Apologies in advance – this is going to be a very lengthy blog entry.
Yesterday was the big milestone that I had been building up to. I was awake at 5am (not intentionally!) and I made the most of being allowed to drink water until 6.30am. That bit was tough on me since I never go anywhere without a water bottle. By 6am I was up and getting ready. It was weird not being able to do so many things which are part of my usual routine. I wasn’t allowed to have breakfast and I could shower but wasn’t allowed to use deodorant or moisturisers.
At 7am I had said my goodbyes to both children and the cat and we drove off. The treatment centre, which was to be my base for the day, was heaving! I joined the long queue at the reception desk, recognising just one lady from the previous day in Bedford. Having shown my appointment letter I was asked to take a seat on the righthandside. My husband was allowed to stay with me up to this point. Shortly after everyone was seated, a nurse came through to announce that all relatives would need to leave and wait for a phone call later. She read out a list of patients who were going to the ward (mine included) and we set off down the corridor.
The ward was close by and I got shown to my bed by one of the nurses. No further instructions were given so I sat on the chair by the bed and waited. Luckily, I had brought some magazines to pass the time. Soon, the nurse returned and asked me to confirm my name. At this point she did a double take and showed me the wrist label she was holding, which was for another Sarah! Turns out I was in the wrong location. So, a quick move to the next bay along, fortunately still the corner seat, and the added bonus of there being fewer people. Back to reading the magazine which was literally going in one ear and straight out of the other. Hard to concentrate when your anxiety levels are up.
My next visitor was a surgeon whose first statement revealed that he was also addressing the wrong Sarah! “No, I told him, I have not had a wide local excision before, try another Sarah.” He flicked through his paperwork and finally located my form, apologising profusely. The nurse also reappeared and said there are 3 Sarahs here today so it is very confusing. Never mind that, it is not very reassuring for us Sarahs when we could end up having the wrong procedure!
The surgeon did some fancy artwork (I wondered if he was using a permanent marker pen?) to show the location of the tumour and he told me I would need to have a scan in the breast clinic and have a marker wire placed this morning. Due to the time this would take, he told me my operation would happen in the afternoon. That was disappointing news as I was on a mission to be home by the afternoon. As I had followed the instructions and not brought in my phone, I was unable to communicate any of this with my husband who was left in limbo.
Back to the magazine, no idea what I was reading, and then the nurse returned to take some details. At this point, she revealed that she could not find my pre op paperwork and would therefore need to go through all of the questions again. I duly gave the relevant details and as we approached the end of the form, another nurse appeared with my pre op paperwork! You couldn’t make it up really! I did feel sorry for her having done all this form filling for nothing. Having given all of my details and after receiving a wrist band for the right Sarah, my blood pressure was taken. It was rather high – no surprises there – but we agreed it was likely to be have been caused by the stressful situation. I was then left in peace for a while to continue reading.
A few minutes later, two new ladies joined the bay. One of them was my friend from yesterday, so the three of us proceeded to have a long chat, comparing stories about our breast cancer journeys. It turns out, my Bedford friend and I have other connections so this led to much chatting, probably much to the distress of another patient nearby who was trying to have a nap!
A nurse then popped in to tell me to change into my gown and sexy surgical socks so that I could be collected. This sounded promising so I did as I was asked and then 2 nurses appeared to collect my Bedford friend and me. Turns out we were off to the breast clinic for some scans. It was a very long wait before I was taken through for my scan. To be honest, the radiographer couldn’t fully understand why she had to do a scan when the beautiful drawing already showed the location of the tumour quite accurately. No marker wire was inserted either so it felt my time here had been wasted. A nurse came to take me back and I was told the rules are that all patients are wheeled back to the ward. I said there was no need and we had a nice walk back.
At my bedside, someone had placed a jug of water and a cup – how cruel! I decided to get stuck into a novel I had brought with me. My Bedford friend appeared back a few minutes after me, outraged at the fact that I had beaten her back up to the ward! I told her I had sprinted upstairs. In the meantime, our other friend had been taken for her procedure. Time then ground to a halt as no further checks were needed and the surgeons had gone to lunch. So there was a long wait ahead of us.
The other patients in the bay all seemed to be having a local anaesthetic rather than a general and I couldn’t help half listening to their conversations while trying to keep up with what was happening in my book. They all got taken to theatre one by one and even returned and were discharged before anyone came to see me. I was really getting fed up by now.
At 3.30pm it was finally my turn and I was wheeled along in my bed to the operating theatre, where numerous people awaited me. From there, things happened very quickly. As I had one person either side of me injecting various things, whilst also having a conversation about my job, I could not keep up with what was going on. Amongst the things I was given was a cannula (in a nice juicy vein), anti-sickness drugs, pain relief and anaesthetic (which truly made my vision go funny!) And that’s really all I remember.
The next thing I remember is that I was having a dream (about work!) and then two nurses where saying my name. I opened my eyes and saw that I was on a recovery ward facing several other patients. I was wearing an oxygen mask and I could hear the nurses saying, “It’s very shallow.” I assumed they were referring to my wound incision but it turns out they were discussing my breathing. I was told to take some deep breaths. Then for some reason I was crying. No idea why! They assured me this is quite normal. Once I was a bit more with it they offered me some water which I was very grateful for and then I was taken back to my own pitch. I waved to my Bedford friend as they wheeled me past.
I was given my call button in case I needed urgent help and then my blood pressure was measured again. Seemed all was ok now the worst bit was over. Then joy, I was offered a cup of tea! I said no to the offer of a sandwich but some biscuits were most welcome. I noticed it was 5.30pm and the nurse said my husband was in reception, looking forward to seeing me. She said maybe in about 45 minutes I would be ready to leave. Tea and biscuits consumed and I decided I could get dressed. The nurse told me to take it easy but I was ready to go! Discharge paperwork completed and I was in reception reunited with my husband at 6.40pm, nearly 12 hours after our farewell.
At home, lots of lovely treats awaited me. Cuddles with my daughter, homemade soup from my Mum, lemon drizzle cake made by husband and daughter, some helium balloons and a free live stream to watch MK Lightning play their away game against Manchester Storm. My own family and the hockey family had shown their kindness in true style. I was also inundated with messages from family and friends which was really kind. I had a lovely evening, only flagging towards 10pm. I slept soundly and was greeted by my son this morning telling me I have done very well.
So, a massive hurdle out of the way. Now the waiting begins again for 2 weeks when I will find out what is in store for me next.