After surgery

I’m ok. The surgery took 2.5 times longer than they expected, as the surgeon reached far under my chest wall, over and over, feeling every node hidden there that she could reach, and plucking the ones that were hard, misshapen, or otherwise wrong, giving hints of cancer inside. She plucked them (I’m told) and handed them to the resident, Matt (I imagine), as the 3rd year student, Eric, looked on and helped her (also a guess, I was sedated) take the fat pad, holding two dozen nodes, out of my armpit. All the while, the anaesthesiologist, Ellen, sat by my head and kept me sedated. The nurse was there, but she was surly when I met her, so she doesn’t get named in this story. Everyone else was wonderful, from the cheerful women at the registration desk, peppy and helpful despite the early hour, to efficient Nurse Pat who helped me to the chair where I would wait in a scratchy gown and nonskid socks (ew!), signing paper after paper, and kind Nurse Nancy, who brought me heated blankets to comfort me, and offers of help in carefully folded pamphlets.

I’m not particularly fond of general anaesthesia. I don’t like that out of control feeling. Although I was in control here for quite a while, as I showed them which veins to use (mine are scarred from chemo, and they’re a hard stick, so I usually end up passing out). Dr. Ellen couldn’t use them, however, since that’s where I was having surgery (oops), so she stuck the IV in my foot. It made me laugh, and was ten times better than the needle in
my neck last Fall. Then as we waited for the first medicine to take effect, everything started to happen all at once. Dr. Ellen put me in a wheelchair, Dr. Matt hustled me down the hall, Eric opened the door, and they all bustled around looking for that nurse and my chart, which had inexpicably gone missing. Both were found in the OR, a small room with bright lights and an OR nurse who I didn’t get to meet, although she saw my innerds close up, I’m sure.

Dr. Ellen took charge of the room, helped me up on the bed, and told me to tuck the pillow under my knees.

When I woke up, I was disoriented and groggy, trying to pull myself up as if under a thousand pounds of water, to find myself again. As I surfaced, nameless nurses reassured me, and eventually I was brought out to a chair again, with more and different nurses, and my husband. He told me (some) of what the doctor told him, and after a while I dressed and he went to get the car. He seemed to be gone a long time, and the patient next to me was beginning to scare me with his rants and pleadings, so I stood up and tried to walk to meet him. Finally an aide put me in a wheelchair and took me to find my husband

and the recovery began.

I’m writing this not 24 hours after being disharged from the hospital; forgive its nonlinearity and rambling — what I’m really trying to say is this: I’m ok.

and thank you, thank you for the Virtual Science Fair. It’s absolutely incredible and I’m enjoying picking my way through the aisles, seeing what you all have put together. I haven’t got through it yet (there are over 50 participants!), and, after my children, it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Go, visit the Virtual Science Fair that starts at Stimyland — my friends are incredible people, and I am so impressed at how they helped their little ones enjoy science — for me. This is the best present I could have ever dreamed of. Thank you.

and thank you for joining the Army of Women participating in cancer research. I will write a whole post and link to you all when I’m up to it. For now, please know that I see you and your contribution, and it gives me hope. Hope that the researchers can find a cure, so that our daughters and sons will not have to experience this beast called cancer.

50 Responses to After surgery

  1. JavaMom says:

    I can’t believe you are even writing yet — I don’t think I could’ve written this much after my c-section, much less what you’ve been through! But it is nice to see you writing! Still thinking of and praying for you!

  2. FishyGirl says:

    Bless you, Susan – you are so strong. I hope your recovery is quick. You will beat this again.

  3. *m* says:

    Yay Susan! Now rest up while we keep those positive thoughts coming.

  4. Akshata says:

    Wow, I am amazed by your strength, woman! You’re barely out of surgery and you are blogging already. Hats off to your spirit. You do not know how much of an inspiration you are. God bless you! You are in my prayers. Sending you love and hugs…

  5. Stella says:

    Susan – I only wish I could have participated too. You are a marvel! Love you!

  6. Jess Lippy says:

    Good luck with the recovery. I joined Army of Women and invited 60 of my FB friends to as well! I have more to invite today. I am thinking of you and wishing you all the best!

