“You look good in short hair. Are you going to keep it that way? How long was your hair before? I don’t even remember how your hair looked like before,” and within a few seconds of greeting me during my last appointment before my surgery date I was a little offended by Dr. Beber not remembering the ‘before me’.
“Thanks,” I say, but I was a bit put off because everyone remembered my long black hair. How could he or anyone forget? However, I quickly caught hold of my ego and reminded myself, Dr. Beber’s sole purpose here is for my boobs. He is the only guy, I should ever know, who can focus on nothing else but my boobs. Twenty-four-seven, until I go under the knife again, he should be thinking about nothing but how perky, how wide, how much volume, how high my breast will look after my surgery date scheduled for July 25th, 2012. God knows, that’s all I have thought about since my mastectomy.
Surgery this time around was a little less traumatic than last June. The outcomes were completely contrary from one another. I didn’t have my family here this time around, as I reasoned it was probably a routine boob job. I told Mom, Maggie would be with me and she would text Cory, my brother, my progress before and after surgery. We were in the surgery waiting room for 10:15 am. Others were there waiting to hear from surgeons to update the status of their loved ones in surgery. It felt very routine or blasé that morning. For one thing, I was not the first patient up for surgery, as on June 8, 2011. Last year they must have scheduled me first, because I was relentlessly hesitant for a mastectomy and kept trying to postpone all proposed dates the surgeons offered me. Yes, back then, they must have had an inclination I would have run if I was left to mull it over more than I had to. This time we waited for a long couple of hours and I could not wait to get onto the operating table. I could not wait to get closer to looking normal – like my old self again.
To pass the time, I discussed with Maggie where we would go for dinner after my operation. I was starting to feel a bit hungry. We agreed on burgers, a HUGE burger. I was having none of this cup o’ pasta and hot water this time around. There was no immediate family around to underestimate my iron stomach after a day of anesthesia and painkillers. Burgers and onion rings, that’s what I thought about more than looking normal while waiting for my new boob.
Dressed in scrubs, Dr. Beber came out and spoke to a man in the waiting room which indicated I would be next up to go in for my breast reconstruction. My name got called up from Paul (I think that was his name but can’t remember) also wearing scrubs. He led me to the recovery room where a nurse met me to discuss my medical history while attaching a red bracelet on my wrist to indicate allergy alerts. She gave me a couple of hospital gowns to change into, I gave her my clothes and shoes to be locked up until post-surgery. I returned to the waiting room to hang with Maggie a little bit longer. It was then I realized I had forgotten to bring a pillow, to protect my chest, for the car ride home. Maggie resolved to pick one up at Winners and go to lunch while I was in surgery. Paul came back and Maggie took the opportunity to discuss with him how much time she had to do a little shopping before Dr. Beber would come out to give her my update. As it was almost noon at this point, Paul told her I would be done in a couple of hours. Maggie wished me luck and agreed to come back to the waiting room around 2:30 pm to await Dr. Beber.
On the way over, to an empty waiting area, Paul assured me I was in good hands with Dr. Beber. He shared with me that his wife had some work done from Dr. B. Paul smiled and gave me a knowing “nudging” wink. Paul and his wife were pleased with Dr. B’s work. The waiting room was an icebox. Paul offered me a blanket which felt like it had just come out a hot dryer. It reminded me of the blankets I draped around my body and arms to warm my veins before chemotherapy – oddly nostalgic.
The anesthesiologist came out to meet with me and asked all the preliminary questions every medical staff had asked me over and over again. We listed my allergies, he asked which arm they used to infuse my chemo (which was the same arm he would use for an IV as the other arm is the side where lymph nodes were removed, he would not put an IV that arm) and I showed him a massive bruise on my wrist from when Nurse Jean previously drew a sample of my blood, a couple of days before. I probably didn’t apply pressure long enough to the spot after the blood sample and by the next day a huge portion from my thumb to past my wrist turned purple from riding my bike, “I bruise easily,” I said, which judging by the anesthesiologist’s reaction was an understatement, “and I have small veins and very few of them at best.” I added just to be sure he knew.
