Friday, April 18, 2008

Update: A Report of Epic (and approximately size B) proportions

{this is me before I had the dressings and drains taken out today.}

This whole breast cancer thing is more of a trip, less of a journey. Like, a trippy trip, if you know what I mean. And that's not just the meds talking.

Today, I went to the surgeon's office to have the final drains and dressings removed. This was the first time that Dude and I saw my new body. I was both scared out of my mind and relieved to get these damn things off because it's pretty uncomfortable being wrapped up like this. Apparently, I was sporting the famous "Van Laeken pressure wrap" (Van Laeken is my surgeon's name). All the nurses were impressed that I had it, and therefore, no one wanted to touch it.

But before I go on and on about today, let me do a recap of this past week.

So on Tuesday morning, DH, my parents and I made the short walk to the hospital. I was the first patient to check in that morning. I was incredibly nervous, and it didn't help that the nurse checking me in scolded me for taking two sips of water at 4 a.m. because I had a coughing fit. I was told at the pre-admission clinic and even on the surgery-prepping sheet that I could take "sips" of water before surgery, and I almost argued with her that a "sip" is hardly an exact amount, but I was just trying to not cry at that point. So I made it through the registration and was taken to the OR (operating room) triage, where the surgeons would mark up my body and prep me for surgery.

I was so nervous when I got into the triage that I started singing--quietly but audibly--"Living on a Prayer" and "Sweet Child O' Mine." I could hear the guy next to me--patients were only separated by curtains--tell his nurse that he's been smoking 45 cigarettes a day for 40 years, and they were discussing his Nicoderm patch schedule post-surgery. I was definitely the youngest person in there, as I could hear other patients give their ages to nurses, all of them over the age of 80. Finally, both surgeons--I had two: my breast cancer surgeon and my plastic surgeon--came in and did their thing. And then the anaesthesiologist came in and said, "I heard about you." I said, "Oh, you read my blog?" He looked at me funny and said, "No, I read your chart." I had to laugh.

Then before I knew it, they were wheeling me into the operating room, where there were these huge lights and so many machines and people hovering around me, trying to calm me down. I started breathing in a mask, and before I knew it...

I woke up and looked at the clock. 11:30. It felt like I just went to sleep, so the first thing I said was, "Can you put me back to sleep? I'm still awake." Someone said, "No, dear. We're done. It's over." I said, "Really? No way." Then came the uncontrollable sobbing.

Waves and waves of emotion overtook me. I was done. My breasts were gone. Something major just happened. Indescribable. The only thing I could do was cry. Except for the fact it really fucking hurt. Pain wracked my body.

They transferred me to the recovery room, where I continued my sobbing. I kept apologizing, and the nurse rubbed my arm and told me to go ahead and cry. Then Dude came in. I was so overjoyed to see him. I'd never been happier to see my loving husband than at that very moment. Apparently, as DH told me yesterday, the nurse who had earlier yelled at me for taking sips of water, became nice and told him that he could go into the recovery room, even though loved ones weren't allowed into the recovery room.

A few minutes later, DH went home while they were still monitoring me in the recovery room. After about an hour, they wheeled me into my room, which was a private room. The plastic surgeon came in and said, "You have a nice flat tummy." I said, "Just in time for swimsuit season." She smiled.

Dude came back soon enough and helped me get comfortable in my room. Eventually, my parents, my in-laws and the kids came to visit. Chloe and Mylo drew me pictures so I could hang them up and look at them. And we brought a picture from home--one of us in Victoria last summer that Chloe and Mylo used as a decoration in preschool.

The rest of the hospital story is kinda uneventful. I was on a morphine drip for a couple days. Then my IV started to leak, so they had to take the IV out, I was given two options: leave the IV out and start taking pain pills, or put the IV back in, which would not be pleasant. I chose the pills.

It was hot and stuffy in my room because it was a reverse pressure room, which was intended for patients who required isolation. There was a vent that sucked the air out, and you couldn't open the window. This made it even more uncomfortable for me because I was sweating profusely, which made the bandages incredibly itchy underneath. I took Benedryl along with the morphine to relieve the itch.

