Breast Cancer Chronicles: A Partial Mastectomy, A Fat Lip and A Missing Tooth

So Surgery Went Well, Kinda...

A week ago, I had a partial mastectomy. The good news is that the cancer has not spread and the lymph nodes are clear. I am recovering, but it has been slow and difficult. After I heal, I will begin a six-week course of radiation therapy. I consider myself very fortunate. My kids were with me and if I ever had any doubts (which I didn't) that they would always protect me, those doubts were baseless. I would rather face a rabid pit bull than my three grown children if they sense something wrong. And they did...

From the moment we entered the lobby of the outpatient surgery center, something just did not feel right. From check-in to post-op, there were too many little things that when added up, turned this surgery into a far worse experience than it should have been. My older daughter, a veteran in the patient care field, summed it up quite succinctly, "This place is a factory." She was right. They do more than 60 surgeries a day. There is little patient privacy and they were insistent that there be only one family member with me in pre-op.

Prior to pre-op, I went to radiology and was injected with a local anesthesia. The radiologist then placed a very thin needle into my breast which would serve to guide the surgeon. After that, I walked to radiology and was injected with dye for the lymph node biopsy. During the ultrasound, I noticed that the tumor had grown since I first saw it over two months ago. It had also changed shape.

Then I had a mammogram. After that, I walked to the surgical suite and was told that only one of my children could accompany me. Well, my older daughter was by my side and less than 2 minutes later, the other two sneaked in. Geez, I wonder who they take after? I was in a hospital gown, sitting on a flat-backed chair and my daughter was sitting on the recliner reserved for the patient. The recliner was too uncomfortable for my neck (previous back surgery) and when the first person came in, she flipped. She was angry that there were 3 family members with me and she was angrier that I was sitting where I was sitting. The kids didn't leave and I didn't move.

The anesthesiologist was a piece of work. I have always loved anesthesiologists! They are the people that keep you alive during surgery and they have always been, in my experience, very friendly and reassuring. I have had ten major surgeries and this was the first time I had doubts about the anesthesiologist.

I got into a wheelchair and was taken to surgery. I climbed onto the surgical table. My arms were strapped down and then the anesthesiologist put the oxygen mask over my mouth and nose. There was something wrong with it. The inside right side was rough and uneven and hurt. I started to fight and yell, "No, stop! You are hurting me", but he pushed down harder. Then I was out...

When I woke up, my breast was burning. Not hurting so much, but a burning feeling. The nurse dispensed pain medication, brought my son in and told him to go get the car, that I was ready to go home. My son helped me into the car and we left. About 5 minutes into our ride, the girls, who were sitting in the back seat, said that I was talking funny. My older daughter asked me to turn around. She said, "Oh my God, mom! You have a fat lip! Mom, you have a missing tooth..."

It was that damn mask, I know it. I was unable to walk until three days later. My body felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I am convinced that as I was moved from the surgical table to the gurney, that they dropped me. Not onto the floor, but from table to gurney.

I did not hear from the surgeon for two days. I found out on my own that over one third of my breast had been removed. When I complained to the surgeon about the pain, he told me to take extra strength Tylenol.


Don't Ever Go To The Hospital Alone

As I said before, I have had 10 major surgeries. I have never had an experience like this one and I have omitted many things. I have never filed a complaint with quality assurance, but now that I am feeling better, I will be filing a formal complaint.

I will never have another surgery at this hospital. Pretty bad, considering that this is the only surgery center that my insurance covers. But one fat lip and one missing tooth later, plus a nagging, gut feeling that I was dropped has convinced me to just say "No".

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Comments 14 comments

lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Oh Jillian, what a horrible experience. If that had happened in the system I worked in for 35 years, heads would have rolled. I hope that you will also write to the hospital administrator. This should never happen!!!!!!!

I can find little in your description that speaks to this being a professional environment. A partial mastectomy with a needle localization and a sentinel node procedure should have been emotionally rough but physically pretty simple. Your experience makes me so angry!

With all that said, congratulations on your report. Thank God you were able to save the breast and had no spread to the nodes. Radiation is tiring but well worth it to prevent recurrence. I am so sorry for your experience but happy that it's over for you.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Thank you, lrc7815!

