Friday, 26 August 2011

A Stitch In Time...

Well, two posts down, only countless dozens to go. I really must be on a roll. What can I attribute this frenzied return to blogging to ?  It can't be the mid-afternoon fatigue that I often feel around this time when the thought of doing anything other than being tucked up in bed and surfing the net fills me with well, more thoughts of tiredness. Nor can it be down to the end-of-the-summer-that-never-happened-blues that I feel when I look out of the window and see that it's raining. Again. I sometimes think that had I been a smarter, more adventurous type of gal when I was in my twenties or even thirties, I might now be sashaying along some sun-kissed Mediterranean malecon at this time of day, before retiring for a siesta in my villa overlooking the sea. Instead of this, I'm living in an overpopulated city, often battling with the wind and the rain with an umbrella that refuses to open. But enough of daydreams. I chose London for my sins and in doing so, I also opted for the Great British Weather.

Anyway, time for a catch-up.

Like I said in a recent post, a lot of things have happened since I last spoke to you. Firstly, my stoma bag (or colostomy bag, depending on which part of the body you've decided to wear it on) is gone, and hopefully gone forever. My surgeon, having returned from his holiday, called a few shots and before I knew it, I was out of drainage and into dressings again. I have to admit that after being passed from pillar to post during his absence, I've never been so happy to welcome the return of a doctor. On his return he examined my wound, after giving it an extra week in case it felt like draining some more. When it didn't, he told me that he'd have to re-do the lower part of the wound to make it look better and get rid of some of the bulging bits that had formed during drainage. Formally it's called an exploratory-something or ever (apologies for the lack of detail but I tend to zone out sometimes when I hear words that contain more than four syllables...). I would be back in hospital and back in the operating theatre but this time for only an hour at most. I'd be given a local anaesthetic which might make me feel a bit woozy but beyond that I'd be up and about in no time.


Ever since my sternectomy, I've been trying not to feel too bad about the scar that runs right down the centre of my chest. And I guess it makes sense not to. After all, if there were a competition that judged beauty on the number of war wounds a woman can possess in her lifetime, I think there would really be no contest. I would be a clear winner, hands down. Not content with having a mastectomy scar as well as a scar on my back where the muscle was taken for my latissimus dorsi reconstruction, I have the recent acquisition of a caesarean scar and now the macho addition of a scar that begins in between my breasts and ends just above my stomach (yes, it feels very macho to me - forgive me if I'm wrong but isn't it always the tough guy in the movies who seems to undergo major heart surgery ?). When I look at myself in the mirror I can honestly say that I don't know which one to look at first. With my mind being the eternal daydreamer that it is, I often wonder what would happen if me and my partner split up ?  If I suddenly found myself back on the dating circuit ? How would I handle having to take off my clothes for the first time in front of a perfect stranger ? And what would the outcome be ? Would the gentleman in question stick around long enough to hear a full-blown account of my medical history or would I find myself stammering a confession over dinner while trying to reassure him that I still look kind of okay in a bikini, depending on the hour of the day - preferably after the sun sets.

But back to the matter in hand. On the day of my exploration, I felt so self-assured that I turned down the offer made by my mother to accompany me to the hospital. I kissed my partner goodbye and told him not to bother picking me up, I'd jump on the train after having a spot of dinner there. My mother thought that I was mad. A few stitches was all I was having, I breezily informed her. And with that I skipped off to the station.

How wrong was I ?

Firstly, when I arrived at the hospital, on the same ward that I had been originally put for the sternectomy, no-one had seemed to tell the nurses that I was back in for a 'minor' procedure. So they imagined, I guess, that I'd had a recurrence. They looked at me with sympathy in their eyes. 'No, it's just a minor procedure,' I corrected them in between confident smiles. I wanted to show them how well I looked, how fit I was, but it's hard to achieve this when you're wearing nothing but a blue felt hospital gown and terry towelling slippers. Then in came my physiotherapist.

'Hi there, don't forget to do the exercises after surgery', she warned me. 'Remember to take deep breaths to inflate the lungs.'

Eh ?  Deep breaths ? Lungs ? Did she know something that I didn't ?

By the time my surgeon appeared, I was on the edge of my bed. I'd signed consenting forms and had my wristbands put on me and I was about to go down to theatre. There didn't seem to be anything minor about this operation at all.

