I am officially a two year breast cancer survivor today. Last year on this day I received a bouquet of one pink and eleven red roses from Todd and the infamous “uniboob cake” from two friends, Amy and Lisa.
This year to celebrate I’ll be receiving a Venti White Chocolate Mocha from the lady behind the counter at Starbucks. I’ll have to pay her for it, but I don’t mind. It’s my thought that counts.
I just got a call from Todd (11:00) and he’s coming home from work to spend the day with me to celebrate the anniversary. So now HE gets to pay the nice lady at Starbucks, making it seem more like a gift for me.
Given my recent trips down memory lane, I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of you that I’ve posted about the day of my surgery. A few readers have griped about the lack of **Kleenex Warning** so I will tell you now to read at your own risk. I don’t think a tissue will be required, but I’m trying to cover my bases.
Early in the morning of May 3, 2005, Todd and I headed off to the hospital. My sister, Terri, was waiting for us at the entrance to the admissions waiting room and when we walked in my friends Beth and Rhonda were there. By the time they called to take me up to surgery there were ten of us and we kept getting into trouble. The poor little old volunteer lady kept getting on to us for being disruptive.
Finally the pre-op nurse came to get me and I felt just like J Lo before a performance. The nurse was the stage manager telling me what was going to happen; Todd was my personal assistant, carrying my bag; and the other eight people were my posse. My entourage and I followed the nurse to the next floor where she very patiently waited while I gave everyone a hug and some reassurance before heading back to pre-op.
Todd and I let the nurse lead us to the staging area where she asked me when the last time I ate or drank was. The words just split out in a rush. “I had two glasses of wine last night to help me relax but then I read I wasn’t supposed to have any alcohol 24 hours before or after surgery so I then drank 40 ounces of water in less than 20 minutes! Did I totally ruin everything?”
This she found highly amusing. “It’s hard to be relaxed when you’re spending the entire night in the bathroom, isn’t it?”
This place really knew how to throw a party. After changing into the height of hospital fashion, the nurse brought me some Reglan and a Valium. Todd asked if he could have some as well but she just laughed him off, though she did admit family members should be given something as well. I considered offering him mine because I knew before long I would be blissfully unaware of anything. But I was stingy and kept it all for myself.
After the IV was placed she gave me Versed and I got that old Ramones song I Want to be Sedated stuck in my head. According to Todd – and I’m not sure I believe him – I was singing the song as they wheeled me to the OR.
At this point in my story I was peacefully slumbering so let’s visit the waiting room, shall we? By this time there were about 15 people out there, including my mother-in-law who had brought an XXL bag of peanut M&Ms for me, but my peeps couldn’t hold back. In fact, when we were in the admissions waiting room they had been accusing me of being a lousy hostess as I had no snacks of any kind for my soiree. So they all ate MY M&Ms in MY honor and decided it was MY hips that would show their indulgence. I’m guessing there was a collective sigh of relief from the other patrons of the waiting room when this particular gang left.
When Dr. Abraham was finished in the operating room she went to the waiting room to talk to Todd. She told him everything went well, it was definitely cancer, but she felt confident it was all removed. The sentinel lymph node and four axillary lymph nodes were tested in the operating room and appeared to be cancer free. The breast tissue and the nodes would be sent to pathology for more sensitive testing, however. Not precisely what we wanted to hear, but the best prognosis in a bad situation, nonetheless.
While I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of going under, I’m not so keen on the return to consciousness. At the very first instant of awareness I just want to go back to my happy place. Unfortunately the recovery room Nazis, I mean nurses, won’t let you sink back down into oblivion.
Struggling to surface from my drug-induced haze, I could hear someone talking to me as if they were on the other side of a long tunnel. She kept calling my name and asking how I felt. I’m sure I kept telling her I was fine, but she didn’t seem to hear me. Finally after what seemed like forever I managed to open my eyes and mumble somewhat coherently.
I had gone into surgery that morning fairly certain I had a malignancy, but not one hundred percent sold. There was a still that small part of me that was hoping for the best. My answer came in the form of the nurse patting my arm and saying sympathetically, “You’re going to be just fine, Honey.” It may have been that I had prepared myself for the worst, though I suspect it was more due to the physical, mental and emotional numbness from the anesthesia. I merely smiled and croaked, “I know.”
As it turned out, there were cancer cells found in two of the five lymph nodes which required eight chemotherapy treatments instead of four. Having a breast removed turned out to be the easiest part of this whole ordeal. Probably because of the amazing variety and copious amounts of drugs they gave me.
Some days it seem like it was another life time ago and other days it seems like it was just yesterday. Regardless, I’m thankful both my mother and I can wear the title “Survivor” (she’s a one-year survivor) and plan on doing so for a very long time to come.