The surgical nurse came out next to ask me some of the same questions and made sure which side the implant was going in, even though it would be quite obvious once they saw my chest. She asked if I agreed to the surgical procedure, while looking for my signed contract. She didn’t have to ask me twice, as the nurse had last year, and I didn’t once hold my answer back .
Finally, Dr. B and his young assisting surgeon Dr. T came to meet with me. They led me to an examination room where Dr. B used his Magic Marker and drew surgical lines on my chest. With Dr. T, he discussed where he wanted the implant to fall. Having thought way too much about my breasts this past year, I had to point out to the doctors, it wasn’t the perkiness or the promise of better cleavage I wanted most. The part I missed the most was the flatness from my clavicle to above before the breast rises. “Would this part be flat again?” I asked. The expander made this section “busty” and none of my form fitted tops looked right the whole year. I exposed this area and wore loose-fitted tops to camouflage the deformity of this area. Dr. B said would do his best.
Dr. T escorted me back to the waiting room, “You must be thrilled to finally get this done!” he remarked.
“Oh. My. God! You would not believe HOW MUCH!” I told him “I can’t believe it’s finally going to happen,” I told him “Hey, where are you taking me? And why is it so cold in this wing?” I questioned, as we wove around the halls of the operating wing in WCH.
He said it was just a little further, he didn’t have to answer the temperature question as he led me into a brilliant royal blue tiled operating room with massive surgical lighting surrounding the space. I was almost taken aback as I have never seen anywhere more clinical than this room. It was the first time I saw an operating room or have been in one where I was fully conscious. I was a little in awe seeing the room and the amount of people on the surgical team. Dr. T introduced me to the whole team which consisted of the anesthesiologist and several masked nurses. Their eyes all smiled while greeting me, it felt like I was the honoured guest at a party.
As I hopped up the operating table Dr. B had rejoined us and asked me to state my name and what my allergies were. “What?! But we never did this last time,” I pointed out “it’s all different from last year.” I was knocked out by drugs before coming into the operating room last year.
“We’re trying something new here. Tell us what you’re allergic to.” he said.
“Okay, I’m allergic to, Sulpha, Codeine, and the contrast dye for cat-scans.” Dr. B asked me to point out any injuries or pain to his team. I told them all about the bruise on my wrist and I explained it was probably exacerbated by putting pressure on my wrist while riding my bike. The nurse noticed a long red scratches on my other arm and asked what had happened there, “Umm, that’s where I accidentally fell off my bike…” The nurse asked if I was physically fit which I had to think about. I told her I ride my bike everywhere because it was faster and cheaper instead of taking public transit but I had also recently taken swimming lessons again. She placed an oxygen mask on me and the anesthesiologist surprised me by pricking an IV into a vein on top of my hand with very little pain. They placed heart rate monitors on various parts of my body and asked me to spread both my arms out wide onto the boards beside me. I took a few breaths in the mask, a rush of fluid went up my arm. I closed my eyes. I was out.
I was not as stoned or loopy, as I was after my mastectomy. I gotta say, I was a little disappointed by that. Seeing as I was alone, the first thing I did was pull my hospital gown open to peek down at my achy bandaged breast. It looked vaguely familiar, it looked anatomically correct with everything else. I smiled in relief. At last, I am closer to my old physical self.
However, I was very thirsty and my throat hurt. I asked the attending nurse for some water – four times in a row. Why was I so thirsty? I asked to see Maggie who they said would be able to see me when they moved me to the recovery room. The nurse asked how I felt on a scale of 1 to 10. Relieved at having first-hand experience with excruciating bone pain during chemo, I was now had a gauge to play the Rate-Your-Pain game. “I’d say I’m at about a 5 or a 6,” I announce like a pro to and was pleased to hear I would be getting more pain relievers as that number was still too high. No morphine this time though, just more Percocets. She asked if I was allergic to Percs, I told her no, they just made me a little loopy. The nurse told me to ask Dr. B for something else like Oxy-Contin, which I was a little excited about because of the amazing pain relief effect I had saw once on a post-natal friend and it was the drug of choice for Edie Falco’s lead character on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. Yes, I would definitely ask for Oxy-Contin when Dr. B comes to check.