  7. I can’t believe you’re writing this already! But I am so glad to know that the surgery went well.

    I was honored to participate in the Virtual Science Fair, I signed up for the Army of Women, and am so proud to be involved even the littlest bit. xxoo

  8. Elizabeth says:

    its amazing that you’re writing this so soon. when I had my tonsillectomy I wasnt able to do anything normal the whole day of the surgery…
    I signed up at army of women, its a pity they’re not that active in germany, but I’m more interested now and talk with my friends about it.
    please recover fast and write us some lines of your day.

    *really looking forward to it*
    sending a lot of good thoughts

  9. jodifur says:

    So glad you are home…and hopefully comfortable.

  10. lorri s. says:

    glad to hear your update and that you can rest at home.

  11. magpie says:

    Happy you’re home. Be well.

  12. Jana says:

    Hello. I came across your blog because I receive “google alerts” that contain any news about Aromasin, and your post was included in the daily list. I am the daughter of a metatatic breast cancer patient. My Mom was first diagnosed in 2002, so I have eight years of experience with the “roller coaster.” (In the process I have taken my mom to several National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, including MD Anderson at the Univ of Texas, which is supposedly the top-ranked cancer center in the nation — so I am relatively well informed.) I want to say two things: I was moved by your blog posts. You have an articulate voice. You deserve buckets of sympathy. And two: in case you have not heard of this resource, I highly recommend that you visit the following two websites: and The expert in charge of the first site will answer questions from patients on the second site. His first name is Constantine, and his user name in that forum is “Edge.” If you want to ask him a question(s) in that forum, then put his name in the subject line of your post. (OR you could send him a private email and he will answer you.) He has a seemingly encyclopedic knowlege of the latest breast cancer-related research — including international studies. That “IBC Watch” page will show you a comprehensive roundup of the research regarding your type of cancer, but it says that it was last updated in July 2009. (Probably because he maintains about 17 pages regarding various health topics, mostly regarding breast cancer issues, in addition to everything else he does, like keeping track of the latest research and responding to daily queries from patients, so apparently he has not had time to type the updates from the last 8 months on that page yet, BUT (judging from my past experience in reading his posts) I am sure that he IS up on the latest IBC research… so I suggest that (in addition to looking at the info already compiled on that “IBC Watch” page) that you write to him to ask questions, large and small. In addition to being astonishingly knowlegeable about the medical literature, he is also kind (and surprisingly thorough in his responses). If you write to him, try to include more details about your case — e.g. the key info from your pathology reports (from when you were first diagnosed, and after this latest surgery), like how many of the removed lymph nodes were “positive” for cancer, and the type of breast cancer surgeries you have had, and your age when you were first diagnosed, and your age when this recurrence showed up on a scan, and whether you have had a bone scan or a “CAP” CT scan (CAP = “chest, abdomen and pelvis”) or a brain MRI, etc. I have found him to be an invaluable resource (especially because my Mom’s oncologists are too busy to answer less-than-urgent questions between appointments, and even during appointments, they have little time.) His help has been indispensable. In particular, I suggest that you ask him about curcumin for your case. (There is an enormous amount of data that confirms curcumin’s anti-cancer properties, and MD Anderson and other cancer centers are conducting clinical trials. It’s a supplement that experts recommend that breast cancer patients take, in addition to whatever other cancer medication, to help prevent recurrence.) Also, 2 key books: “Anti-Cancer,” written by a neuroscientist/M.D. who was diagnosed with brain cancer, told that he probably had only a brief time left to live, but is still alive and well 15 years later, due to his research into how to make his body inhospitable to cancer. And “Life Over Cancer,” written by an M.D. with 30 years of experience in improving outcomes for cancer patients. Each of those authors runs integrative oncology centers (one is in Pittsburgh, the other is near Chicago), and if you could travel to one or both for consultations, that would definitely be worthwhile, but at a minimum I highly recommend that you read each of those books. In the sea of books out there, those stand out. I am so sorry that you have had to endure this struggle, and I admire your determination to “survive and thrive.” Best wishes!

  13. Tears are streaming down my cheeks as I imagine you checking out all of the science projects we put together just for you.

    And that’s why we did it. Just. for. you.

    Glad yesterday is behind you. Rest up so we can see you soon.


