I’m laying in bed – propped up by pillows and Fergus and I finally have some energy to reflect on my surgery. First off … it feels like a month since I had my surgery but it’s only been 7 days. Crazy.
Second. I don’t have any pain. I’m so thankful for that … I’ve had a few uncomfortable days but nothing a few Tylenol can’t chase away. 🙂
The day of my surgery we got up at the ass-crack of dawn to be at the hospital. There was lots of hurry-up and wait. We were very bored … but also very nervous. Thank goodness I had Gerry to there to joke around with. 🙂
The first thing they did was take me to a tiny room where they injected my breast with a blue dye that goes into my lympatic system. Breast cancer usually spreads first to the lymph nodes in the armpit area. These sentinel lymph nodes are the first to receive lymph drainage from the breast and are also the most likely nodes to contain cancer if it has spread.
The dye helps the surgeon see the lymphatic system and they also inject you with a tracer containing a small amount of radioactive material. The tracer travels through the lymphatic channels and to the lymph nodes. The surgeon uses a handheld Geiger counter to identify radioactive lymph nodes and where the cancer has traveled … Radioactive lymph nodes, blue lymph nodes and any lymph node that feels abnormal are be removed at the time of sentinel node biopsy. If you’re interested you can read more about it HERE. It’s where I lifted some of the info above.
I had 4 nodes removed during surgery. My surgeon said 2 needed to go. The third was taken as a precaution and the 4th one he wasn’t sure about but once it was removed he realized it actually had pink dye in it .. which meant it had a little bit of ink from my chest tattoo. ha ha. So he didn’t need to remove that last one after-all but I say better safe than sorry. 🙂
After the dye was injected we went to hang out in the Pre-Op holding room. That’s where they got me ready for surgery. My nurse was great – I told her that I had difficult veins to poke (remember how many times I got stuck when I had my colonoscopy?)
She wrapped my arm in hot blankets and then she stuck me with the needle first try. I said to her “Gold star!” and she laughed. She then told me that “…she says a little prayer to God every time she does a needle stick and that God always knows where the veins are and she never misses.” Whatever works! 🙂
Gerry and I hung out for a bit and then it was time to go … Gerry asked if he come come hang out with me in the waiting area before I went in to surgery but they wouldn’t let him so we had a hug and a kiss and I was wheeled away. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. Isn’t that weird …? I think I was just ready. I was actually more nervous for poor Gerry who now had to wait for hours to find out how I did.
As I was being wheeled away the nurse said to me “Don’t forget to talk to your body during surgery…” I was like “ok” but I didn’t really understand what she meant.
They wheeled me into a holding area (a hallway) and pointed me towards the wall beside another guy. I guess we were pointed towards the wall so we couldn’t see into the operating rooms? I dunno. It was weird.
We both had paintings at the end of our beds and I said to him “I like your painting better than mine” and then we both started chatting about what we were in for. He was getting his knee fixed. We talked about movies for a while and then they took him away.
I was alone. Ugh. I was nervous. More nervous than I thought … so I decided to take that nurses advice and talk to my body. I did 4 deep breaths in a square. I used the picture frame as a way to help keep me on track. One deep breath in for 4. Hold for 4. Deep breath out for 4. Hold for 4. I did this 4 times … It helped a lot. Centered me. Kept me from floating out of my body. I wanted to be present for my conversation.
“Dear Body. Thank you for being healthy. I know right now we have cancer but we are going to cut it out today. It’s not going to be easy but I know we are going to be ok because I take good care of you. You are a strong vegan superstar with magical unicorn healing powers. We can do this.”
Then I had a little talk with my cancer:
“Dear Cancer. We’ve only known about you for a few weeks and while you brought a lot of fear with you – you also brought me a lot of love. Thank you for showing me how much my family and my friends love me. I’ve always known they loved me but your arrival really showed me how unconditional their love truly is.
Cancer, thank you for showing me how much impact I’ve had on other people. Even people I’ve never met. Because of you I have had an avalanche of love and support from my fans/customers. They’ve shared stories with me and told me how my books and my work has touched their lives. It’s been a really humbling experience and I am so grateful.
