I’m not looking

Dr. B. called the day after surgery to see how I was doing and for me to come in the following Monday to check on the dressing.  It was less than a week before I was back in the waiting room on the 7th floor of The Breast Centre, in WCH. Maggie couldn’t make this appointment so, Winslow, her husband came with me instead to my follow up appointment.

Winslow was all pimped out in some of his finest purchases from Winners, a pink cotton button down shirt with some square pattern, and blue jeans, with a grey fitted  jacket, tan polished loafer type shoes. He was dressed to meet a rep, from what he thought was a prominent cosmetic company, to solicit business for his work. I wore my Old Navy short-sleeved, front-zip hoodie, I bought specifically as “easy to get into, easy to hide drain” post-op attire, with my stretchy spandex cotton-type grey skirt I got at Aritzia and my Birkenstocks. I thought we made for an odd looking pair walking into the hospital. Winslow commented I had the boho beach bum look goin’ on. As I am unable to shower until the drain is removed from under my arm, it is really the only look I feel comfortable rockin’ for the next little while.

We sat a couple of chairs away from some older gentleman and I wondered if he was waiting for his wife and why he wasn’t with her in the room. Winslow started to recount his weekend playing soccer with Kaleb, his 10-year old son. He was all proud of his son’s ability to be adept and spry playing with his 40-something year old buddies. I point out to Winslow, there is a 30-year age difference in agility between Kaleb and his own peers.  Winslow acknowledges this but he beams when he talks about his kid.

A few minutes pass and a young woman hobbles on a cane into the waiting room and calls out to her dad. I look over and the older gentleman I assumed who was waiting for his wife, who gets up to move towards his daughter. I guess I wouldn’t have wanted my dad with me and my appointment with my breast surgeon either. I wondered if she was the 28-year old woman, Nurse Helen referred to, the time I asked who their youngest patient was here, who had breast cancer. At the time, I was trying to stop feeling sorry for myself, by asking this question, Helen stopped me. She said I was allowed to own my wretched feelings for having breast cancer. I was allowed to feel sorry for myself because having breast cancer (any cancer) is a shitty thing to have to deal with. It didn’t make me feel better at the time but it was a comment which made me appreciate and trust that Helen was on my team.

Winslow and I were summoned by a hospital volunteer and led to a familiar examination room down the hall. I went into the bathroom to change into a hospital gown.  Winslow sat in one of two chairs facing the desk in front of us, I joined him on the other seat. He had my notebook and pen ready, as he asked if he would have to be in the room for the examination. Winslow wanted to know what was going to happen at this appointment.  I said I think Dr. B was going to check the dressing, maybe change it. Winslow wondered if he would he have to be in the room when that happened? Uh-noooo, I told him. He was glad to hear it as he gets squeamish with certain blood and bodily fluid stuff. I let him know, I don’t even want to be in the room when Dr. B checks on the dressing.

Changing the subject he asked if his pink shirt and whole outfit looked flamboyant enough for his upcoming meeting with the cosmetic company (he later realized he had heard wrong, he wasn’t meeting a cosmetic company rep but a rep for a heating and air vac company, ahaha!).  I told him definitely, in fact, he could pass off as being flamboyant on a regular day.  I was serious and he seemed relieved.

Dr. B comes in and cheerily greets us. How are you feeling?  Fine but I have a couple of hives. Are they from the antibiotics? He will check, but he is not sure and wants me to discontinue with the antibiotics unless a full body rash breaks out. Any pain? How much fluid is draining per day now? 40ml but he wants there to be less than 20 ml before removing the drain. Are you in anymore pain? Not a lot. Do I have to continue using the Tylenol 3’s? Because they make me sleepy. No, you can stop, you take it only when you need it. You could take regular Tylenols if you prefer (I was actually allergic to the Tylenol 3s not the anti-biotics, hives disappeared after I discontinued using).

Dr. B asks me to jump on the examination table. I look at Winslow and he looks like he can’t get out of the room fast enough. With Winslow out the door Dr. B draws the curtain and asks me to disrobe from the top down as usual. I tell him I don’t want to look when the dressing comes off, I’m not ready to look at it.  He understands he acknowledges the sight of a breast with a scar across where my nipple once was may be a little too much to deal for now. As I lay down for him to remove the dressing I tell him I cannot feel parts of my breast. He tells me, yes, some nerves were removed with the breast tissue but it is still early, I may regain some more feeling back, not all, but maybe some more. We will just have to wait and see. Dr. B is extremely happy with the results of his surgery. The crease and curve are exactly where they should be, the expander is fitted properly, the skin is smooth and he wants me to be excited as he is. At this very moment, I imagine Dr. B must think I really suck as a patient, because I couldn’t provide him with the fist pump while he had an adrenaline rush from a smooth operation inserting expanders and now I couldn’t even look at his work during the follow up appointment.

I get dressed and Dr. B asks Winslow to join us again. He re-summarizes how pleased he is with the results and for me to continue with the antibiotics. We start expanding with saline next week!

As Winslow and I leave the examination room, he jokes, “Hey, you want some chocolate?!” as he would ask his sons, after they survived getting the flu shot.

“No, I don’t want chocolate. I don’t have a nipple.” I sniff.

Winslow gives me a bear hug and I cry on his shoulder a bit while he’s pulling his fatherly move by telling me, “Just a little bit longer and it will all be over.” I would like to think this were true.

It would take me a few more days before I actually bring myself to look at myself in front of a mirror.

Note from me: A lot of you, have been asking about the days I spent with my mother while recovering in Scarborough. I will try to write something about it soon. It just feels that could be a whole ‘nother blog which i don’t have time for, although it does contribute to my madness, so I will see… In the meantime, I wanted to update you on all the medical stuff because that’s what most of my family has been wondering about. Also, the pathology report comes out soon… Recovering from surgery took a toll on keeping up with blogging!

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navigating my way through cancer with laughter, fear, and madness.

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