The fourth week with my diagnosis of breast cancer was tough. I got scared, yet again. This time I got scared because of my impending surgery. The idea of a surgery was getting my stomach all fluttery but not in that good way. Once I heard that I will have a full anesthesia I was definitively not happy. I was scared that I won’t be able to fall asleep, that, that, that… I was just scared of it all.
On Tuesday January 10. I went for a so-called mapping procedure where they mapped my breast so that the doctor would know where to cut. I am sitting in the waiting room with my mom-in-law. It is packed with people. There is a TV on with the insane show “Do You Want To Be A Millionaire.” People are arguing with the TV and answering the questions and laughing at the woman who used all her help on a very silly question for $5000. Across the street kids are playing in the snow. Everybody in the room is waiting for something connected to radiation. People look mostly healthy, one very old Italian lady is screaming in her cellphone : “Si, si, wait, capisce.” She is screaming so loudly that it makes people laugh.
My surgery is set for 6:30 am the next morning. Since New York is the city that never sleeps, we decided to make everything easier and go to sleep at my in-law’s since they live closer to the hospital. My father-in-law is designated babysitter of the day.
I set my alarm for 4:50 am, but no need to, our little guy was suspicious of our weird activities and decided to wake up at 3:30 am. Me, his still mildly radioactive mother, left this poor little baby in his father’s hands to try to continue sleeping. But I can’t, so my big day starts very early. We hand over our very energetic little guy to my slightly frazzled father-in-law and go.
It’s 5:20 am. The full crew – Me, the star of the day, my husband, the support king, my mom, and mom-in-law. Even though New York is the city that never sleeps, it must have been napping because we got to the hospital in a breath taking 15 minutes. Even with my mom-in-law letting two cars pass her and stopping on one orange light.
When we arrive at the hospital, we are greeted by a very nice doorman. He finds my name on the list of patients and takes me, my now moderately nervous husband, my more and more jittery mom and my very pro and cool and seasoned mom-in-law, who went through all this twenty-five years ago. “Just like in a hotel, that’s how nice we have it here,” he says soothingly as he hands this newbie crew to a nurse.
Seriously, he was not joking! The waiting room looks just like a nice hotel’s lobby and I start to wish that I could just stay there, read some magazines, surf the internet and never have to go to the upper levels. I got this hi-tech pretty cool box that is clipped to my clothing. The box is some kind of tracker for the doctors and my loved ones so that everybody is able to track where I am.
My husband and I are taken to another floor. Not as cool – definitively looking more like a hospital. I changed into my gown and both of my moms are there to cheer me on. Well, my mom looks more like she needs to smoke, pity she gave that up a month ago. She is not in the joking mode and doesn’t laugh at my silly comments. My husband opts-out and leaves the room once the nurse is drawing blood. “It’s so much better when he admits that and leaves than fainting here,” states my nurse.
One thing you have to give to the doctors and nurses is their way with the patients. They talk, they laugh, they are sympathetic, they praise you even when you do nothing but lie down. They make you feel like you are the champ in lifting your leg, holding your arm, letting them put a needle in your skin. They explain, and for me the explaining makes me feel like I have some kind of control in an uncontrollable situation. This is a cancer hospital and all of the people who are here today need surgery. It is so important to have nice and calming people around. We are all scared, all of us, the patients and the families who are waiting downstairs.
A nurse comes into the room, it’s right before 8 am, and I am taking an elevator to the next floor. My clothing is in a bag and will be waiting for me at the recovery room. I am scared. My glasses were taken from me and, therefore, my visibility is lowered thus making everything even more surreal. I feel like in a movie. The human brain is the best thing ever. When you are scared it transfers you somewhere else.
I am in a movie set. All the nurses are dressed in blue, head and face covered, the only visible part of their faces are their eyes, nice and smiley, calming me down. One of the women has that nice colorful hat like from ‘ER.’ It’s cold but they wrap me in this nice blanket. I am wrapped in a beautiful, warm bubble wrap. I am scared I won’t fall asleep. “I am giving you something nice to relax.” I hear a voice right behind my head.
My body is weird. I cannot move, there is something around my breasts. I can move my fingers. Open my eyes. Wow, that is just plainly not fair – everybody was telling me that I would have to count and…it’s over. I don’t remember counting.
The surgery is over. I am out of it. My husband comes in – his face is chalk white. Afterwards he told me he didn’t expect to see me so soon after the surgery. I am so out of it. Everything is hazy. I guess I don’t have to worry about not falling asleep for future reference. Mom comes in, also shaky, only my mom-in-law keeps it together. It took 90 minutes. Not that long. Mom is going outside she needs fresh air. The nurse gives me something against pain. I am falling asleep yet again.
Another wake up. Almost no pain. I go to the bathroom and pee blue. Wow, just wow, my pee is blue, shame I cannot show it to my little guy he would have loved it.
12:30 pm – I am released. We are going home. I think I look a little better than my father-in-law who opens our door. “Your son didn’t sleep. He didn’t sleep since you left,” croaks my father-in-law with his hair all crooked and slightly bloodshot eyes. Our little guys runs to us with a huge smile on his face, full of energy. My husband is taking him outside for a walk.
A couple of days later I get my results – the margins are clear as well as both of my sentinel nodes.