Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Jackie K. on November 26, 2011
I was Diagnosed with:
Date of Diagnosis:
January 7, 2011
Employment Status:
Full Time Employment
Type and Description of Treatments:
I was diagnosed with DCIS on January 7th 2011. They were able to save the skin but not the breast. On January 26th I met with my general surgeon and on February 4th I met my plastic surgeon. On February 14th 2011 I had a right breast mastectomy. Having my mastectomy on Valentines Day was like giving Hallmark the Finger! I chose to have a tram flap. They took my right ab muscle and flipped it up into my right breast and then took the fat from my belly and filled in the rest of the breast. I could not have asked a better medical staff. From the breast coordinators to the doctors who did my initial screenings, my general and plastic surgeon and the entire nursing staff at So. San Francisco Kaiser. Yes, cancer runs in my family, however it was not in my direct lineage. My great grandmothers sister had it, her daughter had it and her daughter had it. My great grandmother was diabetic and so I thought I would have gotten diabetes before breast cancer. On January 5th I went to see my OBGYN for my annual. Keep in mind that I was only there because after a visit to my primary doctor for a prescription refill I was told that it was time for my annual pap. My OBGYN did a breast exam as a part of my yearly exam and found the mast in my right breast. She sent me to get a mammogram on January 7th. I was not going to let myself get all worked up until I knew there was something to worry about. While in one of the position during the mammogram the tech noticed blood on the ground. She asked "where did that come from?", which is when we both realized it had dripped from my right nipple. "Hmmmm.." I was thinking, "That's probably NOT supposed to happen." Right after she finished the mammogram I was asked to wait so the doctor could talk to me. I waited about maybe 30 min and Dr. Yu brought me into her office and told me that she "would be surprised if it wasn't cancer." I took a deep breath, wiped my tears and asked, "if it's in my lymph nodes, is it a death sentence?" and when she said "No", I said, "ok, well, let's get busy". On January 26th I met Dr. Chen my general surgeon, she was to take the breast tissue out. She was exactly the right doctor for me. She was very methodical and had the exact right amount of bedside manor to comfort me when I was scared of what the scaring was going to look like. On February 4th I met Dr. Simmonds my plastic surgeon. He was going to put my breast back together. He was equally as excellent! He was very clear about the procedure and what the recovery was going to look like. He said that I was going to have a scar from hip to hip and that I would be hunched over for about 5 weeks after the surgery while the skin took time to stretch back. On February 14th my brother, who had been with me for every single appointment, picked me up and took me to the hospital where we met my mom. Once I was in the operating room we had realized that I had only signed one of the two consent forms and they had already began the sedation. The anesthesiologist said that technically I couldn't sign the form for 24 hours since I had been sedated. I heard this and said, "NO! I can sign it!" They asked me some current events questions to make sure I was coherent enough and once I answered correctly and signed the form, I was out. The next thing I remember I was waking up in ICU 6.5 hours later. I was the first patient to have a tram flap performed at So. San Francisco Kaiser, not my doctors first patient, just the first patient at this particular hospital, which is why they had me in ICU for 24 hours. I was in the hospital for 5 days. My surgery was on a Monday and I was home on Friday which started my two and a half month medical leave from work to heal. My mom had rented me a recliner because I could only sleep on my back as I had three drains. One under my arms and two in my belly. I needed help "milking" the drains twice a day and I couldn't shower for a month while the drains were in me. The only exercise I was to do was walk. Which winded me. Over time this of course got better. The hardest thing about my surgery was being hunched over for 5 weeks while my skin stretched back. I had a hard time coughing and laughing, it was nearly impossible for about two weeks at least. I was out of pain by Tuesday the 15th of February, I was uncomfortable but I really wasn't in any pain and the only reason I used the pain medication was to help me sleep. I was getting up out of bed on my own by the afternoon of the 16th, (Wednesday). I was very lucky that I didn't need chemo, radiation or the tamoxifen.
How do you feel today?

I never really felt "sick", but I feel great today! I am still numb around my stomach and my breast will be numb for a long time, but I am back to my normal daily routine. The only thing that has been hard for me to add back into my routine is working out, but that is coming soon. I have had a hard time with getting back into my work out because it's hard for me to start that once I've been out of it for a while, not because I am in any pain or have any mobility restrictions.

What is not going well for you right now?

It's not that my work "isn't" going right for me, but I am keeping myself open to different job options. I would like to move away from working in a 24 hour business at some point. ( I work in hotels ).

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

When I was diagnosed I was working 5 graveyard shifts a week. I have recently gone from five to two graveyard nights a week. I am focusing on changing my work so I won't have to work any graveyard shifts at all.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

I pretty much went right back to my graveyard shift when I went back to work although I have since gone from five nights a week graveyard to two.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

I always had a positive outlook. Once I knew I wasn't dying, I was in healing mode, even before the surgery.