Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Doctor knows breast

It's a day after seeing my first surgery, a mastectomy, and I'd like to relay my thoughts on the experience.

They went something like this: Wow, she was sedated quickly. Man, getting cut by that scalpel looks painful. Is he really going to use that soldering iron thing? WOW, that looks painful. WOW, that smells awful. WOW, I feel nauseous. I can see muscle! ...Wait, you're telling me he doesn't replace any of that?

Despite having volunteered for the Breast Cancer Research Center of Austin in high school, I somehow didn't quite realize what it entailed until midway through the surgery when I leaned over and asked Paige if the breast is completely removed, as in nothing is replaced and the skin is just stitched back together and she's sent home. Yep. Basically.

In non-medical terms, my first introduction to surgery was watching a woman's breast be cut off. If it's hard to tell (probably not), at the time I was pretty disgusted. Even knowing that the woman was unconscious and couldn't feel any of what was happening, it was hard not to empathize with her (I think I unconsciously spent the whole surgery with my hands crossed across my chest).

I think it was particularly shocking because her lymph nodes were infected as well, meaning that the cancer was at an advanced stage and all the fatty tissue between her breast and armpit needed to be removed ...and because she was a big woman this amounted to more than 5 lbs of excised fat. Also, although the tissue of the breast isn't particularly rich in blood vessels, because tumors grow their own blood supply, the operation was bloodier than expected.

But, it's been a day and I'm going in for surgery again early tomorrow with the hope that I was just shocked by the newness of it and the circumstances of the mastectomy itself. I'll report back then.

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