The house is quiet. I am wrapped up in a robe my sister gave me for my post-surgery comfort, only slightly concealing the tubes sticking out of me. My husband says I look like The Borg from Star Trek: TNG. Good thing Steve is cute, empties my drains and I love him.
I feel random itching and pain here and there, but so far the after-math of my Bi-lateral mastectomy is manageable, but what a trip it’s been..
It’s been a 7-month marathon since my breast cancer diagnosis, yet it’s gone by like when you see a calendar being flipped quickly in the movies.
I think back to just a week ago:
Last Saturday night, I laughed my ass off with some of my dearest friends as we bowled our hearts out. One of my closest friends Shelly, got me to join in on a limbo contest, where we were easily the oldest contestants. I was probably older than the MOM’S of the 20-somethings who were all competing to see “How Low Can You Go”. I got pretty low, until I face-planted onto the dirty carpet. My boobs hit the deck, and I knew it would be the last time I would feel that sensation.
Sunday I spent the day with Steve running errands, then spent time with my daughter who came to visit. Later that night, we enjoyed more laughs at some friends (Mark and Susan) who had invited us over for dinner at their new home. They filled our bellies and our hearts.
Monday I had coffee with a new friend (Spenser). He is someone I only got to know recently, but feels like I have known forever. That night, I met with yet another friend (Carrie) for a walk and she treated me to dinner and regaled me with a fascinating recap of a recent experience with jury duty.
Tuesday was my last full day with my double-D’s. I started the morning with what I call “The Rise 5k”.
“MAY THE ROAD RISE WITH YOU…”
I sing loudly and off-key as I head down my regular route.
I guess John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) was referring to the old Irish blessing that guides the traveller to succeed in their journey. Little did the former Sex Pistol know this is both literal and figurative for me. It is the perfect soundtrack for my run, but also for my bigger journey.
The run is enjoyable and easy, leaving me feeling refreshed and sweaty. As I enter the house, I toss the sports-bra, knowing it’s replacement is a long way off, and hit the shower.
I meet with Limbo-Shelly for coffee. We laugh loudly and with abandon, not giving a shit that the lady behind us, is staring us down with her steely-eyes. Soon, we part ways, and give each other a teary hug as I say “See you on the other side.”
The rest of Tuesday is spent doing errands, receiving the pre-surgery Sentinel Node Injection, visiting with my family, along with my sister who has driven up from Oregon. I catch up on numerous text and facebook messages, phone calls and even handwritten notes. My phone rings one more time, and it’s my best-childhood friend’s (Trinia) sister, Julie, who four years ago, went through all of this.
She settles my mind, but I still opt to put myself into a benzodiazepine haze. I am nervous but optimistic.
Wednesday, February 26, has been on my calendar for quite some time. Again, I feel like I am in a weird time warp, where it’s all gone too fast yet painfully slow. I get out of bed, follow the pre-op shower instructions, and head to the hospital with my husband and sister.
It’s a whirlwind of activity: checking in, disrobing, meeting with my surgeon, (not entirely sure of that order).
The last thing I remember is my husband telling me he loves me.
As I write this, three days later, I can barely sort out what happened next: I wake up in recovery, am told the surgery went well. I am visited by Steve, family, and friends. I finally get hungry, enjoy a coffee. I am eventually escorted to the restroom to pee.
Ah yes, peeing. The bain of my existence. I will get to that. But for now, I think all is going as planned.
I go to the bathroom a couple of times. The third time was a pisser (oh, come on, you know I had to say that).
I have no idea how much time has gone by, I just know it feels like an eternity, and I still don’t have a hospital room. It feels like I am in recovery FOREVER. After that third evacuation of my bladder, I am getting back onto the bed. I feel my head spin. I am lightheaded and not sure of my surroundings.
I get somewhat settled and look down at my chest.
WHAT THE FUCK??
I ask the attending nurse if I had a BI-LATERAL mastectomy, as in BOTH BREASTS. He assures me that, yes, the surgery was successful.
I am looking at my right breast. IT IS STILL THERE! Under the bandaging, I see no left breast, but sure as shit, there is a right breast, I am convinced of it.
As my nurse takes a look, I see the walls closing in. I am on my way to passing out.
I hear someone call out my blood-pressure: “Sixty-six over forty-four!!…it’s dropping fast!”
My surgeon is called back into recovery and all I remember is her sitting at my side, telling me I have to go back into surgery. It appears I have internal bleeding where my right breast once resided. I am aware that I am crying and that I am scared shit-less.
There is concern by the anesthesiologist that I have eaten, but there isn’t anything that can be done about that. They take their chances, and off I go.
The SECOND time I wake up from surgery, I am told once again all went well. My surgeon found the culprit: turns out it was an artery that had not taken to cauterization after the first surgery, which led to massive swelling.
I am finally released from recovery and sent to my room. I barely remember who has visited, or how much time has gone by. I get settled, see my husband, sister, daughter and begin two nights of very little sleep.
Nurses have the same timing as servers at restaurants: the second you put a bite of food in your mouth, they ask how everything is. In my room, I would drift off into a somewhat drug-induced sleep, and on would come the overhead light, like the kind helicopters use to search for suspects. A cheery voice says “Just going to take your vitals! Oh, and are you peeing?”
Remember what I said peeing? Welp, apparently my bladder didn’t like being put under anesthesia twice, so it has been ‘slow’ to wake up. Every time I would pee while at the hospital, I would declare VICTORY until they would scan me and tell me I was retaining a bazillion milliliters.
After two nights of torture, I was DONE. Time to go home. They said either I had to stay at the hospital so they could monitor me, or I had to make friends with a catheter. I chose the catheter.
So, here I sit, looking at a yellow boda bag tied to my lower leg and drains on either side of my torso, filling slowly with my body’s version of red sangria.
My pain management is good, I am grateful to everyone who has visited, messaged, sent flowers, had food delivered, or even just has me in their thoughts.
I picture myself, fully healed, cancer free and running another “Rise 5k” in no time.