and gave us the okay to head to the beach for the fourth of July and he referred me back over to physical therapy.  My return to work release required a promise by me that I would not skip any of my appointments if I went back.  Deal.  So.....I went back to work on Monday which was wonderful and it's quarter end so there is lots to do and it's good to feel useful again.  Then today was my weekly followup with Dr Chetta and my first return to physical therapy since early May when "the hole" developed.  Dr Chetta pulled ANOTHER 22cc of fluid out of the breast wound and shot some more betadine in there.  We were optimistic since that was two weeks of buildup and the same as what was accumulating in just one week before that maybe with this extraction we would be ahead of it and my body would start absorbing it.  Then I went of to PT.

Cari did a quick assessment and as I already knew I have lost ROM in my left arm both to the front and to the side and there is scar tissue building up from my radiation across my chest below my collarbone.  I didn't know what that was but my chest area on the left side was very hard and apparently that is why.  My lymphatic cords have worsened under my arm pit but thankfully are not really running down my arm at this point.  And due to lack of use my shoulder is starting to develop capsulitis (frozen shoulder).  But other than that, I am looking GREAT!  So she did some tugging on my arm to break up the shoulder some, and then she massaged those cords (ouch) and then she started to just apply some pressure to the area above and below my missing breast.  She thought this might hurt but to be honest it really felt good.  And I responded almost immediately.  You could feel a softening under the skin that had previously been hard.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that my chest scar opened up and fluid starting coming out.  Poor Cari was kind of freaked out because this had never happened to her before so she went across the hall and got Dr Chetta's PA to take a look.  The PA came almost immediately and said "this is actually a good thing because now we can drain that fluid out as it develops and heal this from the inside out like it should have done on it's own."  Even though they had taken fluid out earlier and put that betadine in there (which is brown), that is NOT what was coming out here so we think this little unhealed cavity might be the source for all the trouble.  Then they showed me how to "pack" this cavity and told me to do that once or twice a day.  I almost puked when they did it so they asked if I thought Bill or the girls could do it.  I thought Bill could.  They said if he couldn't they would have a nurse case manager call and we would arrange for a home health nurse.  I talked to Bill on the way home and he thinks he can handle it so we will try that tomorrow when it's time.  He is amazing.  Sooooo, we do this for a week and I see Dr. Chetta again next Thursday.   #arewehavingfunyet  #notyouraveragepatient #backtowork #Godsgotus  #savedbygrace #survivor
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Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

Today marks 4 weeks since my last surgery!!   Had to go back to Dr today (a week since I was last there) to have another fluid buildup pulled out.  Dr Chetta said all my drains did their job now we just need to get my body to cooperate.  I told him I'm not sure why he would think that would happen based on everything we've been through since last August.  He chuckled and said he supposed I was right.  

But everything is healing well and I was able to get up from the couch yesterday without using my hands or arms and I got up from the exam table today without someone pulling me up so we are starting to see some progress.  I have to wear this tight abdominal binder wrap for two more weeks and add some compression to the chest to try to encourage my body to start absorbing that fluid.  

He also said he would write an order for a prosthesis if that interested me.  It does.  There is a place inside the Spielman Center called Hope's Boutique.  I've been in there before killing time between appointments.  They have cute clothes and jewelry and encouraging stuff but there is a place in the back that I didn't even realize was there where they have "experts" to help with fittings and stuff specifically for women who've had breast surgeries like mine.  I made an appointment to see them next week before I see Dr Chetta again.  Another step in the "moving on" process.

Not quite ready for PT again yet but I cannot get my left arm any higher than level with my shoulder going forward and not even that high out to the side.  I have a couple stretches I can do on my own in the meantime.  Probably get back to my pal Cari sometime in July.  I cannot do my part in the O-H-I-O pose right now so this is simply not acceptable.

We will leave for our annual Fourth of July trip to the beach house next Saturday thanks to airline tickets purchased before this most recent set of circumstances.  Bill definitely needs/deserves a vacation and there is little that ocean air can't heal.  If we can keep the fluid buildup away over the next week, Dr Chetta will release me to go back to work July 8th.  If I am not ready by then, I am not sure I ever will be.  

