Tuesday, January 27, 2015

24 Hours Before Surgery - A Recap

What You Do The Day Before Surgery

  • Finish putting away the laundry so everyone has drawers stuffed full of clean undies and socks.
  • Pack the swim bags, soccer bag and tennis bag for the kids's weekend activities.
  • Clean the bathrooms and kitchen, finish your week's worth of organization and cleaning, and lay out tomorrow's clothes for the kids.
  • Read the many texts and emails wishing you luck, love and prayers.
  • Receive a box filled with meals from your amazing neighbors.
  • Serve one of those amazing dinners so you don't have to cook.
  • Open a care basket from a friend and breast cancer survivor filled with wonderful things to help your healing. Start bawling half way through the card she wrote.
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  • Dye your hair. Because you don't want gray roots on the operating table. I mean, a girl's gotta have her priorities.
  • Lay out your easy to slip on shoes, your front-opening shirt, and your yoga pants for comfort and ease the next day. Top off your wardrobe with your new "I Am Strong" pink socks your friend gave to you and slip your "Fight Like A Girl" pink bracelet from your care basket. Start to cry again remembering how two strong survivors wore it before you.
  • Read your children bedtime stories and kiss them goodnight.
  • Check on your kids one last time and spend an extra minute kissing their sleeping faces and stroking their hair.
  • Remove all of your jewelry. 
  • Go to bed early because you know you will not sleep well.
  • Snuggle next to the love of your life.
  • Say a long ass prayer, do some deep breathing and tell yourself you are gonna ROCK this, so don't be scared.
  • Try your best to sleep before the 6:30 alarm.

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Surgery day was one of those highly anticipated days that filled me with both dread and relief. Dread because I was scared. I've never had surgery before and never received any kind of anesthesia in my life. I've never broken a bone, never had my wisdom teeth removed and never had to be on medication. The worst things I've had were a root canal and a few skin surgeries for pre-cancerous cells that were done with local. Going under anesthesia was actually a pretty big fear of mine and I was hoping to avoid it for as long as possible. But, there was also relief. I was looking forward to just getting this part over with and let's face it - you are ASLEEP during surgery which makes it the easy part. What filled me with something akin to "dread" was a bunch of pre-surgery stuff that was going to happen that morning. It involved multiple injections into my breast, mammograms and wires being threaded into me. All while 100% awake and alert.

But, I told myself this was a means to an end. It was ONE day... not even a whole day. Only a few measely hours. Any discomfort and anxiety would be temporary. When this one day was over? A major, MAJOR part of my treatment would be over. The rest would be healing, radiation, and medication. I could handle all of that. Piece of cake.

The morning of surgery, I was able to put my kids on their busses since I didn't have to be at the hospital until 10:00 am. This meant a lot to me. My surgery wasn't scheduled until 2:00 pm, but I had to get there at 10:00 to start all of the fun. Unfortunately, with a lumpectomy you don't just go into surgery, get put under and then wake up after it's over. With a lumpectomy, there are about 3 hours of unpleasantries that occur before you go into that operating room. Unpleasantries that would involve six injections clockwise around the right breast, mammograms, needles and wires. They use the mammos to find the spot where they left a titanium clip during the biopsy. They needed that mark for my surgeon to know where to operate. They locate it via mammography, and in my case they had two spots - one cancerous area on the right breast and the LCIS they were opting to remove on the left breast.

They had such a hard time finding the one clip near my armpit that I was squeezed in that mammogram for what seemed like forever. I just stared at a spot on the wall and breathed as deeply as I could and kept my heart open to let all the love that has been around me in. "It will be over soon, It will be over soon," I repeated in my head. And it was. When they finally got my clip in sight, they stuck a needle into my squashed boob to numb then threaded a wire into me which is left to stick out, discreetly covered by a Dixie cup and medical tape. High tech, I know.

Fortunately, because the clip on my left breast was displaced by the nice hemotoma that had developed post biopsy, they just used the hemotoma as the mark and were able to thread in the wire via ultrasound which was far more pleasant on the scale of "yucky things you wish you didn't have to do."

Once that was all over, I was able to hang in the pre-op room with Dr. Fabulous and all I had to endure was the world's largest gauge IV needle into my hand and a silly blue cap on my head which Dr. Fabulous swore I looked cute in. With that, the ugly tan hospital slipper socks, the hospital gown and two Dixie cups jamming out on my chest, I'm sure he was totally smitten by my hotness.

I wasn't allowed to wear any jewelry, but I had my "Fight Like A Girl" bracelet around my ankle, tucked under my sock. It was such a small thing, but I needed to wear it. I needed to know it was there. Dr. Fabulous read me all the texts and emails that continued to flood in, since I didn't have my phone. When they gave me the "Two more minutes" til surgery alert, I admit that I started to break a little bit.  There were a few tears that I really tried not to let out. I was ready to get it all over with, I really was. I wanted it over, but it is intimidating.

Walking down that cold, stark hallway with a stranger and turning to see my husband standing there unable to come with me... that was one of the hardest parts. He has been with me through everything but he couldn't come with me on this final leg of the journey.

The room was filled with people but I felt totally alone. Climbing onto that white table in a huge, cold room filled with lights and tools and wires... I just felt so small, so vulnerable, so insignificant. It is really humbling as a human being to feel so fragile. Everyone was so nice, but I didn't know them. I was alone. But really, I wasn't. I summoned up all the people who have loved me and who I loved and they were there with me. I felt all the prayers and well wishes that everyone has given me during these past weeks. I felt prayed for. I felt safe. I was scared half out of my freakin' mind, but I knew I could do it. Many women have laid where I laid and many more would come after me.

We all must unlock our courage, put on our game face, lace up our boxing gloves and come out swinging. How could I give anything less when so many have fought before me and will continue to fight long after I'm healed? Because of all those before me, I could endure this. Many have endured much, much more.

Going under is surreal. I remember waking up, as if from a brief nap. Tired, but alert, I tried to keep my eyes open so they knew I was awake. I heard a nurse say "Bring in Dr. Fabulous for Alicia," and I struggled to keep my leaden lids open.

In what seemed like seconds, I saw him walking over to me, smiling. As if I was the most beautiful, magnificent girl he had ever laid eyes upon. As if the sun wouldn't rise until he saw me awake and okay.

And in that moment when our eyes met, I finally began to heal.


Sia said...

Dr. And Mrs. Fabulous...only you could make the recovery room sound so romantic! Love heals!

Elizabeth said...

I agree -- you've made the day a sort of magic, and I know it wasn't all magic! Sigh. That was a romantic biopsy story!

In all seriousness, I am glad that you're through that and did so, I'm sure with flying colors. I will continue to keep you in my healing thoughts and prayers.

Anonymous said...

Glad this part of the journey is over and you can move on. Reading this I almost teared up. You have such a wonderful way of sharing your story.


kario said...

I am absolutely in tears here. What a lovely, honest account of your day. I am so glad you're on the mend and I hope you continue to feel surrounded by love and light.

Alicia D said...

I am lucky to have such an amazing husband, I can't lie!! :) LOL! It's much easier to be strong when you have people in your life who love you and have the support of friends, family and the community. I don't know how people do it alone, but they do... every day. Or, they are married to a shmuck. That is a downer.

I am only strong and positive because my life is in order and I have loving people all around me. It does make it easier in these tough times so I have to give credit to all of YOU all for making me as the strong chick I am!! :)

cameramom said...

Haven't been online for awhile...thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way :)

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