Friday, September 9, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

The past two days have been a blur, as you can imagine.  I'm on painkillers (Jeff is spinning a little as I'm typing this), so you'll have to forgive any incoherent sentences or thoughts in this post.  Maybe it's the drugs, the experience, or exhaustion, but my last few days have been very similar to The Wizard of Oz.  Part of it is in sepia, and part in technicolor.  I'll try to share as many details as I remember, and get you "up to speed" on the details.

First, THANK YOU to my incredible guest blogger, Adelia.  Her post was great, and I hope you enjoyed reading it!  (Adelia generally edits my posts after writing, so she is very familiar with my blogging process.)  Hopefully, I can convince my daughter to write additional posts and share her thoughts with you, as cancer is a diagnosis that affects the entire family.

 We reported to the hospital at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, and were assigned a room in the day hospital. 

There, I received a fabulous new outfit!  As Arleigh would say, they certainly didn't match!

 As with the entire experience at Coliseum, everyone was so nice and attentive.  I felt like royalty.  Two special nurses  kept coming in checking on me and my family. One is a fellow band-mom and the other is a relative of a co-worker.  The fact that they took the effort to seek me out and ask if my family or I needed anything made me feel very special.  Thank you ladies!

About 10:00 a.m., Dr. Martin came in, carrying a little radioactive lunchbox...or that's what it looked like.  (Kind of reminded me of my old Snoopy lunchbox that I had in elementary school.)  He cleared the room, and then injected the tumor and right breast with a radioactive material.  I have a fairly high pain threshold, and it was painful!!!  Dr. Martin apologized, and said that was the most he would hurt me all day.  The injection itself wasn't painful, but as the material spread throughout, it was agony and brought tears to my eyes.  Dr. Martin was ahead of schedule at that time, and stated it...well, you know what happened thing led to another, and finally around noon they took me to the area "waiting" for surgery.

 In the waiting area, I really wished I had my cell phone with me.  Dr. Martin had to come in and initial the "area to be removed, per hospital policy.  That would have certainly been a "Kodak Moment"...there is my black and blue breast (still bruised from the biopsy three weeks earlier), and he has to write "KM" on it.  Like I said, it was a Kodak moment.  I had to wait for what seemed like forever in the surgical waiting bay.  Lots of women were in labor, and it seemed as if every anesthesiologist was busy putting in an epidural somewhere in the hospital.  I finally had my anesthesia consult, and then it was show time!

Another nurse wheeled me from the surgical waiting area into the operating room.  I remember going through double doors, into the operating room, and seeing my nurse anesthetist (because she had a funky skull cap on).  There was another surgeon in the room (I think I recognized him as a plastic guy, asking something about staples) and that's all I remember!  (Guess this would be the end of the sepia part in The Wizard of Oz.)

Cue music, and then I open my eyes in the recovery room, and everything is in technicolor!  (Did you know that it is no longer called "recovery", but "PACU"?)  PACU is the acronym used for Post-Anesthesia Care Unit.  I remember waking up, then Jeff being there.  After a while, my Mom, Adelia and Daddy all came in to see me, also.  As time passed, we are told there was no room on the postpartum floor (where mastectomy patients are usually placed after surgery), so I would be put in a room on the surgical floor.  (Remember earlier, when all of the anesthesiologists were busy putting in epidurals???)

I do remember speaking with Dr. Martin in PACU.  He was very pleased with the amount of skin he was able to save, and even mentioned that he told Dr. Powell (the Plastic Surgeon) that he left him a good bit for reconstruction.  Dr. Martin said that he expected my cancer to be staged at IIA, (but then he said he heard I already knew that!)  He also put a compression bandage on my chest after surgery, which is not usually done.  Apparently during the radioactive tests, five nodes absorbed the dye.  Of those, two lymph nodes were positive.  During surgery, six lymph nodes were removed from under my right arm.  (I'm still fuzzy on all of this, and will get clarification during next week's appointment).  Just because there were cells in those lymph nodes, Dr. Martin stressed it did not mean there were cancer cells elsewhere. 

I was placed in my hospital room around 5:00 p.m., and this sign was directly at the foot of my bed.  Thing were going ok, pain was minimal, and then the nausea began.  Anesthesia always makes me nauseated, so they administer extra meds during surgery and after.  I've learned this the hard way through the years with dental, sinus and even my tubal ligation surgery.  (If you haven't experienced the terrifying experience of vomiting after surgery, I pray you never do.)

I began getting sicker and sicker.  They were administering nausea meds, in addition to Demerol, but it just wasn't working that well.  It would come on, and then ease off.  One nurse even had me "sniffing" alcohol pads.  She recently read a study where the smell of alcohol helped with nausea, and I have to admit that there were numerous times throughout the night that it did help ease my nausea. A call to Dr. Martin late Wednesday evening added some additional nausea medicine, but it was still a very long, long night.  (How I longed for some Phenergan.  Did you know that it is not used in hospital IVs, due to damage sustained when administered via veins?). 
After a very, very, very long night, my pain medication was changed, as perhaps the vomiting was due to a reaction to the Demerol.  Dr. Martin came in for morning rounds, and was very pleased with the incision, and removed the compression bandage.  He said I was ready to go home and rest!  After Dr. Martin's visit, a representative from Chichesters (a local medical supply business) brought my surgical camisole, a medical case worker and Kim, my Oncology Nurse Navigator, all came to visit around the same time.  Kim continues to impress me with each visit, and this one was no different.  (She even took over "basin duty" from my Mom and Jeff, during several of my episodes while visiting.)

A change was made to my pain medication, and we were able to leave the hospital around 11:15 a.m.  I had on my new breast insert, inside my post-operative camisole, as we left the hospital.  On the way home, I took a Phenergan, per Doctor's orders.

Saying "Thank You" for your prayers and support is just not adequate, as I finish this first phase of my breast cancer treatment.  My next appointment with Dr. Martin is Thursday, September 15 at 1:40 p.m.

 We finally made it home, and just like Dorothy, I had to admit that  "there's no place like home!"


Dana said...

Glad to see you were able to write, and also glad you are feeling better.
We will continue to pray and will look forward to keep hearing good news!!!! ♥

tracy said...

hey hun, glad to hear you are considerably better, i completely understand about pain meds, they do the same thing to me. It is the worst! I know you have got to be feeling better to be in your own bed in your gown, listening to your family's noise rather than hospital sounds. and no i didnt know that phinagin wasn't used in IV's, guess u learn something new everyday. :)

Laura said...

so wonderful to know that you are home and being treated as the princess that you are...looking forward to reading your next post...prayers for you...

Mable Anderson said...

Shelby, I am so relieved to know that your surgery went well. I have been praying earnestly for you. I will now pray for your speedy recovery! It seems like God is already showing His miraculous power! It is evident in your words. Thanks for being so courageous and for being such a wonderful example to us all! Love ya!