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January 26, 2011

I think perhaps

my expectations for Thursday were a bit too high.  I had the idea, as one might have gathered from Thursday's a.m. post that the day would be gravy. I would waltz in the hospital, don my gown, be prepped for surgery and recover nicely before heading home in the late afternoon.

In hindsight, we could have arrived at 7:30 a.m. and I would have had no trouble arriving in the OR by 8 a.m.  Although we were called back relatively quickly and had the preliminary tests (an arm-numbing blood pressure reading of 97/57...I know, kind of high for me, yes, really), temperature and oh, a special pleasure, a pee test after being NPO-ed for 7 hours!  Great news everyone, I'm not pregnant!  Yes, really, they did a pregnancy test.   I get it, but they could have at least called it something else.  While I am very happy for those who are pregnant, since... well, that will just be a topic for another time.

I finally changed, settled into the gurney, and had an IV needle shoved into my left arm (painful doesn't cut it...the nurse actually came back later and apologized profusely), while chatting with the anesthesiologist.  We reviewed my entire history (to include my birthdate for the 1,000,000,000 time) and she left us to twiddle our thumbs for 20 minutes or so.  Finally, I had enough and realized I was becoming a part of the gurney.  Just as I sat up to do a few stretches, Dr. X arrived and decided to do a few 'draw-rings' on my chest (I'd say or what's left of it, but that sounds so....honest).  I sat down just in time for him to request me to stand back up, remove the gown and let him do random squiggles and zots around my upper half.

You see, not only was I having an implant (temporary, of course) put in on the right side, but also one on the left.  As much as I was quite happy with my God-given gifts, had I not had a bit extra inserted, I may have ended up quite lopsided (as if I wasn't already).  Dr. X. also came to the conclusion that now was the best time to tighten things up a bit in that region in order to complete the look.

With the purple marker safely tucked away, I was allowed to lay down and then get a touch of calming medication from the nurse anesthetist.  Peter and I touched hands a few times, he kissed me good-bye and I dozed off before we reached the end of the hallway.  A few hours later, I awoke and realized that the morning was the easy part after all.

I had no issue with the idea of outpatient surgery, but was under anesthesia for well over two hours. When I was finally out of recovery (of which I have little to no memory), I was forced off the gurney, into the bathroom and then had to walk around the corner to a recliner where I was to continue my "recovery."  Little did I know it was going to be two hours of a nurse and Peter shoving saltines* and ice chips into my mouth while I did my best not to vomit them back up and/or fall asleep while chewing/swallowing.  No photos as not my best moments to say the least.

At long last, I managed to utter a complete sentence ("No more sherbert!") which somehow meant I was  ready to go home.  The curtain was closed around me, my clothes were carefully put on and Peter was instructed to get the car.  Just as I thought all was going to be okay, as I was fully dressed, had a miniscule amount of nourishment in my stomach and did not think I was going to pass out/fall asleep before being moved to the wheelchair, Nosey Nurse showed up.

Nosey Nurse must have been easily in her 60s and just as cheerful as they come.  Apparently the fact that I could barely stand up without help from 3 people meant nothing to her.  Somehow, she had a gander at my chart (she assisted me in no way, shape or form that morning) and realized I was in for a 'special' reason (you know, the very thing I wish to forget most days?).  Immediately she hit me with a barrage of questions:

  • Did I have an oncologist?
  • What is his/her name?
  • Do I know about "X support group", as they are wonderful for "the 38, 39 and 40s" (age groups, I guess)?


  • Yes
  • Dr. D.
  • I have no interest in "X support group", please get out of my face STAT.

I have no issue with support groups in general but have realized that I am a special sort of patient for the following reasons:

  • I do not have cancer anymore and don't want to dwell on the past.  I suppose someone can argue the stray cell theory, but I had half of my chest removed, and as far as I am concerned, all of the cancer is gone, gone, gone.
  • I am looking to improve my life in the healthiest manner possible.   I do not fear the cancer (it's a known that it could come back...but it won't, I know that), but the treatments scare the cr*p out of me and I have a feeling I may be in somewhat of a minority.
  • Many of my issues regarding my diagnosis stem from worries concerning my lifestyle.  I am not against perhaps meeting with someone one-on-one, but I know that there will be few if any support groups that would truly meet my needs.

Last, but not least, I am actually okay.  While I am toying with meeting with someone with whom I could occasionally vent, I am not planning on doing much more than that.  This is a temporary issue and we have dealt with it.  Maybe I will do radiation, maybe I will take Tamoxifen...maybe I won't.  I no longer fear both as I did, but still have not come to the conclusion that they will benefit me.  What I have learned thus far, though, is that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or does.  I have to make the decisions and own them for myself.  If something happens, it happens, but at least I made the decision and I can live with that risk.

I am not decrying support groups for anyone else.  If our lifestyle were different, maybe it would be useful.  However, the more I simply go on with my life, between my resolutions to be healthier, the weekly massages and the chomping at the bit to peek at the bid list, the better I feel.  Now, if I could just get that whole "get to bed earlier" resolution down pat because you know who will be on either the treadmill or elliptical tomorrow morning, come snow or no snow. I may be slow, but I will be there and that is therapy in and of itself....take that, Nosey Nurse.


*I don't blame Peter for trying to push me a bit.  I'm fairly sure he understood how incredibly ill I felt and simply wanted me declared healthy/awake enough to go home.




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Supposedly -- according to doctors and nurses when I had my appendix out in 2005 -- being a somewhat young white woman who doesn't smoke puts you at increased risk of getting ill from anesthesia. Seriously. How do they track things like that?
I'm with you on the support groups. I'm sure they're helpful, even sanity-saving, for some people, but they're not for everyone.

It's strange how anesthesia messes with some people, and not with others. I was put under only once, and while I was expecting a reaction like what you described, and what I'd been warned of by friends and the doctor, I woke up very refreshed, as if I'd had a nice long nap. My daughter had the same experience at 3yo (for an MRI). She woke up and was raring to go. The doctor did not want to clear her to leave until she drank juice or ate a popsicle to prove that she was feeling better. She refused... she hated juice and popsicles and no amount of pleading or reasoning would get her to take them. I wanted us out of there because a blizzard was moving in! She just wanted Chinese food and grapes! The doctor gave up first and signed her out.

By the way, I really like your attitude. It's kick butt! :)

I think you have reached your "new normal" life- a state you have found for yourself and your family! Congratulations you are living YOUR life! I'll be watching for where you are off to next as you continue the fs life!

Ah, memories....I insisted that my mom try a support group at G'town Hospital shortly after her BC surgery. This was in the 1980's and I guess the art of grouping patients was not very sophisticated by then. One by one, the group members (one on a gurney and several in wheelchairs while mom was completely mobile) talked about how it felt to be about to die, how to tell when one's life was over, what they think dying would be like, you get the idea. My mom, the nervous, bitter type anyway, did a (completely justified for once!) major freak out and I had to get her out of there before she yelled SHUT UP!!! at those very nice ladies. Wrong support group, to say the least, as they were all victims of metastases of severe stages (mom lived decades, scarfed a zillion tamoxifen pills and never looked back, except to scream when anyone tried to take blood pressure from the wrong arm). I learned my lesson that there is no one size fits all on the kind of assistance one needs during such ordeals. Hint: might ask a few questions about the make up of such a group before subjecting oneself to nightmares, or as you say Jen, follow your instincts to something that is more tailor made for your needs. You deserve whatever YOU need.

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