Six years ago today at 5:30 a.m. in the morning my former boyfriend and I left the hotel across from Mass General Hospital for surgery to remove my left breast. My parents were in the hotel room next to me, I didn’t wake them, I already knew they were up and praying for me. We hugged and prayed together the night before.
I remember most of the tests I had before my surgery, especially the appointment with my anesthesiologist with my good friend Linda. It was quite comical with the questions I had, especially when I asked if I had to cough up the breathing tube in my throat (hey I saw this on Greys Anatomy!) We almost started a riot in the waiting room because the wait was RIDICULOUS!! Everyone that was waiting agreed. I got in a little faster to remove us troublemakers out of the waiting room.
Earlier in the month I had a MRI or ultrasound, I can’t recall the name! The sounds during the test was something out of a star wars movie, believe it or not I found the sound quite soothing, even though I was laying on my stomach with two holes to dangle my boobs.
Then there was the appointment the day before my surgery where they had to inject a radioactive substance, a dye, near the tumor to locate the position of the sentinel lymph node. They numbed my left breast and then proceeded to stick a needle in my nipple!!! Holy crap! That was surprising. Now I know what it must feel like to get a nipple ring!
During surgery, the surgeon uses a device that detects radioactivity to find the sentinel node or looks for lymph nodes that are stained with the dye. Once the sentinel lymph node is located, the surgeon makes a small incision in the overlying skin and removes the node. Of the 19 nodes removed during my surgery, less than one (.05) showed cancer activity.
Waiting for surgery, I was introduced to my “team” who would be with me before, during and after my surgery. My team was waiting for one of my doctors to sign off before they could prep me for surgery. I remember sitting there on the bed looking at all the other patients around me, it was so surreal!
I sat up swung my legs to the floor and decided this wasn’t a good idea and was planning my escape. Well, my team was observing me from a distance and casually came over and decided they didn’t need to wait for signatures and continued to prep me for surgery. They explained my pain blocker which was administered into my back, I was indecisive to say yes to this procedure but in the end I agreed.
I remember heading into surgery and Dr. G (my surgeon to remove my breast) saying hello to me and then out went the lights.
Surgery lasted five hours I don’t remember what time it was when I woke up. What I DO remember when I came around that something was in my crotch and it was very uncomfortable and I said to the nurse “what the hell is that?!” He told me it was a catheter, ok well I let him know I didn’t need that! He smiled and informed me that I was peeing that very moment. I couldn’t wait for that to come out!
When I left recovery and was moved to a room, I was pretty doped up. I noticed my son Vinnie came in and was sitting on the other side of the room with a stranger. In my drug haze state I kept staring at him and wondering why he was on the other side of the room? I must have looked pretty bad because he didn’t recognize me! My Mom had to tell him this pale bald headed woman over on the other side of the room was his mother!
During the night my team (yes all of them) would arrive to see how I was doing. In my haze I could feel their excitement to see me and their huge smiles. I remember asking myself are they real?
I stayed at MGH for 48 hours. Even though I received exceptional care, I just wanted to go home. The nurses were impressed with my recovery and called me a rock star (yay-sarcasm here).
My breast was gone an expander was inserted and would need to be filled every week to stretch my skin for my future implant. Dr. W was my plastic surgeon who took over the surgery after my breast was removed.
When I arrived home, the pain blocker wore off and I was sore and uncomfortable. I was thankful for all the love and care I received at home. The prayers, cards, dinners and flowers from concerned family and friends humbled me. LOVE makes recovery easier to handle.
These were confusing times. It was all new to me and every appointment, test, etc., etc., was explained to me but you don’t understand what’s happening until you complete each part.
Chemo is explained beforehand, then you experience the side effects yourself….ahhhh now I get it! Tests and more tests you have never heard of are done. The surgeon explains the breast removal procedure. The plastic surgeon has drawings on his white board (I’m a visual person) of your expander and implant procedure.
I listened to my doctors and honestly I cannot tell you how much I comprehended. My brain was overloaded with so much information and I had chemo brain! I was determined to fight but was overwhelmed with fear of the unknown. I prayed and got the answer Let’s do it!!
Thank Goodness I have a sense of humor! I can find something to laugh about even on bad days.
After my surgery I received the good news that I was cancer free! Yay! I did it! I beat cancer…woot woot! Let’s celebrate to another 50 years of life.
After my surgery I decided to have my yearly mammograms at MGH. My friend Linda and I would celebrate afterwards with a couple Margaritas at our favorite restaurant The Border Café. I would say to her “I’m cancer free for now!” She didn’t like me saying that but maybe deep down I knew.
That was then, this is now.
Today, I will have happy and sad moments reminiscing about my booby be gone day and the weeks following it.
Now the battle is bigger and one I can’t win.
With God, my family (especially my eight beautiful grandchildren!) and friends by my side;
I will stay strong, pray more, worry less, laugh every day and live each day as if it was my last with NO drama.
Most importantly, I will have an AWEsome moment every day.