Friday, 19 November 2010
I am back at home and feeling pretty shell-shocked, even now part of me feels like the whole thing has happened to someone else. The operation itself went absolutely fine with no complications. I was admitted the day before and everyone involved in the surgery was there to go through my medical history, ask lots of questions etc so that they were all as prepared as they could be. I was put on a hydration drip that afternoon, and whilst obviously feeling nervous about it all, felt that I was in very good hands. That however did not stop me from spending the entire night wide awake! I wasn’t allowed a sleeping pill because of the dangers of it affecting the anaesthetic and boy did I need one – thank heavens I was in a single room and unable to disturb anyone else! I was awake for about 28 hours straight in total; not a good idea! It made a huge difference to me on a personal and emotional level to be afforded the privacy of a single room; a real boon to anyone having this type of surgery, and one I was very grateful for.
A word here about the staff who looked after me during my 4 day stay in hospital – the epitome of everything that we would all wish the NHS to be and nothing less! Surgeons and doctors who even check up on your well-being when they are off-duty because they care so much, and nurses who look after you with sympathy and compassion – what more could I have asked for? I am deeply grateful to everyone involved with my care at North Devon Hospital; they are a truly wonderful group of dedicated, caring professionals!
I was discharged from hospital on Saturday afternoon instead of the usual Friday because on Friday morning I had a bad episode of vomiting and diarrhoea. There was concern that I had contracted a bug but I’m pretty sure that it was just a reaction to all the stress of the previous few days as it didn’t persist. By this time I had psyched myself up, in the presence of a nurse, to look at my wound and also managed to give my husband a quick look at it too. The nurse was brilliant and sat and held my hand whilst I cried, not so much because of the wound itself which is very neat, but because it was the first step in acknowledging the loss of my breast. This is an ongoing process and I am not yet reconciled to it at all. My husband was wonderfully matter-of-fact about the whole thing which helped enormously.
On Friday my Breast Care Nurse had called by to give me my temporary prosthesis and to leave me with some immediate post-op care advice. I have my booklet of exercises which I have to start on at the weekend, plus of course there is all the things to be careful about to avoid contracting Lymphoedema – just a bit scary but of course very necessary! It felt very odd on Saturday lunch time getting dressed and putting on a bra with a prosthesis in it, somehow it was me, but not me. Very difficult to actually put into words!
My first few days at home have been a mixture of relief that I’ve now had the surgery, anguish at having had my breast removed and anxiety because of course I still have to go back for my histology results on Friday and with that brings the news of what happens next. I am still in pain and needing most of the painkillers I was prescribed, all though each day is just a tiny bit better and I am managing to get a reasonable amount of movement in the affected arm. The weird part is not having much or any sensation in my right arm pit, on the underside of my upper arm or just below my arm pit as a result of having lymph glands removed. Washing is a truly surreal experience as sometimes it is hard to tell if you are applying soap, water, etc in the right place unless you actually look! Right from the very beginning I knew that bathing was going to be a big hurdle to get over, not physically but emotionally, because our bathroom, like much of the rest of the cottage has a lot of mirrors in it. It is hard to turn around without catching sight of yourself in at least one of them, so I was going to have to face up straight away to knowing what I now look like, and it wasn’t easy to do.
My husband has been absolutely amazing – very quick to help when needed but also to demonstrate that it hasn’t affected how he feels about me either physically or emotionally. He was there when I had my first bath, holding my hand and telling me how he loves me even more for being so brave. I love him more than ever just for that simple affirmation! I am so grateful to have him at my side during these times.
Today I am venturing out for the first time since leaving hospital and it’s going to be a strange experience. We have boring household stuff to do but first of all we are just going to find somewhere nice and quiet for lunch, as I think I need to break myself in gently to rejoining the world which I know I have to do.