  14. upsidebackwards says:

    Susan, thank you for reassuring us all – you know we were waiting with bated breath to hear how it went! Now rest, heal, have fun reading, enjoy time with the family. We’ll all still be here when you get back. Lots of love and hugs…

  15. Michelle says:

    I don’t know you, don’t have cancer of any kind, and don’t remember how I found my way to your blog. I read every articulate word that your blog contains, and I feel as if I know you well enough to say I love you. (Not in an icky way)…

    I’ve signed up for the Army Of Women, and if there is anything else I can DO, I’m sure I will read it here.

    Bless You.

  16. Jana says:

    I already posted above, but I forgot to include that expert’s email address (the breast cancer expert in charge of the “” website). This is his main email address, where he responds to queries from patients:
    But in the unlikely event that there is ever a malfunction with that email account (if he ever did not respond to an email that you sent to that email address), then he wrote that patients can instead reach him at one of his other email addresses:
    OR, as I mentioned earlier, you could reach him by posting a query addressed to him (user name “Edge”) in the “No Surrender” patient support forum. But if you would prefer to keep your question(s) more private, then you could send him an email, and he really will answer you. I was sort of shocked that he took the time to answer my email, but he did (for free) — and his answer was enormously helpful.

  17. Jana says:

    p.s. I first posted last night, at the end of a long list of comments under your “Preparing for Surgery” blog post, but then today I saw that you had posted another entry, after your surgery, and it crossed my mind that with all that you have to cope with right now, that you might not have the time to check for new comments under your previous posts, so I re-posted my initial comment under your new post… but I also added to it at the end… and now it occurs to me that if you did see my first post, that you might think that the 2nd post is just a duplicate, so you might not notice the important part that I added at the end… so I am re-posting that new part here:
    “Also, 2 key books: “Anti-Cancer,” written by a neuroscientist/M.D. who was diagnosed with brain cancer in his 30s, and then told that he probably had only a brief time left to live, but he is still alive and well 15 years later, due to his research into how to make his body INhospitable to cancer. And “Life Over Cancer,” written by an M.D. with 30 years of experience in improving outcomes for cancer patients. Each of those doctor-authors runs integrative oncology centers (one is in Pittsburgh, the other is near Chicago), and if you could travel to one or both for consultations, that would definitely be worthwhile, but at a minimum I highly recommend that you read each of those books. In the sea of books out there, those stand out. I am so sorry that you have had to endure this struggle, and I admire your determination to “survive and thrive.” Best wishes!”

  18. Niksmom says:

    May I just say how incredibly relieved I am that you had a fairly positive hospital experience this time? I mean, really, I’ve been afraid for you after some of those gawdawful ER visit’s you’ve written about!

    So, so, so glad you are home and gently meandering the asles of the fair. I hope you enjoy the entries. I know they are loaded with love and admiration for you. xo

  19. planetnomad says:

    So glad it’s over and you’re home! Speedy and complete recovery!

  20. So glad to hear of your newly-cancer free armpit. And hopefully the rest of that great body too. Forever.

  21. You are amazing… I thought about the virtual science fair… but I was doing 4 hours of Math with my guy… Science and Math are related so that is about the best I can do!! You rest up now… we are all thinking about you.

  22. Wow! You can’t keep a good woman down, huh? Less than 24 hours after surgery and you are right back at the computer typing away. You amaze me!

  23. kami says:

    Your amazing, so glad the surgery is behind you.

  24. Laurie says:

    I’ve been thinking of you lots, Susan. You continue to inspire so many people. Be good to yourself, give yourself time to recover and please continue to keep us posted. xo

  25. Lindsay says:

    Wow! that doesn’t sound like outpatient surgery! You are a tough broad.

  26. Wow. Confirmation that you are indeed amazing! Here’s hoping to lots of rest and a quick recovery so we can see you soon! ((hugs))

  27. Stimey says:

    So glad that you’re up and about. You’re awesome.

  28. AnnetteK says:

    I’m happy to hear your surgery went well and you’re feeling good enough to blog! xo

  29. Really good to hear from you. Surly people should not get blog shout-outs – agreed.

  30. Woah! You’re really using words like ‘inexplicably’ and ‘nonlinearity’ and you’re less than 24 hours after surgery? Susan, YOU. ARE. INCREDIBLE.

    SOoooo glad you’re okay. Now relax. Take deep breaths (if it doesn’t hurt too much), eat some sweets (if your belly can stand it), and rest.

