Saturday, April 13, 2013
Surgery Day Festivities
The day after surgery is much worse than I anticipated. For some reason I thought this was going to be easy, peasy. Luckily my hands aren't sore, I figured I would get this out since it's fresh and I don't feel like lying down anymore because it hurts. Hopefully this isn't too scattered, my brain is a little foggy from the meds, but you'll at least get the idea of what went down yesterday.
Physically, I feel like I've been hit my a truck. That's the only way to explain it. My entire upper body (front/back/sides), minus my right arm, is completely and utterly sore. It hurts to breathe; it hurts to expand my chest. Not that I know what this feels like, but it feels like they were doing chest compressions on me. Maybe it hurts from the ventilator. I don't know. How in the hell did my neck get so sore??
We got to the hospital super fast yesterday. The traffic at 7:30 and 8:00am is totally different. It seriously took us like 12 minutes to get from our place to the hospital. We parked the car valet in front of the cancer center so after surgery I could just be wheeled right on out of there. The hubs and I navigated through the hospital center and found the radiation injection place - building 20. This place is HUGE. They even have "you are here" signs scattered around like Disneyland. I pulled out my phone as we were walking up to the building so I could call my folks to tell them that it's a little hard to find, but as I look up to make sure the number on the door is correct, I see them already in there.
I sign in and there are a few other people waiting. This particular building does MRIs and nodal 'mapping' which is what I was there for. Besides the cute, scared, little 6 year old girl there, I was the youngest one. I wanted to share my ipod with this little girl. I wanted to give her a hug and wipe away her tears. I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be o-kay. Her parents didn't seem nervous, but she was scared and almost angry. I tried smiling at her several times, she just stared back with a "what are you so happy about" look. I know she was scared and it sucks when you can't or don't know how to help.
Finally, I am called back and I bring the hubs with me so he can document this part of the journey. The nurse tells me what I already know - they are going to inject me with a low dose of radiation and also lidocain so it helps with the pain. They are going to inject it right around the biopsy site with a little, teeny needle. She said it's similar to a TB test, where they inject it right under the first layer of skin. Again, this is to find out what/where the sentinal (primary) node is. If the cancer had spread, it would have gone to the sentinal node first and foremost. I get into the highly fashionable backless gown and luckily I am allowed to wear my comfy pants. She sends the hubs away because he can't be in there for the injections, which of course, is what I wanted to document...
I'm sitting on the table, in my gown listening to my 'surgery soundtrack' and in walks two doctors. I will call them Dr. Red and Dr. Lightspeaker. They also explain what I already know and ask me if I have any questions, to which I respond with "Nope, let's do this". I wanted to get started already. I lie down on the table and they begin. And by the way, the stories were true. It felt like bee stings. Luckily the radiation had the numbing stuff because that shit stung! They injected me four different times around the biopsy. I'm glad that it was already healed because could you imagine having freaking bee stings around an already super sore spot? Um, no thank you!
Dr. Red asks if I am going to have the surgery today and if I have Dr. Surgeon - he says that he's also a patient. I told him I was curious about that because of his red hair - he laughs. He's a club member, too. Dr. Lightspeaker spouts off things about radiation and Melanoma - I have to listen really hard because, as you guessed it, he's a light speaker. The dose of radiation is so low that every 6 hours, 50% of it disintegrates But, they will also cut out a big chunk of it anyways with the surgery and node removal.
I get moved over to a different room, looks like an MRI table sort of - but it has this Xray type thing that rotated around you while you lie there. I have to lay on my back with my arms up over my head so the Xray thingy can take pictures of where the radiation traveled. The hubs comes back in and gives me kisses while I am in this machine and he's videoing the curious events going down. It's bizarre, the images are coming up on the screen showing the radiation and the injection site on my back was lit up like the sun. There was only one node showing up in my left pitter. THANK YOU, BABY JESUS! I was nervous that the nodes would be not only in my left pit, but also my neck and right side. Such a HUGE relief, huge - BIG relief.
Dr. Red & Dr. Lightspeaker come back in and turn on this "probe" that makes almost Orca like noises when it gets near the radiation. I couldn't help laughing. They take a highly, specialized piece of medical equipment (as Dr. Lightspeaker called it) - A Sharpie - to mark an "X" where the node that was playing the highest radiation rock was. Unfortunately the node was little close to the boob, but somewhat deep in my left pitter; at least it's not in my neck like I was worried about. Oh, I found out that I am allergic to a certain type of tape that they use. That was fun, having super sticky tape ripped off your already agitated skin. Luckily there are alternate tapes, as apparently a lot of people are allergic.
I'm given the images of where the node is and sent on my way. Luckily the "limo" driver was there and we hopped on the shuttle and he took us right over to the cancer center. Hmm, they've finished some of their remodeling, looks totally different now. We go up to the third floor where the surgeries are and it seems they need to work on remodeling there, too. The check in desk is a cubicle. A little strange, but it gets the job done. I think I'm the only one there waiting for a surgery, at least I am the only one with the nifty hospital bracelet (which now I am thinking of it I think they cut it off and I totally wanted to keep it).
