There’s a reason why patients are put under for surgery…
…but I was wide awake. On Wednesday I had surgery #4. A surgery I have been waiting for for over a year. This surgery was to remove the hematoma and bulging pocket of skin left over from my mastectomy. I have been in constant pain as the area I needed removed was under my left arm and so therefore, with every movement I made, I “felt” it!
I was told that with this surgery I would remain awake as the surgeon needed to manipulate my arm to see how tight to sew up the skin. I had prepared myself or at least, thought I had, but there was no way to know just how horrendous this procedure was going to be. A turkey baster size needle is used to freeze the area, requiring a dozen or so injections. I did my very best to hold it together but I lost it. One of the “pokes” was so painful that I actually jumped off the table. Not a good move. I apologized profusely for jerking like that and for the tears that were streaming down my face. They told me that I was doing fine and that I was being very brave. I felt anything BUT brave at this point. After all the injections, I was left alone for 15 minutes to let the freezing do its thing. Fifteen minutes is a long time to wait when you are scared and anxious. I tried to do deep breathing and not think about the procedure ahead, but I have a VERY active imagination and the longer I waited the more anxious I got.
When it was time, I was escorted to the operating room, which was more like a glorified examination room and told to lie on my side. I knew that I was “wound up” and nervous, but I said to the surgeon that I could still feel the area that they froze.
“Are you sure? We put in a lot of freezing”
“Honest, I can” I said sheepishly. I already figured that they thought I was an emotional wing nut, so I was almost afraid to tell them.
“Ok. Lie down, don’t look and we will do a pin test”, and with that they started pricking me with something sharp. AND I FELT IT!!!!!!
“Wow, you’re right. You CAN feel that. We will definitely need to inject more freezing.”
A dozen more injections, some of which I felt and others not…and another fifteen minute wait. It felt like fifteen hours but I lay there, not moving and wishing it was all over.
When the surgeon returned, he did another pin test. There was still an area close to my should blade that I could feel. The area that needed to be incised ran from my armpit across to my shoulder blade. As the entire area was still not frozen, they informed me that they would not be able to remove the entire bulge but would do the best they could. And with that I felt the pressure of the scalpel slicing me open. There are many layers of skin, fat, scar tissue, etc that they cut through. The incision was not just a straight cut, but two half moons that encompassed the mass that was to be removed. They talked through the procedure, more to each other than to me. I heard things like, “oh that looks good” and “put more gauze on that bleed”….all the while I was trying to remain perfectly still and not vomit from fear.
The worst part was the “sewing up”. There are several layers that they need to close. They openly talked about the type of sutures they were using for each layer. A figure eight here, a running stitch there…it was like listening to an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, except it was MY Anatomy they were talking about. As they tugged and pulled at the skin I felt like I was going to lifted off the table.
“Now I know what a fish feels like when you’re removing the hook!” I said.
They laughed….I didn’t.
When it was over, I was helped to sit up. I was washed and wiped to remove all the blood that had run all over my chest, abdomen and back. It was a surreal experience. I was bandaged, given a prescription for pain meds, told to call the office to book a followup, get dressed and that was that! I had to sit for a few minutes to get my bearings and then slowly dressed, texted my friend to come pick me up and made my way to the lobby of the hospital to await my ride. I felt numb. Not just from the freezing, but from the experience.
Today is day two. It has been a challenge. I can’t lift my arm or reach for anything. I can’t shower or get the incision wet for several days. My whole side throbs and sleeping is very difficult. But this too shall pass. This was #4, so it’s not my first rodeo. I know that with time I WILL feel better. Just not right now…but soon, Very soon. Promise.
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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.
I can’t Imagine what that would have been like. Holding it all when you are scared half to death is the epitope of bravery in my mind. Stay the strong woman you are Patti! Almost to the finish line!
I’ve not been awake for cancer surgery, but I’ve been awake during various portions of back surgeries after flatlining. I’ve been traumatized permanently by tests they ran, invasive tests that were never explained. I intimately know that fear. I know the PTSD. And I have more to come. Breast cancer runs in my family. I have an elective double mastectomy ahead of me as my insurance won’t pay for the gene test but will pay to chop my boobs off. My heart goes out to you. Fight for your life but make sure you surround yourself with four legged babies, family….and medical marijuana if legal where you are.
Stay strong. Sometimes it’s not easy but you WILL get through it