Oh boobs.

Man-Bugger-Frig-DAMN-Augh-Frack-Fuck. AhhhhhHHH!

I’ve been demoted a bra size.  My boobs have always been two different sizes, the left smaller and the right a bit larger, but the nipples were even, so who cared? Not me. I was a happy, healthy, proportionally kick-ass 34 B–ish. Ish.

Well, not anymore!  Post mastectomy, little lefty is all that remains and she is a healthy size A.

Okay, okay. ‘Healthy’ should be the key word in that previous sentence, I know. But Frig. FRACK. BOOBS!

Today I wore my first ‘false’ breast, which is why I’m griping. I have this post-recovery camisole with pockets for a fake breast. My mom and I spent about ten minutes with the comfy – pulling out stuffing and trying to find it the right position in the shirt. Once we finally had it in place, I pulled my dress over and took a look in the mirror – hmm, even looking . . . but, smaller . . . Even Zsolt has noticed, though I suppose of all people he would be the one to notice.

This is not the end of my world. On the brighter side, my drain has been removed by two wonderful nurses who visited my home (I really mean it, they are great. Vicky in particular was so reassuring). And on the even brighter side, my mom is here and we spent an hour in a cafe today talking; getting out was difficult at first, I nearly fell asleep on the table from exhaustion, but after a cup of tea the world become far easier.

So yes, there are good things happening. But it’s a change – that’s all I’m saying, and a disappointment.  Big reliefs and small disappointments. These feelings can be tough, but I know they won’t last.

Bumpyboobs gets a little bit smaller. Hey, they’re still cute , and lefty’s been good to me. She really has. Thank God she’s healthy. Now I’m praying and fighting so that she and the rest of me can stay that way.

After the mastectomy

Today is Zsolt’s 29th birthday. He’s a fine kind of man and getting better every year. In the morning I serenaded him with  multiple rounds of happy birthday, followed by some birthday crepes (made by Zsolt with my help), presents, and a game of football. England vs Germany – at this point things aren’t looking hot for England because Germany just scored their fourth goal. Brutal.


Later today Zsolt will make us some birthday quesadillas while I cheer him on, and we’ll have some cheesecake that my colleague’s wife bake especially for Zsolt. It’s looks really delicious and is sitting in the fridge just waiting to be eaten.  Overall this isn’t the birthday we expected, but to be together is enough.

Tonight my mom flies out from Ottawa and will land tomorrow morning at Heathrow. She’ll be here  early afternoon-ish. Thank goodness for that; I can hardly wait to see her. Processing this away from home can distance me from those sad emotions, but not being able to hug my family sucks.

So – after the mastectomy, as promised. If you don’t want to read a long post I’ll give you a quick, poetic-type summary:

After the mastectomy – short version, by Catherine

Groggy, sleeping, blood pressure, needles, pills, waking, washroom hurdles, drinking, vomit, drinking, needle, waking, talking, sitting, bored, sleep, Zsolt! taxi, bed, painkiller, painkiller, numbness, stiff arm, stiff neck, missing breast, don’t look, look, don’t look, look and finally get up, get out, get on. And eventually back to bed, because I’m still a little tired.

After the mastectomy – long version, by Catherine

So it’s been okay. Thank goodness I’m out of the hospital.  Did you know it’s nearly impossible to sleep in a hospital? Forget about sleeping well, every moment of dreamy bliss is quickly taken away by an alarm, a neighbouring patient, or a visiting nurse. Of course, they’re just doing their job and considering how low my blood pressure was, I very much appreciate that.

After Zsolt was asked to leave the ward I drifted off, but was woken soon after for a blood pressure check. Attached to my catheter was a drip, which helped me stay hydrated because I couldn’t keep anything down. It was a slightly messy night with details I won’t mention, but I must give a shout out to Lou in the bed opposite who pulled my curtains shut and handed me a tissue when the nurses couldn’t attend.

The staff was busy, but still very supportive. And thank goodness for that midnight shot in the butt. It was a big needle, but stopped my nausea cold. I don’t even know the name of the nurse, but I really appreciate her care.

The following morning I had a visit from one of the surgeons. She didn’t do the operation, but she had been there to assist. Apparently everything went smoothly; I should have one neat scar across the right of my chest. Actually, she was very friendly and informative.

Then I was visited by one of the breast care nurses. She explained my upcoming appointments (consultation in 2 weeks, they’ll examine the lumps and see how weak/strong the cancer is), and gave me a little additional information. I’ll be fitted with a silicone breast in about 6 weeks time, after the scar has healed more.  Also she warned me to moisturize my arm and hand, to wear gloves around chemicals, and not to get any cuts in my right arm because without the lymph nodes I’m at greater risk of illness in that area.

Finally Zsolt arrived, and we were both visited by another nurse who checked out my bandages, which I didn’t look at, and gave me some exercises. Also I received two comfys, which are soft fluffy forms to slip into my bra. Frankly, a bra is totally unappealing at the moment but it’s nice to know I have spare boobs available.

Pain wise it’s not bad. There is a numbness beneath my arm (because they removed the lymph nodes) that is slowly changing into a tingle. But no – I’d say a paper cut with its shocking sting is more painful, though less constant.  However this is my fucking breast so ultimately a paper cut doesn’t compare; stupid example.

Point: it’s not too painful.

Comfort wise it is different. I feel like something is constantly pulling on my side and the numbness is a bit disturbing. Also there is a drain in my chest, which leads into a long tube, and down into a container which Zsolt empties once a day because I can’t stand to watch. I’m leaking fluid and blood. Gross.

