All the boring medical crap...

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All the boring medical crap...

Wow, has it really been that long since I have posted something out here? Well what better way to jump right back than providing you with an excessively descriptive recap of my medical life for these past couple weeks. Are you excited? I know I am.

***WARNING. If you don't like or care to know medical specifics please exit immediately and move on to the next journal entry. I am not offended.***

- The Big Day has arrived! My Double Mastectomy has been initiated and there is no turning back.

The typical double mastectomy patient: Surgery lasts approximately two hours and the patient is typically able to be released from the hospital the following day.

Lori Renowski: All that above about the typical patient, you can just go ahead and scrap that. I am not that.

My surgery ended up lasting four hours. Apparently the tumor was so comfortable in my right boob that it was digging its heels in and fighting its eviction. The tumor had managed to wrap itself around a few blood vessels. You know, to make sure it "took." When my surgeon went to remove it the tumor managed to take a few blood vessels out with it. I lost a lot of blood. Dennis assured me that Dr. Bengston did not look panicked or stressed about this particular bit of information. Good to know.

Turns out they also found cancer present in a few lymph nodes of my left armpit. They were able to get them out and toss them out with the rest. Thank God I decided to go with the dual boob removal package option. Even if they hadn't found anything and I had my boob injected with dye just for the fun of it, I am still glad I did it.

I was prepared to spend Saturday at the hospital. At least part of it. I felt fine. I am not going to let four grenade-shaped bottles attached to excessively long clear tubing, and cleverly exiting my body in those spots near your armpits that both maximized discomfort, and at the same time successfully interfere with the smallest task and/or movement, slow me down! I was soon to learn that although I couldn't be slowed down, my body's ability to produce hemoglobin numbers close to those of functioning humans....that could be slowed down.

Deja vu moment: haven't I already done this? My blood seems to make very poor choices when It comes to choosing numbers.

I know what you're thinking - so what? Who cares about hemoglobin? That's exactly what I thought. The problem is that the numbers it's choosing are not healthy, nor do those numbers have the blood's best interest at heart. My blood gravitates to dysfunctional number relationships. These numbers do not appear to cause any warm and fuzzy feelings in affairs of the blood.

(Flashback to my chemotherapy days): Oh those white blood cell counts. I can't remember what the normal range is, but I do know it's not one. And to prove a point my blood decided to take it a step further and weighs in at a less than one range.

(Fade back to current day) Hemoglobin: the nurses told me on Saturday as I was already mentally leaving the hospital to head home, that the normal hemoglobin range is 12-14. My test results just got in:


I am realizing that seven isn't the greatest score but it could be worse. They tell me I could still probably go home. They will just check my hemoglobin in a bit and make sure my numbers are improving. The lab technician comes back around three to test my hemoglobin. I am feeling good so I am confident I am at least at a 12.


How can I be going backwards? I am not even doing anything!! I figure they are going to give me some hemoglobin enhancers as my parting gift and send me on my merry way.

I was saddened to learn that the enhancer pills I had imagined in mind did not exist. There weren't even any multiple answers for solving this problem. Blood transfusion.

It still didn't register with me that I was not going home Saturday. I don't know why I assumed I knew the necessary period of time to complete a blood transfusion, or why on earth I for assumed this would fall into the "speedy medical procedures "category, but I did. The nurse tells me one bag of blood takes three hours. I am looking at the clock and calculating my estimated departure time when I hear her tell the other nurse that she is going to go ahead and place the order for2 bags of blood. I start counting on my fingers and it hits me that I am spending another night at the hospital.

After the blood transfusion my already puffy-for-no-good-reason right arm decides to develop a blood clot. Again I somehow thing I have the medical knowledge and wherewithal to already know the treatment plan that is to follow. I couldn't have been anymore wrong. I assume little baby pill with a list of side effects a mile long and I am done. NOPE. I learn that twice a day for the next 90 days, I get to grab a fatty part of my stomach (so really just anywhere I can reach), and stab myself with a slender and surprisingly long needle. Oh yeah, and the medicine inside of it? It's gonna start burning like hell the second you start releasing it and will continue at a steady level until you're done.

I think hearing this was harder than receiving the stage IV cancer diagnosis. The oncologist should have told me that I have to give myself painful burning shots every day twice a day forever, then said "Just kidding. You really have stage 4 cancer. The cancer in your breast has spread to your spine." I would have been relieved!! I really hate shots!

To add insult to injury they force me to watch a training video of a pasty old man expertly shooting the blood thinner into one of the many liver spots dotting his doughy belly. (Do I sound a little bitter? I really, really don't like shots, unless they are of the alcoholic beverage variety).

After proving to the nurse I can give myself a shot, they finally allow me to head home around noon on Sunday. The smart thing to do would be to lay down and take it easy. So yes, immediately start finding things to do around the apartment. I am just so excited to be out that I immediately do the exact opposite of what they had instructed to me to do.

Around 4PM I realize that my right side feels a little heavier. I check my grenade drains and realize I need to empty them. I came home with 4 little measurey-type cups to empty them into so I can record the volume. They each hold 90ml. The only reason I tell you information is that over the course of the next two hours I realize that I have emptied almost 90ml from drain "A" on my right side three times in the last couple hours. Not alarming until I realize that the remaining three drains are putting out a significantly less volume, and over a longer span of time. I get a little nervous because that doesn't seem normal. I empty 90mls of fluid out two more times in the next hour. I decide maybe I am doing too much and decide to take nap. When I wake up from my nap and start getting out of bed when I notice a rather largish pool of blood under me. I sprung a leak! Off to the ER we go.

