It’s so hard to believe but one week ago I had my mastectomy. Like, really. It was 7 days ago!!!!!!!! This week has gone by so fast and I’m glad to say I am recovering well. Today, for the first time, I have not taken any pain medication. Not one ibuprofen and I’m feeling really good. I still get pretty tired but that’s to be expected.
I want to give you the run down of my mastectomy day and share my experience.
I was the first surgery of the day so we arrived at NYU Langhone at 6:00am. I signed in and confirmed all of my history and information. Within minutes they called me in and sent me to a small room where I was asked to change into a paper robe and grandma underwear (sorry, no pics of that!). Then they took all of my stats; blood pressure, heart rate, temperature…and asked me a bunch of questions I don’t remember at all. At this point I was nervous but calm.
Then my surgeon, Dr. Guth walked in and I lost it. That’s when it hit me that this was really happening. I love her. She said, “Don’t worry. We’re just doing some spring cleaning and when we’re done, everything is going to be out.” She is calm, warm, loving but very clear and direct. She reassured me one more time and then left the room.
Next the anesthesiologist came in and took my information and described her role and what she would be doing. I mentioned that I heard that it might be possible to get a relaxant before the anesthesia and she said that she would certainly to that for me. She also warned me that there would be a lot of people in the room talking to me at once and that it would feel overwhelming but they were all there for me and to make sure I was cared for. I’m glad she prepared me for that.
Then another doctor came in and said something and had a resident was with him who said, “Hi, I’m the resident. I hold the tools.” Uh, thanks for letting me know? I guess there are no small roles, just small actors. I wish I had said that then. Next time.
Next my plastic surgeon came in. I was pretty hysterical at this point and he didn’t seem to know how to handle it. He said, “Well, um….everything will be fine. Ya. Ummm….we’ll put in the extender and drain in after Dr. Guth does her work. Ya. Umm…I know this is hard. It will be fine. Ummm….I’ll see you later.” And left. Yep. Not the warm and fuzzy type. He could do with some Applied Theatre work (colleagues, ideas?).
Then, Dr. Guth, my surgeon came back in in her scrubs and said it was time. I gave Ken a long hug goodbye as I sobbed in his chest. His eyes were teary but he held it together for me. We kissed and I told him (and myself) that I was going to be ok and not to worry. Then I left.
I thought they would roll me on a surgical bed to the OR but no, you walk. WALK!!!!!!!!! Like Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking. It was Dead Boob Walking! I had to walk to my surgery!!!! I could have run the other way I guess but, I didn’t. Dr. Guth kept her arm around me as I sobbed and shook trying to keep me calm. We walked into the OR and it was all ready with instruments and all. Holy fuck!!!!!! They had me sit down on the operating table. They noticed the writing I had on my arms.
I decided the night before to write down poems, quotes and song lyrics about bravery, strength and facing fears. We read a few of them and they all thought it was pretty cool. Then the anesthesiologist took my left and and started bang it really really hard, I guess to get a vein (I have deep veins). That hurt so much. I got more hysterical. So she said that she would give me the relaxant then instead of later. Good idea!!!!!!!!!! Dr. Guth stood behind me and said she would keep her hands on my back. They inserted the IV. OUCH!!!! I was crying hard. Then I heard myself crying.
The next thing I remember was waking up in recovery. It was done.
I stayed in recovery for about two hours where I mostly slept. They moved me to a semi-private room (with 4 beds!!!!!) They should have called it the the No Privacy Room. My roommate was a total nutcase. She talked all the time, took all of the nurse’s attention and kept her TV on ALL NIGHT LONG!!!!!!!!!!!!! Law and Order. Now, I love Law and Order but an all night marathon while I’m trying to heal is not helpful. Not at all.
Because I did not get a private room, Ken could not stay with me because I was on an all female floor. So my mom stayed with me all night. If you have a mastectomy, I highly recommend someone stay with you for at least the first night. Just getting a sip of water on my own hard. The help was incredible and I never would have made it without her even though the nurses were fabulous.
Even though I barely got enough sleep, I was able to eat, I was peeing (which seemed to be a big concern for every doctor that checked in on me. “Are you peeing?” was the biggest question) and I was up and walking and going to the bathroom by myself. Because I was doing so well, they released me the next day. Originally I was supposed to stay for two days.
Home was the best place I could be. I practically slept for 24 hours, waking only to eat a small meal, go to the bathroom and take my medications.
So, that’s my mastectomy story. I am doing well. I’m getting used to the look of my new body but am definitely in mourning for the loss of my breast. I am proud that I did what I needed to do to stay alive but I am still sad. It’s going to take time.
I leave you with part of a poem that was on my right arm that I never got a picture of. It is by Maya Angelou.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.