The day before surgery I was scheduled for my pre-assessment clinic to ensure that I was in fact fit for surgery. This went off without a hitch, however, I highly recommend taking a phone charger with you. I saw 3 people over 4.5 hours, but the people that were in only took 5-7 minutes of time each time. It was a long morning but had to be done. During the pre-assessment I needed to have bloodwork done. Sure enough it was challenging and I ended up needing to give two samples. If the PICC line hadn’t been so itchy and uncomfortable for the last 6 weeks of treatment I can tell you it would have paid off to leave it in for this blood draw!
The afternoon the kids and I hung out in the backyard, they got all packed up to go to grandma and grandpas house. I was nervous because I knew that I would be away from the kids for at least 3 nights – might seem strange but this is the longest that they haven’t been home for and I truly wasn’t sure how they would do. They said their goodbyes, Em was sad but loving, and Rob and I went home.
The night before surgery was hard. I was anxious but not afraid, there was a nervous energy but no real fear for me. I knew that it was going to be a long day, having to arrive at the hospital for 6am and surgery wasn’t scheduled until 1:30pm. I actually slept which surprised me.
When my alarm went off I was up like a shot. During my pre-assessment the day before I received a bunch of instructions:
*no eating after midnight
*no drinking water after 6am
*no drinking alcohol for 48 hours before (whoops – had a drink on Father’s Day…)
*wash with a disinfectant sponge the night before and morning of
I wanted to get showered and drink my last two cups of water for the day. I had packed most things the night before so that was fine, gathered a final few items and away we went.
When I first started my journey at the Breast Health Centre the hospital was busy; there were people walking everywhere, cafeteria was open. Today there was no one. A couple other lonely patients, porters, and nurses. It felt like a ghost town.
During my pre-assessment I asked about having a support person at the hospital, they couldn’t confirm one way or the other. Rob and I were anxious he wasn’t going to be allowed to stay. When we got up to the surgery floor there was a note that said “No visitors” and we were crestfallen. The nurse told us that although they weren’t allowing visitors for any other surgeries, they were for breast surgeries. Relief was practically palpable.
We checked into the room, went through the paperwork and waited.
First up I needed to have wires placed in the sentinel lymphnode on the right and the tumor on the right, which would be followed by a dye to highlight the lymphnodes for my surgeon. They gave me numbing cream around my nipples because apparently it hurts like a bugger to get the dye injected, so of course I am super looking forward to that part.
The radiologist and ultrasound tech at the breast health centre I had seen before which provided some comfort in the familiarity. It was ‘easy’ to find the lymphnode and get the wire hooked into the right spot, but my medial tumor was much more challenging. Gotta make it interesting right? This took about an hour when we finally got it hooked in place; yes I say we even though the radiologist did all of the work, it’s my tumor after all!
When I went to sit up I couldn’t breathe, I absolutely couldn’t catch my breath. There was pain in my mid back that wrapped all around my chest. I couldn’t even speak it felt like there was an elephant on my chest. The US tech asked if I was ok, all I could do was shake my head no and try to get a breath in. The radiologist said she was putting a lot of pressure on my chest to get the wire in place for the tumor, and that was likely the cause of my discomfort. It took about 60 seconds to be able to breathe and speak again. The initial shock of the discomfort wasn’t terrible, but the fact that it persisted longer than I expected did have me panicking just a bit. Glad that was over.
Then they wanted to see where everything was and gave me my last mammogram – which also was super tricky. She had trouble locating the medial wire in the image because it is so close to my chest wall – they couldn’t even see the tumor on mammo when I was initially being diagnosed, and the lymphnode was high as well. After about 25 min we decided that was good enough (after checking with the radiologist).
Then I went for the dye injection. It was short, but the pain was relatively intense considering I had numbing cream on. It lasted about 10 seconds (just breathe!) with a burning pins and needles sensation but was probably a 3-4/10 so definitely tolerable. This subsided and then it was just hurry up and wait. By this time it is a whopping 10am. We’ve got time to kill.
Rob was tired, could barely keep his eyes open and had the crappiest of crappy chairs to sit in. I had a nap, and then we played some crib.
Noon rolls around and we head downstairs. Here I am getting a serratus nerve block to help with post-op pain, and then I will get heading back for surgery. First we talk to the surgeon, she confirms everything. As does the nurse (my neighbor actually!) as well as the resident and the anesthetist. Lots of confirming. I like that, but also see how it could make people uncomfortable too. I’d rather check 5 times and cut once if you know what I mean. The nerve block didn’t feel spectacular to get put in, the resident was doing it; but I did get to watch what they were doing on the ultrasound monitor and that was a good distraction.
I didn’t end up heading back into the OR until 2pm. I said goodbye to Rob and they wheeled me back, and then had me walk into the OR and get up on the table. I thought that was weird because why wheel the bed back if I was just going to walk in anyways? It was funny. There were a lot of people in the room – at a guess I’d say 8 or so. My neighbor got to hold the mask over my face which helped. Even though there is oxygen coming through the mask it does feel a little claustrophobic.
Then I woke up in recovery. I was thirsty, they gave me water. I felt I could hardly keep my eyes open. I remember talking about work for some reason – I guess I can’t ever stop talking about pelvic health! The ride upstairs I don’t think I opened my eyes for at all, they were extremely heavy. I don’t recall how long I was so groggy for, but I got some ginger ale and digestive cookies around 6pm. Then the nurses wanted me to go home since this is a day surgery with COVID. My surgeon did tell me that most people have been doing well heading home as a day surgery and I did like the idea of being home in my own bed.
When I stood up for the first time, even when I first sat, I was dizzy, nauseous, and I got very VERY hot. I had to lay back down. Next attempt I did make it to the bathroom, and we got my pj pants on I brought to wear. Sidenote: washing your hands is a pec-heavy activity, breathe and take your time. I still was very dizzy and sick and needed to lay back down. I got ice for the back of my neck. Rob went down to go get the vehicle and we attempted to get me into the chair to be pushed downstairs in. One nurse kept saying “If you aren’t ready to go home you can stay here”. I appreciated this beyond measure, but also felt some significant pressure to go home from the other nurse, Rob, and myself. I wasn’t sure if trying to get home was the right choice at the time, it felt like maybe I should be staying just simply because it felt so hard to stand.
It took me a bit to get into the chair to go downstairs. But I did make it, and I got into the vehicle and home we went. I am thankful for the prepared me that set-up the bed before leaving. My wedge pillow was all ready to go and I took some pain meds and my antibiotic and went to sleep.