So 12 hours after being released from the hospital I am sitting the ER realizing I had probably just lost all that blood transfusion blood I purchased yesterday. They admit me back in thanks to that damn Hemoglobin and I settle in for the night to enjoy blood transfusion, part 2. Silver lining: I get to stop those damn blood thinner shots, at least for now. J

Monday and Tuesday are spent hanging out in the hospital, trying to sweet talk my hemoglobin numbers into inching up a bit so I can go home. I got to meet a lot of wonderful nurses so my hospital staycation wasn't a total loss.

-Wednesday: I get to go home, again. Hooray!

I manage to make it through Thursday, Friday, and part of Saturday without any medical drama. Saturday morning I am starting to feel a little crappy-ER. I spend a short amount of time denying it and cave around lunchtime. I break out the thermometer and find I have a fever100.3. I don't even waste any time in denial, to the ER we go.

I get to the emergency room, and I am pretty sure they all recognize me by this point. My temperature has hit 101.3.The ER doctor on call decides not to chance anything and immediately pages my surgeon. He is quick to figure out that the drain on my left side has clogged, causing fluid back up and infection. I hear him say something about an antibiotic at home or antibiotic upstairs via IV. He must have seen the look on my face because he then begins to tell me I can get my prescription filled in the waiting room. He then tells me to grab my phone, and add his cell number to my contacts with the instruction to call him if I have any more issues.

-I manage to make it through Sunday without having to utilize my surgeon's cellphone number.

As if to make up for my lack of drama the day before, on Monday my pain level immediately shoots to 10. I don't want to move. Oxycodone, morphine...nothing is helping. I don't even want to open my mouth to complain. By the time late afternoon rolled around and I didn't even feel an ounce better, I broke down and made an appointment to see the surgeon the next day. I decide tomorrow will be much better. I will just go to bed early and sleep it off.

-Happy Birthday to me! I spend the day in bed until it's time for my appointment. My surgeon isn't in so I see one of his partners. He decides it's fluid buildup. The remedy to fixing that problem is to use an arm sized needle to try draining. I hear him say that we don't need to numb the area. I was so miserable that I didn't even argue, not even in my mind. Well that was a mistake, I should have argued.

After jabbing around for what I felt was way too long, he says that he can't find the fluid. He sends me home with along face and a date with the radiology department the following day.

-Again, hang out in bed until appointment time. I am having an ultrasound to locate the pocket, and then the doctor can drain it. I am about to protest until the radiology tech says they will be numbing me up first. Hallelujah! I decide to focus on the screen and pretend like I know what I am looking at.

The doctor tells me to let her know if I feel anything sharp.

Now I may not be confident in my Spanish speaking skills, or not quite comfortable with my golf game, but I am 110%confident to my ability to let someone know if I feel something sharp. I would go so far as to say there's probably no way I could not NOT let you know if I am feeling something sharp. I am laughing in my mind when I am interrupted by my mouth saying: "SHHAARP, sharp, yep, that is sharp all right"

Her reply? "Well that's probably because I am in an area I didn't numb."

Here is where my brain identified a dangerous situation where I might actually say something stupid and implements corrective measures. The corrective measure is called the internal/external response system. This allows my brain to process the thought of what I am truly thinking while forcing the thought through a filter system before it hits my mouth.

INTERNAL response? "Well, WHY??!! Stop that! Why wouldn't you numb all potential areas? I am no doctor but I have to think it is always better to over-numb vs. under-numb. For the love of all that is holy, STOP THAT!"

EXTERNAL response? "Oh, ok"

It turns out that she was able to get50ccs of bacteria laden fluid out of the site that was once home to my left boob. I didn't feel like I could skip out of the hospital but I did feel a little better.

As I was getting dressed to leave she says: If you start feeling bad again just give us a call and we can do this again.

This time my internal/external response were a perfect match: "Um, no. I think I'll be ok". Ok, so maybe my internal thought was more like "Oh HELL no!". But still, close enough.

So I think that is enough for now. I will save my blood update for another day. I will still be answering the questions people sent me as well as posting the other journal entry.


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Lori--so sorry that you had to go through that--but thank you for sharing your story and showing us your courage and strength. All the best!

Oct 16, 2013 - 1:15 PM by JAN T

Thank you! :)

Nov 04, 2013 - 1:38 AM by Lori R

Lori - Thanks for posting this story and for being brave through out this entire ordeal. The insights you are sharing with our community will help other young women who are going through the journey as well as their loved ones who are providing support to them. I look forward to your next post. As Always - Be Well. Dave

Oct 14, 2013 - 2:11 PM by David D

Thank you Dave! :)

Nov 04, 2013 - 1:39 AM by Lori R

Lori, Thanks for sharing the story. Hope you'e feeling better and I'm sorry you missed the Chili cookoff. (inside joke for us I guess) \M/

Oct 12, 2013 - 8:04 PM by Scott D

Thanks Scott! Probably best I didn't go. :) I will just have to find another show to go to right?

Nov 04, 2013 - 1:41 AM by Lori R

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