It is now Friday 4:55pm as I begin to write this update. My surgery was at 7:45am Wednesday. I didn’t start feeling really nervous until they took me in and we started going over all the papers to make sure I was the person for the surgery and I knew what they would be doing. This type of nervousness doesn’t hit my digestive system. This one makes me shake. My friend K was with me and she could see it and then I start to tap or shake my leg in the nervous manner you sometimes see them portray on television. I remember one scene in “Bones” where Bones and Booth had an appointment with the psychologist Sweets and Booth kept shaking his leg and Bones reached over and made him stop. This is how I was and K saw. Not many see me like this but I have this happen at times when there is something very important that needs to be said or done and I’m uncomfortable with it.
They put in the IV and started giving me antibiotics along with the saline solution. It hurt a bit and I was told it sometimes does that when being given antibiotics. My surgeons came in to talk to me one at a time, each of them meeting my friend K and my daughter C. Then the anesthesiologist came in and one of the surgical nurses. The surgical nurse walked me to the operating room and had me lie down on the surgical table which was no wider than I was. I’m not a skinny minnie but I’m also not huge and the nurse cautioned me to be careful and not fall off the other side of the table as I got up on it. I had no room for my arms to lie down by my side so I lay them on my tummy for the time being until they were ready for my left arm to be put upon the board which supported it to the side of my body at almost a 90 degree angle straight out from my body. The anesthesiologist then said he was giving me something and it took no time at all to feel it, and I said ‘woe… nice…’. The nurse asked the anesthesiologist if that was the good stuff and he said yes, he got it from the mahogany cabinet and she said ‘nice’.
The surgical nurse then put a mask over my nose and mouth which she said was just oxygen and the stuff to knock me out would be given in my IV, which the anesthesiologist said would sting just a bit. It didn’t sting just a bit it felt like someone was injecting fire into my veins and my hand from the soft mounds of flesh on my palm by my wrist to about two thirds of the way up my forearm felt warm as it went in and then grew hotter and hotter until it felt like it was on fire from the inside out. I couldn’t stop from complaining loudly about how bad it hurt and in my head all I could think was ‘please just let it put me out now’ after about three times of thinking this I was out. I don’t know if I stopped complaining at that point because I knew nothing. The next thing I knew I was waking up in recovery and they were asking me how bad the pain was. I told them about 7 or 8 on the scale of 10 to 1 with 10 being the worst when they asked me this.
I found out later they gave me fast acting morphine to help relieve the pain and then after that I ended up having 2 doses of oxycodone one around 11am and the next around 12pm. A little while after I had woke up in recovery I found the clock and saw it was around 10:30am. After watching them with other patients coming in from surgery I realized I must have been in surgery longer than expected. They had told me normally the surgery takes 1.5 to 2 hours. If they started at 7:45am then I was in surgery for 2 hours 45 minutes. I didn’t see the surgeons after the surgery and none of the nurses said anything about the surgery other than it went well.
It took a while for the pain to become manageable and once it did, I became quite the talker. Anyone knowing me would know that was unusual around people I don’t know and I didn’t know any of the nurses, but every time they came around me I wasn’t shy and we had plenty to talk about. One of the nurses told me this was one of their busiest surgery days, that usually the summer was slow and things picked up in the fall. I said it must be difficult to see so many cancer patients on a daily basis and she said it was even more so for her since she has cancer in her family. I could tell by the expression on her face and the way she said it that indeed she found some days very difficult if not most days.
I was in recovery until about 1pm about an hour longer than they needed me to be there because they were waiting for room in the outpatient daycare where the patients wait until they are ready to go home and their family or friends can come in to be there with them. They wheeled me into outpatient daycare and I turned my head and there they were, my daughter and my friend K.
I looked at my daughter and asked her how she was and she started crying. She tried holding it in but I told her to let it out. That she had been strong all this time and she needed to release her stress and worry and the shock of seeing me in the condition I was in. I told her to let K hold her since I couldn’t and the two of them wrapped their arms around each other and K soothed her telling her how strong she had been and that feeling this was was normal. C had a good cry. For a while after that her stomach bothered her until she saw I was doing better.
About an hour later the nurses thought I was about ready to go home so they helped me get up and go to the restroom, however by the time I came back and sat down I was very lightheaded and felt like I was close to passing out. I told K I thought it was my sugar levels so she went down to Shopper’s Drug Mart on the ground floor to get me something to help restore my electrolytes. The nurse came by and I told her where she had gone so she got me a small juice box to drink. By the time I finished it, I was feeling better. About an hour later they helped me sit and then stand since I felt okay, they let me get dressed and then leave. My daughter C enjoyed wheeling me out in the wheelchair. She did a really good job of doing it too with only a couple suggestions from K on how to maneuver me into the elevator.
The ride home seemed to take no time at all, when I mentioned it to K and C they both agreed they felt the same way. I was chitter chatting the whole way. I had thought once we got on the highway I would fall asleep but no. I became a chatterbox.. lol Even my daughter stayed awake.
K and C spent the time I was in surgery on the ground floor where they had a couple computers set up for people waiting and C got a Popsicle from Shoppers Drug Mart. We had arrived almost 45 minutes early, and so we stopped at Tim Horton’s so they could pick up something to eat while I was in surgery. I was glad K was there with my daughter, apparently K dragged my daughter back upstairs several times to check on how things were going and my daughter tried to tell her to be calm that they would call. They balance each other out.
We arrived home around 3pm. I sat down in my recliner and watched some television but was in a semi-unconscious state floating in and out, not really asleep but not really able to keep my eyes open. The pain wasn’t bad but I only took 1 Tramadol every 4 hours that day. I didn’t want to push things knowing my pension for sensitivity to pain medicine with all the other drugs in my system. I got a list of all the drugs they used and was surprised by how many different ones they used pre- during- and post-operative.
