Blessed to have come through surgery #5. Blessed to be home in my own bed. Blessed to be able to spend Christmas with my family.
I have spent the last two days in bed…only venturing to the bathroom and back, which is no easy feat. I have four very painful incisions. One under each of my arms arm that travel around to my should blades and one on each “mound”. That’s the official word for what I have been referring to as “foobs”. I saw it on my chart…Bilateral Mound Revision. Sounds very “official” doesn’t it?
For this surgery, I traveled to a small hospital about 40 minutes from my house. I still had my favourite reconstructive surgeon who was able to snag some free operating room time right before Christmas and added me to his list. He had the operating room booked for three of his patients. There was one lady ahead of me, who’s surgery took an hour longer than expected as there were complications. I know all about that! I was scheduled as the “middle victim” and then a short surgery for one last patient after me.
The pre-op nurses were lovely. Smiley and chatty. It was an easy day for them as there were only the three of us. Usually when I’ve had surgery, the nurses are run ragged looking after and wall to wall patients. This was a nice change as the quieter, slower pace really helped with my anxiety. Having now had five procedures, plus numerous tests, just the thought of a doctor’s office, let alone an operating room brings on an anxiety attack. Some are worse than others but they are very real and can be very scary.
The nurses were busy reviewing my chart, trying desperately to find a vein for my I.V. which didn’t go well and had to be redone a few times…but all in all I was feeling relatively calm. I listened as they discussed their Christmas plans and what goodies they were going to indulge in at their Christmas lunch that day. Cowboy Caviar was apparently a real favourite. I had never heard of it. All I could imagine was something that involved cow patties or horse dung. Gross, I know, but when you are not allowed to eat for 12 hours before your surgery, the last thing you want to hear about is Christmas goodies of any kind. As it turns out, “Cowboy Caviar” is basically a tex mex dip. Who knew?!?!
When it was time for me to go into the O.R. I was wheeled down the hall and left for a short time in a corridor. The anesthesiologist came to speak to me. We reviewed her plan for putting me to sleep and managing my pain and then I had consent papers to review and sign. It’s an odd feeling signing those papers. You are agreeing to the procedures that are about to take place; procedures that will knock you flat on your ass for weeks and cause you pain, anguish and many sleepless nights. I knew what to expect. I have, as mentioned, been through this several times, although the process doesn’t get any easier.
Before proceeding into the operating room, my surgeon came to talk to me again. We had discussed the adjusting of the “mounds” and the removal of excess skin and bulges of flesh left over from my original mastectomy. I REALLY wanted both sides done. My last procedure was not successful in removing everything as the freezing wouldn’t take and they were unable to cut everything away. My surgeon asked me to sit up and to remove the top of my surgical gown so he could examine me. I don’t even give this a second thought anymore. I’ve flashed so many doctors and nurses since this journey began that modesty is not even in my vocabulary….until I heard
“oh god, I’m sorry. Quick, get that door shut!”
It was one of the surgical nurses coming down the corridor. She had hit the automatic button for the double doors to open wide and there I was on the other side, naked from the waist up. She kept apologizing while repeatedly pushing the buttons to get the doors to close. You see on the other side of the doors were other patients, staff, visitors, etc. all milling around and now looking at me. All I could think of was, oh those poor people, they’ll be horrified seeing my battle scarred body.
Once the doors were closed and the poor nurse had collected herself, my surgeon continued his pre-op exam. He suggested that instead of having to roll me over to cut open my sides that he could use a “block” of some sort to lift up my side so he could incise and remove my flesh. This way the surgical field wouldn’t be broken, which is a fancy way to say that they don’t have to sterilize and drape another area of the body. All I could think of was he was going to use some sort of car jack-like contraption to hoist up my side like he was changing a tire.
I asked if he would be able to do the other side too but he said that would take too long and would run into the surgical time of the next patient. I certainly didn’t want that. We ALL deserve the time needed for the surgeon to do his job and to do it well. I was disappointed but understood.
“I promise I will fix you up at a later date. I just can’t do it now.”
That was all I could ask for. My surgeon is wonderful and as always, I knew I was in good hands.
It was now time to hop off the gurney to walk into the operating room. It’s always surreal being introduced to a bunch of masked strangers who will be slicing and dicing you while making sure you come out of the procedure alive and “well”.
Climbing up onto the table while they strap your arms to two planks out to the side of your body is disconcerting to say the least. Talk about feeling vulnerable. You are strapped to a table, hooked up to machines with strangers faces hovering over yours and told to “RELAX and just breathe” as your head starts to spin and the room quickly goes black.
A few hours later I awoke to find my surgeon talking to me. I was in recovery and all had gone well. “I was able to do both sides for you Patti. I think you will be very pleased!”
Pleased?!?!?! I was elated. Yes, I would have more pain with the recovery but with any luck, and I’m not known to have any, this might be my last surgery!!!! And that’s the best present I could ask for.
This will be a very quiet Christmas for me but a very joyous one. I am blessed to be at home for Christmas which so many people will not. Leaving the hospital I saw the dozens of rooms occupied with patients that will not be home for Christmas, and some may never be home again. Let’s all give thanks for what we have, be it a little or a lot and cherish every minute we have with friends and family not only his holiday season but everyday.
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.