Keri's Breast Cancer Story: The Routine After Starting Breast Reconstruction
My name is Doug Haberstroh, and this is my wife Keri's breast cancer story. Keri was only 25 years old when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2005. At this point, Keri had undergone weeks of chemotherapy and had just done breast reconstruction surgery following mastectomy. We thought that the worst was behind us.
Sent: Monday, August 15, 2005 11:31 AM
Just another quick update. Things are going as well as can be expected. I am back to a routine of doctor's appointments all week. The report came back from the surgeon's office. They reported that they removed 7 lymph nodes. I'm not exactly sure how many there are total. I think it's like 20 or so. The report said that everything he removed tested clean, but that one out of the 7 nodes tested positive for having cancer in it.
With this information they say that only one node does not merit a need for radiation and that it will be up to my oncologist if there is a need for any further chemo. Myself personally I am mentally telling myself that with everything else testing clean and with the node having been removed that I am cleared of cancer.
I can now work on getting the outside of my body to look remotely normal now. The plastic surgeon is now the doctor in control. I see him at least once a week now. Actually since he removed my drain last week I have been going every couple of days to have the excess fluid that builds up removed. He says that he removed the drain so early because it is a highway for bacteria to get in and cause problems. So therefore the fluid that my body is not absorbing yet has to be removed every couple of days. He says this won't last too much longer.
The swelling has gone down some, but things are still a bit uncomfortable and tight. It's only been about 2 weeks and I think the swelling takes at least a good 4-6 weeks to really go down. At this point I am just working on getting the movement back in my arm.
Episode 5: See the full breast cancer comic strip.
I have never broken a bone in my life so being without the use of one of my limbs is so frustrating. It's not really like I can't use my arm at all because I have some movement, but there are some restrictions. I can't lift anything heavy and I can only raise my arm to a certain point and then I can't move it any higher. It's really kind of a weird feeling.
My mind knows that prior to surgery I could raise my arm just like I can my right arm so it gets confused when my left arm just stops. The doctors tell me to work on walking my arm up the wall to stretch it out. So everyday I have Doug help me mark the wall at the point where I can reach and it doesn't hurt too bad. It's just going to take some time to get my full range of motion back, but I'm such an impatient person. I want things to be back to normal now not in a few weeks.
I'm getting better at sleeping on my back. I have to have three pillows behind me, but whatever makes it work so that I get enough sleep. The recliner is a very good friend to me. It's so easy to get in and out of it. Really other than being a bit uncomfortable and working on my arm everything else is fine. That's what makes it so hard to get through this.
I feel like it's time to get on with my life, but the doctors still say I can't drive or lift things which makes it hard to leave the house. Although I did get in the car the other day and I can see why they don't want me to drive. It's amazing to know what things are affected just by a surgery that moves your chest muscles. I feel pain when I cough, sneeze, blow my nose, laugh, or turn to look behind me in the car. All that just because of one surgery!
The most frustrating one of all though is the laughing. It hurts to laugh, but when you watch a funny movie it's hard not to laugh until you feel the pain. Then things aren't so funny. I do have to say though that this is a more tolerable pain than what I went through with chemo. Speaking of...my hair is growing back and I have a nice full fuzz now.
I can't wait until it grows enough for me to be comfortable going out of the house without anything on my head. Doug says it's getting longer, but I can't tell as well. Hopefully by the holiday's it will be long enough to go without a hat.Keri with short hair
So thank you all for letting me chat today. It really helps me to be able to talk through email. I know Doug has to get tired of me talking about this all the time and talking to you gives me a chance to give Doug a break. It seems that we have allowed our situation to become a norm for us.
Doctor visits are something that we are used to now and it doesn't phase us to have three or four in the same week. It will be weirder when I am down to less. We talk more now about what things will be like after all the breast reconstruction is done. I am looking forward to getting back to work. The idea of getting back in a classroom to teach is looking very nice. It will still be a few months before that happens, but hopefully by the beginning of next year I will be ready for that. Until then it is just a waiting game on my recovery.
I hope you all are doing well and that everyone is enjoying their last few days of summer. School has already started here. Take care all of you and I will be emailing again soon. Thanks for listening.
A Note from Doug:We're also telling Keri's breast cancer story as a weekly comic strip. Check back each week to follow her treatment. This week's episode, Episode 5, focuses on Keri's routine after mastectomy and breast reconstruction.