I didn't sleep much while in the hospital. My major milestones were getting out of bed, taking a piss, and farting. I found it funny that while my son is in the midst of potty training, I was regressing back into childhood, being applauded for these basic human functions.

Here I am standing next to the beautiful flowers folks sent to the hospital (that would be Larry, Victoria, Neala, DH's parents,, if I forgot you, I'm sorry):

The day that I left, I was to have one of the three drains taken out. It just so happened that it was student nurse day at the hospital, and I was going to be the big lesson for the day. So one of the students was the lucky one to learn how to take out a drain. Just so you know, a drain is placed inside the wound area to suction out the fluids built up during healing. It's a long tube, and it's not entirely pleasant to have this thing yanked out of you. Here are some pictures from the process. The room was crammed full of nursing students who were witness to this event. I don't actually look as bad as I felt. Dude's camera phone didn't capture me still gripping the sides of the bed minutes after having the drain removed.

So, yeah. Anyway, to our delight, I was sent home early because everyone was saying how well I was doing with moving around and such. So we came home on Friday. As I was leaving the hospital, I had such a hunched-over walk that even the old people were staring at me. I thought, "Fuck you, old people." It was so bad that when I went to the door, I was too short to make the automatic door slide open and had to wait for the hubster to come get me. When we pulled up to our house and I walked to the door, I had the urge to point my finger and shout, "You rascally young people, get out of my yard!"

Unfortunately, a lot of our friends didn't get the message that I was home and therefore went to the hospital looking for me, some of them even walked straight into the room where we had been staying! I could imagine the woman in there thinking, "Who is this Brandy bitch, and why are all her friends in here bugging me?" One of the first people to walk into the room and end up back at my house was my friend Jamie, who drove from Seattle with his friend Sharon to surprise me. I was pretty happy to see him, and it was then that I realized that laughing really hurt! Laughing and coughing--two things I don't want to do now. Actually, I don't mind the laughing so much, because, well, I'm laughing. But the coughing really sucks ass. I feel like I'm ripping apart at the seams, literally.

Friday was freakin' weird. First, it was sunny. Then it rained, then it hailed (Mylo wanted to get out his bucket and shovel up the ice, he said), then it snowed! Like, a lot of snow! The world was ending, and I was doped up in my bed. Not a bad way to go.

We had other visitors and flowers and cookies and cakes and trashy celebrity magazines come our way. It's been very nice to see folks and have them bring their well wishes.

So I guess this brings me to today. The build-up to having the dressings and drains removed (especially after having the first drain removed) has been a bit torturous. Add painkillers to the mix, and you got some pretty wacky dreams I've been having. I've felt like Frankenstein for a few days now. But it really wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be once everything came off. My skin is irritated somewhat from the adhesive on the dressings, and the drain to my abdomen was pretty painful coming out, and the hole left by the drain there stings quite a bit still when I move. But I don't look as horrific as I thought I would.

I know some people are rightfully curious and concerned, so I'm going to post a link here to a picture of what I look like now.

Click here to see the results of my surgery. Be forewarned that I'm naked, and it's not pretty--yet.

You know, I feel like I've been blessed so many times during this whole process. Even today, something wonderfully unusual happened. As Dude and I were walking (or shuffling, in my case) into the medical building this afternoon, a man stopped me and asked me how my surgery went. I realized that he was a member of Friends for Life, one of the places I go to to get wellness treatments. It's a house for people with cancer and AIDS. He said he heard my interview on the radio, and that I have been in his prayers ever since. I couldn't believe it. Vancouver is a big city, and out of all the places to run into somebody--it was just amazing. And it was meant to be, and even though I'm not a religious person, I believe in angels, and he was my angel just then. It was a sign to me to go into that building and not have any fear. I was in good hands, and everything's going to be okay.

1 comment:

Vicki aka Mamapajama said...

You look amazing! Your surgeon(s) are artists!