If you are just stopping in, this is the fifteenth post in my 31 Day Series: I Wear Pink. Join me as I share my breast cancer journey. You can find the previous posts here.
Day 15: Surgery
The nurses confirmed my surgery, my allergies, and everything else on their checklist. My doctor came in, reviewed the procedure with me, and initialed the side of my left breast. The anesthesiologist arrived and reviewed everything one more time. I considered changing my mind about the whole thing, but then realized that all I had to do for the next few hours was sleep. If I didn't go through with the surgery then my morning was just a waste of time and the cancer would still be in me. Clearly I wanted it out. Pat patiently waited with me. Finally, the anesthesiologist added a drug to my IV. He told me it was the "I don't care drug." Where was he earlier?
I lay on the bed with the new drug coursing through my veins. I leaned over to Pat and whispered, "It's not working." Just then a doctor was called over the PA system who had the same name as a teacher at my school. I remember thinking, "Wow, I wonder if that doctor is married to that teacher," and then clearly, "Ahh, who cares?" Yes! The drug was working.
Moments later it was my turn to be wheeled into the operating room. I kissed my husband good-bye, put on my silly blue hat, and went for a ride. Once in the brightly lit operating room, I was transferred to a much narrower and less comfy bed. My arms were placed outstretched in a crucifix position. I lifted my head to ask for the doctor. She assured me she was right there. I hadn't recognized her in the masked crowd. The anesthesiologist placed a mask over my face and asked me to count backward from 100. For a teacher this is a piece of cake. I got to 98.
I woke surrounded by white light. A nurse was settling a warm white blanket over me. I groggily listened to the doctor explaining that she had removed the tumor and some additional tissue. My lymph nodes had been clear. She had taken only two. She believed that she had gotten all the cancer. She continued talking, but I feel back to sleep. The cancer was gone.
I woke again when I was being moved back to the Cancer Infusion Center for discharge. The same nurse who had started my IV first thing in the morning, was still there at around 7:30 that night. As I was moving from a bed to a chair, I felt as though I couldn't breathe. I was gasping and laboring to draw air into my lungs. The nurse nervously watched my pulse oxygen monitor which was fine, and called for a doctor. I frantically tried to suck air in through my mouth. Pat's eyes were wide. Sara arrived and began asking if I had asthma. I didn't, but I couldn't breathe. The nurse suggested I try breathing through my nose and raised my right arm over my head. She slowly lifted my left arm. Oddly enough this worked. Although I couldn't breathe through my mouth, I could breathe through my nose.
After a few minutes of careful breathing I felt that I could lower my arms. I was offered a sandwich which I refused. I couldn't imagine eating.
Sara reviewed with me how the surgery had gone. The cancer had been removed and the doctor had taken some extra tissue that she hadn't liked the look of. She informed me that I needed to be aware of a new allergy. I had a severe reaction to an antibiotic that had been given to me through the IV right after I went out. This had caused me to go into anaphylactic shock. Fortunately, the anesthesiologist had dealt with it immediately and intubated me. Usually, breast surgery does not require intubation. My throat might have been irritated by this and it could be why I felt as though I couldn't breathe earlier.
Did I want to go home or stay the night in the hospital? I desperately wanted to go home, but I didn't feel up to going anywhere. Pat shared that he was afraid to take me home given that I'd had trouble breathing a few minutes before. I couldn't blame him. I wouldn't have wanted to take me home either in the shape I was in. My IV remained connected.
I was admitted to the post operative floor. Pat came up to see me settled and then went home to our family. I called home to talk briefly to our children. My friend had brought over a dinner of corned beef, cabbage, and soda bread.
I took my "Lucky" slippers out of my purse and pulled them on. It had been a very long day. I thanked God for His comforting presence. That He had walked with me through this fire. I laid my head on the pillow and fell asleep to the beeping of the machines. I passed the night without incident. Joyfully, I was ready to go home.