Wednesday, July 22, 2009
... one less lump - Surgery
It is now 3 am the morning after surgery and I have had enough 'down' time and my back is sore. I stumble out of bed and make my way to the washroom. No bother turning on the lights... the blue pee is no longer a novelty....
The day of surgery started quite early after a restless sleep and soon after getting dressed, the kids all got up to wish me good luck. William and Mitchel went back to bed and now it was Uncle Paul and Lydia getting ready for their day. Lydia was very excited to have Mandi take her to daycamp!! After much hugging and kissing, we were on our way. It's amazing how fast you can go anywhere in this city at 7:30 in the morning... just a wee bit before the day's rush begins, it is a casual experience and we talk about everything. Max parks and we both walk into the hospital hand-in-hand and now begins the journey we have been anticipating and dreading.
We are guided into surgical daycare by a nurse who has taken me to the counter to place my ID band on my wrist and to check for any allergies then leads us to bed 24 which I discover is straight across from the doors leading to the surgical suites. It would be a source of distraction as I wait my turn. I ask Sue, my nurse if I can bring the little bear I have brought with me from Sue my friend into the surgical room - it's for good luck, I say with a grin! No problem she says and takes him off to be tagged with my ID bracelet. The bear is wearing a sweater, long pants and a toque - my friend Sue thought he was a little overdressed considering that it is summer but in the hospital he would have needed an additional coat so I tucked him into my hospital gown. This way he could stay warm and my breasts would be hidden. It is now 8:30 and Sue is applying the numbing cream to my nipple and surrounding areola in prep for the needle that will be inserted under this sensitive tissue up in Nuclear Medicine.
My first procedure today would be a Sentinal node biopsy and would be done up in Nuclear medicine and so Luke, our orderly walked us up to the 5th floor where the receptionist immediately recognized me... I come here once per year for the testing of my kidneys. She was all smiles and chatted with me while checking my records and then whispered asking if I would prefer to sit in the hall and wait - I am just wearing two hospital gowns in what looks like a poorly put together ensemble and I gratefully accept the offer. The ceilings are all down and I can see the cat5 cable strung haphazardly and carelessly through the network of pipes above. Of course I critiqued this arrangement to Max who just shrugged. We sat waiting in the hall for a few minutes and couldn't believe that it was just a few weeks ago that we were here waiting for the MRI that would establish the extent and size of the tumor. We are holding hands and Max leans in for a kiss and offers his shoulder and I gladly take it. Minutes later, it is back to reality and our technologist is telling us about the sentinel biopsy and imaging that will take place in the room we are sitting outside of. He tells us that the needle will hurt and that the numbing cream will have done nothing to abate the procedure pain wise. Max squeezes my hand as I peer into the eyes of the tech and let him know that if anything it helps emotionally.... he didn't get the hint and repeated it as if to let me know that he knew better. I wipe the bad feeling I have for him away... what would he know!? Paul comes down the hall, I usually get him as the imaging technologist every year, and he stops to talk. He is shuffling his feet and acknowledges that when he saw us a few weeks ago, he thought that I was in MRI for my kidneys but he now knows why I am here and he is sorry for what I am going through. I smile and tell him it is fine and ask him how he is doing? We have a minute to chat and then Karen pops her head out of the imaging room we are booked for and smiles "I know you", she says,"but from where?" After a minute of discussing the possibilities, it turns out that our children went to the same daycare years ago. While we chat, she has removed the Saran Wrap that has been taped over the nipple to prevent it from getting all over my gown and has begun to wipe it off - she is startled as she comes across the lump in one of the passes the cotton pad makes. I just nod. It is time for the Doctor to come in and Karen introduces me to Dr. 'Bobby' who will be performing the procedure and yes, she is right, he is very young. He has a very quiet demeanor and is very gentle. The needle is inserted into the areola much like a TB test just under the skin with a radioactive isotope. I did not feel the needle going in - the numbing cream really did work - I will be mentioning this to Sue when I go downstairs. The stinging sensation is the isotope working its way into the first lymph node (hence the term Sentinel) and then to consequent lymph nodes in order of connection. These then are picked up via imaging which takes about 30 minutes. Great time to catch up with Karen and now Paul who has joined us for a minute. What a great way to start the day!! Thanks so much. Dr. 'Bobby' then takes a sharpie marker and using a geiger wand and the imaging unit he marks each node with an 'X' - they call this tattooing - that's not a tattoo and I should know *grin*!! Testing is over and I hug Karen a couple of times and call out to Paul our goodbyes as Luke escorts us past his room and back to Surgical Daycare.
