Back at Home

It doesn’t feel like July 4th at all. Quite painful today and last night. Lots of sensation. Arm was tired and weird feeling all day yesterday and night. Back hurts butt loads. Man my armpit hurts. And oh my god it is unbelievably, stinking hot as hell…

Belgium also has the thoughtful service of providing home medical care in my situation. Insurance pays 100% for a nurse for two weeks. One will come everyday to clean and change my bandages.

When the nurse came, I was quite put off. She didn’t seem to know what she was doing. Looking back I suppose it was normal, but I was very displeased that she had no idea what she was there for. She looked at me and asked what I needed her to do. I said, “umm, change my bandages,” with the tone of voice that said, “duh?” so surprised I was that she would even ask.

She looked me up and down. “Did you have some sort of surgery?”

I paused, almost wondering if she was pulling my leg. I was wearing a bandage large enough that it was unnecessary to wear any other top! It stretched from my armpits to my belly-button and was held up tight by pinned on straps. I had a plastic tube coming out from near my elbow with a pool of blood collecting in a plastic container at the end of it. Did I really have to explain to her?

The visit was quick, but didn’t get any better. I spelled out that I had had a mastectomy, expecting that she would be familiar with how to care for that. She was not enlightened, instead asking me, “so what do I do?” I said, “you’re the nurse!” She was French-speaking only and while I speak French, I was further put off by this as I didn’t have the specific vocabulary to explain (not that I knew anything beyond what seemed like common sense). She scratched her head. “Ok. Well…what do I use?” I offered her the plastic bag full of medical supplies that the hospital had sent home with me, including clean plastic containers to replace the one on the end of the remaining tube.

We fumbled through a visit, her asking me what everything was, me shrugging lots, feeling less and less sure I wanted her touching my wound. In the end, it all seemed too easy. I lay down, she swabbed alcohol over the incision, she put on fresh bandages.

At the same time, I had a dear French girlfriend who came both to help out and to visit my sister, as they were friends from university. Julie took over French errands, and called the nursing center for me, requesting a nurse who was experienced with mastectomy and/or one who spoke English. We were told neither thing existed, though the call did serve to stir up indignation on the other end. They took offense to our questions, assuring us that all their nurses are highly trained, etc. I wasn’t sure I wanted them to come back. I missed the hospital where everyone knew me, knew my situation, and knew just what to do.

Otherwise, Jen and I enjoyed Julie being here. They helped out by doing some laundry. Mostly I sat around hot and hurting. We joked that we three girls were the picture of an ancient greek fresco. (To quote Monty Python: we bathed, dressed, undressed, and [washed] exotic underwear.” Haha)

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1 Comment

Filed under breast cancer, life, recovery, surgery, this time LAST year

One response to “Back at Home

  1. Oh, heavens! I would have been so upset by the nurse’s attitude and general cluelessness! Way to handle her!

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