So, Wednesday, I went to the hospital to have my procedure. I guess in the overall picture, it was just a more extensive biopsy. Basically, the surgeon was going to go back into where they did the first biopsy and get the rest of the “atypical” cells. I don’t know why they just didn’t do that in the first place, but oh, well. I am not one to question the vagaries of the health care system. (Hmm, yes, I am, but that’s another post….).
As you know, when you have anything done in a hospital, you must be there before the sun comes up. Could be a law, I don’t know. Ever the prompt one, I get to the admitting desk at 6:50, sign my paperwork, and get the dreaded arm band clamped on. I hate things around my wrist–I quit wearing watches decades ago because of it, and I beg the woman not to make it too tight. She wants to argue, but I am much bigger than she is, so she makes it looser. Then G. and I are assigned to a rather grumpy old man who leads us to where another volunteer is waiting to take me up to the 2nd floor “holding area”. This is the day surgery “wheel”. I call it that because it’s an area were the nurses’ station is in the middle, and all the little holding rooms are around it like spokes on a, well, like a wheel. I’m the first one in, which is encouraging. Of course, waiting for me in a heap on the bed is the lovely hospital attire. My nurse, Janie (lovely woman), tells me to get into it, put all my stuff in the bag provided, and then pull back the curtain to let everyone know that I am now undressed. Sweet. Then, Janie’s “helper” comes in and “fixes up” my back-of-the-hand IV, so it will be ready for whatever they want to pump through it. I’ve had only a few hospital procedures, but the back-of-the-hand IV is by far the most hateful, IMHO. However, she uses a lidocaine needle first, and at least I can’t feel the nasty needle (yet) that is trying to poke its way out of the thin skin on the back of my left hand. Ugh! That takes about 30 seconds, and then I sit on the bed and wait for her to come back and take my history. I gave all of this when I was in this same hospital having a colonoscopy barely a month ago, but I answer all the questions anyway. Then she outlines what is going to happen (which I already know, but I listen politely anyway).
1. I will go down to Mammography and be “targeted”. That is, they will yet again smash and grab my boob that is still sore from the first biopsy, find the little “chip” they left in it, and then proceed to stick a wire into the poor boob so that the surgeon will know exactly where to go and not have to dig around in there any more than necessary. I’m all for that, but not looking forward to being mashed again. I have had some trouble with the biopsy site, and it’s still draining. I had called the surgeon’s office 2 days before this to let them know, but after I described what I was doing and what it looked like, the nurse said it would be okay. Still, I’m a little concerned that I have this ugly punch-looking hole on the underside of my tit. And I don’t want it hurt again.
2. After they place the wire, then I’ll wait my turn for the OR, and the doc will then go in and take out the rest of the naughty cells and the “chip”, and stitch me up nicely. (And then, I tell myself, I will diligently avoid all smashing and grabbing of boobs [except for G] for the next decade.)
In the meantime, there’s lots of waiting. Apparently, there was some kind of computer maintenance and/or a fire drill (or are they the same thing?), and the TVs aren’t working. That’s fine, G and I just sit and talk. Then, suddenly, 2 women roll into the room, one with a bottle of lotion and one with a guitar. “Would you like some music?” asks the one with the guitar. “Would you like a massage?” asks the one with the lotion. “Are you going to sing to me?” I ask. The woman with the guitar nods vigorously, and begins to open a big notebook full of sheet music. I am beginning to feel like Alice without benefit of eating a mushroom. The other woman is standing by expectantly with her lotion. “Far be it from me to pass up a back rub and a serenade,” I say, and off they go. Apparently, they are the beneficiaries of some kind of grant studying music/massage therapy and the effects on people pre-surgery. So, I get a couple of James Taylor oldies, and a nice back rub, and off they go to the next person. I still haven’t quite caught up to them by the time they are gone.
Shortly after that, here comes a woman with a wheelchair ready to take me down to mammography to get my boob pierced with a wire. Note: If you ever think you want anything pierced, have a medical procedure done first. That’ll cure you! Anyway, the lady with the wheelchair looks familiar, and when I tell her, I realize she’s the one who did my mammogram just a few weeks ago. I get ready to get up, and realize I’m now in my less-than-modest “gown”. She says I can put my pants back on if I want to. Then she looks at me and says, “You did wear pants, didn’t you?” It’s too much. I shake my head sadly and say, “No, I wore this, I had a hospital gown at home.” For about 3 seconds, she believes me then we both crack up. G. helps me get into my pants so I won’t snag the IV thing out of my hand, and then I get into the chair.