Ladies - - if you haven't had a mammogram in the last 12 months and you are reading this, I am not sure exactly what you could possibly be thinking.  Gentlemen, ask your ladies if they are current.  I'm ashamed to tell you that my 2017 mammogram was scheduled by my husband in the mobile bus at Grange.  That became the baseline to confirm that we had issues last August and accelerated my treatments.  #myhusbandlovesme  #GodisstillhangingaroundwithgrumpyLisa #blessed #getyourmammograms #survivor


Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

So to back up just a bit, I did call first thing Monday morning June 3 to see if I could see a nurse and get some more drains out since two of them were producing much less than the 30cc target for two consecutive days required for removal.  They agreed and I went in and they took the second breast drain and the left hip drain out.  The right hip was still producing too much fluid so that had to stay.  I saw Dr Chetta again on June 6 and he wasn't really interested in talking about my return to work since I still have much healing to do but he did take mercy on me and let them take the last drain out even though it hadn't been under 30 for TWO days.  He knew I would be calling the next morning and coming back so we just avoided the dance.  

I still could not get fully straight up and am walking like an old woman and he told me to give that one more week and then I could start doing some stretches so that I can stand up straight and lay down flat in the bed.  My back aches from being hunched over.  But with all the drains out and the stitches starting to dissolve all we have to do is heal.

So today, I had a survivorship appointment that was scheduled before we knew I would have the three latest surgeries.  This was different.  This was more about other side effects and emotional healing.  When the PA asked how I "felt" about my current situation, I burst into tears without warning.  She asked about feelings and all that.  I'm fairly sure her notes did not match up with the survey I took before the appointment.  Lol.   We talked about how I still feel like a gutted fish with no stomach strength at all.  We talked about how I get so hot at night that I have been sleeping in the living room at night so I can open all the windows and get the temp down to freezing.  Apparently this is a side effect of both my surgeries and the Tamoxifen.  There is something they can give me for this which apparently is also an anti-depressant which she thought I might also benefit from.  Now I am sure her notes don't match my survey.  I never said I was depressed......but after the third tearful outburst, I am pretty sure she didn't believe me.  We talked about how my appointments would go from now for the next 5 years....every 3 months for the next year, then every 6 months for the next two years and then annually.  Never skip my annual appointment with my PCP, my annual with the gyn, my mammogram for the righty every year, etc, etc.  I get it.....I need to take care of myself.
So I went to Chetta's office and my singing nurse from the past, Lynell, told me that she also had a failed reconstruction.  She got an infection with the expander and when she tried to have the tummy flap she also had problems with clotting and had to have hers reversed.  I have been seeing this lady since October and never even noticed she was flat on one side.  She said, "see!  it will bother you and other people won't even notice".  She got a beautiful tattoo to cover her scars and said while we may be in the unlucky 5% this doesn't work for, we are in the lucky 5% that can get a big ole breast tattoo that will never sag as we get older.  I have actually been considering this.  Too soon to commit to something like that but it is a consideration.  Then the PA came in and we drained 60cc of fluid out of that wound.  So long story short, while I thought about re-scheduling my survivorship appointment, I was supposed to have that today so that I could get this taken care of and talk to Lynell.  They said there is a pretty good chance that it will build up again but is only usually about half as much the second time so I will pay attention and call if it happens again.  But all this does nothing to help with me getting released for work so I am forced to accept this pace.  For those of you that remember Carol Burnett......I walk a little less like Mrs. Wiggins every day.  Those skits are worth a watch if you haven't seen them in awhile.   #godgavemelynell  #littlecisgone #BigCisstillguidingmypath  #iwasmadlastweek  #godforgivesmeforthat   One of these days, I will have to share how I have not always been as positive as it may seem here.  I have had my moments.  I am so grateful they have been short lived.  But I've been scared.  I've been mad and all this healing this time for surgeries that were complete failures is frustrating.  I'm human.  

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

I saw Dr Chetta on Thursday for my first post op.   He told me that he and Dr Sisk talked on the phone 6 times during my last surgery and that I was just creating clots as fast as they could break them down.   He described what they do is harvest a good vein that becomes like the trunk of a tree that seemed to be working but once the blood would branch out into the tissue it was clotting and that isn’t good.   I got my wound vac removed from my tummy and one of the breast wound drains came out.   I still have one in the breast and one in each hip.   The one in my right hip is still collecting over 50 cc of fluid each day so it’s not ready to come out but I’m hoping I can get the other two out on Monday.    There is a weird tightness in my shoulder area that I will talk with them about on Monday as well.   I don’t know if it is more lymphatic cording or something that happened during my surgeries to that muscle that runs just below your collar bone.  I have much less mobility in that shoulder for sure than I did before.   Apparently everything else seems to be healing as expected.  

