WLE & Lymph Node Clearance
So, last Monday I underwent a WLE (Wide Local Excision) to remove my breast cancer tumour, along with a underarm lymph node clearance from my left side (lymph nodes had to go as they’d proved positive with the investigative biopsy) This is the exact same surgery I underwent 6 years ago on the right – symmetry, I’m all over it!! Todays post is a post surgery update but first a personal learning…
Kindness Grows The Spirit & Strengthens The Soul:
Note I’ve subtitled this post the ‘Kindness Project’ and for a good reason; the level of kindness I’m experiencing is humbling but also HUGELY restorative. I’ve learnt an almighty valuable lesson and that lesson is simply this… Small acts of kindness are magical, transforming a miserable outlook into sunshine and hope. Smiling and laughing is powerful healing medicine and totally free!! We all have the personal tools to evoke a smile from others and it’s something I intend to remember. I’ve been inundated with kindness, even strangers have contacted me with lovely supportive messages (Davina McCall Tweeted “Thinking of you Lucy” with lots of hearts just before my surgery – Man, that made my freaking YEAR!). I’ve had a plethora of advice including complementary supplements to take, links for fabulous yoga teachers through to advice on mastectomies (one friend contacted me to urge me to consider a double mastectomy, out of genuine concern and it’s prompted some serious rethinking) I’m extremely grateful and welcome them all…. THANK YOU amazing people x
The WLE Surgery – Cancer Size & Grades:
Right, now to the gore…. I opted for a WLE, or rather I was advised by my surgeon to undergo a WLE over a full mastectomy, basically this entails removing the tumour and a margin of flesh surrounding it – they’re looking for cancer cells in the margin and if detected it’ll mean further surgery to remove more of the breast or a complete mastectomy. The tumour is also tested and graded based on size and aggressiveness (how fast growing the cancer cells are) – Last time it was grade 3 (explained below) and I’m sort of expecting the same again, although much smaller this time at 5mm Vs 12mm it’s travelled to the lymph nodes indicating its fast growing and a mover!
The lymph node clearance is the debilitating part of surgery, more invasive and requires a drain to collect the fluid that’s around the armpit area – it’s a wee bit grim! The principle of the drain is a vacuum that draws the fluid through the tube into a collection ball, which needs emptying and believe me it’s flipping awkward to sleep with (twice I squished it, popping it open and spilling lymph juice in the bed, fortunately on Teears side 🙂 but look, I’m grateful for my new accessory it’s stopping me get a fat arm – No-one wants a fat sausage arm!
I’m a positive person, embracing these challenges but ain’t gonna lie surgery day was HORRIBLE! Had a mini breakdown when Teear came to collect me! Here’s a snapshot of the day…
11.30am – I had a marker inserted into the tumour, basically this entails pushing a piece of wire into the boob and spearing the growth… Ouchy indeed! Designed to direct the surgeon straight to tumour (although the size of the wounds suggest otherwise!). I learned from watching the ultrasound whilst having the procedure that my lump was really deep, sitting just above my rid muscle, which explains why I couldn’t find it by hand (worrying hey)
1pm – Sit in operating waiting room (with my friend Mr wire sticking out the side of my boob) and there I stay until 5pm as I’m last on the list.
6pm – Dressed up in a rather fetching surgery outfit I go down for my opp.
7pm – I come round in the recovery and let me tell you it’s nothing like Holby City… The banter between the nurses included “I’m not staying any longer than 8pm because I’d get more stacking shelves” and “when’s the kid on the end going back to Disney ward” along with gossip about someone leaving! Don’t get me wrong I think these nurses do an amazing job and they were kind, but I did feel a little of an inconvenience, being last of day and everyone’s wanting to get home (no doubt after a VERY long shift) I felt rushed to get off the recovery bed into a chair, where Teear found me…. Having a rare moment of self-pity (boohooing!)
8.50pm – Teear helps me out of the closing recovery ward (lights pretty much went out as we left!) into the car and then a 2.5hr drive back to South Wales from Northampton… Seriously, that was one miserable journey, sore and uncomfortable, feeling sick from the anaesthetic in my system and not having eaten all day, the drain sloshing about… Struggled to remain upbeat during that night, poor Teear!!
If you’re confused why I’m having surgery in Northampton when we live in South Wales… You’re entitled to choose where in the country you have your treatment. The reasons I chosen Northampton: It’s where I had my breast cancer treatment 6yrs ago which was exceptional, Northampton General is a centre of excellence for cancer and also Teear and I are looking to move back (although I’ll be through treatment by the time we sell and move!) – meaning a few more journeys to endure!
Apologies if the above photos have made you a little sick in your mouth!
Next steps, more waiting this time for the pathology report, this will determine the chemo regime I’ll need – I hope to know this in the next week.
If you’re Interested in How Cancer Tumours Are Graded I Borrowed This Section From The Breast Cancer Care Site:
The size of the breast cancer is usually measured in millimetres (mm) or centimetres (cm).
Although in general smaller cancers may have a better outcome, size doesn’t always give the whole picture and is just one part of the overall report. A small cancer can be fast growing while a larger cancer may be slow growing, or it could be the other way around.
Your pathology report will probably say if the cancer is localised (which means there’s only one area) or multiple foci (when there’s more than one area of cancer).
What grade is the breast cancer?
Cancers are given a grade according to how different they are to normal breast cells and how quickly they are growing. In your pathology report this may also be called differentiation.
Invasive breast cancer
There are three grades of invasive breast cancer:
- grade 1 (well differentiated) – the cancer cells look most like normal cells and are usually slow-growing
- grade 2 (moderately differentiated) – the cancer cells look less like normal cells are growing faster
- grade 3 (poorly differentiated) – the cancer cells look most changed and are usually fast-growing.
People with grade 3 invasive breast cancers are more likely to be offered chemotherapy to help destroy any cancer cells that may have spread as a result of the cancer being faster growing.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
There are also three grades of DCIS which are usually referred to as low, intermediate and high.
It’s Sunday night, my drain’s been removed (whoop whoop) and tomorrow I can finally get my wounds wet and wash my minging hair, thing’s are LOOKING up! Until next time…. Be kind.
Love Lucy Xxx