Monthly Archives: September 2007

People are Making me Laugh (at horrible things)

(Writing with some assistance today.) One doctor says I can leave tomorrow. One nurse says “don’t get carried away with yourself.” Dr. Awesome says “if Dr. Fabulous finds out you went home too soon, he’ll come to your house and get you.” So, going home tomorrow now depends on Dr. Fabulous stopping by.

Dr. Awesome told me a story about a lady who went home too soon – 4 days after surgery. She got in her shower at home, passed out, fell down and landed on her new chest. She got thrombosis and “it turned blue and fell of the next day.” His real pain became apparent in his next comment “That was EIGHT hours of work – destroyed!”

What a terrible story. My heart aches for this unknown woman. So, of course, after he left I hurt myself with an uncontrollable burst of giggles. Not because that is an appropriate reaction. But well…c’mon. One of the people I admire most in the world just told me I shouldn’t go home because I might fall and my boob might fall off. It’s certainly not something I ever expected to hear in my life. Seriously. Try to imagine someone saying this to you with a straight face right now. Bet you can’t do it.

I’m disappointed not to go home tomorrow, but thankful they don’t shove you out the door like they seem to do in America. All day I was in a cruddy mood, even though it was quite a good day. The thought of going home tomorrow cheered me through it. I suppose that’s worth something.

The good stuff? I can already walk straighter. The bad? My muscles are SO SORE from my knees to my armpits, from walking like a 100 year old woman. It’s extremely taxing to walk in an awkward position veeery carefully all the time. Take my word for it. I wanted to complain from the moment I woke up just for the sake of it.
Other good stuff? They took out my neck IV. And two tubes. Jen came in just in time to get a thorough grossing out hold my hand through it, thank goodness. I have quite a mixed audience reading at the moment, some of whom might not appreciate the gory details. Just a warning that I will tell them later. (C’mon! I’ve got the best stories now! Of course I’m going to tell them!)

Resting time again. My dear sister has peeled and seeded grapes for me to eat. I’m going to go enjoy the upside of being here….Actually, it’s because I still get woozy quite often. I am assured this is due to 13 hours of anesthesia. It’s weird, and the only thing that makes me so amenable to staying another day (because we know what happens if people get woozy and pass out!).

A few details I’ve just remembered: The recliner was found in the jungles of eBay and so kindly delivered to my house today after all – Huge thanks to Bert and his parents for their time and effort. I did find a massager before surgery (and luckily brought it with me) It has been a real relief since I have to stay in the same position all the time. Thanks to Sanne for your help finding a chair. And to WhyMommy and the thoughtful readers of hers who have taken the time to stop by to read.

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Filed under breast cancer, humor, life, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery, this time THIS year

getting a word in

just sayin hi here. i see my sister and dear bf have been doing a nice job keeping you up to date. tuesday and weds were just unbelieveably crappy. but today is sooooo much better. and, of course, it helps that the results already look fabulous. i expected to be horrified by the bloody bruises and swelling for a few weeks. but there’s none of that here! they’re awesome! now i understand why reconstructed women insist on lifting up their shirts to everyone (though i promised myself a long tome ago i would not be one of those women, so no worries!).

my assessment of this country’s medical  care as top notch is untarnished. but my sister and i keep saying there is an interesting contrast of forward-thinking and middle ages medicine. namely, they have me on nothing but asprine at this point. i’m not too happy with that. the pain is not so bad. but i think knowing that there’s something stronger waiting in the wings is important. all my US friends that did this had vicodin and what-have-you at the ready.

i hate to be short, but this has already tired me out. i still get head woozy-ness here and there. weird and fatiguing. But i’ve made it through the worst of it. if i complain, just remind me of that sweet fact: the worst is behind me.

PS. thank you so much for you comments and messages. they mean so much!

