Monday, September 20, 2010

Surgery - part two

So, we went to the hospital.

We were met by a lovely nurse who walked us through the day, from prep to recovery. First up - questions! We were a little concerned about whether or not I would be staying overnight. My mom was dead against me coming home the same day. Other people were equally concerned. But I trusted my health care folks who said that Jon would be able to help me with everything I would need, and if anything went wrong my home care nurses would come to the house. The intake nurse said that they would only send me home if I looked like I was alert and capable. If I had any concerns, I could stay in the hospital. Great.

After we dealt with all the details about how I would manage my drain (more on the drain in my next post!) and pain, I was brought in, gowned and placed in a bed to wait. I was visited by another nurse (who hooked me up to my IV), my anaesthesiologist, my surgeon and his student. And then we waited.

Jon was able to sit with me for most of the time, and that helped. I kept waiting for my stress level to escalate, but it didn't. Jon and I read and chatted and I was able to stay fairly calm. Calm, until Jon noticed my IV antibiotics hadn't been started. He could clearly see that while my saline was happily dripping away, the other bag was switched off... and he started to wonder why. Of course he did. He kept wondering and wondering until finally he decided that the nurse must have forgotten. So, what would a normal husband do...go and get the nurse, right? Wrong. Jon thought he should just go ahead and switch it on. NOOOOOO!!! Sit down - get away from that!!!  (He was joking.) If you know my husband, you can see I might have a right to worry that he would take it upon himself to help out a forgetful nurse. Oh my God. I can't remember laughing so hard. We laughed and laughed until I was worried I was going to pee out all my saline right there. Just then my surgeon and his student popped in for another chat; pulling back the curtain they saw me wiping tears from my eyes. Then we had to reassure them that, no, I wasn't freaking out about the surgery...just laughing at my husband.

Eventually it was time to go. An orderly came and got me and walked me down the hall to my OR. (Why did everyone else get rolled to their ORs?) When the nurses saw the notation on my chart that I was sensitive to tape and plastic dressings, they started bringing me different dressings to look at to give my approval. Are you kidding me? I don't know which one will work best! You decide! I'm lying here on my back waiting to lose a boob - I give you permission to pick the dressing you think won't give me a rash. Aaaaaaggghhh.

The anaesthesiologist put the mask over my face and away I went. When I woke up, I was in recovery, groggy and a little sore. No one is allowed into recovery, but a lovely male nurse snuck Jon in the back door so he could sit with me until it was time for me to go up to my room.

Once there, the nurses got me settled, reminded me how to care for the drain that was now hanging off the side of my body and, eventually, brought me some soup and jello. I sipped and nibbled until, blaaaaaah, I threw it all up. That was it, the night charge nurse said, "You aren't going home." Big mistake. I knew it wasn't nausea that had done it, I had had a huge bubble of air in my stomach and there was just no room for food. I should have gone home. I was in a ward with one other woman and 2 men. All night long I listened to beeping, snoring, moaning...oh was endless. The other woman in my room spoke in a voice more suited to announcing bingo at a rest home every time the nurses came to look in on her. I was up all night. I kept my iPod plugged tight in my ears, dozing when I could, but basically just trying not to scream.

I went home the next morning after getting the all clear from my surgeon. Recovery took a few weeks. I had to empty my drain several times a day and keep track of the quantity being drained. I was able to move around quite well and even went to see Olympic hockey and curling events, keeping my drain tucked close to my body lest I freak out my fellow Canadians. I was a little nervous about going through security on the off chance I would be searched but that never happened. (Good news for the security people!)

Hardest part of the procedure? Well, it was hard to sleep. I normally sleep on my left side and that is the side that was operated on. So, that sucked. It hurt, but I managed the pain with Tylenol 3s. I guess the hardest part was looking at the incision. I wasn't actually the first one to do that, Jon was. My home care nurse was changing my dressing when Jon walked through the room. He stopped to watch, looked at me and said, "It's fine. Go ahead and look." I didn't. I waited a few days. But his reaction had given me more courage than I thought I would have and, when I was alone, I did look at it.

Was I happy with what I saw then? With what I see now? Of course not. But it could have been worse. And you really can learn to live with the new topography, especially if you know you don't want to do reconstruction. I don't know if I want to or not. My oncologist is so impressed with the way I have healed, that he thinks I should go ahead and do it. But I don't know if I want to go through more surgery. And I have listened to the arguments on both sides of the reconstruction issue - from the gently opinionated to the loudly outraged. But I will make up my own mind about my body, thanks very much. (Although I appreciate your passion, oh vociferous ones!)

It's all how you look at it. I could have died and now I have a good shot at living. Now, when I look in the mirror, I don't see a breast that let me down. What I see instead is my body, just that. Only now, it's winking at me.


  1. Thank you my friend for sharing your story. I love you a lot you know? :-)

    PS Is that appropriate talk for an open forum? :-)

  2. Absolutely not - that is completely out of line. Do I need to remind you again not to drink mojitos while perusing your blog roll?