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

So Tuesday’s surgery went seemingly well but was about 8 hours long. Got a rough start because I apparently never signed any consent forms and it was not discovered until after I was in La la land.  I was able to communicate with them but was too far gone to legally sign my own consent.   So they hunted Bill down at the coffee shop and then got started.  Some of this is from stories I’ve been told because the next three days are a blur.  I got out of recovery Tuesday well after dinner.  It was long but all seemed to go as planned.   They were checking the site every two hours for changes.  The next day I got cleared to eat lunch and so I did.   That became a problem about 3:00 because I developed a hemotoma behind the reconstruction and I had to go back to the OR on a full stomach for a two hour emergency surgery to clear clots that were forming.  Again this seemed to fix the problem and aside from me not being able to form a solid thought from all the anesthesia we went to bed Wednesday happy.  Everything was still fine Thursday during morning rounds but I was on no food or drink just in case.  Dr Chetta was leaving town but Dr Sisk was briefed and on call. By noon we were rushing off for another 4 hour emergency surgery with dangerously low hemoglobin counts (iron levels crashed) so I had to get two units of blood. to try to save the reconstructed tissue.  That was unsuccessful so we gave up and reversed everything we did on Tuesday.   So after three surgeries (two emergency status) 14 total hours in an operating room we are done.  We knew this could happen because we were dealing with radiated tissue but the odds were still good enough to give it a try.  We are now part of the 5% this doesn’t work for.  Now from here I just heal my tummy and the mastectomy site and move on.  I came home this morning with 4 drains and a wound vac.   Will see Dr Chetta on Thursday and we will see what happens from here but if it’s not life or death I’m done with the surgeries.   It just doesn’t matter that much.

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

Tomorrow is the first day of the last healing process of this battle.  We have to be at The James Tuesday by 5:30am 😴 and my surgery is supposed to begin at 7:30.  Not gonna lie I’m bummed we have to do this and it was easier last time cause I didn’t really know what to expect.   Now I do and I dread it.   Kristine (or someone) will update tomorrow how things are going.  #ivebeensteadier. #squeezetighterGod. #BigCforthewin

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

So I had my follow up with radiation on May 1st.   That went well but I still had one spot that was not quite healing. Annoying but not concerning at this point. Then last week the wound just opened back up and exposed the expander under the skin.   I called Dr Chetta and sent him some pictures and he called me on a Saturday.  Bad sign.   He sent in a prescription for an antibiotic and told me to keep it covered and he would see me Thursday (his only day in clinic).  So I did and when I saw him Thursday he told us the risk of infection is too high as the expander has already been compromised by being open to the air so it has to come out ASAP.   No sign of infection yet. We talked about options and they all sucked.  What we have settled on is removing this expander (no option on this part) and using my own tummy tissue (fat) to make a new breast.  Because this is my own “stuff” my body should heal better around it and the radiation inflamation and sick skin will be happier because there are no foreign objects involved. It’s a five hour surgery and I will be in the hospital for five days.   This recovery, because it also involves my tummy will be tougher.   BUT if this works then I will be completely done after I heal from this.  No second surgery to swap an implant and no risk of implant failure in the future.    This should be it. I asked Dr Chetta what he would recommend if his mom was in my situation and he said this was the route to go.   I did ask him if he liked his mom just to be sure this was good advice.  He loves his mom.  😂.  So Friday I had all my pre op tests (blood work and EKG and abdomen CT) and my surgery will be Tuesday.  Those daggone drains will be back and I will be miserable but the light at the end of the tunnel is bright and I’ll just march toward it.  There is a lot of good news.    Cancer is gone.   This didn’t happen before I finished my radiation which would have halted everything.   It is not infected.    It can be fixed up soon and 6 weeks is just a blink in the course of life and I’m “young” and otherwise healthy.  God is still in our corner.  He kicked that cancer out and now He will bring healing to this last step.  Cancer took my boob but it won’t take my faith or my break my spirit.   I’m asking for prayer again.   Pray for Bill and the girls too cause this is gonna be a lot of work for them too.  And for my parents and brother who are worried sick.  #setbackbutstillwinning. #Godsgotus. #letsdothis. #lastsurgery. #drchettaisamommasboy

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve updated this.  Last couple weeks of radiation were a little rough.   It’s a cumulative process that continues even beyond the actual treatments.  So actually things were the worst in the week after it was over.  I had some giant gel bandages to use that were the size of a sheet of paper.  I don’t think I could have done another day if I had to.  But God worked that out and finished on March 22 and rang that victory bell surrounded by my share sisters and my daughters.  Bill was out of town tending to some things in Arizona but made it back in time to join us all for lunch.  

