Surgical tales, volume II

It has been a few days since my surgery, and I’m happy to report that I made it through. Thanks to those who have written to me. I’ve been a bit slow on responding but I appreciate your concern and warm wishes. Thanks to Katie S. for that sweet hospital gown, and Tiffany for the nice tea, and Maytal for the lasagnas and banana bread (which made the hubs very happy as well), and the Rock-it Promo team for all the fun products and DVDs, and everyone else who has sent cards and nice things. Thank you!

The surgery went well, from what I can tell. I didn’t get to actually speak to my surgeon after I woke up, but I assume if something had gone terribly wrong, I would have been informed. I don’t remember too much, because the anesthetic tends to do strange things to your memory, which is probably for the best. I do recall crying like a baby when a nurse started my IV through my wrist. I’m not sure why she chose my wrist, but she poked me several times and the pain was way more severe than I expected. I was in the middle of talking to a surgical fellow, when I realized I was in pain. So I did what any normal adult woman would do, and I pulled the blanket over my head and sobbed. Lately I have realized that my hospital crying sessions are about a 50/50 mix of emotional and physical pain. The instant my brain receives the signal that I am again in pain, however small or fleeting it may be, I am overcome with the realization of how much my body has been attacked and how much I have gone through since finding that lump, and the sheer absurdity of the entire thing. The tears come more from exhaustion than from anything else. I am tired of the pain, I am tired of feeling like some sort of botched science experiment. The tears are just inevitable at this point, and I let them flow freely, as they wish.

I also remember the mask being lowered onto my face, which I do not enjoy, as I am highly claustrophobic. Upon realizing this, the kind anesthesiologist did his drug magic and gave me something to knock me out before the real knock out. I made a comment about how ugly the ceiling was and how there should be something more pleasant to stare at while you wait to lose consciousness, and then that’s the last I remember. Lights out.

I was not in the hospital very long this time around. I wanted to go home that evening, and I believe I said to the nurse, “Get me the eff out of this place.” So she got the approval for me to be discharged and I didn’t have to sleep in the hospital and hear the chemo machines beep all night. A sound which now triggers a queasy feeling inside whenever I hear it.

I’ve been doing well at home. As people had told me, the recovery for this surgery is definitely much easier than the first, which I’m very happy about. I was only on the heavy drugs for a couple days, and now the pain is tolerable with no drugs, as long as I don’t move around too much. I have my stupid surgical drains, which I hope to get removed by my home care nurse in the next couple days. If you have no idea what drains are, consider yourself lucky. Don’t google it. It’s about as gross as it sounds.

The weather finally seems to be getting a bit nicer outside. I went for a walk today. And by a walk, I mean a few steps out my door and then back. But I got to feel the sun for a bit, which was nice. It’s days like these that it’s best for me to stay away from social media, where everyone is making grand proclamations about their love of springtime and all the fun things they’re doing today. It’s hard to relate to everyone else when you have tubes hanging out of your body. Right now, I am most looking forward to getting clearance to take a bath. You don’t realize how wonderful something like taking a simple shower or bath is, until that privilege is taken away from you. The little things.

I don’t have a current photo to post because I am not feeling particularly photo-friendly at the moment. But posts that are all text are a bit boring, so I’ll leave you with this old photo of me. At some department store, in Paris, laughing over something that probably wasn’t all that funny. I hope to be doing this again sometime in the future.



A day in the life

People often ask me what my day was like, and I usually say something like, “Had an appointment, eating dinner now” because it can be tiring to actually go over all the details of each day, with each person. But I know some people are genuinely curious as to what happens when I go to all these exciting appointments. So here was my day today:

I drank a huge, disgusting cup of barium sulfate. This was in preparation for a CT scan later in the day. It was orange flavoured, the type of flavour that tastes nothing like an actual orange, but you know that that is what it’s trying to be. Not very pleasant.

My brother shows up. Then my mom shows up, not knowing my brother is over, and I make him jump out of the shadows and scare her. She screams a good horror movie scream. This was by far the highlight of the day, although I’m really hopeful no permanent damage to my mother was done.

Off to the hospital where I take a number to do some blood work. Then over to put my name on a waiting list for an ECG so I can wait for that at the same time I wait for the blood work, because I’m sneaky like that. A nurse in the ECG area tells me she can just do my blood right there. I say OK, although I feel a bit uneasy about this weird change of events. Should I trust her to take my blood, even though she’s not from the blood lab? Is this against protocol? Will the blood lab people come yell at me for letting her do it, like a child taking candy from a stranger?

She takes my blood. She pokes around a bit and has some trouble and makes comments about the small size of my veins. She pokes some more and takes her sweet time and keeps commenting about the difficulties she is having. After she finally finishes, she asks me if they know what’s wrong with me. Yes, breast cancer. She shakes her head and looks sad and mentions how young I am. She means well, but I don’t appreciate those types of reactions. I move on to the ECG.

I lay down and get a bunch of electrodes attached to my skin. I feel like I am in some sci-fi movie, although I can’t remember which one. The technician does something and prints out a piece of paper and it’s done. No pain involved, which makes me very happy. We chat for a bit, and he is nice. I can tell he feels bad for me, but it doesn’t bother me as much. Probably because he didn’t prick me a bunch of times with a sharp needle.

I wander around with my mom for a bit. We go meet my study nurse and I fill out some forms about how much pain I’ve been having, what kind of pain, and many other questions of the sort. I realize I have been feeling pretty good. I also feel a bit sad over the realization that my answers will likely be a bit different the next time I answer those exact same questions.

I check in for my CT scan and drink the second half of the pasty liquid. I change into a hospital gown. I loathe hospital gowns because I instantly feel like just another sick person when I put one on. I go into the room for the scan, and the technician tells me I will need an injection. More pokes. I tell him it has to be in the same side I just gave blood from, as I have had lymph nodes removed on my other side, and therefore should avoid any injury to that arm. He tries to insert the needle in a new spot. He fiddles around for awhile, and I think the injection is over. That was easy, I think. Wrong! He missed the vein. Poked the wrong spot. It hasn’t even happened. I am getting tired. And a bit frustrated. And my arm is starting to swell.

He eventually gets it right and I do the scans. The injection puts a metallic taste in my mouth. I hear a calming robot woman’s voice: Hold breath. Breathe normally. Hold breath. Breathe normally. I wonder if I will receive some sort of award for my excellent ability to hold my breath, and then breathe normally.

I don’t receive any such award. Instead I bring my arms back down, and see blood all over. Is that normal? I ask. I’m pretty sure that is not normal. I’m pretty sure I will try to get a different technician the next time around.

I meet my mom in the waiting room, and we are both unhappy to see the blue bruising beginning on my arm. It hurts, a lot. I go home and hold some frozen carrots on it to ease the swelling. These carrots have been sitting in my freezer for ages. I have no idea where the frozen carrots came from or how they got there, but today they finally seemed to serve a purpose.

And there you have it! Always exciting, never dull. The life of a cancer patient.