I’m finally starting to feel more positive about the operation I’m to have on Saturday. It’s what the past four months or so have been building up to and I’m trying to focus on the fact that it is, as a friend from work put it, a key step on the road to wellness. It’s not easy, though, when I’d so much rather none of this were happening at all.
I know with the mastectomy we’re getting rid of however much is left of the breast tumour after the eight rounds of chemo (An “excellent response to treatment”) I’ve had since 19 August. I’ve accepted the axillary lymph nodes have to come out, although I can’t help worrying that I’ll develop lymphoedema (Fear of lymphoedema) at some point in the future. And I’m completely happy with my decision to have the immediate reconstruction that involves using a flap of tissue and skin from the tummy area to create the shape of a breast.
I have to be at the hospital at 6am on Saturday morning. The operation itself will start at around 9am and, according to the plastic surgeon, it should be over by 3 or 4pm. The op is a pretty daunting prospect, not least because it lasts so long. The longest part is the reconstruction, during which the tissue and its blood vessels are completely detached from the tummy and reconnected using microsurgery to a new blood supply in the chest area. Amazing.
After the op, I’ll be taken to the high dependency unit where I’ll have one-to-one care with the breast wound being checked every 30 minutes for the following 12 hours. I’ll be covered in a heated blanket to keep me warm and so increase the blood flow to the tissue that’s been moved from my tummy to my chest. There will be huge amounts of painkillers involved, not least morphine on demand. I’ll be hooked up to lots of monitoring machines. There will be a few “lines” for drips – for painkillers, antibiotics, fluids, taking blood. I’ll have a urinary catheter in. I’ll have four lots of surgical drains in place to drain blood and fluid from my various wounds. I will also be linked up to a “sequential compression device” that will massage my lower legs to guard against my developing DVT.
It sounds silly, but I’m wondering what I’ll wear on my head during surgery. I guess not the wig. A good friend who used to be an anaesthetist has said to ask for a theatre cap to wear if I don’t want to go “naked”.
I’ve got my compression bras and knickers for post-op wear at the ready. They’ll hold everything in place that needs holding in place after the deeds are done. I think the support is needed for at least a month. The plastic surgeon has warned me that “you feel like everything’s going to fall out” down where the hip-to-hip scar is. It won’t, she added reassuringly, it just feels like it will.
The plastic surgeon will phone my husband once the op’s over to let him know how it all went and how I am. He’ll come and see me that evening. I don’t imagine I’ll be much company :-). But then I don’t imagine he will be either, given how squeamish he is. What he will be being is extremely brave. I’ll ask him to put something on the blog so that anyone who wants an update can get one.
If things go well, it seems I could indeed be discharged on Christmas Eve or even on Christmas Day itself. The drains will have to be out and I’ll need to be able to dress myself and have a shower unaided before I can go home.
Step one on the road back to wellness – the chemo – is over. I can’t quite bring myself to say “bring it on”, but step two here we come.