26 October 2011

All the fun of an alien abduction... without the benefit of aliens

I realized this morning that I forgot to mention an important consideration in my internal debate. The lumpectomy is drive-thru surgery, with approximately seven days recovery at home. The mastectomy requires four to seven days in the hospital for pain management, followed by multiple weeks of recovery at home.

Despite being outpatient, the lumpectomy was done in two phases. Phase one started with me replacing my shirt with a very short cape that did nothing against the arctic temperatures of the hospital. My theory is that if you are freezing to death, you won't complain about the little things, such as nurses opening the door to leave and showing your boobs to the entire world.

The procedure room was a modern torture table. One of the horrible biopsy tables was in the back. A mammogram machine, with a chair for the victim, was next to the door. In between, were portable tables covered with sharp, pointy instruments. I got to sit in the chair while the nurse squished Lefty with the mammogram machine. After confirming that my boob was adequately squished, the nurse projected a shadow over the exact spot. Dr. Pokey numbed the area with lidocaine, then shoved in a long needle with a yellow plastic thing at the end. I elected not to watch.

The nurse then extracted my boob from the machine, which was nontrivial due to the yellow plastic thing sticking out. The yellow plastic thing, as well as the needle, were hollow tubes, through which blue dye was injected. Then an even longer, but thinner, needle with a tiny hook at the end was threaded through existing needle. Its job was to hold the first needle in place, and it was twice as long as necessary for that job. The nurse taped the extra down, surrounded the whole mess with gauze, and taped the whole thing in place.

While this was going on, I was just staring down at the creepy needle sticking out of my boob. And staring. And staring. I couldn't pry my eyes off the disturbingly fascinating sight. It looked like a situation requiring an emergency room visit, yet there was no pain. Weird.

Anyway, I was re-caped and led to the surgery wing, where pre-op and post-op patients mingle. I had the fun experience of replacing my remaining clothes with a normal hospital gown without dislodging my new appendage. Then came the real excitement - an IV!

The easy veins in my right elbow were destroyed by chemo. I am not exaggerating when I say they are so scarred that it is difficult to get a needle in, much less get any blood out. The nurse, a new one, tried to use a vein in my arm. Let's just say she failed spectacularly. A "specialist" was brought in to use the veins in my hand. Alas, they weren't thick enough, and I had to lie there with my arm wrapped in heated blankets. Eventually, the IV was successfully inserted, and my shiny new husband was allowed to come sit with me.

I don't really remember what happened after that, though I have vague memories involving backgammon on his Galaxy Tab. I assume I won, because I'm awesome.

At some point, presumably after surgery, I woke up. Matt kindly informed me that my legs were still properly attached, in response to my queries about their whereabouts. He also fed me the best tasting graham crackers in the free world. That might not have been true if I had been allowed to eat in the past twenty-four hours, but I can definitely say they tasted better than the liquid vicodin. Oddly enough, it was a bright, translucent yellow. The same color as the magic boob needle! Coincidence? I think not.

There is a universal law requiring patients to be wheeled out of hospitals. Since I was unable to stand up without falling over, I decided not to complain. Well, not complain about the ride. I'm sure I complained about something.

I vaguely remember demanding bubble tea, but that's pretty much it for the following day or two. Well, that and a certain Matt refusing to give me vicodin every time I asked. He clearly would not make a viable automatic morphine drip. :-(

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