    I’ll come over to visit sometime in the next week or two if/ when you’re up for visitors. Hugs, hugs, and more hugs.

  31. Rob Gutro says:

    Susan – We were told to check out your blog from my friend Colleen, who somehow found you. She told us to send you well wishes and good thoughts. You’re obviously an amazing person (We read your blog). Maintain optimism and faith, and we wish you a quick and full recovery. Sending a hug from Maryland, Rob and Tom

  32. Kate says:

    Whymommy-I am hoping and praying that this “simple” procedure is all that you need.

    I don’t have a proper blog, but I wanted to share a story with you.

    Three weeks ago my son (who was born in Jan 2007) walked into the kitchen and said, “Cluquah” (for that is what he calls me), “I have a hypothesis” and stuck his index finger in the air to emphasize his point.

    “Yes my young son, what is your hypothesis?”

    “Bees collect nectar and they make bee honey. Hummingbirds collect nectar, so there must be hummingbird honey”

    “Oh, sweetie, that is a very good hypothesis…we will have to find a way to test it, maybe we can encourage hummingbirds to nest in our yard and see if they make honey. I don’t think that they do, but let’s find a way to test your hypothesis.”

    We are trying to teach him that asking the question is more important than being right and that he might develop new questions.

    Apparently this is what happens when both of your parents are scientists.

    So, if you are ever in a local park (we live in a Maryland DC suburb) and you hear a little boy shouting for Cluquah, please feel free to introduce yourself. I would love to buy you a cup of tea/coffee/water/wine and talk about the beautiful cherry blossoms, amazing snowstorms, or colorful maple leaves.

    We are all in your corner.

  33. amanda says:

    Still here, ready to do whatever, but smiling, nodding and balling my fists at my sides as you do us all so fiercely proud.

  34. Christy says:

    Oh Susan! I’m so glad that you have made it through and are home recouping. I am STILL sending my best thoughts your way!

  35. NYFriend says:

    Wow! I too am amazed you are writing already! I hope you are resting well, and wishing you a speedy recovery. Big hugs!

  36. I cannot believe you are already blogging! Hmmm. Actually, maybe I can! You are wonderful and strong because ouch, that sounded like pretty serious stuff. I’m glad you were surrounded by so many positive people that day. I’m tickled that you didn’t name the mean nurse.

    So glad to see you back. Gentle hugs for you.

  37. Donna W says:

    I’m sorry, but I choose not to forgive a nurse who is surly with anyone who has cancer. I’m begging for God to help me to not wish cancer on her.
    You go, girl.

  38. […] After surgery « Toddler Planet […]

  39. elesha says:

    Thank God thats over I have been checking here ever single day. The cancer is out that must feel good to know those naughty nodes are ogne.
    One very inspirational women indeed.
    sending cyber healing thoughts over to you

  40. angelynn says:

    I am amazed by your strength. Thank you for writing about your journey. I came here through Neil’s site ( I especially liked your comment about his science fair project “A good experiment has a hypothesis. A GREAT experiment has a null hypothesis — so that even if the answer isn’t what you expected, you learn something.” I’ve learned a lot. Thank you.

  41. Amelie says:

    I’m glad you’re ok, and writing again already.
    Your surgeon sounds like a very careful and thorough doctor. I so hope she managed to get all the bad ones.

  42. Kelley says:

    love to you babe.

    Big squishy (gentle) hugs.

  43. ella says:

    So glad to hear it went well and that you’re home (and posting) already.

  44. Thinking of you today. Sending you thoughts of healing.

  45. It warms my heart to read this rambling post. I’m glad you’re ok. One more hurdle passed, right?

    I just signed up for the Army of Women. I’m not a match for any studies yet, but I’ll keep looking. No doubt I’ll fit one sooner or later.

    Keeping you in my thoughts and turning everything around us into science projects these days in your honor.

    Hang in there!

  46. I am so glad you are feeling well enough to share with us, and that you are feeling well enough to say you are doing okay. (and nonlinearity? that’s a good thing in my book!)

  47. Mariana says:

    Glad to hear you’re recovering and enjoying the ‘virtual science fair’. Keeping you in my prayers! (((Hugs)))

  48. Lucretia says:

    You are amazing, as always… and so inspirational. Damn lucky to have you as a part of my digital life, lady!!

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