I guess yesterday went exactly as planned. I left the house with breasts and I returned seven and a half hours later without. And, not to miss the whole point of yesterday, I left the house with a tumor and returned *hopefully* with no cancer anywhere.
I had my phone alarm set for 4:50am. Plenty of time to shower with hibiclens, take a couple topless photos, put on clean clothes, and get out the door at 5:20. Of course I woke up way before that, like 4:30, but it was kinda of nice to take my time slowing clearing my head and preparing mentally instead being jolted by the alarm. Stuart took care of the dogs while I got ready, then I said goodbye to Scout, and away we went.
Bardstown Road (one of the busiest streets in Louisville and the main corridor from our neighborhood to downtown) is deader than dead at 5:25 on a Wednesday morning. We were the only car on the road, which was weird and nice. Such an out-of-the-ordinary thing as going to get one’s breasts cut off deserved a bizarre backdrop. We made it to Norton Pavilion in plenty of time to park and get to the surgery reception area by 5:45.
After being herded through a couple different waiting rooms, I was brought to pre-surgery. Because I am a woman under 55 with a functioning uterus, I am less of a person and more of a Potentially Pregnant Person, so I had to pee in a cup. Whatever. From that point it was hospital gown, non-skid booties, hair covering, and gurney. Blood oxygen, blood pressure, IV, and blood glucose. Apparently I have tiny little baby veins, because Ann The Nurse had to get a child-size needle to use on me.
Then Stuart was brought in so he could be bored in a new room. In fairness, he did not say he was bored or act bored. And there wasn’t that much waiting around. Dr Ye The Anesthesiologist came in and told me all about what would happen on his end and answered my questions. I should probably mention that all the doctors and nurses I came in contact with were great. Super sympathetic, non-condescending (can’t overstate how important that particular point is), reassuring. He also put an anti-nausea scopolamine sticker on my neck.
Leesa The Nurse Navigator came in with a pink tote bag. In the bag were a pink folder with written instructions for everything, measurement cups for emptying the Jackson-Pratt drains, a bottle of hibiclens, a pink physical therapy ball, a couple non-pink pillows (I think these were for the car ride home to put between my chest and the seat belt), a camisole with interior pockets to put the drains, and a couple fanny packs. The fanny packs are black with pink writing. They are where I put the drains when I take a shower. The camisole, also not pink, came with prosthetic breast pads. Leesa went over all the after-care–how to empty the drains and record the output, when and how to shower, when and how to do exercises, warning signs that shit’s going south, admonition not to lift anything heavier than five pounds and not to let the drain sites get wet under the clear bandage thing. The second point includes not getting sweaty, so I have to give up my morning five mile dog walk for a little while.
Then my surgeon, Dr Berry, came in and went over everything she was going to do. She said after the surgery I could do all my normal daily activities, just no heavy lifting and to do everything slowly. This was very different than the impression I got from the internet, where it seemed like no one was allowed to do anything during their recovery. No hair washing, no reaching, no showering, no housework. I’m glad I don’t have to abide by those strict instructions, because I’m quite sure my compliance would be out the door after a couple hours. As my sister said to me this morning, we are our father’s daughters.
And that was it! Time to get the party started. The anesthesiologist’s assistant put something into my IV to help me relax. I was already pretty chill and not too scared, but damn whatever that was made me give zero shits. My field of fucks was barren. Stuart gave me a kiss and I was wheeled off to the operating room. I remember seeing a friend who is an orthopedic surgeon in the hallway. I remember that the operating room was very big and full of medical-y, technology stuff. I remember them putting my arms on arm rests and strapping them down. And that’s it.
The next thing I was in a new room and feeling pretty horrible. Very weak, very sleepy, sore throat, dry mouth, just generally rotten. I asked Josie The Nurse for some water and she gave me a cup of ice with a spoon. Better than nothing! Josie took my vitals and told me I was doing great. I didn’t feel great, but I was definitely happy that I woke up. I attempted some small talk, but I can’t recall how successful I was. I do remember that Josie was very nice. I was in that room for a half hour or so then moved to a new room in the same area as the first room I was in.
Whitney The Nurse took my vitals, asked me how I was doing, asked about my pain. Stuart was brought back in. He told me Dr Berry said everything went great–she took two or three lymph nodes (I was afraid she would have to take a bunch) and I should be pleased with how flat she was able to get the scars (I told her of my plan to get a big ol’ chest piece eventually). Also she was able to avoid cutting into the crescent moon tattoo I have on the upper left part of my chest. Stuart said that he saw our orthopedist friend who told him that Dr Berry was the best and I was in good hands.
Stuart helped me get dressed, and damn did I need help. I could barely stand. We are not stupid people, but we could not figure out how to work the camisole with the built-in drain storage. Thank god for the nurses! Whitney emptied the drains so we could see how it was done. It hurt like fuck. I was planning on waiting to take a pain pill until we got home, but that changed my mind. She gave me a single dose of what was waiting for me at CVS and a package of crackers. The pill was divine. The crackers, because of the dry mouth, were nasty, like eating paste.
So the weirdest thing about this whole hospital experience was how quickly I was sent home. Don’t get me wrong! I had absolutely no desire to be in the hospital one second longer than I needed to be. I was beyond relieved when the surgeon told me it would be outpatient. But I definitely got the feeling that we were being hustled out the door. Like we were at a restaurant that wanted to turn tables. The nurse said “take as long as you need!” and then five minutes later “here’s the wheel chair, where are you parked?” I guess it was just weird because I felt so awfully bad and sick. And so so weak and woozy.
We made it home just fine. Stuart got me settled into a comfy chair and left to get my prescription. Scout cut up an apple for me, but I couldn’t really swallow it without drinking water. Like my throat wasn’t working or something. I got really paranoid about choking. Then I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I was a brand new person. My throat worked as it was supposed to and, though my chest was sore, I felt perfectly normal. No weakness, no feeling like I had gotten hit by a truck. A dear friend stopped by to drop off a gift (patio tomato plant) and I think she was a bit surprised to see me up and lucid. I have to say, I am very glad I’m dwelling on the easy end of the Recovering From General Anesthesia bell curve than the other end. I read a few too many horror stories about vomiting and crying uncontrollably and feeling lousy for days and days.
So now I’m just trying to take it easy and rest more than I think I need. I don’t want to overdo it, because I want these wretched drains out as soon as possible. I just need some good distractions, to keep me from getting up and doing too much and to keep me from dwelling on what the pathologist report could say. I will find out that in a week.