My skin was so burnt and destroyed that I had to stop my PT and give up the stretches until today.  The result is that my lymphatic cords really tightened up and my range of motion is pretty rotten in my left arm again.   But I went back today and Cari says if I will do my part between appointments we can improve it.   She spent a lot of time today deeply massaging those cords to break them up.   Thankfully I’m pretty numb under there because she says this would hurt ALOT if I wasn’t.  God worked that out too I guess.  She watches my face to make sure I’m not lying when she asks if she’s hurting me.  Good news is that she took all my measurements and so far there is no signs of lymphedema. 

Started my daily tamoxifen pills April 7 and so far there seem to be no issues with that but I imagine it takes some time for that to build up.   My cancer was hormone fed and this drug is to block those hormones so that if anything else gets cooking it will starve to death.  My translation.  

I see all my doctors in May for follow ups starting with radiation oncologist next week.  I’ll see my PT friend next week too.   After all those check ups we might have an idea when my implant transfer can take place but I am expecting this fall so I think we will just keep stretching and healing this summer.  It’s a process and we are still moving through it.  But it’s pretty uneventful at this point.   Thank God for that.   #littlecneverhadachance.  #wronggirl. #healingtakestime. 

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

For the most part this radiation is passing very quickly so far.   I go every day during the week now at 3:00.   I leave the office at about 2:30 and get checked in and changed into my robe by 2:45 and wait with a couple ladies who are becoming familiar friends for our turn in “the machine”.   I have the same medical team with me every day.   I can already tell you I will likely miss these people, my fellow fighters and this medical team, when this is over.   I get weekends off.  

I go in and lay on the little table and they line up their lasers with my tattoos and put this sticker thing over my scar, which stretches from my sternum to about the middle of my side.   The “sticker” is actually to direct more radiation into the site.  Then once all that is done they leave the room and the machine moves around me zapping the bad stuff.  The whole thing takes 15 or 20 minutes from start to finish.   Then once a week I see the radiation oncologist after my treatment and once a week I still go to PT to continue to battle the lymphatic cords that are still trying to steal my range of motion. The other days I go home and work another hour or so from home or lay down and take a nap depending on what needs to be done and how I feel.  

As for how how I feel.   I’m tired.  I have been going to bed between 7 and 9 every night.   Most nights last week I was in bed about 8.   Very tired.  And now I am starting to develop a spot under my arm that is burning a bit.   The seams on my shirts rub and irritate that too so I am spending today in a tank top under a blankie watching it snow.   All in all so far this has been nothing more than inconvenient.  

Thank you again to all who pray for us and send cards or notes.   They are life giving.  We are getting closer to the end of the treatment phases of this fight.   But as I’ve shared all along, I believe this battle is already won and we are just taking the journey.  

I’ve attached some pictures.  These are not from my actual treatment room but are very similar to what it’s like.   More later.   #buildingatestamony. #godsgotus.  #40percentdone

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Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

We are underway!   It’s quiet and you can’t feel a thing when they give you the treatment.   But the actual treatment takes longer than my little test runs did and I could not think about anything except how much it hurt to keep my arm up like that.  I’m going to take some ibuprofen before I go tomorrow and see if that helps.  I’ll wait until later this week to describe what this is like when I can remember more details.  But today the sweet gals asked if I wanted a warm blanket which I have refused in the past because you are dressed from the waist down and I didn’t think I needed it but do you know what they did with that blanket?   They laid it over my arms and around my head!!!!   That kept my hands from getting cold and it was very nice.   Won’t pass on the blankie ever again.  Remember you are laying on this table with your arms up in the “H” or TSA scan position (for those non Buckeye fans).   Anyway, I’m a little pink but otherwise ready to rally.   I saved this shirt to wear today for the first time because it seemed very appropriate.  More later this week.   #godsgoingaheadofme. #helpmeignoremyarm. #theres24morewherethatcamefrom #Godsdirectingtheradiation

Journal entry by Lisa Pollard

This was the day I felt something during my shower that I knew was new and shouldn't be there.  I went to work and called Spielman Center and explained what I felt and that I wanted a mammogram.  The nice gal on the phone explained that it sounded like what I really needed was a diagnostic mammogram and that would have to come from a referral from my Primary Care Physician.  And since my last mammogram was on 8/22/2017, insurance would likely want me to wait until 8/23/2018 anyway.  Okay......we can do this your way, so I called my Dr and took the first available appointment on 8/22.  I told no one about this.  I just started praying.

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Lisa’s Story

Site created on September 25, 2018

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