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Surgery Day for a Virgin

I am 13 days post op from my lumpectomy. From start to finish surgery day was a twilight zone. See, I am a virgin to such things even though I gave birth to 2 children. I went Au natural back then. No epidural. No episiotomy. No drugs. Just a lot of pain and an out of body occurrence on my first.

I spent a couple pampering hours with great nurses fussing over me, kindly. Every one I met religiously took my name, birth date, and asked me what I was there for. It was to make sure they didn’t mix me up with someone else. Imagine my surprise if I woke up to something else missing besides the tumor in my boob. Each person had me sign off another consent form. Who knows. I might have been signing over my bank account.

I was nauseated from anxiety from the get go. My daughter was with me. We chit chatted nervously about much I don’t remember. As the only male that touched me that day, applied my FIRST EVER IV catheter into my vein, the nurse distracted me by placing a patch behind my ear for my dizziness. It actually worked. She said it would for 3 days. And it did.

They wheeled me off to a small room where a PA injected my poor aching breast with a radioactive substance that ran though my lymph nodes. It was an audio map for the surgeon to calculate, of the affected region. Great radiation. By time this whole event is over my body will be a toxic bomb. So much for eating healthy all my years.

My young competent surgeon came to check on me. I introduced her to my daughter. The anesthesiologist came to explain how the anesthesia would be administered. She had retired, but returned to this hospital once a month, because she missed it. Glad she was there for me and instilled the confidence I needed. I vaguely recalled what she told me about the procedure to come on the OR table.

Two plus hours after entering the hospital, I was wheeled to surgery. It was akin to being sucked inside an odd version of a lucid dream-scape. As they wheeled me off, my daughter insistently bent over my gurney. And said with all her heart, “I LOVE YOU.” It was sad, tender, sweet, with a tremor in her voice. I looked at her and could not respond. Had I done so, I would have cried.

The nurse wheeled me down the sterile halls with no windows. A concrete corridor where others looked on at me, as I had others being wheeled through this corridor, just hours earlier. Wondering. What they were in for. We reached the ‘room’ and the nurse did not have a button for an auto door opener. Thought it strange. Told her I could almost feel it with my foot and if she pushed me forward I could kick it open for her. She thought that funny. I meant it. Just trying to be helpful. She told everyone in the OR what I said. They laughed. I was amused that they found what I said funny. Maybe patients don’t talk on the way into surgery. Or perhaps there was a standing joke about surgery room swinging doors that had no auto open. Maybe they weren’t suppose to be automated. Don’t know. I was-am still clueless on this.

My gurney was slid up to the OR table and adjusted for height. And I was instructed to slide on over. It was a skinny table. They adjusted me for comfort. I looked around the room. Then realized there must have been at least 6 ladies attending me in my surgery. The anesthesiologist bent over me. Adjusted my IV line as I was laying on it. I laid there in waiting. Nurses were getting ‘tools’ ready. I looked at the 2 large lights above, not on. I said I was going to go pick up my lottery numbers while I was away. The nurses asked me to get theirs. I said, “Sure if I remember them.”

The anesthesiologist put the breathing mask over my nose. Said she was starting to administer it through my IV. I said, “I feel it. Here is come….” And I was gone to a place so deep, so quiet, so fast. There was no time, nothing, didn’t feel anything, was just gone. It wasn’t like anything I had experienced. No out of body. No consciousness awareness. NOTHING. Just like others told me. And then I heard voices in the recovery room. My eyes were still closed. Someone at the foot of my bed said in reference to obviously me, “She never had surgery before.”

I felt dizzy inside and did not want to open my eyes. But I did. The attending nurse greeted me. Asked how I felt. I said very dizzy. “I have to close my eyes. I feel sick.” She said she would administer something to me. And did. I could feel it. But kept my eyes closed because every time I opened them I got nauseous. I saw a nurse walk to the restroom across the way with a full barf bag. It looked nasty.

