Well I made it. Another surgery under my belt. This surgery business is becoming second nature to me. I know how to prep for it without taking a single note. I know what clothes to have ready that I can easily get in and out of without lifting my arms. I know what food to buy that can easily be prepared. I know to have gingerale on hand to settle my stomache. I know how to schedule my medications to ensure the pain never spikes too high so that I can keep it under control. I know that I need special pillows to prop me up as I can’t lie flat and I need my arms slightly elevated. I know how much pain I will be in after the surgery and I know that it will lessen a bit each and every day. Let’s face it…I could write a book of the do’s and don’ts of surviving breast cancer and reconstruction.
The night before my surgery, I went out for dinner. I knew that I would be eating bland food for the next few weeks so I wanted something with flavour! I had fish tacos with some hot sauce and it was delicious. I got home, packed my bag for the hospital and settled into bed to watch some tv and hope that I could get a decent night’s sleep. I wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat or drink after midnight which was fine as I don’t eat at night anyway. At 11 o’clock it hit me. A terrible feeling in my stomache….and that was it. The rest of the night my head was thrust inside the toilet hurling anything and everything that was in my system. It wasn’t food poisoning. I think it was a combination of the spicy fish, the heat of the 35C night and being anxious about my surgery. Of course the sicker I felt, the more anxious I got…and the more anxious I got the sicker I felt! All I could think of is “Oh no, they’re going to cancel my surgery!!!!” It was a terrible night and by the time I got to the hospital I looked and felt like sh#t. I explained to the nurse that I was NOT feeling well. They took my temperature and it was normal.
“We see this a lot. People get very worked up when they have surgery. Do you want me to get something to help?”
“Pleeeeeeeeease.” I begged.
Within a minute she was back with a intravenous bag of anti-nauseant medication that she connected to my IV drip. Within 20 minutes I was feeling human again. Thank god.
“You look a lot better now.” she said. “You were white as a sheet before.”
I could feel the weight of my panic start to lift. My surgery could happen as planned. And although I knew what was in-store was not going to be fun, I at least knew that my journey to recovery was still on track.
While you wait to be called to the OR you are visited several times by different nurses and doctors. They constantly verify that you are who you say you are; checking the paperwork against your I.D. bracelet. They review the procedures with you; they confirm that it is in fact your signature on the consent forms and they write on parts of your body to identify what will be operated on and what parts not to touch. I had a big R and L written on written on me to indicate that the surgeons would be operating on both sides of my chest. I had a big message written down the side of my left arm advising the OR staff not to use my left arm for intravenous or blood pressure as I have had lymph nodes removed from that side with my mastectomy surgery.
When it was my time, I was escorted down the long hall to the operating room. You have to walk there on your own. It is a very emotional time. You are about to be put to sleep and sliced open. You are about to put yourself into the hands of strangers and you will be unconscious. I’ve never felt more vulnerable in my life.
As you walk into the OR you are introduced to your team. They all have caps and masks on so you really only get to see their eyes. You can see all the instruments laid out that the surgeon will use to cut you open. You see all the equipment, lights, machines and your mind starts to race…or at least my does.
Climbing up onto the operating table, I took one last look around. Please let this be my last surgery. Please. I lay back, put my arms out to the side as they strapped me into position, watched the oxygen mask as it was lowered onto my face and tried to think positive thoughts as I took deep breaths and faded off to sleep.
When I awoke a few hours later, I was told that the surgeon was able to switch out my implants for a set that better fit my chest cavity. He had to release a lot of scar tissue that had built up so the operation was more invasive than originally planned. Unfortunately, they were not able to remove the hematoma left over from my mastectomy so I will still face another surgery sometime in the near future.
I am home, dealing with the pain as best I can. It’s exhausting just keeping track of which medications to take and when. But this isn’t my first time so I at least know what to expect. My chest is black with bruising. I never had this kind of bruising before but again, there was a lot more manipulation required with this surgery. It will be several weeks before I am allowed to soak in a bath or go swimming BUT I am allowed to take a shower on Sunday! Who’d have thought a shower would make me so happy!
It’s pouring rain outside. It’s dark and stormy. Miserable. What’s happening outside is pretty much how I feel lying here in bed. But like the storm clouds, this too shall pass. Everyday will get a little easier. Every day will be a little less painful. Everyday I will feel stronger and every day I will be one step closer to the end of my journey.
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.