152. Mastectomised

Reporting in. The deed is done, and I’m amazed at the ease of it.

Here’s me yesterday morning, with cancer. 

Here’s me this morning, cancer-free. Thank you Chief, great job. Thank you NHS, you’re something extraordinary.

Flat wound, no pain, no drain.

Nurses seem amazed too: Where’s your drain? No drain. What, no drain? No.

All lymph nodes still present and correct, minus two (they inject your breast with something radioactive the day before, which travels to your armpit and lights up the Sentinel Node - that’s the first lymph node standing guard before all the others, so if cancer decides to go for a wander, it goes there first. They take it out when you’re under the knife, to check for dodgy cells on the spot. None were found so that was that.)

The Chief stuck his head round afterwards and pronounced that I could go home the same day, but that seemed a bit rash so I asked to stay the night. I was feeling rather weak and whoozy and very grateful to be looked after.

I stayed in the Recovery Room for 8 hours.

Whilst they struggled to find a ward with a spare bed, I had my very own nurse whose job it seemed to be to watch over me every minute. We ended up chatting about her nursing dissertation, on the effect on women of a double mastectomy. The fact that I had the headspace and desire to find out what makes my nurses tick, and why they chose to do what they are doing, tells me how ok I was. (It also shows how good she was. Only nurses who clearly see you as a person invite this kind of interest.)

Otus well looked after by the lovely Recovery Nurse

The lack of swelling is quite amazing.

Last time, my wound swelled up to the size of the remaining breast, no softie needed to pretend anything; and I carried a drain around for a good week. I then persuaded them to take it out, still oozing somewhat but I had to go to the Netherlands for my mother’s funeral. Altogether a different experience, that first mastectomy. It was a bigger operation then, as they did find cancer in those lymph nodes so they all had to come out.

It was the first thing I did when I woke up yesterday. Feel under my armpit, look for a drain. I couldn’t quite be sure so tried to ask, but was too whoozy and slurred. It took a while to be reassured.

The lack of pain is bizarre.

It was somewhat bad for the first couple of hours so they gave me morphine (very effective), but once that wore off, no pain returned. If any of you one can explain that, I’m all ears.

Can’t say I wasn’t somewhat trepidated. More nervous, in fact, than usual. Not sure whether that was the thought of having my breast chopped off (I didn’t even think about that last time, that seemed such a trivial worry, as there was the rather more important story of my mother dying). Or was it the worry that cancer might be with me for life? And a shorter life than hoped, therefore? Whatever it was, I am trepidated no more.

I look down at my flat chest and it makes me feel happy and positive and strong.

Now I’m sitting comfortably in bed with an old series of The Great British Sewing Bee on my iPad. A young occupational therapist just came round to make me gently move my shoulders, and left minutes later when I clearly needed no help swinging my arms and shoulders around in all directions. No pain? No pain.

Thank you all for your many many many messages. I still don’t feel up to responding but I’m grateful. To have so many people thinking of me feels like being carried. That’s a blessing indeed.

Doctors came round just as I was to press PUBLISH. I’m going home.