A clock was straight across from my bed on the wall. I first opened my eyes about 4:40pm. I had wheeled into surgery @ 2:20. I was told surgery start to finish would be 1 ½ hours. So guess I was sleeping it off for a bit. It took me another 40 minutes before they wheeled me back to the room I started from. My daughter showed up within minutes. As soon as I saw her, I said, “Do you have a pen? I have some numbers for you to write down.” In the darkness of my awakening I had 5 numbers I did not want to forget. Asked whoever granted them to me to hold them until I could record them. The numbers don’t make sense. Yet.

After settling in, a nurse wanted me to get up and walk. Before they took the IV out. Just in case it was needed again. Gladly I did. And walked to the bathroom. And minutes later was being wheel chaired out to the front to get into my daughter’s car. Within that hour I was scarfing down healthy foods and water. And took a walk around the parking lot at the over night house on the hospital campus where we stayed.

My body was in shock for a couple days. The first 2 days I was still wearing off the pain meds implanted in me. The third day the pain hit. I used the pharmacy prescription twice. Made the pain go away, but made me feel like crap. I used Tylenol thereafter. My breast was swollen, lopsided and grotesquely misshapen-ed. It was bruised from my side incision with every color: crimson red, puke yellow, blue, purple all the way back to my back. My arm pit screamed. Three lymph nodes were extracted right in and under.

My lump was gone and my breast was relieved from that hurt. Now the hurt was one of healing. I felt deep compassion for those who had or will undergo a full mastectomy. I am strong and stubborn. But this whipped me. Depleted my energy and sucked my life force gone. I had felt horrid after my biopsies, but this made me realize how very vulnerable I was. How people of the past, without the medicine we now know, absolutely knew their fate was doomed. It’s an odd perception. Knowing you are easy prey. You are unable to defend yourself. Your body could not provide protection to- and for you. Like it once did.

By Friday, I called in to ask about the progress on my healing. I did not know what to expect. What was normal. I was still hurting a lot. Swollen and concerned. The nurse counseled me for a while. From my description she assured me I was on track. And, I learned that it was actually best to steer clear of the Rx meds, so my body would kick in and do its job of healing me. My surgeon called me a half hour later. And reiterated what I was told. That was kind of her. I didn’t expect it, as I knew Friday was her surgery day.

Later in the day my surgeon called again. She said preliminary reports from the hospital lab were: my tumor was all malignant. A round ball 1.9 cm. Stage 2. Not at the beginning. Not at the end. They had known this from the ultrasound the day I had my mammogram 7.5 weeks earlier. She said she removed 3 lymph nodes. 2 were cancer free; one had a scant trace, .5mm of cancer cells. She said their equipment barely discerned it. And, I might be looking at chemotherapy. Gulp. She said all of it would go onto an outside Pathology lab and from there they would get a directive for best course of action for my treatment. Then she asked if I had any questions. A thousand swarmed in my head with no audible words. I told her I really didn’t know what to ask. And anything I was wondering was conjecture at this point before we absolutely knew. She agreed and we bid each other a good weekend ahead. My next appointment is with her, and my oncologist I have not met, is now coming up in 3 days.

Each day I feel less swollen, a bit less nauseous. My arm pit is last to heal. I am doing the gentle arm stretches to aid healing and have a good range of motion. Yesterday I made a pot of split peas soup, with carrots, potatoes and onions. I ate almost the whole thing by this morning. My appetite came back. I am still cautious about eating wholesome and healthy. More-so than ever, even though anti-cancer foods have long been my favorite before I got IT.

This experience lives on with my new-novel-ascended outlook. I now join the many sisters who have gone before me on this path. And, I am able to help provide comfort to another…which oddly on the heels of my surgery day, my sweet next door neighbor is now beginning her journey. She told me I have already given her much to consider: ideas, suggestions, advice. Breast cancer is a sisterhood, and a growing epidemic. No one is exempt. As such, I am happy to pass on my experience to help another.

And to my surgeon, and surgical team, at Samaritan Hospital THANK YOU for your professionalism, competence, and your extreme compassion and kindness on MY day.