Post surgery wrap up

13 Aug

Surgery sucks balls.

It’s been 9 days now since my mastectomy and I’m still sore, and likely to still be sore for many weeks yet, although it should get better (so they say). I’m getting frustrated by not being back to 100% already. But that’s me, impatient, and known to want everything done yesterday.

But despite my whining, the doctors say I’m recovering well.

After meeting with the nurse, the anaesthetist and my surgeon, they took me into surgery around 9.15 a.m., Wednesday 4th August. I don’t recall being scared or nervous at all, but then again they had given me a lovely little calming pre-med around half an hour earlier 🙂 The anaesthetic technician spent a while trying to find a vein, then wheeled me into theater and the next thing I remember was waking up in the recovery room.

I hated coming out of the general anaesthetic. My mind was alert but my body wouldn’t do what it was told. All I wanted to do was be awake but I was so drowsy and spaced out that it just wasn’t happening. My husband, mother, two sisters and two BFFs were there when I came out of recovery and was wheeled into my room (around 12.45 p.m.). This potentially wasn’t the best thing as they were all there, and I wanted to be alert and talk to them all, but kept drifting in and out of sleep which annoyed the heck out of me at the time.

I was also in a lot of pain and the morphine they were giving me didn’t seem to be touching it. They finally got on top of the pain around 6pm after lots of codeine and various other things that I can’t remember.

I had two drains in – one for the chest and one for the armpit, where they removed the lymph nodes. I had to lug these around with me whenever I went to the toilet which was fairly awkward, but the method of carrying them around in a pillow case seemed to work OK. I had to make several loo breaks throughout the first night, due to all the IV fluids that they’d pumped into me during and just after surgery. Getting out of bed wasn’t easy and although the codeine was working, it didn’t get rid of the pain altogether. The only time I got upset during my time in hospital was when the nurse said I couldn’t have any more pain relief 😦 I’d already had my charted amount and she told me that I was overdoing it by getting up so often, but I certainly wasn’t going to go in the bed pan (once and never again!).

I took my first peek at what used to be my boob on Saturday. I was surprised that it didn’t seem to shock me at all. For some reason I thought I would be heavily bandaged but there is basically just a long cut, stitched up and covered with surgical tape. It looks like a scratch with a slightly longer than normal plaster over it. Perhaps I was too jacked up on codeine to worry about it too much, who knows.

I was allowed to go home on the Friday. They removed the chest drain before I left the hospital, but I had to go home with the armpit drain still in (this is always the case if you’ve had lymph nodes removed). The breast care nurse did give me a pretty styly little bag to carry it round in though.

Being home was good. I had a constant stream of visitors, flowers and cards arriving, and food delivered to my door (courtesy of my fabulous work colleagues). I also had my wonderful husband waiting on me and being an excellent nurse. The pain was better but still not good, and sleeping was difficult due in part, to not being able to roll over (because of the drain). Although I was still quite sore, I started to wean myself off the codeine. This was for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed to space me out more when I was at home – I’d have my dose and then be asleep within 30 minutes and not able to get my words out properly for several hours after I woke up. Secondly (TMI alert!), lots of good pain relief = constipation. No fun at all. Kiwi crush didn’t seem to help (as recommended by others), but I managed to decrease the codeine and stick to paracetemol which did the trick by Saturday (I was so happy with myself I even updated my Facebook status).

Sunday came, and with it, a partial meltdown. I was reading one of the many pamphlets they sent me home with, entitled “Breast Cancer – Sexuality and Self Esteem”. I don’t know what it was, but something hit a nerve with me and I started bawling. Luckily my husband was there for support and comfort. It felt good to let it out I guess, a good cry kind of resets the mind I think.

On Monday I had the armpit drain removed. It was such a relief that I couldn’t stop grinning. And it was frickin amazing how much tube they actually have inside you! Hubby reckons there was 450mm of tubing that my lovely breast care nurse Georgie pulled out. The area was still quite numb so it didn’t hurt – pulling the tape off my skin was the worst part of it!

