Sunday, October 22, 2017

A New Chapter

Liz, my dear friend, nurse, sister, mother, and psychologist, opened her home again so that she could nurse me back to health again after my breast reconstruction/reduction. 

This time, I stayed in her son Grant’s man cave in the basement since he’s now rooming with some friends at UK.   She stocked the fridge and cupboard (all in the man cave) with all my favorites: chocolate covered bananas, Oikos Triple Zero Yogurt w/ Redi-Whip, fixins for grilled cheese and Tomato Basil Soup,  tons of fruit, a basket of strawberry cheesecake Quest Protein Bars, corn chips and guacamole, and a pint of Gelato.  What more does a girl need?  Sheesh. I was only staying for a few days!  I knew Jeff had a crazy week scheduled. It made much more sense to stay with my newly retired friend.   Besides, I knew if I stayed home, Henry and Annie would be jumping on my chest.

Liz drove me to the hospital where we promptly arrived at 5:30 a.m.   We walked back to registration where an attractive lady introduced herself, “I’m Rose and I’ll be getting you registered.”  I introduced Liz to Rose and told her that she would be the one driving me home that day.  Rose asked all the usual questions about my address, next of kin, and whether I had a living will.  She smiled when I told her I lived in Prestonsburg.   She used to as well, but she moved away decades ago.  That’s usually the case.  No one ever moves from Lexington to Prestonsburg…except me. Never met anyone, actually.  I asked Rose her last name and who she married there.  Get this. His last name is Rose.  The woman’s name was Rose Rose.  Introducing yourself to anyone would be like Who’s on First?  Liz and I talked her ear off and she said, “Girls, I have 8 minutes to check you in.  They’re waiting on you upstairs, Ann.”  Well, alrighty then.

More nurses came in to ask me my health history.  Again, I was sailing through the questions with no’s until we got to the cancer box. Yes. Breast. 2013. Lumpectomy. Chemo. Radiation. Medications? Tamoxifen because I was estrogen receptor positive and Effexor because it helps with the hot flashes caused by the Tamoxifen.  The nurse said, “I had breast cancer ten years ago and haven’t had a recurrence …BUT... I was just a few months away from ending my 5-year Tamoxifen protocol and I was diagnosed with liver poisoning as a result of the Tamoxifen.  I have cirrhosis. Never drank in my life. I’m on the waiting list for a new liver.”  Well great.  The new protocol is ten years, no doubt so that the drug companies can make double the profits.  I couldn’t focus on such negativity. I had to go into surgery with a positive attitude.   No problem. The anesthesiologist’s assistant came in with some happy serum.

 It was just in time because Dr. Schantz arrived with his purple pen to draw a playground on my chest.   He walked in, all smiles, as always, and sat on the rolling stool by the bed.  Thanks to the happy serum, I didn’t much care that I had to stand up buck naked in front of him while he drew all over my chest or how he was squeezing my boobs together to determine how much he could remove but still have some cleavage.   Then I saw it. It was a bright greenish yellow banana sticking out of his white coat and God help me I said it, “Is that a banana in your pocket or are you happy to see me?”  The room of about six people died laughing.  Dr. Schantz's face turned beat red and I apologized.  So, I asked myself, “If I had the wits about me to apologize, why in the world would I ask such a question?” Good medication was the only answer.

I’ve had many surgeries.  I always do great before and after, but there is one part where I don’t do so well.  When they wheel you to the surgery room and there are bright lights blinding you. The surgeon is scrubbing in, they scoot you onto the actual table, you sometimes get a glimpse of the instruments covered with a cloth. That’s when I usually start hyperventilating and the doctor nods to the anesthesiologist (to knock me out before I take off running).

At UK Health Care (Formerly Good Samaritan), there was no long trip on the gurney to surgery. I was out right after the banana comment.  Don’t remember anything after the laughter.  I guess they thought I was dangerous after that moment!
What a way to go, if that had happened, and thank God it didn’t.  I had made a room full of people laugh on my way out of this world.

As always, I woke up hungry. It had been something like 20 hours since my last bite and I was starving.  The recovery nurse had just left to get me some ice chips. She was gone about 20 seconds and I decided to get myself together and search for food.   I was still hooked to an IV so I struggled to tie the hospital gown in the back. Impossible. I grabbed the gown with my left hand to keep it closed in the back and pushed the IV pole with my right.   I bumped into the nurse as she walked in with the ice chips.  “Whoa. Where are you going?” she asked me, like she hadn’t just heard me beg for a cheeseburger.  “I was just going to try to find the cafeteria.”  Now, I remember that conversation clearly, but for the life of me I can’t imagine what I thought I would do when I got there. I had no money. If I did, I’d have to let go of my hospital gown in the back. Hmmm. A dilemma I didn’t have to solve, thankfully.

She said, “Once you’ve walked around and gone to the bathroom, then you can go home. Boy, you’re a feisty one.”  I told her I didn’t have to go. I was under for over 4 hours. I should have to go. She said they cathed me while I was under.  How smart. They know when to do all the traumatizing events…when you’re under!

Liz came like the hero she is and took me to Chick fil-A.    Best chicken sandwich ever.    Liz didn’t order anything. Whaaat? Who can go to Chick fil-A and not order anything?  She just wasn’t hungry yet.  Wow. I think her last meal was the same time as mine.
She took me back to her house and helped me to bed. 

Lauren brought the babies over after work and seeing the three of them took my mind off my discomfort.  Liz said, “The doctor said she has to wait 48 hours before taking a shower.”  Both of them howled with laughter.  I take a shower every morning and a bath every night without fail.  I’m either the cleanest or the dirtiest person I know.  I guess if you have to have some slight form of OCD, twice a day showers/baths is probably pretty benign. Lauren says, “I’ll bet she can’t do it. I’ll bet money.” 

Friday was supposed to be the big reveal (at the doctor) but I couldn’t stand it.  I was a literal bloody mess and needed to redress the bandages.  I came out of surgery in a bra, well…a vest. A very tight vest that zipped up the front.

A couple of hours after Lauren left I said,  “Get me out of this, Liz. I can’t stand it!”  I’m sure both of us were grateful for her carpet-free basement those few days.  I unzipped the bra expecting a layer of gauze and tape.  There were a few gauze pads stuck to the underside of my breasts and surgical tape (about two feet total) covering all the incisions.  We threw out the gauze and stared at the new girls.  Although they’re supposed to be C’s, they seem much smaller to me.  I was used to D’s.  Liz and I both gasped when we saw them.

I must get to the gym.  My new perky Franken-boobs look like they belong on an 18 year-old! Who could complain, you might be wondering?   No complaints, but imagine wearing a pajama pants with some Manolo Blahnik stillettos or investing in a state of the art sound system in your 30 year-old El Camino.  The new girls must match not only each other but the rest of me!
So, I’m allowed to do strength training after November 10.  For once, I’m looking forward to it.