Sunday, 4 December 2016

The fourth (and final) operation

It's been twelve days since I went under the knife and I'm happy to report that all appears to be well. We arrived at the hospital for our 7am intake and, judging by the heaving waiting rooms, expected to spend the next couple of hours making polite conversation but was told "lucky you, you're first in"...... cue pang of dread followed by inevitable exchange of looks with Nathan where we silently agreed "let's get this done".

Within minutes I was lying in theatre being prepped by the team, I was astounded to see just how many people were involved in the procedure (I counted at least twelve) and was told that one team would be working on my stomach while another worked on the breast, I felt a flicker of guilt as I considered how much this must be costing our NHS but remembered that cancer chose me, not the other way around and this is the final step towards normality. Unfortunately, due to my relentless treatment, it took six attempts to find a healthy vein - a process that was mimicked by the quickening blood-pressure monitor but eventually we were ready to rock & roll. I remember some debate about Percy Pigs as the mask was placed over my mouth and then was out.

Eight hours later I was fighting with the recovery team to remove the layers of blankets and bring me a sick bowl... the morphine (as always) had made me wretchedly ill and the recovery process required a constant body temperature so I was burning up and felt awful. Thankfully the brilliant recovery team were able to calm me down and took me up to the ward where a room full of Doctors were waiting.... less to see how I was.... more to see my new body! Their reaction immediately made me feel better, Professor Malata is a legend throughout the British medical establishment and it turns out that people are always keen to see his work!

Although I was lucky enough to be allocated my own room, I quickly came to realise why.... the room had to be maintained at a constant 38.5 degrees (100 to my American friends) so that the blood circulation can be optimised underneath a stifling cotton wool wrap, binder and blankets. I honestly can't remember the last time I've felt that uncomfortable and the addition of four drains and a catheter on top of menopausal hot flashes added to the ordeal.

Thankfully I had a care team that figured me out very quickly, they realised that I needed targets and immediately negotiated them with me..... catheter out on day two, drains day three and home on day four as long as I promise not to argue with the physiotherapist. The beauty of this approach was that it gave me something to look forward to every day and although each milestone was full of pain and tears, the achievement of each brought me closer and closer to the end of this ordeal.

By Friday I was on my way home with instructions to wear a victorian-grade binder for the next three months in order to keep everything in place. I've had one visit back to the dressings clinic for the change and had my first view of the results which are impossible to do justice with words (and I'm not posting photos just yet!) all that remains to say is that I've been left with a beautifully flat stomach and a breast that is no longer square or full of pain. Despite being fresh out of surgery, my chest is less painful than it was before I went under the knife (unfortunately the same can't be said for my tummy, it feels like someone has stitched the top and bottom halves together and is pulling the strings constantly). Take it from me, tummy tucks are NOT fun!

None of the recovery would be possible without the incredible support of family and friends, Mum has been here to take Erica to school, nourish us all and relieve my cabin fever, Nathan has put up with my constant moaning and so many of you have brought gifts, cooked meals, sent flowers and cards.... such thoughtfulness that makes the end of this journey even sweeter.

Thank you for all of your support, it's been epic