I had posted some questions due to worries I had arising from other people’s posts and someone (Revcat I think) explained that people tend to post more when they have problems so I decided to write this diary for anyone coming after me to show the good, the bad and the ugly as it happened to me in relation to a mastectomy with no reconstruction. Of course everyone is different but I hope it helps someone. Sorry for the length!
Called in at the main hospital for my radioactive isotype injection.The lovely nurse told me it wouldn’t be as bad as the biopsy – she got that wrong! Maybe I was lucky with the biopsy and actually it wasn’t that bad; I just had to count to 10 three times rather than the once I was expecting. (Which isn’t bad when you think that in labour contractions went to 40 and then backwards to 1!).
Then up to the private hospital (thank you employer for private medical insurance) for the op. Everyone was so nice and kept talking to me until the last minute which was just what I needed. We had a debate about the virtues of onesies versus pyjamas. A bit of an ouch when they put the needle in the back of my hand and then I was saying I couldn’t feel it working yet, oh yes I think it might be now…..zzzzz.
I came round in recovery with another kind nurse willing to talk to me again. Sore throat due to the tube but no drink allowed yet. Heavy feeling in my arm but no real pain. Oxygen mask on. The nurse showed me how to use the morphine pump and I pressed it as instructed although I didn’t really feel the need for it (and my BCN told me later this was probably a bit OTT).
After a bit was wheeled to my room. I hadn’t realised how restricted I was going to be; I thought I would be able to go to the loo but with oxygen, a drip, a drain and my super blow up bootees (which inflate and deflate to stop DVT) there wasn’t a chance.
New skill learned – how to use a bedpan. Second time, over confident and overshot! Another nice nurse changed sheets with no fuss or bother. Also teeth brushing in bed!
I kept drifting off to sleep and then waking in a bit of a panic without knowing why – apparently this could have been the morphine, which is probably right as it gradually stopped. I didn’t have any more once in the room but had two paracetamols before going to sleep just in case.
Another newly learned skill – I facetimed my two boys on one of their i-pods which was great as I could see they were ok and they could see I was (I took oxygen off first!). It was better than a phone call because my voice sounded a lot worse than I felt.
Had a look at dressing – weird seeing no boob but I knew that was going to be the outcome so no surprise. Keep telling myself better that than an arm or leg.
Slept pretty well. Had a throat lozenge for still sore throat which improved it no end and texted friend to bring mints and newspaper. Tip - take sweets with you to suck and baby wipes so you can freshen up whenever you want to.
Asked the nurse to look at my wound/dressing. I though it had sunk along the middle but then realised it was probably the other way round, it had swollen around the wound – she said it was fine.
Surgeon came to see me and said that the lump had been close to the chest wall and the skin where it was in the thin part of the breast so I had made a wise decision to go for the mastectomy rather than WLE - I actually felt quite pleased to hear that, as it would stop any wondering at a later stage as to whether I had made the right decision.
Came off the drip (and I had discarded the oxygen myself at some point) and took the bootees off –big step forward to get out of bed, go to the loo, have a really good wash and see myself in the mirror. I didn’t find it upsetting. Tip – don’t forget about the drain because when you drop the bag it yanks and bloody hurts!
Felt a big boost from feeling clean and fresh in my new pyjamas (gift from lovely friends at work). Had to keep surgical stockings on and kept getting up to walk round to ensure no DVT.
Friend came to visit followed by family later. The boys were clearly relieved to see me and helped to eat some chocolate (they take after me). They have been fantastic – I only ever got upset when I thought about telling them but they took it in their stride and then each asked what they wanted to know on a one to one basis. They both know cancer doesn’t mean death and my great (!) nephew has leukaemia which he been treated for during the last two years (diagnosed on his fifth birthday) so I was able to explain that mine wasn’t half as bad as his and if that little mite could cope then I certainly could.
Had two paracetamols before bed again (and mild laxative – don’t they take bowel movements, or lack of, seriously!). Was determined to watch Casualty (I know but was one of my favourite programmes until I found I never had time to watch much anymore with full time job and family). Fell asleep in the middle of it.
