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Belly Button Surgery...Just a Quicky

Updated on June 7, 2009

What's one more surgery?

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Another day, another surgeryThank heavens for Dr. NgWill this cap pick up radio stations? or keep the space aliens away?Mark kisses me before I head off to surgery.
Another day, another surgery
Another day, another surgery
Thank heavens for Dr. Ng
Thank heavens for Dr. Ng
Will this cap pick up radio stations? or keep the space aliens away?
Will this cap pick up radio stations? or keep the space aliens away?
Mark kisses me before I head off to surgery.
Mark kisses me before I head off to surgery.

Don't Feed the Animals

Mark's Bad Joke of the Day

Rolling off to Surgery in my Silver Hat

Post-op Crackers...Finally, Some Food!


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The new non-belly buttonComfort food after surgery
The new non-belly button
The new non-belly button
Comfort food after surgery
Comfort food after surgery

It's in the hole

Do I really need a belly button?

See results

I didn't want the damn thing anyway

"I have to say it...I told you so," I told Dr. Foster, my plastic surgeon who had created a new belly button for me after my TRAM Flap and bilateral mastectomy surgery more than three weeks ago. Originally, I told him I didn't care to get a belly button. Was it medically necessary to have one? No. It's more aesthetic.

"Yeah, I know," he said as he leaned down to mark his territory writing his initials, "RF," on my belly.

And now, after issues arose from the created belly button during the previous surgery, he was going to close up the new belly button. Yeah, another scar. Whoopee.

My surgery was scheduled for 4:30 p.m., but I couldn't eat or drink anything after midnight the previous night. We arrived at the hospital at 2 p.m. and by the time of the surgery, I was starving.

Before Dr. Foster came into the pre-op room, the anesthesiologist entered. It was a guy with what sounded like a German or some other accent. He kept asking question after question about the same thing and I was becoming more and more insecure and anxious about this quick surgery that was only supposed to take about 20 minutes to less than an hour to complete. I thought, great. Here I've already gone through these two very long and serious surgeries and it's this ridiculous belly button surgery that's going to kill me.

After he left, I mentioned my concerns.

"Why couldn't it be Dr. Ng (pronounced, ing). I like him and he makes me feel comfortable." The past two surgeries, I'd had Dr. Ng as my anesthesiologist and he was skilled at his job, preventing terrible throat pain such as other anesthesiologists in the past. He's also the head of the department which leads me to believe he knows what he's doing. I felt it was my own fault for having not asked if he was available for this short surgery as I had in the past. I suppose I didn't think I'd be so lucky to get him since the procedure was last minute.

This other guy came in twice asking the same questions and then the nurse returned.

"I don't suppose Dr. Ng is on call today?"

"I think he might be leaving soon. Why?" she asked.

"Oh, he's been my anesthesiologist the last two surgeries and he's done such a great job. I guess I'd just feel more comfortable with him."

The nurse commented, whomever I got as my anesthesiologist would be just as good. She left the room.

She must have gone to see if Dr. Ng was still at the hospital because within minutes, Dr. Ng and his entourage entered the room and a wave of relief came over me. I smiled broadly and suddenly any concerns disappeared. I assumed, my husband after all won't have to put on my tombstone, "Her belly button did her in."

The surgery was uneventful. I remember breathing in through the mask and falling asleep before waking up and rolling into the quiet post-op room. I recovered quite quickly from any anesthesia, even more quickly than the last time I had to get some teeth filled at the dentist. Before I knew it, I was sitting up and eating graham crackers and drinking from small hospital containers of apple juice. It tasted delightfully yummy.

I wanted to get out of the hospital, so I didn't waste any time getting ready to go after the nurse said I was okay to leave just after 6 p.m. Another woman rolled me down to our car and we head home.

I was still hungry so we stopped at one of my family's favorite haunts; Marin Joe's. I've been going there since I was a kid, just as my mom had gone to the Joe's in the Marina (in San Francisco) since she was a kid. Marin Joe's is one of those restaurants that's always crowded from the moment they open their doors, but lucky for us, we were able to snag a booth in the side room near the piano bar.