I also saw my Oncologist on Monday. This was to go over chemotherapy in general (they won’t know specifics until they complete the pathology report for my lump and lymph nodes) and to talk about fertility. Being only 27 years old, and married with no kids yet, fertility was something that I had been worrying about a lot, but she put my mind at ease. Being young, even though my fertility will be temporarily reduced with chemotherapy, there is still a good chance it will come back to normal once this is over. Despite this, she referred me to the fertility centre to talk to them about harvesting and storing eggs (well actually embryos to be more precise).

The affect on fertility is also going to depend on the hormone status of my tumour. Breast cancers can often have estrogen and/or progesterone receptors on them which drive their growth. If this is the case, they will want to use hormone therapy (probably Tamoxifen) – typically for 5 years post chemotherapy, during which time you can’t get pregnant (as Tamoxifen can harm developing embryos). Hopefully this isn’t the case for my tumour and again, I have youth on my side. The likelihood of it being hormone positive is less for premenopausal women. I’ll find this out on Monday 16th August when I have an appointment with my Surgeon (and breast care nurse), followed by an appointment with my Oncologist.

This morning I had an appointment with a fertility consultant to get the IVF process started. The roadmap from here is to get bloods done on day 3 (today) and day 10 of your cycle so they can monitor hormone levels to accurately predict ovulation. They then give you fertility drugs to stimulate you to release lots of eggs, and then when the time is right, they go in and retrieve them (you probably don’t need to hear those details). The eggs are fertilised before freezing them, hence my dear hubby has to make a “donation” (giggle).

The past few days I’ve felt OK enough go out out into the big wide world. We’ve done a little bit of shopping but I don’t have the same kind of shopping stamina at the moment, definitely going to have to work on that. Can’t be getting tired in the middle of trying to find the perfect new handbag that’s for sure (although I did buy two yesterday…. they were on sale!).

Being out in public though, with my temporary prosthesis under my bra, makes me realise more than before that I’m missing something. I’m paranoid about it when I’m out and worried that people can tell. Everyone says it looks fine but the thing is, it doesn’t feel fine. I had a moment yesterday when I started to get sad that my right breast was no longer there. Reality seems to be kicking in now that I’m heading back towards some level of normality. No doubt I’m going to be struggling with it for some time yet, but in the meantime, I have amazing friends, family, colleagues (and Twitter friends!) around me, and that means the world.

(I know this is a originally a Beatles tune, but I prefer this version – sorry boys)


4 Responses to “Post surgery wrap up”

  1. Derri August 15, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    as I said in a recent FB post – who you are isn’t determined by what you look like, or possess. Your essential self, is unaltered (though possibly slightly bruised by recent events!) by the removal of a bit of tissue.

    your wonderful spirit, generous nature, and giving personality are unchanged – and those things, those ‘essential nature’ things, are the reason you have so many people who love, like, and care about you.

    having watched my mum go through this, having helped her get through her post-op recovery, and having been a shoulder to cry on when it all got too hard – I have a pretty good idea of how it hits you in a series of shock bursts… I promise it will get easier, I promise that you’ll still be feminine (that was the hardest for mum, she had both removed), and I promise that it IS all worth it.

    Keep up your remarkable spirits – and to all those closer to you (both in distance & relationship) I thank them for the support for this wonderful lady, whom I think is awesome.


    • Kylie August 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

      Thanks Derri, you’re such a sweetheart 🙂 so glad to hear your mum is doing fine. Love and hugs xo

  2. Mon Macdonald August 16, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Hi Kylie,

    My friend had sent me your website I’m really sorry to hear about your story. I’m also had been diagnosis with Breast Cancer at the age on 30! I just had my partial mastectomy at Auckland Hospital on Friday the 13th August. I’m slowly recover from the anaesthetic and all the pain killer they give to me at the hospital. I been doing nothing but sleeping for the past 3 days. The Breast Cancer had been a big shock for me. I am a runner and also triathlete and was training for my first ironman before I find out about my cancer. All the best to you Kylie and we will WIN this battle. :0)

    • Kylie August 18, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

      Hi Mon – thanks for your comment! Sucks that you’re a part of this crappy young-person-with-breast-cancer club too but you’ve got the right attitude to kick butt! Keep in touch, it’s so comforting to hear from others going through the same thing. You’re young and fit and healthy so I’ve no doubt you’ll be just fine 🙂

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