Thursday, 21 June 2012

Home safely, happy but shattered

It is so lovely to be back home in my new, bright red bedroom. Yesterday was not one of my favourite days ever, for a start, getting up at 5.30am really isn't something I'm good at, and then getting to the hospital for 7.30am, already shattered, starving and sleep deprived , for a really hectic morning schedule.

The staff at the hospital were universally really lovely, helpful and supportive, making both my wonderful man and I incredibly welcome and absolutely nothing was too much trouble. Within minutes of arrival, I had met the anaesthetist and the surgeon, and decided to be totally honest about my ridiculous needle phobia. Something I've always been ashamed of, and have always tried to hide, but I figured that this breast cancer malarkey is going to be tough enough, and if there's anything they can do to help, well grab any help I can. The anaethetist immediately promised to use gas, first laughing gas, then sleeping gas, before having to put any needles in. I could feel the anxiety draining away already. 

Then it was an appointment with nuclear medicine, to inject radioactive dye into my nipple. I explained again about my needle phobia, and Wonderful Man was allowed to stay throughout the whole procedure which made a huge difference. 

Then onto the ultrasound dept, where more injections, but with WM with me again, numbed my boobs so they could insert wires - scarily long wires that hook into the tumours so the surgeon knows exactly where to go fishing, but the other end, over a foot long sticking out of each side, could take a man's eye out. If they had only tied tassles onto the end of them I would definitely have won Britain's Got Talent. 

Then another mammogram, then back to the ward to wait..... and wait.... and wait....  By the time I was called it was 1.30pm and by now my anxieties had convinced me that I was definitely going to be the one person in squillions that pops their clogs on the operating table. Walked to the theatre which is much more dignified than being pushed on a trolley, and made sure I greeted everyone in the room with a smile and a handshake. The anaethetist was really funny, and I told him I was frightened I wasn't going to make it, and he assured me that that wouldn't happen because he'd have to do too much paperwork. I can't remember much else of our conversation but I do know that we were all laughing and it was very relaxed and happy. As I went under, I remember thinking that this wouldn't actually be such a bad way to go after all!

Next I knew was 6 hours later. First question, what's the time, and I knew that something fairly major was amiss. Surgery had been scheduled for about 90 minutes. Next question, can I go home please? No. All along they had stressed how this procedure was day surgery, and how they like to get people home safely away from infection risk quickly. Now they were telling me I had to stay overnight. I'm drifting in and out of consciousness and the surgeon comes to see me. I must have been presenting as much more awake and alert and I must also have asked some stupidly scary questions. The only words I remember her telling me were "bigger tumour than we thought" "not sure we've got it all"  "another operation"  "spread" "all the lymph nodes" and "incurable". I don't know where this word cropped up from, and this morning it was clear that this isn't the case, but  I do remember  getting very stroppy about it.  I hope I wasn't rude, but in my stupor I tried to tell her that what she really meant was that at the moment it isn't curable YET, and that her job was to keep me alive until they found out how to cure it. Cure what, goodness only knows, but I remember everyone laughing and some bloke still in his hat, mask and gown saying "that's the spirit, you go, girl". 

I barely remember getting back to the ward where WM, my dad and two of my adorable children were waiting for me. I was thirsty beyond belief, and stroppy and difficult. I had missed supper, I had a thick tube drain in, I was oxygen dependent, with a drip in my arm, and thoroughly miserable because I could only remember the word "incurable".  In theatre I'd been morphined up to my eyebrows so there was very little pain, but that didn't stop me giving my lovely family a really unfairly horribly hard time.

This morning the surgeon came back and explained exactly what had happened. Yes, one of the tumours was significantly larger than they had expected, and they are not sure whether they have removed all of it with the necessary 2cm clear margin all around it, so they may decide to operate again in a couple of weeks. The other bit of bad news was that they found cancer cells in the first 3 lymph nodes, so they have had to remove them all, and they will be tested to see if the cancer has spread further. At the moment, they just don't know the answers to that. He then sits on the bed and tells me that my job is to rest loads, get properly well, and be strong enough to help them make treatment decisions when I go back to see them in two weeks time. Almost certainly more surgery, radiation, chemo and hormone therapy. Welcome to my new world. 

Finally, 4 hours later the pharmacy got its act together to give me the drugs to go home with - (why do hospital pharmacies always delay discharges?)  My family are very kind and forgiving over my hissy fits last night, and everyone is being so nice it's untrue. Best of all, I have a bright, loud, turquoise dressing gown, and my radioactive boob now colour matches it exactly! My kids reckon it shows I've got superpowers - and over the next few months I think I might actually need some.

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