Sunday, 14 April 2013

Surgery - the worst hell I have ever experienced. (Okay Tigers Blood was worse)

It has been difficult for me to write about my surgery.  First of all because my right arm is still in a lot of pain and that makes it difficult to type, and secondly because the entire procedure was so traumatic, I needed some time to work through it.

So, here goes....this may be part one of a two part post.
Wonderful Leandro

The morning of surgery, Thursday April 4th, I awoke at the ungodly hour of 5:00AM at my dad's.  Wade and I cleaned up and were out the door by 5:30.  I took an Ativan, so that by the time we got to UBC Hospital I was relatively calm, and even upbeat.  Naive, stupid me.  We were checked in very quickly and in no time were taken to the pre-op area where the amazing nurse, and friend of my sister's Leandro had met up with us and told me he would be my pre-op nurse.  I was so happy.

I did the full head to toe sterilisation of my body once again, put on a stunning hospital gown and Leandro helped me put on a pair of lovely white compression stockings.  Once I was dressed, I lay on a bed waiting for the IV to be put in and for the surgeons to come and say hello.  Still I was all happy and smiling.  Naive, stupid me.
Lovely compression stockings

Leandro did a beautiful job getting my IV in on the first try - a tough thing to do with my veins and shortly afterwards Frank who would be assisting Dr. Macadam in the DIEP Procedure arrived.  He was in good spirits, I asked him if he was well rested and not hungover, he promised me he was in tip top shape.  We chatted briefly and I smiled and said see you in the OR.  Naive, stupid me.

Dr. Koosk, the surgeon doing the mastectomy stopped by to say hello, I also asked her if she had slept well and whether or not she was hungover.  She assured me she was fine and that everything would go well.  We briefly discussed how much skin would be removed from the breast (as my cancer was in the skin as well), and she got out her trusty marker to make some guidelines on my breast.
look how much skin they took.

Finally Dr. Macadam arrived looking all of twenty-five, fresh and beautiful.  Still I asked her if she was hungover and had slept well.  She smiled and let me know she was feeling good and that everything was going to be fine.  Dr. Macadam drew guidelines on my abdomen showing the area of skin and tissue they would remove.  They were all so happy to be going into this surgery, so I felt I should be too.  Naive, stupid me.

So, they put the booties and stupid hat on me, I kissed my beloved husband goodbye and off I walked into the slaughter house - oops operating room.

The room was large, the largest OR I had ever been in.  There were many people bustling about getting ready.  The mastectomy surgeon, the DIEP surgeon and her two residents, the anaesthesiologist and two nurses.

I climbed up on to the operating table and they hooked my IV up to the machine as everyone began talking to me, reassuring me that everything would be fine.  I asked for that nice happy drug that I had been told about that they can give you before they knock you out.  Soon it was flowing through my veins and I felt wonderful.  It was ten to eight on Thursday Morning and I was floating in the clouds smiling away.  Naive, stupid me.

The surgery lasted two hours longer than normal and it wasn't until five o'clock that Dr. Macadam was finally done.  That is nine hours under a general anaesthetic, yup you read that correctly, nine hours.  Then it took a couple of hours to rouse me in the recovery room.  The next thing I was conscious of was being wheeled into my room, drifting in and out of consciousness and then opening my eyes to the sight of my lovely husband beside my bed.  It was now about eight fifteen, I had just lost twelve hours.

That first night although brutal, was much easier than the following few, as I still had my numbing meds and lots of pain meds in me.  My room was a constant bussle of nurses throughout the night as they had to check my vitals and the flap every hour.  Each check took about twenty minutes, so I got very little rest, just cat naps.  The nicest thing was to wake up after each cat nap and see Wade, never leaving, sitting at the foot of my bed faithfully watching over me.  It was so comforting.
Just after surgery with fancy calf pumps

My room was kept at 30 degrees Celsius for two days to help the new veins that had been grafted on with the flap.  The idea was to keep my vessels nicely dilated and to prevent any clots - I was getting a daily shot of blood thinner too.  It was a sauna in there.  I lay in a coma like state on that bed with only a small sheet draped between my legs.  My poor visitors must have died of heat, I have no idea how the nurses managed it.  I had a morphine drip beside my bed that I could push the button to get pain meds on demand, and I was also taking Hydromorphone orally.  The first twenty-four hours were a blur. I was in so much pain, I didn't know where I was and I could not believe I had allowed myself to be chopped up like that.  I still would not allow myself to look at anything.

The morning of the second day Dr. Macadam visited and said the surgery went perfectly, better than she had expected and that she managed to harvest not one, but two veins to provide blood supply to the new breast.  She mentioned that my abdominal area would hurt longer than most because she had to bend me in half to sew me back up, so the skin would be pulling incredibly tightly on the sticthes.  I would have to walk hunched over for a while.  She said everything looked excellent.  Quite frankly at this point I was such a mess I didn't care.  I didn't want any visitors, I was so stunned by the level of devastation that had been wreaked on my body and I was starting to get a migraine from hell.

I was not allowed to eat or drink anything, remember I have had nothing to eat or drink since Wednesday the 3rd in the evening and it was now Friday the 5th.  I was so thirsty my mouth felt like a barren, dry desert.  The reason they would not let me eat or drink is that there was a risk the flap could die and I'd have to be rushed back into surgery, and so, for the next 24 hrs I was parched.

Mid-morning my nurse came to remove the catheter.  Yes, they had put a catheter and a throat tube in during the surgery (as they had stopped my breathing and hooked me up to a machine to breath).  The throat tube had been removed in the recovery room and thankfully I don't recall that, but now it was time to remove the dreaded catheter.  Thankfully my nurse was kind and gentle and walked me through it slowly and it was fine.  No pain really, at least nothing compared to what else was going on all over my body.

Just before lunch time the physio guy Elvis arrived and said that I needed to sit up out of bed.  Excuse me??? Are you kidding me.  I've just been cut from hip to hip all the way through and you expect me to get up.  Also, having had all my lymph nodes removed from my right armpit left a mass of swelling and
First time trying to sit.
pain under there, so my right arm was basically useless.  I didn't have a choice, he told me how to do it, and with the help of Cathy my amazing nurse, assistance from him, a push and a few moans of pain from me, I managed to make it into a hunched over seated position.  I was not happy about it, but I was upright.

As you can tell from the before and after photographs this surgery knocked everything right out of me.

Now, I'm tired, so will write the part two tomorrow........

Thanks again for all your love and prayers,
Michelle (at least I'm 95% of myself, missing a few parts now)


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Michelle, your courage is beyond comprehensible, I know that you will bring much light and laughter to those suffering similar experiences. It sounds straight up shitty to me and the fact that you can bring a smile to my face while reading your blog about breast cancer (which my mom, Georgina Lewis, also had 15 years ago and is still alive <3 ) is a true gift. Thank you for opening your heart and your breast, stomach and all that you are for us to see, it puts things into perspective damn quickly, and for that, for you, for your will to write the freakin' blog and book, I am grateful. Much Love <3

Unknown said...

Thank you for your message Tammra. I'm so glad I made you laugh. As shitty as this all it, I do try to find the humour in it. For instance, right now my new boob is hard as a rock so I'm calling it my bionic boob. I remember many times in the past hearing about people who had "cancer", and I have to say I didn't quite get it. One simply cannot really understand how challenging it is. I hope my blog and my book will help people understand just how difficult, expensive, exhausting and life changing a cancer diagnosis is. So with a lot of honesty and a little bit of humour I truly hope I'm getting the message across.
Thanks again.

Unknown said...

You are really a brave. Get well soon.
Regards:oncology hospital india

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