My first night, I woke every two hours having to pee, most likely because of all the fluids they put in me during surgery. In the morning I started taking 2 Tramadol every four hours and this brought the pain level down to a more comfortable level and I was quite mobile throughout the day. K was surprised how well I was doing.
Our toilet had a problem where the flapper wouldn’t close, so one of the things K did when we went out to the bus terminal to get her a ticket to get to Vancouver to catch her flight on Friday, was stop by Home Depot to pick up a new flapper. I felt so well I went with her to show her where the bus terminal was and Home Depot but I stayed in the car while she went inside both places. Then we went home and later she took C out to pick up her school supplies and go grocery shopping while I stayed at home with N, one of C’s friends who is our neighbor. He stayed with me playing video games while I slept and occasionally help me when I needed it.
The evening of surgery K made home made chicken soup. I had some the first night home. I had no nausea not even immediately after surgery however I did have some dizziness. As long as I kept my eyes closed for the most part I felt okay until it finally went away which I believe was within the first hour after surgery.
I have this pink flowered binding which is like a tube top. K thought this was funny and told me I could not ride on a harley yet. I told her she took all the fun out of it but then I didn’t have my hot pants to go with it. I am surprised how little seepage there is from the incision but it isn’t something I can look at right now for very long without feeling a bit grossed out by it. Mostly the incision, not that my breast is gone.
Looking at my chest I lifted my t-shirt and my left breast looks a lot larger than I’m used to. I guess the flatness of the other side makes it look larger.
When they told me I would have a drain, I thought it would be disgusting but it isn’t. I have taken to it almost naturally as though it is just another part of me that needs to be taken care of. I guess this is a good thing since it needs emptying quite frequently right now.
I use my cell phone alarm clock to remind me when to take my pain medication and my antibiotic. Wednesday night after I had dinner I started taking the Surgery Recovery mix I got from my Naturopath. I also started taking curcumin since it also helps with pain and inflammation. Thursday, I started taking my other supplements. With K here on Thursday I was up and about talking with her most of the day until she went out with C to get her school supplies and groceries, then I finally took a nap. Today, Friday, I’ve been in and out of sleep most of the day until now, I felt awake enough to write about my experience so far.
I have pain across my chest where the incision is but mostly only when I move. When I touch around the area it feels numb. Everything looks good, in the way a large incision should look that is healing well. I only have to change the bandage if I see seepage coming through it but there has been very little to none so the bandage has not needed changing.
The drain will only come out once the liquid which is draining into the container decreases to about 24 – 35 ml. My family doctor can remove it but requires a prescription to do so and that says 24 ml. My plastic surgeon stated 35 ml, so it just might depend upon where I’m at when it comes time to see him or if I’ll have to schedule an appointment with my family doctor.
I had a friend recommending I get a robe that zips up so I could just step into it and not have to put anything on over my head. However with the drain the best thing for me to wear has been the xl and 2xl t-shirts I bought which stretch and my loose fitting yoga pants. It turns out with the drain trying to zip or lift material more than just a semi-long t-shirt that it would have been too much or too difficult but later on those things will be great for when the drain comes out and I’m just resting and healing.
I find myself tensing up and I have to remember to relax. The exercises they gave me to do, helps with this. I do wrist circles, hand stretches, shoulder shrugs and shoulder rolls, then neck stretches.
The biggest problem I have is scheduling my follow-up appointments with my surgeons. The clinic and their offices are 1.25 hours away, so going to one appointment takes about half a work day, two extends it to about six hours by the time we get back home, so I need someone who can take a day to do this with me. A friend L just told me she will see what she can do to help possibly a relay of sorts since she lives half way between where I live and the clinic is. I think once I have the follow-up appointments around day 12 after surgery that I’ll be released to drive. Then I won’t have this issue and my daughter will be able to go with me for help with any lifting that might be needed if we do any shopping. The main thing is I have to be off these pain pills, so sometime possibly in a few days I’ll see if extra-strength Tylenol will be sufficient.
Otherwise, I’m doing really well, although my body is already tired of just lying around and I really miss being able to lie on my right side. I don’t sleep well on my back, so my left side gets a bit tired. I did find a way to lie at a slight angle to my right which is comfortable without blocking the drain or causing any pain. I could easily lie that way with a pillow behind my back.
I’m not allowed to take a shower until the drain is removed. I can do sponge baths, I just can’t get my bandages or wrap wet. K bought me some wipes. I used them a bit today and the wipes came back pink due to the coloring they used on the antiseptic they used during surgery so they could see where they had applied it. It made me look like I had a weird sun burn. We teased the nurse and said sure we know you all just pretended to do surgery and put me on the roof for a suntan and I got sunburned. At least it didn’t hurt like a sunburn does… lol
One of the nurses in recovery as they were getting ready to roll me down to the outpatient daycare said I would do just fine, that I had a really good attitude and I would be just fine. I imagine they see all kinds of people with different attitudes, I can only imagine what conclusions they come to at times depending on the personalities and re-occurrence. I’ve learned Cancer is an emotional disease and it responds to negative emotions. This is why I try to keep my attitude positive, plus just hearing you have cancer can make you feel like a victim or like your body has become your enemy. I don’t look at it this way. I believe I have this for a reason and that reason is to teach me something I need to know. What that is right now I’m not sure and might not know until years later when I can look back at this with an open mind.
Well, I think that is about all that has occurred since surgery. I plan on getting some pictures and post to my gallery but be forewarned when I do one will most likely be a picture of the incision which some might find gruesome. I’ll write a post when I do update my gallery, right now I need to get my daughter to help wash off the coloring from the antiseptic and take some pictures which will probably happen later tonight.
I’m tired now, so I’m going to take another nap.