Luke manages to grab us both a few hot blankets which are gratefully accepted and quickly wrapped around us. It is very cold in most parts of the hospital and it seems especially here in Daycare. Max is still sitting by my side reading the rag mags I have bought for the occasion - yes, I read People and Hello Canada when I can!! The nurses love these magazines and flip through the pages while we chat. Time for the IV to be inserted and I warn Max to look away - he's fine he says as he watches her put in the small needle to numb the vein... I warn him again and this time he heeds it as the larger needle is inserted with the IV adapter. I smile at him - OK I giggle too. It is now after 11 am and I know that he is really hungry and I send him off to go forage for food... yes I am fine, now go!! The nurses both appear and again share my magazines and small talk... we giggle and discuss all the sordid details of Jon and Kate's separation and his new gal pal..... better than talking about all the stuff going on around us!!
The IV nurse comes back to flip through 'Hello' and I let her know that she can take the magazines with her and share them with the other nurses... am I sure? Quite!... she thanks me again as she makes her way down the hall clutching the two magazines in one hand and her IV basket in the other. I now have a few more friends to smile at me as they walk by. Max returns and lets me know that he has not read them all - I grin at him and he just leans in to kiss me again... time to sit and do my crossword puzzles while we wait. I look up as the surgical doors open and I know that the nurse headed my way is the one who will take me into the Surgical Suites - it is now 1 pm.
I am rolled a few hundred feet through the doors and my bed is left to wait beside the intake desk. Now my nerves start to feel jangled and the smile fades as I feel alone again. There is another bed in front of me and I can just see over it and down the hall... I see my Urologist - a young good looking man who has an incredible reputation for his robotic surgery techniques and one really great guy. Smiles galore as he recognizes me and comes over! "Marita!! What are you doing here?" he exclaims. I tell him briefly and he puts his hand on my shoulder and tells me how sorry he is but that I am in a great place and that I am a lucky girl and will be well taken care of. He knows my surgeon well. We talk for a few minutes and then I find out that his wife had a mastectomy 2 weeks prior and I am very sad. She is only 41 years old. He agrees that there is way too much of this going on. He wishes me well and moves on to the patient who has been rolled in after me.
I am now in the lead bed, next to go and I am approached by a friendly, smiling nurse named Dave. He instantly sets me at ease with his gentle demeanor and friendly smile. He is assisting with an OR nurse Anna (who is in her second day of training). You can tell Dave knows the personalities of each of the doctors as he tells Anna which one will want to see what papers. She is really nice and is not afraid to ask Dave questions - good for her!! First Doctor I meet is the Anesthesiologist and he asks me how I know the Urologist I was talking to? Apparently we are both huge admirers and he promises that he will take the very best care of me in his lovely accent as I offer him my hand - we shake, he smiles and off he goes to the OR. I then meet my Surgeon with a handshake and a thank you so much and his intern. They then wheel me into lucky OR number 7!! I get to meet all the staff in the OR and Dave makes sure that my lucky bear has a front row seat!! The oxygen mask goes on and my head whirrs as the sleepy-time drug takes almost immediate effect.... the Anesthesiologist is still talking ......... i can barely make out.....
...... I am stirring, someone is snoring loudly.... I need to puke and begin waving my hands and turning to my side... just in time the nurse has a kidney shaped bowl under my head and away I go. My head is just spinning wildly and a call for Gravol is made. Finally get the spins under control and now I am very sleepy but can't seem to sleep for the woman who is groaning loudly beside me in between really loud snores. I want out of there and the nurse moves me as soon as she is able to - she knows that I am highly irritated by the noise and I can see that it is ruining her day as well. I am moved to recovery away from all the noise and now Max can be with me again. He is so amazingly sweet as he cups my face and kisses me. I love you so much you know!! We have to wait now because I am too groggy from all the Gravol I have had and it will be past 6 pm before we can go home. Good timing for us as the traffic seems to have thinned out considerably. I catch a glimpse in the side mirror and can't believe how bad I look - the nurse did say that I would look a slate grey due to the blue dye that was injected into my system to locate the lymph nodes in the breast and under-arm. Oh, and the blue/green pee that I would have for the next 24 hours as a result of the body ridding itself of it.
My journey is on its way... still waiting to hear back from Pathology to see what kind of cancer I have and if any or all of the lymph nodes harvested for biopsy are positive... if they are, there will be more surgery to remove more of them. I do have about half my breast remaining with an intact nipple YEAH!!! Soon I will meet with an Oncologist and from there.... who knows.
I am so fortunate for so many reasons.... my family, friends and an ability to stay positive. I trust in my journey for it is the only one I have and I rejoice in the opportunities that it presents either good or bad. I wish to thank everyone for their love, laughter, kind words and company through my journey. Often people do not know what to say or what to do in a situation like this - be brave and do what you think is best and know that when it comes from the heart... you can never go wrong. xoxoxoxoxo