I asked him about the anaesthetic. 'It will make you sleepy, but you'll still be able to hear my voice. But if it feels uncomfortable for you, then we'll have to give you a general anaesthetic'.

By now, I was beginning to feel more worried about the local than the general. What if it was really painful ? I remembered the tugging feeling that I'd felt when I had had my caesarean which had been under a local epidural. I'd been terrified about feeling pain and the feeling of discomfort still sticks in my mind. Soon, a porter came for me and we took the lift down to the operating theatre where the team were waiting. I went through the all-too-familiar procedure of having the canula inserted, confirming my name and date of birth, and checks to make sure that I wasn't allergic to anything. I was wheeled into the room where I saw my surgeon again. The familiarity of his friendly face was reassuring. The anaesthetist told me that he was about to give me the local, soon I'd feel sleepy but awake. I was given an oxygen mask. I'd also feel a stinging pain in my arm after the anaesthetic went in. The pain was again all-too-familiar, that burning sensation that I couldn't ignore. At times it felt unbearable and I turned my head to the side away from the surgeon.

When I opened my eyes, there was nurse sitting at my side.

'Hi, You've just woken up. We had to give you a general anaesthetic as you wouldn't stop moving around. Then your blood pressure fell and your heart rate slowed down. But you're okay now'.

I didn't feel ok. I felt like I'd just done a few rounds with Mike Tyson.

I was wheeled back to my room where I drank water and slept. When I woke up there was a knock on my door. It was my surgeon.

'What happened ?' I asked him.

We couldn't keep you on the local as you kept kicking your legs and moving around. I kept asking you if you were okay and you'd say yes, then start kicking again. So we gave you a general.'

'But my blood pressure was low, wasn't it ?'  I remembered the words of the nurse.

'You're very sensitive to opiates.' he explained 'But I knew this from before. As soon as we gave you a general, your blood pressure plummeted. But you're fine now. Is anyone coming to pick you up ? I think  you should call someone.'

So, after a late, late lunch (nil by mouth since midnight), I was picked up by my family and soon at home with further dressings. Nothing as dramatic as in previous posts but at least things are now moving in the right direction. Once the dressings are off and the stitches removed, we can hopefully book a holiday to that place that I've been dreaming about. The one that has a beach, long, hot summery days and a room with a view. Oh and maybe a complimentary full-time nanny. But failing that, an all-day creche will do for now.


  1. I am glad all went well, looks like you had a bit of a journey. But fingers crossed all is done and you can move forward. Like you said it is normally the tough guy in the movie that gains the scars. I have gained quite a few myself lol. A lovely scar on my left leg from climbing a wall I shouldn't at 7 yrs old, 2 c/section scars thick and neat. On my back right side a crevice of a scar from having a large mole removed. The plastic surgeon did say I was lucky the LD was not on my right right. On my left side the LD. Then my lovely breast recon and mastectomy. Not as many as you, but they all have a story.

    Scars create tears of both sadness and pain. It is just how we see those scars that determine how we fair through life.

  2. Yes, I think you're right. Scars are signs of trauma and usually pain but also more importantly they're signs of history - each one tells us a very different story about different stages of our lives. I'm sure that I have countless others from where the drains/sutures once were but I'm already losing count ! Hope that you're well and that you're treatment is going well too. Hugs Cx

  3. My treatment is almost done just the nipple recon to complete and the 6 monthly prod/poke. They caught my cancer at an early stage so fingers crossed on my next mammogram no more calcification has come back in my right breast. Had a scare January had to have a lumpectomy thankfully all came back clear, but it was scarey. Can't dwell on it though got to keep smiling xx

  4. That's fantastic news Sarah, I'm really pleased that it's all gone so well. I had a nipple recon and it's a really straightforward procedure. Are you going to get it tattooed too ? x

  5. Yes I'm on the waiting list for the final bits.. Had a glitch when I had the surgery I'm Diabetic and the healing took a little longer so I'm glad for the rest period before the tattoo is done.. Next mammo is due January.. fingers crossed ;-).. read your last post you certainly are on a roller coaster.. Karen who has the same Stage IV is climbing snowdonian peeks next week.. She is like ya self fighting her corner hard.. Her link is on my blog.. she was diagnosed in 2007 and recurred 2009.. she has me laughing a lot.. Anyway keep strong xx