They wheeled me into the recovery room where I could see Maggie. I asked her for more water when she came by my bed. She went to the nurses for water, twice more for me, before I heard the nurse tell her no. She came back and said the nurse warned her I may not hold down fluids because of all the anesthesia still in my system. It was then I spoke quietly to Maggie making sure she would not back down on our agreement of going for burgers as we had planned upon my release. The nurse overheard us and tried to dissuade us by emphasizing how I would get sick in Maggie’s car, “I live a five-minute drive from here,” I reasoned with the nurse, “there won’t be time to get sick in the car” and then told her I had to pee. Anesthesia and starvation must make my bodily functions speed up also, I thought.
I showed Maggie my new bandaged boob and she pointed out the black scribble, which I barely noticed. The nurse told us it was an outline to show how much bleeding was outside the incision right after surgery.
We waited the rest of the afternoon for Dr. B to come by but it didn’t seem likely, as the nurse pointed out he recently had a new baby. A boy, she told us. Aww, that was great, we commented, but Maggie needed to get to the drugstore in the hospital before it closed. It would be Percocets again. While Maggie figured out my prescription downstairs the nurse brought my clothes to help me. I was told, as last time, to bring a sports bra to wear after. I told the nurse I brought a couple, one bra which was so supportive that I’ve had difficulties getting out of on normal days or the other bra which gave the look of a sports bra rather than being a real sports bra. She told me it needed to be comfortable enough for me to sleep in. I chose the one that looked like a sports bra.
Maggie and I picked up Winslow (her husband) before heading over to the The Gladstone Hotel for our dinner. I felt relieved to be out of the hospital. I was even happier to finally eat despite all the warnings from the nurse. Being left to my own devices I drank as much water, during dinner, as I possibly could and promised to eat slowly and ordered a salad instead of onion rings, just in case, the nurse at the hospital was right about not being able to hold down my food. The only issue I had was reaching for the bill. Maggie pulled it away from me and I may have overstretched my stitches trying to grab the bill away from her. I yelped a little but then we laughed it off.
It wasn’t until they dropped me off at my apartment when I was able to really look at my new boob in front of a mirror. I opened up my shirt and could not believe how much more blood appeared on my bandage. Shit, maybe we shouldn’t have gone for those burgers like the nurse told us, I thought. Hoping Maggie had not hit the highway yet, I called her. She came back to look at my bandage but realizing she couldn’t offer a medical opinion, on how much was too much blood outside the marked lines. We drove back to WCH’s Urgency Care Clinic.
We were the only people in the waiting room. The triage nurse saw me quickly after I announced I had just had surgery in the afternoon and thought I may be bleeding a bit too much. She asked who my surgeon was and paged him. While in the waiting room we heard the nurse speaking to Dr. B on the phone. They seemed to be discussing arrangements to have Dr. T come back to the hospital to examine my condition. She hung up the phone and called me in. She asked me a few preliminary questions before asking how much I was bleeding.
“Can I show you?” I asked, as I didn’t have anymore energy to explain it and seeing as no one could see me in her office. She nodded, I lifted my shirt and showed her. She let out a sigh of relief.
“It’s fine,” she determined.
“But the bleeding goes beyond the outlines of the marker…”
“It’s still fine, I thought you meant blood was soaking through the bandage. The amount of blood on your bandage is normal. You’re fine, they shouldn’t have drawn on the bandage.” she explained to me, just as Dr. B rang her on the phone. She told to him there was no cause for worry from what she saw and then passed the phone to me to chat with the doctor.
Dr. B asked me to describe the bloody bandage then agreed with the nurse. There was no cause for worry with my bloody bandage. He apologized telling me to disregard the drawn lines on the bandages. He reminded me to call his office for a follow-up appointment for the Monday morning, after the weekend. The bandage would be removed during this appointment to check the healing of the scar along with the breast implant.
I must have sounded groggy on the phone, because the day’s events were finally catching up to me. Dr. B started to sound jovial. He spoke to me, as if he remembered how I grimaced at the thought of extending time being attached to the drain (there was no drain for this procedure), how I begged him to take it out so I could finally have a shower after two sweaty summer weeks of sponge bathing. On the other end of the phone, he ultimately remembered what motivated me and with a snicker, he said,
“The sooner you make an appointment with me, THE SOONER YOU CAN START HAVING A SHOWER.”