"Cancer is like you don't know how to skydive. Then, you are on a plane. All of a sudden, someone straps a parashoot on your waist and they push you out. Then, you have to go through the trial of teaching yourself how." -Isabelle Jamois, age 8
After three agonizing weeks, the day had finally come. Thankfully, (and an answer to prayer), I was able to get sleep the night before. I woke up around 5:40 a.m. and jumped into the shower. My surgeon had given me an antiseptic cleanser called Hibiclens to scrub my upper torso with. When I squirted it out onto the washcloth, I was taken aback by the pinkish red color. Yikes! A nice cool blue would have been better. The red just focused me on what was to come. It was hard to say goodbye to the kids. Isabelle was pretty upset. I found out later that she really was afraid I was going to die that day. As I left, I realized the outfit she had chosen to wear was...pink and plaid! I took her picture as she struck a fighting pose.
My mom and dad met us at the hospital. My check-in time was 9:00 a.m. The four of us went into the pre-op check in waiting room and handed the employee my Kaiser card. He was a funny man, bald and effeminate. I actually remember him from Jean-Marc's surgery there over a year ago. I saw a sign on the wall that said only 1 person could come into pre-op with the patient.
Thus began the debate...who would it be? Dad gracefully bowed out for personal reasons. ;-) That left mom and Eric. Eric said it was up to me. What?! Another decision to make? Before we could talk further, my name was called. I gave my dad a hug, thinking that this was it. The lady nicely corrected us...this was just an admission interview. I went into the room, where I gave her my Advance Health Care Directive. One thing I just love about Kaiser is their electronic records. She faxed the Directive over to medical records, and it will be part of my e-records. I went back out into the waiting room until they called my name.
As it turned out, I was to go back into pre-op by myself. Once I was into a gown and situated, then one person at a time could come and sit with me while I waited for my turn. I was shown into a large room with gurneys lining both sides. There were curtains that could be pulled around each gurney. I remembered the room from Jean-Marc's hernia surgery. In fact, I was in the little cubicle next to where I sat with him. The nurse gave me a heavy paperlike gown to put on, some socks for my feet, and a shower cap for my head. She told me to "take everything off." It was kind of hard to do that, even with the curtains pulled. There were other people in the room that I could see through the cracks. I knew if I could see them, then they could see me. Whatever. They weren't looking anyway. I got "dressed" and got into my gurney.
After several minutes, one of the anesthesiologists came to have a pre-operative discussion with me. She went over my medical history. As I told her, until now, my medical history has been relatively boring. She noted in my medical records my cesarean. She looked at me and said, "Oh yes, you are so little you probably couldn't push a baby out." I nicely told her that I had actually pushed two babies out after my cesarean, thank you very much. She asked if I had any questions. I shared with her one concern that I had and told her about my friend who went through a bilateral mastectomy last year. (Many of you reading this know who I'm talking about.) During her surgery, the anesthesiologist did not notice that the IV that was placed in her ankle had slipped out and infiltrated her foot. She suffered terribly from a swollen foot, needed skin grafts, and went through a lot of needless pain. She made a note of it in my record and promised me that they would be very careful with everything.
Another lady came in to give me my IV. Every new person that would interact with me would ask me what procedure I was having. I kept having to say, "I am having a bilateral mastectomy." Say that 10 times fast. Actually, I was having a modified radical mastectomy on the left and a simple mastectomy on the right. The IV lady was apologetic about the job she was there to do. I knew that it would probably be the worst part of the whole thing for me. I've had IVs in the front of my hand before and they hurt. I was not looking forward to it. I just repeated in my head, "God, please don't let this hurt." She wrapped the rubber tube around my arm and started thumping on my hand to "scare out" a vein. I felt the cold wetness of the antiseptic swab and readied myself for the poke, trying to do some deep breathing to relax. Then I heard her pulling tape. It was done! I hadn't felt a thing. Thank you Jesus for the immediate answer to prayer! The fluids that went into my hand were cold. I wondered if chemo would feel that way later.
Eric came in shortly after that to keep me company. There really isn't much to do but sit there
and wait in pre-op. My surgery was scheduled for 11 a.m. We had about an hour to wait. There is a TV in each little cubicle, but that's about it. One of the nurses asked me if I needed anything to relax. I told her I didn't, really. She looked at me kind of strange and said, "Not even a little bit?" She said she wouldn't give me much, just like having a glass of wine. Hmm. A glass of wine. I told her to go ahead. Eric and I chatted awhile and then he went to get my mom to come and keep me company. My surgeon came in and I asked her if she had her Wheaties that morning. She was in good spirits and seemed very confident. She marked my chest with her initials and noted the side with the cancer. She said it would be about a 3 1/2 -4 hour surgery. She would find my family to fill them in on how it went afterwards, but it would still be a couple hours before I was out of recovery. They had a long day of waiting ahead of them. Then she was gone.
All we had to do was wait. I turned my TV onto Fox News and we just watched. I kept thinking...at any time, someone in scrubs is going to come in and say it's time. Ack! It was interesting eavesdropping on the other people around us too. The guy directly across from me was having some kind of foot surgery and was nasty and combative with everyone. That didn't seem like a good strategy to me. The lady next to me came in self-sedated. By then, the little "glass of wine" that I had been given was worn off. It was okay, I didn't really need anything more. I thought about asking, just for the heck of it. I started to worry about my bladder. I had gone to the restroom right before putting the paper gown on. I was sitting on a chux pad on the bed. They didn't mention whether or not they would be catheterizing me. Was the chux pad because they expected me to wet all over the place? How gross would that be? By then, I kind of had to go again. Just in case. So we buzzed the nurse who came in and "unhooked" me from some of the machines. Mom helped me cover myself and hobble over to the bathroom, hooked to the IV. Better safe than sorry, right?
As it turned out, the particular operating room I was scheduled for was running behind. A little after 11 a.m., Eric came back in to see what was going on. He expected my mom to be out in the waiting room with them again. Soon after that, yet another doctor came in. This was the anesthesiologist that was going to be with me in the operating room. It was good that Eric was there, because he wanted to ask her about the particular drugs that they would be using on me. I didn't particularly care, as long as I was asleep.
As they chatted, a nurse in scrubs with a shower cap came in and introduced herself. She was the surgical nurse who would be taking me to the OR. It was time. The goodbyes with Eric and my mom were fairly quick. Everyone knew what they had to do. They wheeled me out of the big pre-op room and down into a maze of hallways. I heard them say we were headed to OR #3. The room itself did not seem that large. I was introduced to 2 other people with scrubs and masks on. They were going to be helping with the equipment. The pushed my gurney up next to the OR table and leveled them off so I could slide myself onto the operating table. It was narrower than the gurney. They were also debating what size surgical camisole I should get. They decided on medium, I think. (Hey-what about me being small?) They joked about how it wasn't exactly "Victorias Secret" and held it up. I told them they should dye them pink. That would make sense for breast cancer, wouldn't it?
Everyone was very busy. The nurse started putting my arms on what was probably extensions of the table that made my arms extend outward. My surgeon came in and started briefing the team on what was going to be happening. She said they would be starting on the left side. The anesthesiologist asked if she should get started, and Dr. Khoe agreed it was time to put me out. She put a mask over my face and told me to take some deep breaths. As I mentioned in my last post, I remembered God's promise from Psalm 91. I knew He was with me, and was giving His angels charge over me. Then I was out.