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!

6 thoughts on “After the mastectomy

  1. Dear Catherine: many of those I know who are praying for you have been checking in today to find out how you are doing. They send messages of encouragement your way.

    One suggests that Helen Ready I am woman is very affirming…guess this gives you a clue about what age range I fall into that I remember when this song was released.

    I continue to pray for your health to be fully restored and that you feel God’s love carry you through this time of battle.

  2. I am glad to see your optimism shining through these posts. I understand that ones to follow may not be as cheerful, and that is good. I know my life is not always cheerful days, and I’m glad for friends to call on when things really suck.

    Take care,
    Kathy

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