The Mastectomy

I had my mastectomy on Friday, January 13, 2017.

I was brought up to believe that Friday the 13th represented a day of change and because many people are afraid of change, having anything done on this day is to be feared. In my case, it was clear that having a mastectomy marked a great change in my life, so I accepted it on a surgery date

The surgery was performed in the year-old Memorial Sloan Kettering Josie Robertson Surgery Center, a truly stunning hospital behind the bank of large, silver windows seen below.


Located at 1133 York Avenue at 61st Street in New York City, all windows framed the majestic Queensboro Bridge and cable car. The picture below was taken around 7:30 AM in the main waiting room.


Unlike general hospitals, this facility is designed for in-and-out cancer-related surgery. I arrived early and was scheduled to leave the next day by 11 AM. I was ushered in to a single room where I met the surgical team. The anesthesiologist told me that once I was put under, my body would be placed on life support with equipment doing the living for me. When I woke up, I’d have no memory of the event.


When I did wake up, I repeatedly asked my two nurses whether the surgery took place. All I remember was being wheeled into the operating room and covered in a warm, bubble-wrap blanket. The picture above is me after surgery. I have no idea how I had the presence of mind to put on my wig.

Phil stayed overnight in my room. In the morning, he was taught how to tend to my Jackson-Pratt drainage system, we eat breakfast, then headed home.

The picture below was taken three weeks after the surgery. The two round spots are from where lymphedema fluid drain tubes were attached to me. The straight line is where my breast was removed, and the curved line, where lymph nodes were removed from under my arm. Out of the 12 found, six showed a trace of cancer that probably had been eradicated through chemo, and one contained a cancer cell.


From this time forward, I must be very careful that I do not allow lymph fluid to collect in a condition called “lymphedema.” As of late April, that has not happened.


The picture above was taken around two weeks after surgery and around a month after my last chemo therapy period. My hair and eyebrows are but fuzz and I lost my eyelashes. Still, other than having tubes attached to me via pockets in a special garment which I’m wearing in this photo, I had very little pain after the surgery.

Technically, at this point I became cancer-free. Unfortunately, one more step was needed to really stamp out those cancer cells, radiation, which will be the subject of my next article: Radiation – Karen’s last cancer treatment

My Doctors

My oncologist is Dr. Karleung (Sammy) Siu, who practices at Holy Name Regional Cancer Center in Teaneck, NJ.

My surgeon and radiologist both practice at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. They are Dr. Andrea Veronica Barrio, breast surgeon, and Dr. Oren Cahlon, radiologist.


This diary is written by Karen Little and recounts her experience with cancer treatment. Except for the picture of the Memorial Sloan Kettering facility, all photography is by Karen and Philip Little. Published as a series starting in October 2016. All rights reserved by Karen Little and Littleviews. Questions? Please contact Karen at