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Filed under breast cancer, life, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery, this time LAST year

Back in the saddle

Reporting live from Leuven –

Sarah sat in a chair today for half an hour! Sources close to the patient say she regained much of her original color after happy hour around 4:30 local time. A pint of Ye Olde A- put the roses back in her cheeks and pushed that nagging headache out of the way. The patient’s mysterious English love interest snuck past paparazzi with a large boquet of flowers early in the afternoon and wasn’t seen leaving until after 9:00. A nurse who has worked closely with the patient reports she was wearing her own pyjamas early this morning. She also claims that the patient’s lunch tray came back with half the chicken breast, half the salad, and a whole yogurt missing. As her sister was in the cafeteria at the time, odds are that Sarah actually ate these things herself!

We in the newsroom have confirmed that the patient sat in a chair for a full thirty minutes and instructed friends and family on back-massage and hair-combing technique. She spoke in long, loud sentences for stretches of up to 10 minutes. She was not up to receiving phone calls today but insisted that the mobile phone stay in her room tonight “just in case.” Dr. Awesome made a cameo appearance and pronounced that tomorrow’s show would be “much much better” than today’s. Apparently, “opening night” is always the the worst.

Inside sources report that the pain meds have not been entirely satisfactory, but since the blood pressure is back to normal, the patient may be able to choose new representation in that department. Rumour has it that several hours of varying quality television offered distraction tonight and the patient felt sleepy enough to turn off the TV in the middle of a particularly gripping episode of House M.D. and go to sleep. Dammit.

A nurse in-the-know told this reporter that ensuring a good blood supply and preventing blood clots in the new blood vessels is the most precarious part of recovery, and most critical in the first 48 hours. I’m not entirely sure what day it is, but the faint thumping coming from the clubs of this cozy college town is a good indicator that it is indeed midnight on Thursday and we have passed the two-day test with flying colors.

I hope the readership of this fine publication will forgive the low quality of this reporting, but the pressure of this situation has brought insiders to their knees. We have watched so many medical professionals of all sizes, shapes, and colors walk into the room, unbutton my sister’s shirt, poke, prod, squint and then pronounce “perfection” as they walk away with smiles of satisfaction, delight, and the feeling of a job well done. It is like the setup of a joke happening in front of my eyes again and again. I keep waiting for a priest, a rabbi, and Bill Clinton to walk into the room…

We are forbidden to crack a joke until she can laugh without having stomach pain!!

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Filed under reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery

All over but the cryin’

Sarah’s sister here tonight, reporting live from the bedside. I rolled in about 3:30 this afternoon and I have to say she looked a lot better than I had imagined. A little pale and sleepy. The IV is in her neck, which is disconcerting at first. And she looks about nine years old lying in that bed with the covers piled on her and all of those tubes coming out from under the covers. Yeah they did a lot of stuff to that little girl. I’ve seen a bit of the areas they worked on and they don’t look scary, but there is a lot of bandage going on.

She slept mostly and sipped water. She smiled dreamily at each new well-wisher’s SMS or call and the kisses and “I love yous” I passed on. Her bp was a little low, so there were extra fluids in the IV. She was a little warm, but the nurse insisted the new and improved bits must stay warm. There is a portable ultrasound that they probe with to make sure the new blood supply is good, and all was proclaimed “perfect” by Dr. Awesome and the plastic surgeon.

About 7 she started having pain (feeling all the sutures, and she said they felt “heavy”.) The nurse gave her a stronger pain med instead of the usual one at 8 pm. She felt much worse within 5 minutes and started to feel that anxiety that comes with believing you are going to be in serious pain for the next god-only-knows-how-many hours. We put the iPod on with Handel’s Water Music. This bad period coincided with the roommate returning from her surgery and having extremely loud visitors and phonecalls. I hope it was more the sudden break in the peace that caused the anxiety as much as anything and that the visitor-free night will help return her to the calm rest she had all day. Her bf called and she was too tired to talk but wanted to know if his out-of-town business was successful.

Dr. Awesome’s visit was about 15 minutes after the pain started in earnest and he promised that the meds would kick in, and a sedative would come soon, and tomorrow would be much better than today. I think that helped. She said the music helped. Somewhere in track 18 of Handel she thought she would try to take out the earphones and get some rest.

The nurse says I can’t go back ’till 1 pm. If you’re reading this today, close your eyes and tap your ruby red slippers together three times and wish her a blissful sleep tonight.

