You want to know this year’s fashion must have……well, here it is – giant paper pants! Yeap, it’s as much a surprise to me as it is to you but there you have it. Massive, and I mean bigger than granny could ever had imagined, massive, paper pants are very, very now. But it doesn’t end there. To complete the look you’re going to need a backless gown, made from scratchy cotton, with a complicated side tie belt and tight knee high white socks. Trust me, this ensemble is so hot right now. That is, if you’re a girl who’s about to have a operation to remove their favourite Left breast to combat cancer. If that’s you, get this look now. Quite frankly if you’re wearing anything else, they just won’t let you in. I’m serious, they are really weird about it – who knew?!
So there I was. Standing in my paper pants, white socks and backless gown. I couldn’t have been more thrilled (please note the massive sarcasm here). Paper pants. God, those things depress me. I mean really, paper…pants. Why? Why is this necessary?? Humiliation achieved. Thankfully I didn’t have much time to dwell on the horror that was my new wardrobe before the nurses came to escort me away. Old Lefty gave mum & sis a bye-bye jiggle and that was it, off we went. Walking down to theater I took a deep breath. How had this happened? To me? And so bloody quickly?? Yet somehow, here I was. In hospital, stood in a pair of paper pants about to have my breast removed……shit. Proper shit bags.
I don’t really remember much about ‘going under’ as they were pretty quick to knock me out, I think my inane nervous chatter probably hastened up that part of the process. I do remember the recovery room though. Which by the way is sooooo not a recovery room. They need to rename that place. A recovery room implies a place of relaxation, a place to just rest up, chill, take it easy, sniff a little incense, maybe have a herbal tea. No. This is NOT a recovery room. I’ll tell you what it is, it’s a “Fuck me, what the fuck is going on, who the hell are you, get off, help, where am I, ouch, fuck me that hurts, get off you bastard!” room. Yes that’s what it is and that’s what it should be called. The recovery room, bah! What a lie.
Needless to say I woke up with exactly those thoughts running through my drugged out brain. I couldn’t figure out how to get the oxygen mask off and kept hitting myself in the face with my very limp arm, every part of me was floppy and weird. But then I started shaking, shivering from head to toe, chattering teeth and everything. I’m beginning to realise that this is how my body reacts to shock or fear, which isn’t ideal, for one I can’t get a bloody word out and secondly shaking about like a 90’s raver doesn’t exactly do much to bring down the pain factor. Stupid body.
After god knows how long they took me back to my room. I wanted to cry so badly, but even the smallest sob caused a massive stab of pain to shoot through me. It hurt. Sweet Jesus did it hurt. Everything hurt. Breathing hurt, talking hurt, moving hurt. It felt like someone had tied a belt across my chest and tightened it as far as they could, then placed a large acme weight (like the ones in the Road Runner cartoons) on my chest just to ensure maximum discomfort. Sneezing, coughing or laughing was also out. Simply put, it was agony, the kind of which I’d never experienced before – this coming from a very, very clumsy girl who might as well have a loyal card for A&E. Seriously, I’d have so many loyalty points by now I could pretty much buy my own hospital – oh now there’s a thought. The Butt hospital! Hmm, maybe not.
The only thing that helped was the drugs and boy was there a lot of them. It was brilliant! First there was the morphine, which basically sent me mental, which I really enjoyed, but the slurred speech and dosey ramblings made it difficult for anyone else to know what the hell I was on about. It also stopped me sleeping which wasn’t great. Next up was Tramadol which made me puke, so I had to have an anti-sickness pill which stopped the puking but still left me feeling sick, dizzy and light headed. Then there was the paracetamol and the diclofenac to help with the swelling. Oh and not forgetting the anti coagulant I had to have injected into my tummy everyday as I wasn’t moving around enough. The tummy injection was probably the worst, they jab this bastard into you and it stings like crazy for a good hour – I mean really, you’ve just taken off my breast, I’m in more pain that I’ve ever been in in my whole life and now you’re stabbing me in the tummy. Just bugger off will you! Jesus.
