This won’t be terribly long (ha! no, seriously) because it turns out that Darvocet makes me feel like ass. Or maybe the after-effects of anaesthesia make me feel like ass. More to the point: I agreed to let them stab me in the arm repeatedly, and I agreed to let them slice open my breast, but I do NOT remember agreeing to let them trap me on a very small boat on a very turbulent ocean. So, just a quick recap as I cling to the railing for dear life.
Anyway! Hello! I am back, minus one “area of inflamed tissue” which has been sent for biopsy but the surgeon doesn’t anticipate it will tell us anything unusual or scary. Hopefully removal of said naughty area will be enough to end boobpusapalooza and its associated fun and games once and for all.
The morning started with one of those great philosophical questions, namely: When they say “no make-up,” does that include blemish concealer? Going without would cause me undue angst. Eventually I decided that that unless they intended to clip the oximeter to the zit on my forehead, it shouldn’t pose a problem.
My Lovely Surgery Chaperone (LSC) arrived to fetch me and we were off to the hospital. Once there, I checked in and we sat. And sat and sat and sat. I love how they demand you arrive at the butt-crack of dawn so that you can play “I wonder what they’re here for” with your friends. (One teenaged girl for a tonsillectomy; one older man for a knee replacement; one very crabby man whom I decided was there for a hemorrhoidectomy; a non-English-speaking pair where we were unable to ascertain who was there for treatment or why.)
A nice nurse with a perky student in tow brought me back for prep. I answered her questions and signed her forms and then changed into the provided gown and non-slip socks. Sexxxxxxxy! The nurse then explained that she needed me to lie down so that she could start my IV.
“Can’t I sit up?” I asked.
“Noooo, I need you flat for this,” she responded. “I’ve seen too many people faint while getting stuck. It’s just safest to have you laying down.”
I assured her that needles don’t bother me and it wouldn’t be a problem, but she insisted. On and on she went with stories of patients who pass out the second the needle penetrates the skin, and family members who are standing there watching and then *KLUNK* to the floor. We were laughing over these tales and then overheard the mother across the way (with the girl having the tonsillectomy) getting rather hysterical with the doctor. She was basically trying to get the doctor to assure her that her daughter wouldn’t be in pain after the procedure.
We three (the nursing student had been standing politely at the end of my gurney throughout) stopped talking and listened for a bit, then in a quiet voice (so as not to be heard by the mother and daughter) I started talking about how my tonsillectomy was by far the most unpleasant medical procedure I’ve ever had, including my total abdominal hysterectomy. “At least with that,” I laughed, “I got to stay here and have a morphine pump! If that doctor tells them she’s not going to be in pain, I’m gonna go over there and kick his ass.”
The nurse laughed and agreed that non-pediatric tonsillectomies are brutal, all the while slapping my hand to try to get a good vein. She asked who’d done my surgery, and I told her, and then we exchanged remarks about what a fabulous ENT that doc is as she grabbed the needle to start my IV. “Little pinch,” she said.
As she slid the needle in I continued, “Yeah, she told me my surgery took twice as long as usual because every time she tried to cut into my tonsils, they just crumbled. Sounded pretty gross.”
“Ohhhh, you really must’ve been filled with bacteria,” she agreed, poking and shoving with the needle. “Crap, I’m on a valve here, I need to redo it.” She pulled the needle out and my hand SPURTED blood while she grabbed for a wad of gauze to crush down on top of it. I was unbothered; she’d given me a shot of lidocaine and I couldn’t really feel it. “So, were your tonsils HUGE by the time you went in, too?”
“Oh, yeah. All big and pitted and stuff. I’m glad to be rid of them, but it was awful. That whole first week I would just sit around and CRY, it hurt so badly. So what happened with the needle just now?”
“Oh, well, your blood vessels have valves, you know, and sometimes when you insert the needle there it’s just too tough to push through. It’s like trying to force it through a brick, and if you push too hard you can blow the vein, and it’s just not good. Better to try again up by your elbow. Let’s have a look.” She lifted the gauze, clucked, and replaced it with a fresh wad. Suddenly her eyes darted down to the foot of the gurney. “You okay?”
“I feel kinda dizzy,” squeaked the nursing student.
“Hold this,” the nurse put my hand on the gauze and was up in a flash. She and another nurse parked the student in a chair with her head between her legs in about two seconds flat. She was so embarrassed, poor thing. They got her a ginger ale and she sat there, red-faced and sipping, for the next fifteen minutes.
Do you think it was the blood or the description of my tonsils? Either way, I feel sort of powerful.
The nurse returned and inserted my IV with no further problems, then told me she’d go fetch LSC. As soon as she came back to see me, I whispered to her that I’d made the nursing student sick, and I thought it was going to be a very exciting day indeed!
The anaesthesiologist showed up and we had a nice chat. He explained about “twilight sleep” not really being any different, experientially–I wouldn’t remember a thing, and it would be as if I’d been asleep, even though I might not be completely asleep. Sounded good to me. He was about to leave when I asked if they planned to give me anything beforehand to help me relax a little. (Hey, if I’m putting on the johnny and letting them cut me, THEY OWE ME a little high, I say.) “Sure thing,” he said. “I can have them bring you something right now.” He grinned at me and headed towards the nursing station. “Oh, bartender!” he called.
I think I love him. Then again, I am known for falling deeply in love with my anaesthesiologists.
My surgeon showed up, and we talked about the confusion about whether this was to be core-needle or excision, and she explained that because the mass was not well-defined on the mammogram, a needle would be a guessing game. Which was fine. She then scolded me for not calling her office for this explanation earlier. Hmph.
Then the real fun began: She asked me if I could still pinpoint the mass. “Didn’t we have this conversation before?” I asked her. “I can pinpoint LOTS of masses in my lumpy boobs. If you want one of them in particular, I think you’re gonna have to find it yourself.” She laughed and said fine, she would. She took out a purple Sharpie, then glanced at LSC and asked me if I wanted her to leave for a minute.
“Nah,” I said. “She can stay. I bet you’ll be doing something fun with that pen and I would hate for her to miss it!”
I wasn’t wrong. The surgeon flipped open the top of my gown and started feeling around. She located the mass and then commented that she thought it had moved a bit since last time. “It’s the mystical magical travelling mass! I’m SPECIAL!” She chuckled and took the cap off the pen.
“Oh!” said LSC, “your mystical mass is gonna be colored purple! How lucky!”
We watched at the surgeon made an X on the side of my breast, the traced a half-moon on the outer edge of the areola and explained that that was where she’d be cutting. She felt around some more and added a couple of dots (I’m not convinced those were anything other than her messing with me) and then wrote YES in gigantic letters over my left breast. I stared at her.
“Did you just write YES on my boob??”
Her eyes twinkled. “What’s the matter? Want me to write NO over the other one?” All three of us burst into laughter. The surgeon made a comment about how it beats having the wrong leg amputated, and then told me she’d see me in there.
As soon as she left, the nurse came back with my happy injection. I was mid-sentence with LSC when I said, “There it is! What was I talking about? No, wait, I DON’T CARE.” But I had mere moments to enjoy my happy stupor before they took me in. And they gave me that forgetting medicine, too, because I don’t even remember arriving in the OR or what happened after that. I hope I wasn’t flashing people or anything. Oh well. If I did, I don’t remember!
My ice pack and I are going to sleep now. I’m hoping to be on dry land tomorrow. Or find my sea legs.