So, the time had come. I could not avoid it any longer. The doctors were going to cut the cancer out of me. Literally. I did not want to have the operation, who want's surgery? Yet, in order to live, I had to. I was not scared, but I was dreading it in my own way. It was going to be major surgery, a 6 hour operation, involving a cancer team and a plastic surgeon team. I was worried about the pain after, the recovery time and the scars. I knew I was in the best hands possible. And in many ways, the morning of the operation, I just wanted to get on with it.
Photo of me on the morning of the operation.
I was fasting from midnight the night before. Jennifer my cousin came in to see me that morning and the time went quickly. Jason Kelly, the Plastic Surgeon, marked me for the operation and it all felt a bit surreal. I guess, in many ways though, it did make it all real. I felt like an animal being marked for the slaughter!
They were going to cut a semi-circle under my nipple and also a cut was required to the right of my breast.
A large cut was needed to get under my arm and move the muscle from my back to my breast.
My poor back was in for some serious chopping!!!
This marking worried me the most. I had not really realized up to this point that the part of my back that needed to be removed in order to rebuild my breast was going to be this big. I was so concerned about the actual reconstruction of my breast that I had largely forgotten about my back.
I was gowned up and ready for theatre. At midday, I was wheeled down in my bed. It was finally here. I knew all the staff in the theatre as I had been there in July, 2011 for a nipple biopsy and a sentenional node biopsy. They welcomed me back and I must admit, the atmosphere was very pleasant down there. I was still scared, but I choose to laugh rather than cry. As always, Dr. Norma was by my side. I was so confident in her abilities and I trusted her with everything. At 1:30 pm, I was in theatre 7, being administered with the anesthetic. I started to count backwards from 10, dreaming of a warm, sandy beach, thinking, when I wake up, this will all be over. I conked out after number 7.
I was so out of it when I started coming round that I thought they were still operating. My eyes were heavy and I ached all over. I did not have one location of pain, more of an overall feeling of being hit by a truck. I was still in the theatre and the clock read 7 pm. It was done. I was wheeled into the recovery room and given oxygen. I was completely spaced out. I felt sick. I could not sit up in the bed. My back was in bits. I was extremely weak. Everything had gone according to plan. I had had a successful skin and nipple saving mastectomy with an LD reconstruction with a breast implant and an uplift.. The cancer was gone.
The nurses were amazing. They took extreme care of me and I felt safe in their hands. I could not move in the bed and they helped me to move anytime I needed to readjust myself. At 10 pm I was wheeled back into my ward. I did not sleep well. I felt nauseous from the morphine. My back in particular was sore. I woke very often that night. I was hot and cold. I was empty wreaching. It was unpleasant but not unbearable.
The next day, I had improved considerably. I came off the morphine and I was able to move around the ward myself. I ate breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was just so happy that it was all done.
My right breast the day after the operation.
The three drains that I had to drain away fluid from the wounds.
The three drains.
My right breast was very swollen and bruised after the operation.
The dressing on my back after the operation.
My right side after the operation.
Dave and the children came to see me on the Saturday after my operation. I was thrilled to see them. As a mother, I felt guilty for being away from the children for such a long length of time.
Every day I felt stronger. I ate well and I had lots of visitors. The time went quickly.
I even got a take away from 4 Star Pizza one night!
And my cousin Jennifer came to see me every day!
I really wanted to go home but the drains had to come out first. They were the weirdest thing's ever!!!
Two of the drains removed. One remaining. Note how they are stitched onto the skin. Disgusting or what!
The fluid in the drain when it was removed. I could not believe how much of the drain was actually under my skin. It was the strangest feeling ever having them removed. It actually tickled at times! And yes, I did laugh out loud!
The bandages when the drains were removed.
One drain remaining. The swelling of the breast is going down.
One drain remaining.
No drains. But three holes in my skin!
The bandages the day I came home. My breast is still very bruised and "yellow".
I actually got out of hospital early. I was released on Wednesday, the 14th of September, 2011. I felt really good, I had come off all medication and I was in great form. And I felt that I would recover better at home. The journey home hurt. Every bump on the road was agony. My back was the main area of pain. My breast was fine. I was thrilled to be back. We all went to the Copper Kettle Cafe in Castletownbere when I got home. I was starving. It was so nice to see everyone and people were so supportive.
The hospital staff were amazing for the duration of my stay. I will never forget my week in CUH, Cork.
On Sunday, the 18th of September, 2011, Dave, myself and the two children went for a drive out to Allihies and walked along the beach. I was far from right but, by God, was I one happy woman to be alive!