You are right! The needle loc and the sentinel node biopsy were not physically challenging. Even the actual surgery site is not as painful as I had imagined. Women should not be afraid of these procedures-- I was and I am surprised at how minimal the pain was.

It was the environment and attitude of the staff that created the totally unpleasant experience. I was already anxious and their actions made me want to leave before the surgery.

Two days post-op the inability to walk and the severe neck, back and leg pain made me think I needed to go to the emergency room, but I was too afraid. I work for this hospital system and have lost confidence in their ability to conform to the standard of care that patients should be able to depend on.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

I am so angry over what happened to you. You should not have to deal with anything beyond the emotional part of having breast cancer. The rest should have been easy and you should have had 100% support throughout your hospital experience. No one should feel the way you do ! No one! Prayers for rapid healing coming your way!


HSchneider 4 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

I am very glad to hear that nothing spread to your lymph glands, Jillian. On the other hand, what happened to your mouth is pitiful. Hopefully your radiation treatment goes smoother though I hope it is not at the same facility.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Thank you, H!

Yes, the same facility--down in the basement---The good thing, I will be awake and have some control...


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 4 years ago from Rocky Mountains

I would be inclined to file a complaint or at least sue someone so this kind of thing does not happened again. A fat lip, missing tooth and tylenol suggestion from a doctor sound of neglect and ignorance. I would not be a happy camper if that happened to me. Sorry you had to experience such treatment through an already traumatic surgery. Hoping that you are feeling better and getting the love and respect you deserve.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Aloha, elayne001!

I am filing a complaint, and yes, the Tylenol suggestion got me, too! I wanted to ask him-sorry for being crude, but- if he had one of his two certain body parts cut off, would he take some extra strength Tylenol? I refrained, but was tempted. I am starting to feel better and my kids are taking care of me...


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

sorry you lost a tooth when they intubated you. it happens sometimes. they should have apologized for that before you left the hospital. complain to your insurance company, too.

i'm glad for your good report. i'm off to make popcorn for eating while watching obama trounce romney.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

Hi, Doc!

Getting ready for the debates, too--wanna see how Romney worms his way out of hating the 47% before loving them....


cathylynn99 profile image

cathylynn99 4 years ago from northeastern US

worm his way out of fit, he did. romney changed so many positions, it was like obama was debating a phantom. i hope folks picked up on that.


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

I watched the debate and agree. I was completely baffled by Romney's NEW tax plan. It is certainly the first time I have heard him say that he doesn't have a 5 trillion dollar tax cut planned for the wealthy. He did stick to his idea of cutting taxes by eliminating tax deductions and credits. Maybe the American people don't understand that by eliminating the home mortgage deduction, charitable deductions, the deduction for state and local taxes, etc. that they will pay more -- alot more!

Romney changed every position he has consistently held. He is actually the best Etch A Sketch I have ever seen.

If people believe the things that Romney said last night, they are uninformed.


Gemini Fox profile image

Gemini Fox 4 years ago

Wow, Jillian! Glad you made it through that experience! Can't believe it about the whole tooth thing - I'd do the American thing and sue 'em! I've heard some terrible things about these cancer places - that, yes, they're like production lines! Hang in there!

Also glad to see you're feeling well enough to write! Missed your hubs there for a while . . .


SylviaSky profile image

SylviaSky 4 years ago from USA

Your experiences are horrible. I wonder where you are located. I am in the USA Midwest and received the best of care for my Stage 1. It is true that the cancer center where I go for checkups has way too many people there -- like a casino. In the waiting area you can hardly move. In fact I call it "the casino" where "you bet your life."


Jillian Barclay profile image

Jillian Barclay 4 years ago from California, USA Author

I am so glad to hear that your treatments went well. I wish for you that the best in life is still to come!Your comment that your cancer center is like a "casino" and so full of people makes me think that first, there are too many with this disease, and second, there has to be a cure- We have to find it!

I am in Southern California and things are not looking so good right now, but we will see. I am always hopeful!

Thank you, SylviaSky!

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