Mark and I sat at the corner table. Two youngish couples sat at the booth to my right; the women carried standard Marin hardware -- $2,000 purses -- and the men spoke about their Porsches and how they can't drive on Highway 5 from Los Angeles without speeding at 105 mph which regularly gets them stopped by police at least once per month.

One woman said she keeps a photo of a police captain friend in her wallet and when police stop her car -- also for regularly speeding -- they can't help but see the photo and ask who it is. The woman said she replies, "He's my brother," and she gets out of any tickets.

At the table I faced sat three alter kakers (Yiddish for old geezers). After a few drinks and plenty of Joe's delicious sour dough french bread (one guy kept sweeping the bread crumbs off the table with his hand), I could see that the bread-sweeping man received liver and onions. Yuck! I hoped I wouldn't smell any of it.

One of his companions ordered rabbit. I know that because throughout their meal, one of the chefs made several visits to their table to schmooze about gambling and joke around about how the other two men's meals were taking longer to arrive because they were waiting for the rabbit to cook.

Watching their interaction with the chef was like stepping back in time to watch my grandfather at one of his friend's restaurant in Marin. It wasn't just their lust for eating the tasty meal, but the attention given by the chef.

My grandpa -- always a charismatic, gregarious sort of fellow -- moved up from Los Angeles to San Francisco when he was a child. The day he and his family arrived at the train station in San Francisco, his father left the station to find lodging for the night. My grandpa, only about age 5 at the time, was left at the station with his mother and 8-year-old sister who ended up breaking her arm while playing at the station. Great-grandma took Auntie Ann to the hospital with my grandpa.

Unfortunately, when great-grandma returned to the station, great-grandpa was nowhere to be found. Moreover, she only spoke Yiddish and wouldn't ask the police for help because she considered the police to be like the Cossacks in the old country. Jews never went to "the authorities" for help because assistance was the opposite of what they would receive. And with that, my great-grandmother became a single parent.

Eventually, they settled north of San Francisco in Marin County; they lived in San Rafael which is in central Marin.

As a single parent, great-grandma had to work a lot to sustain her family during which time grandpa befriended his life-long best friend, Leo. Leo was one of numerous children in his Italian family and soon enough grandpa spent more time at Leo's house than his own. As he put it, in Leo's house, one more mouth to feed wasn't going to make a difference.

It was Leo's family and his nice wife who owned an Italian restaurant in San Rafael. You can see their sign from Highway 101 on the east side; the restaurant name is on a boat high up on a post.

Every so often, we'd dine there because grandpa loved Leo's family's cioppino recipe. And every time, Leo would linger at out table, chatting with grandpa and offering special foods for his best friend's family.

Thus, after grandpa was raised on Italian food, it's no wonder why to this day, my favorite food is in the Italian. Mom was raised on it just as I was.

Post surgery healing update...

Bad News first:

  • You know how when you lose a part of your body, sometimes you're supposed to feel phantom parts? It sort of feels like that on my new right breast. I don't know if it's the scabs or what, but there's this itch that just won't go away. The surface of my skin is numb, while the nerve endings or whatever underneath is screaming with sensitivity. But now there's this feeling like my nipple has an itch. I'm not trying to be crude or anything, but I feel like I need to pinch it to get rid of this itch. The only thing is, there's no nipple to pinch, scratch, whatever. So now it's driving me nuts and there's this constant nagging feeling I need to grab something or scratch something. It's like having "restless leg syndrome" in my tit. Aaaagh!
  • This latest surgery has set me back a couple of days in my healing.
  • Breasts are extra sensitive and sore since they took out the stitches.
  • The other night I had a craving for a bowl of cereal. I went into the kitchen and tried reaching for the cereal on the top shelf in the cabinet. Normally, that would be no big deal, but my arms don't stretch up that high yet. Even when standing on my tippy toes and stretching as high as I could, only my finger tips could scrape the box. I managed to grab the box eventually, but not before over-stretching my arm to the point of pain down my side and into my breast.
  • As usual, I'm sick of taking drugs that make me sleepy which is making it take forever to write this blog.

