Where do I begin? Monday I had my exchange surgery where they removed the tissue expanders and inserted silicone implants. The surgeon also had to remove the hematoma from the first surgery and remove a surgical clip that was floating around my left side. I arrived at the hospital at noon, checked in and then went down to the basement where “day surgery” takes place. Here in dozens of curtained cubicles are all the people getting procedures done that the hospital deems minor enough that you can go home that day. Once ushered into my curtained domain I changed into the fashionable surgical gown I was given and waited for the nurse to hook me up to an IV. Last time, they had a hard time doing so and this time was no different. They were able to get the needle into a vein but it wouldn’t stay and slipped out so it was just under my skin. I don’t need to tell you how uncomfortable that was! The next attempt was in the back of my hand. Took a few tries and some spurting blood, but finally I was hooked up.
Another nurse with a computer stand on wheels came to interview me. She had a binder with all the surgical orders, my history and any other pertinent information. Several times you are asked “what procedure are you having done today?” Trust me I know what’s happening. I’m getting these bloody expanders OUT!!!! They also are constantly comparing the info on your hospital band to the surgical orders, I guess to make sure I hadn’t hired a stand in for the surgery? My procedure was scheduled for 2:30. It’s a long wait when there’s nothing to do but sit and try to stay calm. I watched the clock and saw 2:30 come and go. My nerves were starting to get the best of me and I could feel my cold clammy skin starting to stick to the tissue paper surgical gown. I was also feeling very light headed as I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since 7pm the night before and I could smell the food being served to the patients in “recovery” just a curtain away. At least I knew that hospital food is anything but good, so I knew I wasn’t missing anything.
Finally just before 4pm my surgeon and his protege arrived to do a quick examination. I stripped off my gown and they stood staring at my chest.
“Wow, you really are very uneven, aren’t you. And you didn’t have any radiation? I don’t know why things are so askew.” he said while pushing my painful mounds up and down, and side to side.
“We will do the best we can to get the implants even but you may need further surgeries. Also, I can tell you now, you are not going to be happy with the results. We can discuss further options later. Ok, Patti, see you in there.” And off they went.
I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. I was about to walk to the OR for a two hour very invasive surgery with the knowledge that I was not going to be happy with the outcome?! Fu#k. What has the last eight months of suffering with these expanders been for? I felt my eyes well up and my throat constrict. “Pull it together Patti. You need to get through this and deal with the “results” later.” Right now I just wanted these bloody expanders OUT! You can fill my chest with straw if need be, but let me get on with my life.
A nurse appeared through the curtain. “It’s time,” she said, and I started that all too familiar walk through the corridors to the operating room. When I entered, I saw all the surgical instruments being laid out. I had watched this surgery on YouTube so I recognized what looks like a grappling hook, that is used to pull open the skin of your chest. Once the expander is removed the skin puddles like a deflated balloon waiting to receive the implants. During the surgery you are pulled up and down from a prone position to a sitting position so that the surgeons can see if the implants are at the right height and are even. Your body really goes through an awful lot during these procedures.
I lay down on the operating table with my arms out to the side. My body was strapped to the table and monitors were attached to me. Several people were talking to me at once and there was a very large bright light shining down into my face. It is scary and fascinating at the same time. An oxygen mask was put down over my mouth and nose and I was told I would feel a burning in my arm as the anesthetic was administered. The room started to get smaller and then I was out.
When I woke up in recovery a few hours later I was in PAIN. A lot of pain. They had to do a lot of manipulation to get the implants in the right spot as well as dealing with the hematoma et al. My incisions are approximately 8 inches on each side and my right side is bandaged with a lot of extra gauze as they had issues with getting symmetry there. All I knew was that I certainly wasn’t feeling any relief at the moment from the removal of the expanders. I was in agony and feeling very upset. I was given morphine for the pain, antibiotics and a muscle relaxant. I faded in and out of consciousness for several hours. Given my pain levels and the time of night, the recovery nurses suggested I stay overnight and be released at 6:30 am the next morning. I knew there was a big snow storm about to hit and I REALLY wanted to be on my own bed. So at almost midnight, with a bucket in my lap in case I upchucked, which was a real possibility, I was moved into a wheelchair, taken to the front lobby and helped into the car for home.
I had a terrible night, only fading off to sleep for an hour or two at a time. The pain was extremely intense. I spent the day in bed yesterday trying to rest and trying to get the pain under control. Today, I feel better, having been able to sleep for a few hours at a time and being able to eat finally. I know each day I will get better and better. I don’t see the surgeon for two weeks and then I guess we will discuss next steps. Until then, I don’t want to think about more surgeries or procedures. I just want to work towards being pain free and getting my life back. It will take “time,” another four letter word I tend to use a lot now, but it will happen.
But for now I’m in my jammies, in bed and about to binge on Netflix. A girl has to hold onto whatever positive things she can, right?!
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.