The plan was for this to be departure date but I had to fit pick up in round boys’ sports (I really wanted them as much in their usual routine as possible). There were rumours of my drain coming out much to my delight but it wasn’t to be – my surgeon is very keen for drains to stay in until they have done their job.
Another lovely nurse helped me wash my hair with me standing and leaning my head back and her using the shower hose. Surgeon had said shallow baths only but we managed between us.
Another boost – clean hair, and own clothes, and then make up – all these little things make a difference!
Eventually went home about 5 although they said I could stay another night if I wanted to. Two nights was just right for me; I felt I had plenty of time to get my strength back but was able to be home with the boys on Sunday evening before school the next day.
They gave me a couple of softies to take with me but I have no intention of putting a bra on at the moment, I can’t see how that could be good for the wound.
They sent me home with paracetamol, a stronger painkiller and more laxatives (apparently the stronger painkillers can cause constipation). Had a bit a panic a few days later when I saw what was stapled to the bag – an invoice and a note explaining the take home medication wasn’t covered by insurance and I should tell them before I left the hospital if I didn’t want it! Fortunately the invoice was only for the stronger painkillers and was for…..£4! Cheaper than a prescription!
Put a pillow down the middle of the king size bed as I was worried about OH lying on drain. (During day was carrying it round in a little gift bag but then just put my belt through the handles – great, two hands!)
Woke early and couldn’t get comfy so decided to read downstairs but fell back to sleep on settee. I don’t usually sleep flat on my back but didn’t have much choice. Stiff on first waking so it’s important to get moving.
Showered by pulling shower head down as far as possible and then showering from side making sure the dressing didn’t get wet. Having to hold the drain was a pain but I managed. Getting up and dressed a much slower process than usual just because you have to think about what you are doing rather than just going on auto pilot.
A scarf and a loose cardigan means I don’t look particularly odd. My view is that if people do have a problem with how I look that is their problem and not mine but I am conscious that the children should never be embarrassed by my appearance (by my actions yes, but not my appearance!!).
Had lots of deliveries of chocolates, fruit and flowers – I take strength from all the kind messages of support people have sent, each one makes me feel good and lucky to have such great people on “my team”.
I had been dealing with odd work e-mails since Day one on the Blackberry but needed to log on the computer to sort some things out. Was surprised how tiring it was to use the keyboard and mouse and told myself to listen to my body. Baby steps.
I went for a short walk in the afternoon. I was quite apprehensive although I couldn’t say why but once I was out with sunlight and fresh air on me I felt another physical boost. I kept consciously having to relax my shoulders as I was holding myself so stiffly.
Pretty much like day 4 but had 2 paracetamols when I got up as had sinusitis type pain in my face. I suspect I had been clenching my teeth in the night and am conscious that although I am coping well on the surface my subconscious may be resolving a few issues in the night. My younger son told me the day after I had told them about having to have the op that he had a dream about trying to chase a black ball (I don’t think you need to be a psychologist to work that one out). I told him that was because he was on my team helping to chase the cancer away.
One of my team (a neighbour) came to wash my hair for me. I am not ashamed to accept people’s offers of help. I know it makes them feel better to feel they are doing something practical to help and that I would do the same for them. It’s awful when you want to do something to help a person you care about and there’s nothing you can do, so it’s actually quite selfish to refuse offers of help.
Drain out – massive boost as any pain I had tended to come from the drain site when I moved awkwardly. I can’t way it was pleasant but definitely do-able and worth a few seconds of discomfort to get rid of it. My BCN was really pleased with my progress and I explained it was down to the fruit and chocolate diet! Walked on air for the rest of the day.
Had big row with OH and went for a walk to give myself space and to release my tension. Weather was fitting – gloomy and that kind of rain that almost doesn’t qualify as rain. Walked for over an hour; not up to my usual speed but it shows I still have strength when I need it.
Another team member came to wash my hair – I remember when the surgeon was talking to me about what the op would entail he mentioned not being able to lift my arm above my head at first and then I realised I wasn’t listening to what he was saying because I was on to planning how I would get my hair washed! I am sure different things are important to different people – that was my big issue, I hate having dirty hair!
Week one over, I have been doing my exercises religiously but tomorrow I move on to the harder set – another challenge to overcome!