Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I hear a woman’s voice. She’s calling my name. Everything else is like peach fuzz. I try to bring her into focus but I’m laying on a gurney. In a room much like the pre-operative one, with a nurse’s station directly in front of me. Have I even had surgery yet? I’m confused. Thoughts float around in my head as though lodged in thick, groggy soup. A nurse types something into a computer to the left of my bed. She asks how I’m feeling; she takes my blood pressure. I try to force my eyes open, but a familiar sensation interrupts this task. The nurse quickly grabs a pink kidney-shaped basin. Afterwards, I close my eyes. The room spins. Another tidal wave hits. The pink basin remains at my side.

It seems I’m having trouble coming out of anesthesia. I’m aware — acutely — of how tightly wrapped my chest is. I’m snapped inside an oversized, papery purple gown with white bear paw prints running across it. An ace bandage and a whole lot of gauze compresses my new chest, which is now comprised of two temporary tissue expanders beneath my pectoral muscles (since all my breast tissue on both sides has been removed). Dr. C. has filled each expander with 400ccs of saline. The purpose is two-fold: to hold the space left by my now-departed breasts while I heal completely, and to give me a semblance of a chest, so I am not flat-chested after surgery. Both help with healing — the former with my physical healing; the latter with my emotional. In a few months, after the expanders are filled a bit more with saline, I will have a second surgery to remove them and put in permanent silicone implants. 

But for now, somewhere in the cobweb-like recesses of my brain, I remember to check under my right arm to see if it hurts. (Pain means lymph nodes were removed.) Because I can't reach under there, I focus my thoughts on my armpit. But I feel nothing. Yay! Turns out I’m just numb. Dang. I string enough words together to ask the nurse Is there cancer in my nodes? Her response disappoints. “I don’t know, honey. You have to ask the doctor.”

For the next couple of hours, I slip in and out of sleep between bouts of nausea. I can’t have water yet, so my throat is achingly dry. I start to shiver, and a hose is quickly attached to my pretty purple gown. Warm air swooshes all around me, enveloping me, and for a brief moment, I feel peaceful, even cozy. But it’s a momentary respite; my tummy is unrelenting. I'm given Zofran but it does nothing.

I can feel time passing. I fall into an automatic, Lamaze type of breathing — short, quick, rhythmic breaths in an attempt to tame my pain. In actuality, it just gives me something to focus on besides the nightmare I seem to have woken up in. And that’s OK. I’ll take the distraction.

Speaking of distractions, where is my husband? I look around; he’s not here. He’s never been here. Seems the nurses haven’t brought him in to see me yet. OMG. That means he’s been sitting in the waiting room the entire day with my mother and sister. Waiting. Worrying.

I open my mouth but can manage to eek out only two words: “My husband.” The nurse nearby ignores me. So I repeat myself. Still nothing. Oh. I’m only talking inside my own head! I focus hard on saying the words out loud; this time she hears me, and nods OK.

And like in a dream, when I reopen my eyes, my husband is standing beside me. It’s obvious I’ve been going through a terrible time; I look limp and pale as a noodle. (He later tells me that upon seeing me, he went back out to the waiting room and sent my mom and sister home, rather than have them see me like this. Good call.) 

My husband asks the nurse what meds I’ve been given so far, then suggests Ativan, an anti-anxiety medication that also has an anti-nausea effect. My surgeon, Dr. A., agrees with him, saying, “Good idea. Let’s try it.” Within minutes, the room stops spinning. My husband explains to me why: Nausea begins in the brain, not the stomach — which is why the Ativan works.

My husband the hero pharmacist strikes again.

My surgery has taken 4 ½ hours. I’ve been in the recovery room an additional five. We arrived this morning in the dark; it is now dusk.

(Copyright ©2011 Rennasus)
But what about my nodes? They removed several. All were negative. While we won’t know exactly what we’re dealing with until the pathology report comes back in a few days, both surgeons say there were no surprises. They got clean nodes and clean margins. This is as good as it gets. We are happy, despite all the day's drama.

I finally made it to the other side.


  1. I am so happy to see a post from you tonight, Renn. I was just thinking about you this afternoon. I'm glad you are on the other side now and that the nodes were clear!

  2. that's good news and what you want... clear margins and clean nodes.
    I hope your recovery goes well, with tolerable to little pain, and lots of love and support from your loved ones.
    How wonderful your hubby is a pharmacist!

  3. Mary, Sjn, thanks for your support!

  4. I've been thinking about you all week, Renn. Praying for the best possible recovery.


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