October 5th 2015- Mastectomy

05/10/15-Hospital ward: Here it is then. The beginning of the treatment. The beginning of the end of the me that I am now. Today I give up a few of my cells in the hope that gives me more of a tomorrow.

Saying au revoir to my two beloved friends who have travelled up from down South to nurse me back to health over the coming days is not as difficult as I’d thought, not least of all because yesterday, shortly after their arrival at Recuperation Central, they buggered off to the pub without me whilst I was helping my elderly neighbour with some shopping!!! I’m beginning to wonder about their care credentials!

…in truth though…as we walk to the end of the ward together we are like a troupe of bewildered antelope sensing danger but unable to work out quite which direction it is coming from and so we just mill about a bit at the entrance, ill equipped by our lives thus far to know quite what the appropriate etiquette might be for this situation. They not wanting to leave-me not wanting to stay.

But stay I do. After they have gone, after the curtains are drawn around me I stand and take in my cubicle. My name written in red marker on a white board above the chair. A blue plastic belongings box on the thin and regimental bed. An empty wheeled bed table. Clinical, perfunctory.

I take out my music player and plug in my earphones- Birdy comforts me as she walks with spiders and I know how she feels…

“It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders
It’s a terrible love and I’m walking in…its quiet company”

(Aaron B. Dessner, Matthew D. Berninger.)

I put my good luck mascot on the pillow and sit on the chair and wait.
The blue tulips dance on the curtains as the hospital ward goes about its business outside ticking us off, checking us in, tagging our wrists, recording our obs!

Cocooned in the relative calm of my internal world I attempt to balance my emotional accounts. I love life. I don’t want to die. I love my body. I don’t want to put it through treatment. My cells have broken. They can’t be mended. My cancer cells have to die for me to live. My body is a battle ground. The war is with myself. The treatment is on my side.

‘It’s a terrible love and I’m walking with spiders’

I venture out for a pee and find I’m the only antisocial git on this arm of the ward. My patient neighbours are all sitting curtains open staring nervously out into the room- not I might add making any conversation. But maybe none is required? Perhaps just being able to see each other is sufficient comfort for them? It’s interesting to me how different their needs seem from mine. I need to wall myself in with the blue dancing tulips to block out the hospital sights. I need to deafen myself with Birdy to block out the hospital sounds.

This self built sanctuary provides me with the air I need to keep breathing.

Enter visitor number one: my breast care nurse- on request I provide my name, date of birth and type of treatment I’m expecting. No to allergies, history of heart disease, stroke or thrombotic clots.

She talks me through the post surgery physio, provides me with a ‘softie’, support leaflets and follow up information then leaves.

…and breathe.

Enter visitor number two: my consultant anaesthetist- on request I provide my name, date of birth and type of treatment I’m expecting. No to allergies, history of heart disease, stroke or thrombotic clots.

He will use lots of additional local anaesthetic on the plus side this reduces the need for morphine afterwards on the minus side there’s a risk of infection at the needle site and of puncturing my lung!!! He points to where I need to sign then leaves.

…and breathe.

Enter visitor number three: my consultant surgeon- on request I provide my name, date of birth and type of treatment I’m expecting…she smiles and asks if I’m ready to do this- I feel that what would be appropriate here would be to match her enthusiasm with a little fist pump and a shout of “Yeah!” but my humour is hiding in my blue plastic belongings box and so I say simply and truthfully “Not really, is anyone ever ready to do this?” Its probably my imagination but I think she seems a little disappointed with my lack of commitment!

She marks my left breast with an arrow then leaves.

Time to dye!

The curtain flutters as my ward nurse enters, the busy buzz of the hospital in her wake. I follow her instructions, take off my top and put on my surgical gown. I’m allowed to keep the rest of my clothes on for now but I need to hurry. I climb aboard the wheelchair, yes wheelchair and am driven by a politically disgruntled porter quite literally around the corner.

He fails to find my quip about a seatbelt anywhere near as humorous as I believe it to be. He parks me up and leaves my notes on reception at the Medical Physics Department where I am booked to be injected with a radioactive dye.

I wait.
I wait.
I wait.

The injections are on their way but are currently stuck in traffic.

I wait.
I’m cold, I’m tired, I’m hungry. I’m wearing a surgical gown in a room filled with fully clothed out patients. I feel small. I feel pathetic. I feel pissy!

I get my injection then wait for another Chauffeur to collect me.
I wait.
I wait.

And then the meltdown begins.

I don’t want to travel in a wheelchair. I want to walk back. I know the way. I’m not going in a wheelchair. They can’t make me. I’m a grown woman. It’s not fair. I cant breathe. I need to get out. I have to go.

Tears prickling I rush to find somewhere to be. A sanctuary. A safe place. I need to be on my own. I need to quell this storm before it breeches.

I find the toilet.

Door locked crouching on the floor I sob.

Moments pass. I rise to my feet. I splash cold water on my face and face myself in the mirror. Get a grip girl you have bigger things to get through today than sitting on a wheelchair. So I get a grip and I take a deep breath and I take my seat back in the waiting room.

My return journey porter is a warm cheerful chap who listens to my grumbles with an understanding ear and as we reach my ward I’m tired and ready to just give in and do as I’m told when I discover events have moved on in my absence.

Theatre have been calling for me. My bed has already been taken. I have to go now.

But I’m still in my clothes. No time to change-do it there.
But what about my clot socks? No time-do it there.

So we’re striding down the corridors and I’m taking off my boots and I’m pulling on the socks and I’m climbing on the bed and I’m giving out my details and I’m watching all the lights and I’m moving through the rooms and for one last time on request I provide my name, date of birth and type of treatment I’m expecting. No to allergies, history of heart disease, stroke or thrombotic clots.


3 thoughts on “October 5th 2015- Mastectomy

  1. Radish – I think this is the time to write a book, not just a blog (although it’s not just a blog). This is heart felt, it’s real and it’s inspirational! You should write more, and definitely about this so that others will and can understand more about the dreaded C word! xx


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