Saturday, February 19, 2011


Yesterday I participated in my first mastectomy!

(For those who have been following this blog for some time, you will probably guess who got the procedure. Yep. Mary!)

I first met Mary a few months back when she came in for a prenatal check. (Read her story here.) She explained that her right breast got really big after one of her births, and she had not been able to breastfeed from it since. As she sat on my consultation table, it sat beside her. It was big. It was cantaloupe-sized big.

Fast forward a few months, during which time I spoke about her case with the doctors. Tom seemed optimistic that he and a surgeon friend might be able to do the procedure when he (the surgeon) comes in May. But when Tom saw her breast this week, he said it would be easier than he thought. Why not do it now?

I couldn’t see any reason to wait; sure there were possible complications (pregnancy, no operating room, minimal staff, etc.), but doing the procedure now would give her time to heal before the birth.

When I shared this news with her, hope danced in her eyes. Twelve years is a long time to live with a dangling appendage.

Asking her to come back on Friday afternoon, Tom and I looked into what it would take and discussed the details. Tom was confident it would be a simple procedure, but didn’t down play the risks either. Using local anesthetics, we’d cut; if any bleeders occurred, we’d just ligate them and move on.

Nervous and excited, she returned yesterday afternoon. The clinic was (blissfully) quiet as we prepped the room and explained the procedure in detail (once again). She said she understood and was happy to do it now, adding that it was extra bothersome in the heat and it’s hard to sleep. (I can only imagine!)

I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, it was all about meticulous cutting, ligating arteries, and suturing everything back up. The hour it took to cut it off was long and grueling, but the blood loss was minimal.

When I showed her the removed portion, weighing in at 2.3 kg (or 5lbs), she smiled gleefully. I must admit, I didn’t expect such joy. But then again, if a part of my body had haunted me for 12 long years, I think I’d be ecstatic to see it go, too!

Long story short, we stitched her up and watched her through the night. We plan on daily wound dressings over the next few weeks and I’ll be sure to update you on the progress. Please pray for a quick recovery and that no infection sets in.  Thanks.

The breast before surgery.

The tissue after it was removed, weighing 2.3 kg.