(16-11-17) Looking Back

Exactly one year ago today, I was lying in a hospital bed, my breasts freshly hacked off and my pain medication wearing off to reveal a level of physical and emotional pain I wasn’t prepared for. Not a single friend knew which hospital I was at, and I hadn’t even told my parents yet. I had already made up my mind to refuse chemotherapy and radiation, and I was trying to figure out how to give my pets away to dependable people, without raising suspicion.

As I sit here in one of seven Lazy Boy recliners at my oncologist’s office, Herceptin flowing through my veins for the second to last time, I swallow the lump forming in my throat, blink back the tears, and silently congratulate myself on making it through this last year.

(16-11-08) Biologicals 2.0

me: “So this biological is different than the one you injected into me a few weeks ago.”

Dr. Dhillon: “Yes.”

me: “What’s this biological, then?”

Dr. Dhillon: “a sausage blanket”



“Biologicals,” apparently, is an umbrella term used for a variety of strange substances that doctors put into a person’s body, in order to promote healing.  Just three weeks ago, my “biological” involved a needle, two vials sitting on dry ice, and a fluid that consisted of actual cell growth factors that were pulled out of a stranger’s amniotic sac and/or placenta (still a little confused by all this, if you can’t tell).  Today, however, the biological was quite different.  Instead of a fluid, there was a strip of off-white, paper-like material so thin that it reminded me of nori, that dried seaweed used to roll sushi.  Instead of being injected with a needle, Dr. Dhillon used a long cotton swab to push the biological up through the bottom wound, then used tweezers to reach into the top wound and pull the paper up through the tunnel that runs just underneath my skin, between the two holes.  Aaaaand, instead of coming from a person’s placenta, these biologicals were taken from the intestines of a pig.

I am not joking.

Animal experimentation ethics aside, i was curious how this experimental treatment could possibly help my body close these open wounds.  This is my (VERY LIMITED) understanding of the matter…and science-savvy readers, PLEASE feel free to correct or clarify anything i write.

Biological #1 contained actual cells that had growth factors in them.  Once they were injected into my body, the idea was that those cells would work to create new cells in that area, cells that would help stimulate tissue growth.  So much of my old tissue was killed off from the radiation, and radiation had basically destroyed my body’s ability to heal itself.  This is why my body wasn’t producing new tissue that would close the wounds, and also why Dr. Dhillon keeps having to go in to the holes every single week and scrape off accumulating dead tissue in that area.

Biological #2 is more of a transportation device.  I’m guessing that cells have a tendency to cluster, so this substance helps the cells move along to different parts of a region.  Obviously, i would need healthy living cells all around the perimeter of the wound, in order to get that tissue to eventually move closer together and close the hole.  This biological, theoretically, will help move those living cells to where they need to be.

Afterwards, Dr. Dhillon placed a thin webbing material over both of the holes, to prevent the biological from slipping out and to allow any drainage to continue occurring.  Then he placed an ABD pad over the entire area and secured it with waterproof tape.

“Leave that on until i see you again.”
“Don’t shower for a week – baths only.  If you have to shower, keep your back to the water.  Don’t get this area wet.”
“Keep the compression bra on.”
“Try not to sweat.”
“See you in a week.”