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Filed under reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery

Back in the hospital…

Hi everyone, Del here (Sarah’s boyfriend). Sarah went into hospital yesterday and was taken for surgery this morning. It’s a long procedure – the operation will take around 8 hours and she’ll be back in her room recovering tomorrow. I can see her for 15 minutes this evening but I don’t expect Sarah to be very lucid (as opposed to the last time she came out of surgery, when the first thing she did was to crack a joke).

She’s been pretty worried about this one but has been as strong as ever: my Ma called Sarah twice over the weekend and Sarah got a little teary both times, resulting in Sarah, ridiculously, calling herself a “cry-baby”.  Even this morning she was great and determinedly cut her toe-nails as a last-minute preparation before being taken to the operating theatre.

There’s been good news too, in the form of Tina, the lady sharing a room with Sarah. Tina had a similar, if not quite as large, operation last week and is recovering very quickly. 5 of her 6 tubes were removed during the first week post-surgery and she has no trouble getting up and walking around. Hopefully, this bodes well for how Sarah will recover.

That’s it for me and the next post will be Sarah (we just have to figure out how to access the hospital’s wifi network), unless she manages to say something unexpectedly humorous again when I see her this evening…

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To the Hospital

Off we go!

Man, I’m being kindof a baby about all this! But thak goodness by this time tomorrow I’ll be plugging my way through the worst of the days and I’ll be home before the plants need watering. That’s not so bad.

As promised, I will try to have Del drop an update here for those of you that will be checking here for  news.

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Filed under breast cancer, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), surgery, this time THIS year

Now’s when it’s frustrating to do this abroad

So with 48 hours to go until I enter the hospital, Del and I spent all day trying to get the last things in order. The most important thing for me to get is a reclining chair for my home recovery. I’d also like back massager. If I were in America this would all take 2 hours. I’d get in my car, drive to one of a gajillion furniture stores and pick up a recliner. (Assuming I didn’t borrow one from the plenty of people I must know who have one.) Then I’d go to the mall, walk into Sharper Image and get myself a massager. Of course, I could probably just go to Walmart/Target.

But here? Life’s not not that convenient. I have no idea where to find either. And they’ll be pricey. Oh, and I don’t have a car. Usually I love this. But not today, as the stores we need are always outside of town and not easily accessible by public transport.

First, I wrote to all my Belgian friends asking if anyone knew anyone with a chair that we could borrow. If not, where could I buy one? I didn’t even know what stores might have one. Guess what? The Belgians didn’t know where to get these things either.

I did (not surprisingly) receive generous offers to take me to get one if I could figure out where, or to transport one if I found it elsewhere. Del and I thought we had scored big time when ebay Belgium had one – perfect price, perfect condition, even electric. We won it!….but it turns out that the guy who sold it was doing so for a friend. The number he gave us for her does not appear to be correct and we’ve heard nothing further. Typical. Grrrr!

So today Del and I went on a search for a new one. It took all day. First we went to IKEA. Rejoiced when we found a couple that (were much more expensive and less perfect, but) would suffice. However, we can’t get it with less than 6 weeks notice. We then took the bus further and further outside of Brussels where a lot of effort and searching led us to only one furniture store offering the chairs. In the $1200-$2500 range, and not even that great. Double grrrr!

I can only hope that the ebay people come through at the last minute. Doubtful, but I have to be optimistic. Anyhow, other than these 2 things, I’ve prepared myself for the surgery with:

• face cloths (for easy face cleaning)

• large, loose clothing (that I can wear comfortably and also bleed on)

• an iPod full of movies that my boyfriend wouldn’t see (thanks, sis!)

• a pile of good books

• A lighter (to burn my falsie in celebration when I need a cheer up!)

• I’m expecting the the hospital will give me something to carry my ton-o-tubes. (?)

UPDATE:  • oh, and fans (The kind that Spanish women use.) – to combat the (recently harsh) hot flashes.

I wonder, if I sit in the bath allllll day tomorrow, you think it would hold me over till I can properly shower again? Hmmm. It might be relaxing to try anyway.

Am I forgetting anything? Anyone having tips for things that might prepare me/make me more comfortable, I’m eager for suggestions! Thanks!

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Filed under breast cancer, surgery, this time THIS year