Down in mammography, Connie tells me that now they’re going to “compress” my boob with a little plate that has a hole in it, and based on pictures, and the grid that’s on the plate, the doc will come in and “place the needle”. That sounds so much more delicate that what’s really going to happen. The down side is, that I will be squashed throughout this and then they have to get me out of the plate without moving the needle. Plus, I tell her, I still HAVE a hole in my boob from the first biopsy that is not healed. Is she going to just go back in there? No, she says, she’ll go somewhat behind that. Fun times. It actually goes pretty well, but of course, when all is said and done, there’s a long wire hanging out of the underside of my boob, and folks, I’m 50 years old, and I have big boobs, and gravity sucks. I have visions of sitting around, holding my wire-pierced boob off my chest until the surgeon arrives. Connie and another nurse solve this problem neatly: Connie finds one of those cone-shaped water cooler cups, and cuts the point off. Then she threads the wire through it and puts the wide part of the cup up against the underside of my boob and tapes it in place. THEN she takes a number of plain gauze pads and tapes them in place up under my boob to lift it up enough so that the cup and wire are not caught. Brilliant woman! Then we have to gingerly wrap my gown around all that contraption so that I am covered up enough to get back up to the 2nd floor. At last! I’m ready for my close-up, Dr. Girard!
Back up to G. and the 2nd floor, where I realize…wait for it…
I’VE STARTED MY PERIOD!!! Dear God, what else? So, I tell the nurse, and she brings me what my mother always called “equipment” along with “hospital underwear” that I will be able to wear in the OR. They are these vaguely panty-looking things about the size of a postage stamp that seem to be made out of cheesecloth. Okay, if my boobs are big, my hips and butt are in proportion. But, wonder of wonders, they actually stretch enough for me to wear with my “equipment”. Another hurdle jumped.
Then, more waiting. At least now the TVs are back working, so we watch The View. Elizabeth Hasselhoff or Hasselblad or whatever her name is, is a freak. I get tired of listening to a bunch of loud women interrupting each other, even though I really love Whoppi Goldberg. Time i-n-c-h-e-s by. Every puff of air that moves through the floor seems to waft the rich, lucious scent of morning coffee under my nose, reminding me that I haven’t eaten since about 7pm the night before. Finally Janie comes and hooks me up to an IV, and I think, almost time.
Well, to cut a long story short, there was some problem in the OR, and my 10:30 procedure does not happen until nearly 2pm. The lidocaine wears off in both my hand and my boob, and I get to sit and feel every little movement of my body that shifts those needles around. This is definitely not acupuncture! They actually take me to another holding area right after G. leaves to get GS2 to preschool, so I don’t see her after 12. Then, finally, they are rolling me into the freezing OR, covering me with blankets, and the anesthesiologist that I spoke with last week says, “OK, I’m giving you some happy juice….” and the next thing I know, I’m waking up with a dry sticky mouth and a nasal cannula blowing oxygen in my face. There’s a nurse sitting next to me who asks me what day it is (Wednesday, April 30, 2008), and where I am (St. Mary Corwin Hospital). Soon I’m back in my little room with G, who tells me the surgeon (who I never saw) told her what he had done–that he had been surprised at and unaware of the unhealed biopsy site. G. told him that I had called his office and let them know about it, so I was off the hook. But, he apparently cut out all that ugly area, and pulled up the skin a bit, and now I have a nice, clean, straight incision that’s a bit longer than expected, but is already starting to heal and really has been quite painless. That other place was really nasty looking, and would have healed with a big “dent” in place. I know it’s underneath everything and won’t be seen by too many folks, but still, no one wants an ugly dent in their boob, right?
So, now I’m wearing my bra for 3 days and next week I go back for my follow up. While I’m still not convinced I really needed to go through this at all, at least it’s over with and my boobs can go back to being my own.
I wish you all healthy and happy boobs!!