Part 24. Bye Righty.
It’s done. It’s now two and a bit weeks since the op and it went very well according to my surgeon and his surgeon friend. I had two surgeons which I thought was rather marvellous – probably the norm. Rathi, the surgeon I know and had been planning with over four weeks, came to my bedside shortly after I’d come round from anaesthesia and smiled a huge smile, asking if I was happy. I said it was more important to know whether he was happy, and he said he was, very. Always reassuring, unless of course his and his surgeon friend’s eyes had met across my breasts and he’d caught some feels (as they say on Love Island which I absolutely never watch). I hope he’s happy in that way but in this instance that he was referring to how happy he was with the job he’d done on righty and the nodes.
His smiley bed visit was soon after I’d woken to Ben and Olivia watching over me (amazing that I can remember their names) as I tried and failed to lift my gown and look at my boob. My drugged brain couldn’t coordinate my hand and eyes let alone register that my sexy sports bra had been fitted immediately following the op. Bless Ben and Olivia, a nurse and student nurse respectively, for just letting me get on with it and then informing me that one of the drugs administered to keep the pain away was akin to heroin. Brilliant.
My sis Kristy took me in and waved me off in to surgery, waited patiently for 3 hours and was waiting with mum and dad when I was taken back to my room. My only tears were prompted by our goodbye and then seeing their faces when I was wheeled back in. I felt enormously calm and at ease with what was about to happen. I laughed after Mr Rathi had drawn all over me and I charged Kristy with the unenviable task of photographing my large, bare, graffitied boobs as part of my recording of this jooouuurney. I may share, I may not, but I like that I’ll have before and after tit pics. I think I may have mentioned that I love my boobs.
I was discharged on the Thursday, after a day and night of outstanding care and compassion from the nurses on Horstead Keynes ward at the Princess Royal. They are excellent humans and we bonded over my telly screen as I pushed bad fish and chips around a plate and did tiny swears at the World Cup England/Croatia game. I could just about stay awake for it and the nurses were glad of the updates – I do wonder if my blood pressure really needed checking that much in a 90 min period!
Surgeon woman (who’s name I can’t remember which is annoying because I’ve managed everyone else’s) came to give me a once over Thursday morning so she could discharge me. She unzipped the sexy sports bra for breast inspection and I inspected with her. She assured me that what I’d see is not the finished result as it’s battered (not like fish) and not fully inflated. They can’t fill it completely with saline (water balloon tit) until it’s healed. I looked and what I saw was my boob, a bit scrunched up and wilted. It didn’t freak me at all. I found it quite comforting to see my own skin still there.
Mum and dad collected me and took me home to their house where I convalesced in comfort with ace healthy food, tea in bed every morning and plenty of fresh air in the shady bit of the hot garden. The pain was unpleasant but bearable and I continued on regular pain meds and CBD oil until Sunday, 11 days on, when the need for pain relief had passed. The drains, the minimal use of my right arm and inability to twist my torso made me pretty incapable of anything much other than rest. That said I only stayed in the jimjams for 1 day at mum’s, opting to shuffle about the house and garden to get the blood flowing. Almost a week after surgery I could feel the difference physically compared to the first few days. The fact that I began writing this then is proof in itself that I was feeling significantly stronger as I could be arsed! I also started walking normally having had this weird, vulnerable shuffle going on due to pain and heavy meds.
The smallest walk from car to sea with ma after a check up.
It’s become clear to me that this part, surgery, has hit me hardest psychologically and emotionally since diagnosis. It’s compounded, of course, by having to haul my incapacitated body around and having things that are the norm, like having a bloody wash or lifting a kettle, feel really difficult. Drains and the bag they lived in, plus a sports bra that can’t come off for a while, and an arm that hurts and can’t be raised above shoulder level, make everything a challenge. Team all these things with fatigue that warrants a blog of it’s own, and things have felt a bit shit.
I came home to my house on the Thursday following discharge and requested of the girls and their dad that they give me just a little more time alone before coming home. Other than my youngest’s predictable disappointment, which was overcome fairly quickly, they were all very supportive of this. They came home on Saturday and as much as they do what’s needed around the house and I am honest about my limitations, it’s been hard. Saying it’s hard makes it upsetting, because no one wants to feel like having their own children with them is hard. When I’m alone I have one job, me, and I get to choose what that looks like i.e. how complex food prep is (pour gazpacho soup in to a mug). An obvious example and there are plenty more, but the need to just be without demands is overwhelming. So they’ve helped, and they haven’t, because they’re kids, and I’ve burst in to exhausted tears and they’ve then gone in to overdrive on sorting the jobs. It’s tough, but we’ll muddle through, because asking them to stay with their dad longer will make us all upset, especially as he’s taking them away just over a week from now.
There have, as ever, been some memorable moments though, like N asking to see my boob. I described it to her first then checked and double checked before I let her see. She said it looked like an odd potato. I pissed myself, then she did too, having hesitated thinking I might be upset. Of course I wasn’t – it kind of does! 2 days later I mentioned to G that N had asked to see and almost because she didn’t like that her sister has and she hasn’t, G requested to see too. She glanced then said ‘you can put it away now’! I love love love the honesty in this house.
I’ve had more appointments and treatment this week, one of which was incredible treatment to prevent lymphoedema, a very real possibility following the removal of 21 lymph nodes. My amazing friend Georgie set this private treatment up for me and the first session gave immediate results. All of this on top of the day-to-day knackers me though. I just need to recover and allow this chemo’d, post-surgery body some space and time in order to get some focus and energy back. Fresh air and exercise beyond the rehab exercises I do daily would be nice too. Easier said than done in heat like this with a wig on and massive water retention (I’m a balloon with a new balloon tit). Do I sound impatient? Yes, that’s because I am a bit. It’s been 7 months now, so I guess it’s natural, and there’s still a long road ahead. Writing this shit down still helps, as does the fact that my hair is springing back. The following bald, no makeup selfie showing said hair return may disturb you, you’ve been warned…..
Beginnings of eyebrows and a fine dark line of lashes. I’m loving watching me sprout! Can’t wait to not draw eyebrows every day. It’s really bloody boring. How do people have the patience for this shit when they have actual eyebrows?!
The ultimate prize is mine though isn’t it. “You are cancer free”. That’s my prize, hard won and sweetly received. I couldn’t let myself consider that conversation before it happened. I was prepared for it to be another which would require me to take a deep breath and forge on. One that meant continued fight, worry and treatment. Instead with four words Mr R lifted all the cancerous weight from my shoulders.
The work isn’t done though. CT scan to prep for radio; gynae appointments; tit inflation appointments; three weeks worth of radio; two more surgeries in 2019; a one year clinical trial; family members being tested and potentially making difficult decisions; more appointments; getting back to fitness; and giving my head whatever it needs to process what has and is still happening. And that’s just the short term. My girls are the long term and I want more than anything else for them to test negative for this fucker of a gene mutation.
It’s takes all your time and energy, this cancer business, as well as everything else it tries to shit all over. My energy can be at rock bottom sometimes and there’s never enough time, but I’ll get to the end, even if it is another year away with that final surgery in autumn 2019. I’ve come this far and it’s making a stronger, bolder, better woman of me so I’ll keep the focus. One step, one punch, one round. There’s that Creed quote again!
If that lump hadn’t been obvious in the shower on January 2nd this story could be playing out very differently. Righty, thank you. You made it obvious, and in doing so you saved my life. Thank you for everything.
Now let the party planning commence!