My name gets called and I get lead to a little changing room by someone that shares my name. Once I get prepped and everything, the family can come hang out with me for a bit. I get changed into a paper gown that is lined with plastic for some reason (my guess is heat retention) hair cover and socks with those skidders on the bottom...and the top for some strange reason. Why were they on both sides? What person wouldn't realize that the skidders go on the bottom? I guess I shouldn't ask that, there are some strange birds that we live among. Really strange. Anyways, I again get lead, this time to my little piece of paradise (aka waiting area with curtains that divide sections), lay down on the gurney and then the worrying starts. Shit just got real. I'm getting hooked up to IVs, heart rate monitors, leg circulation attachments, being asked questions, seeing the anesthesiologist, Dr. Surgeon and several nurses.
My family is now allowed back with me, this time dad seems to be the worried one. He's not talking too much. The hubs has the camera and is taking pictures since when I get out of surgery and will be in recovery, I will probably not be so happy. We wait for a good 45 minutes or so then a little nurse comes in and says "Amber, you're next". Oh shit. Here we go. I say good-bye to the loved ones and I am wheeled into surgery.
Dr. Surgeon is there and I am a little sleepy from the Benadryl that they gave me just in case I am allergic to the blue dye (which by the way my sinuses are totally fine now - maybe I DO have allergies). Maybe they had already given me something to calm down with, I don't know - there was a lot going on. Dr. Surgeon is sitting next to me, holding my hand - I tell him I want to be referred to an ENT after all of this because I've been having headaches. He looks at me and says "Don't worry, we'll get you a scan". I say thank you - this is what I want. I want to make sure it's not anywhere else in me and you can only tell that by scans. One of the several nurses tells me basically that it's time to go night-night and that's all that I remember.
"Amber, it's time to wake up, honey". OWW! Holy shit - something hurts. My arm pit hurts REALLY bad. My throat is sore, but my arm pit hurts REALLY bad. I look down and see tape peeking out from under my arm. Why is it 3:00?? I thought I would be out of surgery by 1:00! Dr. Surgeon comes over and says that it took a little longer than expected to find the correct nodes and that they took out two for testing. Apparently it was 12 when I went in for surgery. The surgery was supposed to be 45 minutes and I am thinking it took quite a bit longer. Based on the time I went into surgery, I estimate the surgery to have been around 2 hours. Ugh, I am SORE. This is not fun.
The nurse asks me on a scale from 1-10 where the pain is. 7 - 7.5 at least. They give me another shot of Dilaudid and it's not doing much. The family comes in and my mom starts crying a little bit. I was crying, too, because it hurt. I wasn't really crying like I thought I would be because of the anesthesia, but there were a couple of tears. It. Hurt. It still does hurt; being only a little more than 24 hours after surgery I am really, really fucking sore. I ended up having three shots of dilaudid before the pain was somewhat tolerable. Apparently that's a lot...I'm sure I will get billed for that later. I get dressed with the assistance of the hubs and put into a wheelchair. Why don't they make the wheelchairs more comfortable? We just had surgery, can't they put more comfy cushions on it or something? I understand the seats need to be vinyl or something easily cleaned, but seriously - it should be more comfortable.
Anyways, Dr. Surgeon sees me and comes by and says that he's confident that I will be fine. He said that he will eat the nodes if they come back positive. I wouldn't want him to do that, I would like to see them though. I wonder what those little buggers look like. Plus, they were a part of me for 31 years. I'd especially like to see them if nothing has spread because they stopped that nasty bitch from taking over my body. If it has spread, then I don't want them because then they failed...they failed their job.
So, we go home and I slept for pretty much the rest of the day. Only waking up to eat some mmmm mmm good soup, take some pills and eat ice cream, which I finished it off - I need more. I almost had the hubs take a picture of my pee because it was blue from the dye. But, who am I kidding, I probably wouldn't put that on here.
I woke up this morning and was completely sore. Seriously from my chin down to my waist. My neck muscles are really sore. I've had whiplash before and this takes the gold on neck pain. I looked in the mirror down my throat and they must have jammed that trache-tube down there - I have red marks on the sides of my tonsils from it. Thanks for that! Thanks for not being gentle, it's really appreciated. Trying to take deep breaths is difficult. I feel like I was man-handled then hit by a truck. I wasn't expecting this much pain. Vicoden isn't doing much and I don't want to take it excessively. I want it to last, but then again I think 'this is what they are here for - if you need two at a time, then take two!'. The nerves that they hit when taking out the nodes affect the underside of my arm, it's completely numb. It's weird because my hands are really cold and I can't feel a thing when I touch it. The incision sites themselves are really, really sensitive. My left boob is getting a nice bruise from where they were digging around, I'll post photos later.
But, at least the surgery is over. This was the day that I have been waiting for since diagnosis. I'm going to TRY to get comfy and lay down now... Hey, at least I slept, right? Albeit