I was in hospital for 4nights. With each day and night that passed I got a little better, I could talk more (well ramble on in a drugged up manner), stand up by myself, take a few steps and even laugh a little. Not that there was much to laugh about. In fact all I wanted to do was cry. Cry and cry and cry. But I couldn’t, it just hurt too much. Which just made me want to cry even more. There’s something truly heartbreaking about wanting to sob and knowing that you can’t. It took all the strength I could muster, which wasn’t a lot, to hold on to that lump in my throat, to stifle back the tears that were constantly threatening to fall and just hold on. God, it was hard. All I wanted to do was cry and I bloody well deserved a good cry, I needed it. I had every right to be sad, to sob, to let go, to be scared, to be devastated, for Lefty, for what I’d had to endure and the pain I was still in….but I couldn’t. It just hurt too much.
After a few hazy days I was able to get up by myself – well not completely by myself, I still needed the help of my amazing whizzy bed, which had every kind of ‘up’ / ‘down’ / ‘ half up or down’ button you could imagine. The bed was brilliant. My mum’s operating of the bed however, was a disaster. This is the woman who several years ago took charge of my wheelchair after a pretty bad knee op and promptly wheeled me into the road, leg first. She also thought it was ok to open doors using my leg as some kind of battering ram and regularly wheeled me into corners of shops, leaving me staring blankly at a wall, so she could have a look around. Mum is amazing, but honestly, she needs to be kept away from anything with buttons.
The only problem about being up was that it meant I had to do two things, firstly I had to remaster the art of walking about and not getting too dizzy or passing out and secondly, that I had to have a shower. The shower thing was an issue. I’m not normally a soap dodger but the truth was I just didn’t want to see what I looked like. I mean I really, really did not want to see what it looked like. As much as I tried to prepare myself, when the time eventually came I was pretty mortified at what I saw. My lovely Lefty was no more. I’d had a skin sparing mastectomy so it was still me, still my skin, still my little moles that I could see, but the fullness of it, the shape, was effectively gone. All that was left was a small little flat mound. Inside which was the temporary implant waiting to be inflated. It looked pretty pathetic next to glorious plump Righty. Poor thing. There was a long thin cut where my nipple should have been and another very small cut running under my breast. I also had quite a big cut under my armpit where they had gone in to test the lymph nodes. We found out after the surgery that the lymph nodes were clear and the cancer had definitely not spread, which was simply amazing to hear.
And it was…amazing to to hear, but that’s the thing with all of this, it totally mixes up your emotions. One second you’re over the moon because you know how lucky you are, but then you’re massively pissed off because actually, you aren’t that lucky – lucky would have been not having cancer in the first place and still having your breast. You get mad at the stupidest of things, cry at a moments notice, snap, shout, winge, then try to ignore it all and just shut the world out. Then comes the guilt – oh god do you feel guilty – guilty for making such a fuss when there are so many other amazing people who’ve faced the C-Monkey and had it much, much worse than you. When you mix in the pain, the all consuming pain, well, it’s a total head fuck. No doubt about it.
If it wasn’t for the amazing love from my mum, sister and my close friend TB I know how I couldn’t have got through it. They formed a small army and watched over me every step of the way. They sat, in horrendously uncomfortable chairs, for endless hours, held my hand through the pain, wiped away my tears, shared my frustrations, helped me in every physical way possible, listened to my drugged up ramblings and surrounded me with love, at every single moment. I honestly don’t know how to even begin to thank them, but I hope they know how much I love them.
While the emotional roller-coaster rattles on the next stage in the physical process is just around the corner. Soon, when the bruising and swelling has gone down, they’ll start the reconstruction.
Until then, all I can do is focus on getting through each day. I still don’t like mirrors or the shower or seeing people…. Mainly I just want to hide away, to run away from it all, from everyone and just be by myself. But that’s ok. I won’t hide under a rock forever. Just for a little bit. Then I’ll come out fighting again, vino in hand!