When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, I was sticking to chemotherapy a few months ago, so I didn’t think much about surgery. I was vaguely aware that at some point it had to happen, just as we were all vaguely aware of death. But in stressful situations, I think our brains are focused on getting over what is in front of us.
My husband Jonathan was great during my chemotherapy. I did all the practical things and subtly wiped my hair out when it came off, and when it was too much I got a crying shoulder. Our priority was to keep the lives of children aged 6 and 3, Ezra and Eden as normal as possible.
A few weeks after my diagnosis, the surgeon further analyzed the biopsy and said the cancer was triple negative and grade 3. This is the fastest growing type.
They first said that performing a mastectomy could save my breasts, but it was now off the table. It would be a complete mastectomy-my entire right breast had to go.
It was the latest attack on a brutal attack on my identity, which happened shortly after chemotherapy destroyed my hair, skin, energy, eyebrows, eyelashes, fingernails, childbirth, and libido.
Of course, it’s better than dying from cancer, and I’m grateful to live in an era where cancer treatment is available. But it wasn’t easy to agree to lose one of my breasts at the age of 40.
My surgeon was an excellent woman. After extensively googled breast surgeons at my local NHS trust, I requested it. When I asked her to switch, I thought I would be ragged, but they gladly moved me. The perception that cancer patients actually have a say in treatment was as surprising as it empowers them.
When I met her, I was relieved to hear that she could be reconstructed at the same time as the mastectomy. I was even more relieved when I explained DIEP flap surgery to reconstruct the breast using my abdominal fat.
I thought reconstruction meant breast augmentation surgery, but I didn’t like the foreign body in my chest. The idea that my body was juggled was not only partly scary, but also reassuring in that it helped me look as much as I could.
Despite being distraught at losing her breast, she had two caesarean sections and an appendectomy, which actually made her strangely moody about her recovery from surgery.
Visitors weren’t allowed because of Covid-19, and I thought it would be difficult to get away from Jonathan and the kids, but I downloaded books and movies to distract myself, thinking that morphine would handle the pain.
I think it’s cheerful how naive I was now. Mastectomy with auxiliary lymph node clearance and DIEP flap reconstruction is the main surgery.
The surgery took 10 hours and when I came I was disoriented and panicked. I could hear him talking, but he was hallucinating and could only see strange shapes, not humans.
I heard someone say, “I’ll call my husband,” and now he said everything went well, but I’m sure they’re calling Jonathan that I’m dying at the time. rice field.
I couldn’t move and tried to speak, but I couldn’t speak. I felt that the edge of the bed was folded and crushed the inside. I covered my chest with a warm blanket to promote blood flow and made me feel like I was suffocating.
As my field of view slowly expanded, I could see the cannula on both feet and my left hand. There were tubes everywhere. I had a catheter and three drains installed.
Eventually I was able to find a nurse in the recovery room, but every time I saw it, my face changed. It wasn’t her expression, it was literally a different face.
Not surprisingly, I knew I was hallucinating, but I panicked that my brain wasn’t returning to normal. I wanted to talk to a mutated nurse, but she was scared too.
Paranoia got worse when another nurse tried to wash my cannula. I saw her shake the syringe and fill it with bubbles. “I’m looking at things. She didn’t just do that,” I told myself.
But then the injection caused a burning pain in the back of my hand, so I wondered if she actually had it. It turns out that the cannula is “organized”. This hopes that no one reading this needs to experience it.
Later, the surgeon explained that my hallucinations and paranoia were the effects of ketamine given as part of anesthesia.
The bad trip lasted all night, but after a few hours it got better (I wasn’t as scared as all the walls were moving when I realized that the bed wasn’t actually eating me).
I was desperate to sleep, but had to wake up every 15 minutes to make sure the blood was circulating through the new breast tissue. A circular skin patch was sewn on the tummy where the nipple was, and I couldn’t see the injured right chest.
When the nurse checked with Doppler to hear my heartbeat through the new breast tissue, I turned my back and told him to make sure that the skin bounced in a way that meant it was all functioning. ..
The 15-minute check was done 24 hours a day, followed by every 30 minutes for the next two days. The fourth day was every hour.
I was desperate to leave the hospital – suffering from sleep deprivation and losing my children in an unexpected urgency.
I broke down when the nurse brought in the nice food that Jonathan left at the entrance and the pictures that the children drew.
It was a combination of gratitude and injustice frustration that I wasn’t allowed to see my double jab husband while outsiders were breathing each other in pubs and Wembley for the Euro. ..
The nurse was very kind, but very busy and did not always come when I pressed the buzzer. Sometimes I put it out of reach of the buzzer and it was very painful when I wanted to inform the catheter. The bag was full and backed up (sorry, too much information? It’s hard to know any more because there is little personal dignity left).
After all, I was hospitalized for 5 days. I was very happy to go home and felt like a new person after sleeping overnight in my bed. After 10 weeks, the wound healed, but the reconstructed breast is still barely visible.
The next step is to make a nipple. It involves two small steps and a tattoo. Hopefully it will make me feel a little more like my old self.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with 55,200 new cases each year. One in eight women in the UK is diagnosed with it.
Being part of such a large community has something to be terribly reassuring. Social media, especially Instagram, is a great source of support and that’s where I gathered a lot of tips before surgery.
What is the best advice I have been given? Buy a super long lasting phone charger. Ask your friends to bring you some nice food (the hospital meal didn’t exceed my expectations). And when you’re trapped under a sweaty heated blanket, facial splits are a godsend.
Nobody told me this, but I wish they had: If they give you ketamine and you’re on a bad trip, stay calm-the bed actually gives you I haven’t eaten. (If that happens to you, I hope a nurse or anesthesiologist will hold your hand and remind you to breathe, saying it’s all okay. Someone I If you did it for, it would have created a world of difference.)
The whole experience of being chopped and undone and very lonely and vulnerable in the hospital was not a bad thing, but very conscious of my death.
We make thousands of small decisions every day. In the past, my choices about what to buy, what to eat, or how to spend time were often based on vanity and anxiety. Do not take risks or enjoy a particular experience to worry about the future or the thoughts of others.
That doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about the future. Now I’m all about longevity. I want to be with my kids, and ideally for them, as long as possible, so I eat well, exercise, avoid stress, and get enough sleep. I just do it in a relaxed way. There, I agree with more and do my best to enjoy every moment.
Now that I am keenly aware that we live only once, many of us are not as long as we think.