One last thing Cancer… We are cutting you out of our lives today because you are not wanted or needed here anymore. You have overstayed your welcome and it is time for you to go. Please leave without a fuss. I promise to remember all the good things you’ve brought me. Now begone with you…”
As soon as I finished my little conversation with myself my anesthesiologist showed up on cue (like he knew I had finished) and asked me a few medical questions. My surgeon came by and gave me a little pep-talk before we went into the operating room. I asked him to draw on my right breast with a pen before we started … I wanted to make sure he took the correct one. 🙂
As I was wheeled into the operating room I said “Good morning everyone. Please give me all the drugs!” One of the nurses laughed and said “all the drugs?” I said “Yes please. I don’t want to remember any of this …”
I then asked my surgeon if he listened to music while he operated. He said “Yeah. Can’t you hear it? We’re listening to Nora Jones right now.”
“Nora Jones? I was expecting to hear AC/DC or Led Zepplin 4. You’re wearing a John Deere Scrub hat for God’s sake. Where’s the RAWK and ROLL?”
And then I was out …
Woke up in the recovery room. It’s a bit of a blur. I kind of like the recovery room … It feels like that ethereal place between dreams and consciousness. At home I always try to stay there as long as I can but it’s always fleeting. In the recovery room it goes on forever…
I remember lots of dreamy conversations with the nurse about how I’m feeling. At some point a cold cloth was put on my head and I told her I thought she was wonderful. Ha ha. I also remember hearing the nurses telling a patient to calm down because he was flailing around trying to remove his tubes. I’m pretty sure it was the guy who was getting knee surgery but I was pretty high.
Next thing I knew I was being wheeled down the hall and into an elevator. I closed my eyes for the whole thing … all the movement was making me sick.
Gerry says he saw me wheel by and that I was having a normal conversation with the orderly about tattoos. I don’t remember any of that. I do remember them putting me into my bed and Gerry coming in and then it’s a blur of sleeping and waking up and more sleeping.
At one point Gerry said to me “You have to talk to this woman on the phone and tell her you’re alive“. I was like … “huh? Hello?”
It turns out our SunLife Insurance agent was calling to make sure I had survived my diagnosis. With our critical illness insurance you have to survive 30 days after diagnosis in order to get your payout. I guess the day of my surgery was my 30 day mark. She said she just needed to confirm with me that I was Sarah Kramer. I laughed and said “I’m pretty sure I’m Sarah Kramer but I’m very high on morphine.”
The reason she didn’t want to wait till after the surgery was she was going on holiday and it would delay our cheque. So even thought it was a weird conversation I appreciate that she pushed everything through.
Later in the evening they brought me dinner. It was a vegan lentil dahl with quinoa, steamed broccoli and steamed butternut squash. I was pretty impressed … but as soon as I smelled the food I almost threw up.
Going under always makes me pretty sick. Gerry said my face was pale and gray for a few hours after surgery. I took a bite of the squash and almost threw up … I did everything I could not to throw up. I know it might have made me feel better but I was worried about pulling my bandages and I also didn’t want to barf while my roommate was eating her dinner. That would be rude. 😉
I took DEEP deep breaths and it passed. Then Gerry got me a gingerale and I drank that, burped like a sailor and I was able to start eating. I only ate the squash. The rest was too much …
Gerry and I packed a picnic the night before so I drank my Green Smoothie and we nibbled on sandwiches as well as apples and celery. I slowly started munching on my food and with eat bite I started to feel better and better. I’m sure the belching helped too. 🙂
The nurses took me off my IV pretty quick (probably because I drank my weight in ginger-ale and was peeing like a racehorse). They all kept remarking on how well I was doing. I was up and walking around in the evening and they all thought it was amazing. I guess that’s not the norm.