Body wise it’s a shock. At the hospital I never looked down. At home I was crying when Zsolt helped me change shirts. The uneven slant of cloth across my chest is bizarre. I miss my perky peaks; now it’s all downhill.

However, today I didn’t cry, and I didn’t freak out. This is my chest and I’ve got to accept that. And I think that once the discomfort stops, I’ll really be able to adapt to my new look. I still look forward to visiting the beach, and I still look forward to wearing pretty dresses with v-neck tops.

Bottom line: I still love my body.

That is after the mastectomy, as promised. Anyone about to undergo the procedure – all I can say is have a chat with yourself, know it’s the best and just get through. Everyone reacts differently to losing a breast, but we all come through it. And it’s better on the other side. This cancer is out of my body, and even if anything remains  – I’m going to blast the shit out of it with treatments to follow.

So here’s to the first step. And here’s to Zsolt, my new carer and 29 year-old hunk. Happy birthday Zsolti, I couldn’t have managed without you.

Cheers!

Before the mastectomy

Okay, I love writing  – (I also love yogurt, which I’m eating right now) – and through writing I can clean my system. Plus, it’s a great way to share information.

So I’m going to write up two posts: before the mastectomy, and after the mastectomy.  And I’m going to start immediately, here, now.

The morning of my mastectomy I woke up at 6.50, ate a piece of toast and crashed back into bed. Zsolt and I slept in till nine, then rolled around the apartment till ten. My acupressure must be working, because even with the operation looming I was able to sleep soundly.  There was writing of emails, watching of Zsolt (he was eating and I was fasting; I couldn’t help salivating as he ate a late breakfast) receiving of letters, and prepping of bags. I used basically nothing that I packed, but it was still good to have it all there. For the most part things stayed ‘cool’, until I received two letters – one from Sandie and one from Laura, which were both very touching and helped me cry a little. Light crying is a good thing.

Eleven o’clock and we caught the bus to the hospital.  I kept looking down at my boobs, that happy couple sitting side by side, and would hold up my hand to cover the right one.

About ten to twelve we arrived at the Princess Anne, and we found our way to D level, day surgery. This is the area for people who are having surgery but leaving the same day. I guess they are getting things taken out, bits sliced off, etc. All the while I waited for them to take me away. One woman had to say goodbye to her husband in the lounge area and I burst into tears. How ridiculous is that? It’s not like this was a movie scene where the couple says a final goodbye; they didn’t even seem to mind. But still, the tears were rolling down my cheeks.

After my little scene, we kept on waiting. A lovely nurse came into the room – she was round, with big hair and a smiling face – and called out a list of names, on which I was placed third. She said that there were not enough beds, so we had to stay in the waiting room while the prep went on, and we’d go off and return one at a time. This was fantastic news for me – because Zsolt was in the waiting room and so long as he was there, I was happy.

Another hour passes by. Zsolt and I visit with my Anaesthetic Doctor (Nick) and he explains what we’ll be doing to knock me out.  I’m given robes to change into. Then it’s back to the waiting room.

Around 3.20 the nurse comes and asks if I’d like to sit on a bed to wait. “I’d rather stay with my husband,” I reply. And she says, “No problem, he can come with you.”

No problem? He can come with me? What was that pre-assessment nurse telling me two days before?

So! There you have it! Zsolt came with me. We sat in a small curtained off area, I was on the bed and he was on the chair. By this point in the day the patients were tapering off and the nurses seemed to  relax. They began to sing ‘all things bright and beautiful’ on the other side of the curtain, which I had never heard before. One nurse said it reminded her of a funeral, but another – the smiling nurse from earlier – said it reminded her of home; it reminded her of festivals and how people would walk down the street singing aloud. It held a lot of memories for her. So she sang it again for them. Zsolt and I listened through the curtain. It was lovely.

Eventually a nurse popped her head round our curtain (just past 4 pm) and asked if I was ready. Ready… well, I was willing. Can you ever be ready? A quick goodbye to Zsolt, I pulled myself together and was wheeled to the prep room.

Touching is such a comfort. All this nurse had to do was touch the side of my face and I felt supported.

We wheeled into this small prep room that somehow reminded me of high school tech classes. It seemed too small – not large enough for operating. But, of course, it must not have been. Before me were two grey doors, and I have a feeling the ‘theatre’ was on the other side.

There was Nick, the man who’d give me drugs, and he put a catheter into my hand. I frigging hate needles.  But in it went. He asked me what my favourite drink was . . . hmmm, water filled with ice cubes? (the question as an answer response, very Canadian).  He had meant an alcoholic drink, because what I was about to feel would be like two gin and tonics poured into my veins (maybe that’s his favourite drink).  Earlier he had told me it’d loosen me up, make me giggle. Nope, no giggles. I started to cry instead (a very common theme for the day). But good old Nick and my nurse did their best to distract me. “Where’s your favourite place for holidays?” Hmmm, Lake Balaton in Hungary? I answered (again as a question, because I wasn’t sure of anything at this point).  “Sounds great” he replied.

And then I was dreaming about Zsolt’s colleague’s German accent in conflict with someone else’s accent.

And then I was waking up, and realized that I was moving – being rolled, and Nick was there in his blue outfit, and the nurse (name forgotten, sorry!) was there with her pink ribbon and I asked if it had been okay – yes it was okay – and had they gotten it all out – yes they’d gotten it out.

And on we rolled into recovery. The rest was a dream with ins and out. I think I arrived in recovery around 6, and I know I arrived in the ward around 8.40. Zsolt was there after a day of waiting, and I was so tired I could barely stay awake.

But that’s after the mastectomy, and this is about before.  I’ll write the rest later. For now this is enough.