Good news:

  • I'm down to one covered bandage that has to remain on my belly until my next post-op appointment. That means, no more drains to empty, no more bandages to replace two to three times per day. That makes it easier to take showers and in general.
  • I can actually lean down (very carefully) to pick up items off the floor once in a while. It hurts, but I'm able to stretch a little more than before.
  • I've been able to pick up the girls once in a while. The girls are my son's pet rats. I didn't think it was a good idea to pick them up while I still had open wounds or the drains. As much as I know they like me, I do realize they are animals with instincts and I guess I figured I didn't want them to go Willard on me and go after open flesh wounds or the bloody fluids collecting in the JP drain.



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    • Joelle Burnette profile image

      Joelle Burnette 8 years ago

      Glad you're okay, Cindy. I'm glad I don't have to live with the timebomb of cancer anymore. Now, I just get to worry about my kids' genetics.

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      They reckon they got it all out until there were clear margins, and they also removed lymph nodes under my arm. Had another scare in December when I had a very enlarged lymph node and increasing calcification in the left breast. They did a fine needle biopsy and while they don't know what is causing it, no bad cells were present, so just something that has to be monitored.

    • Joelle Burnette profile image

      Joelle Burnette 8 years ago

      Thanks, Cindy. I read your story...yikes. I've had enough bad experiences with male doctors who try to deal with women's issues that I will do what I can to find the best female doctors. I know this sounds sexist, but certain issues, men just don't get it. Even now, my breast surgeon is a woman (she also happens to be the head of the department at UCSF).

      Several years ago, I had terrible pain in my right abdomen. I had to go to a new doctor because the woman I had just begun going to left on some big trip. The guy they had me see at the practice treated me like a sexual criminal and actually made the pain worse with his rough exam; I felt violated and ashamed by the time I left the office with my perscription for an antibiotic. 

      Finally, I found a really great practice -- all women doctors -- by going into a nearby hospital and asking the nurses in the maternity ward, who would they go to if they had their choice of any OB/GYN. (An ER nurse friend once told me that is the best way to find a doctor)

      I got an appointment, my new doctor had barely began giving me a much more gentle exam and knew within moments what the problem was and how to correctly treat it. It wasn't a disease, it was an ovarian cyst the size of a softball.

      And if you think you were young when you had cancer, my sister was only 32 when she felt that first lump that turned into such an aggressive cancer (the first time).

      Any woman who feels a lump in their breast needs to get immediate medical attention. I beg all women...please never delay getting tests done and fight your doctors to get extra attention if they belittle your experience.

      Cindy, one question...why didn't they give you chemo? I can understand no radiation (my sister chose not to have radiation), but why not chemo?

    • Lwelch profile image

      Lena Welch 8 years ago from USA

      I get under the skin itches every allergy season. I know exactly what you are feeling there! Each season I seem to get a new spot that needs to be pinched and prodded as it itches like mad. Unfortunately, if you have discovered that pinching helps, there isn't much else I can tell you!

    • cindyvine profile image

      Cindy Vine 8 years ago from Cape Town

      Joelle, I feel for you my friend, having had a tram flap done on my right breast in January 2004! I wrote a hub about the whole experience and feel for you with the whole bellybutton thing. Mine is slightly off-centre. But the worst, is that the other day I had an itch on my tummy. I can feel itches no problem. However, I never regained feeling in my tummy or my right breast or the top part of my arm. So you feel the itch, but when you scratch it you can't feel yourself scratching the itch and there's no way to alleviate it! I had a nipple made about six months later and six months after that they tattood on an aureola to match my left side. It is amazing, what they can do, but the scar I have from hip to hip is so ugly. Butr at least, I no longer have cancer!