At one point in the evening I wanted to eat an apple and Gerry was like “Oh no. We didn’t bring a knife for the apple!” I was like “We are so dumb. What are we going to do?” Then it dawned on me … what the F do we need a knife for? I had breast surgery. Not teeth surgery. We laughed so hard about that one … what a couple of weirdos. My excuse is I was on morphine. What’s Gerry’s? 🙂
The night nurse came in and she was awesome… she let Gerry stay until 10pm and after he left she said to me “He seems like a lovely caring man.” She’s right.
The evening was uneventful. They gave me an Ativan and it put me into a sleepy slumber. I also brought with me my own pillow, eyecovers and earplugs. I didn’t hear anything until about 6:30am when the nurse came to check on me. I slept well and all the color had come back into my face. Hooray!
The morning was kind of fun. I was feeling ok and now only taking Tylenol for pain. My roommate was a spunky woman named Alice in her mid-80’s and I pulled back her curtain so we could talk. We talked about EVERYTHING. Her family. Her bladder. How sorry she was I had to have a mastectomy but that she could tell I was fiesty like her and that I would be just fine. I gave her a big kiss when I left to go home and I wished her luck with her surgery. I love you Alice! 🙂
My surgeon came to see me in the morning and he told me it was a good thing we got to my tumor when we did. It had grown to be about Tennis Ball size. WTF? Thank goodness I didn’t wait to do reconstruction … I see him again in two weeks to get my pathology report. That report will tell me what we are dealing with and what my treatment will be. Almost everyone at the hospital is telling me to expect chemo. Le sigh.
On the way home I was feeling well enough that we stopped by London Drugs to fill my prescription and we stopped by a medical supply place to get my breast binder. The breast binder is worn for 2 weeks to keep everything from moving around too much. My surgeon says he gets great results with it and it helps heal the scar straight.
Got home. Got settled on the couch. Had a long nap.
My Dad and my Auntie Bonnie came to visit me. I felt like I was pretty sober when they were here but in retrospect I actually don’t really remember the visit. Ha ha. I guess they were right about me being legally impaired for 24 hours after the surgery.
I went for a walk with Gerry and Fergus before bed. It felt good to walk around (and they actually suggest you start moving right away to promote healing). I feel pretty fragile when I’m out side. In the house … I’m me. But outside the house I feel like a porcelain doll and I’m so afraid someone is going to bump into me. A skateboarder rolled past us on the sidewalk and I was so afraid. Hopefully that feeling will pass once I get my strength back.
This week has been a lot of napping and Fergus is loving it! 🙂
Snacking. Napping. Walking. Napping and a few visits here and there. My parents came to see me. My friend Ann (who is a nurse) comes every other day to change my dressing and thankfully I am not as much of an invalid as I thought I would be. I can put my hair up in a ponytail and shave my legs. Wahoo!
I can do almost everything except cut things with a knife. The pushing down action of that is too difficult right now … but I think once the drain is removed it will get easier.
The drain is the worst part. I have almost no pain but the drain is a bit uncomfortable. It drains fluid from the surgical area and every day I have to empty it and write down how much fluid comes out. It’s been going down steadily everyday and I get to have it removed TODAY!! I’m so happy. I’m sure once it’s out I’ll feel so much better.
Gerry took a week off to take care of me. He and Fergus have been amazing … both have taken excellent care of me. 🙂
Fergus has been especially charming this week … I think he knows I need a good laugh.
This happened the other day and I almost pee’d myself…
I’ve had a lot of requests for visits but I haven’t seen many people yet but that’s because I’m pretty exhausted. Even thought I have no pain and I can walk around the house and do things … fatigue hits me pretty hard and fast and then I need to lay down and sleep.
Visits will come later … for now I need to be chill.
Oh. Lastly. I’ve looked at my “space” (as we’ve been calling it) in the mirror and I’ve touched my chest when I’ve showered. I keep waiting to be torn-up about only having one breast but it hasn’t happened yet. It doesn’t even look that weird to me. Gerry said the other night “You are still you. I thought you’d look weird with your breast missing but you don’t. You’re just you.”
And he’s right. I’m still me.
Thanks to everyone for all the love. I feel it. I’m taking it in and I’m using it for energy to heal my body. Keep sending it my way. 🙂