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19 February 2009 @ 04:19 pm

DAY OF SURGERY (19 February 2009)

This is how my surgery day went down.   I was told to call the hospital the day before and they would tell me what time to come in for surgery. I called and they said I would be first in the Operating Room for the day.. Be at the hospital at 630am and I would be in the OR for 8am.

The walk from the parking lot that morning with my duffle-bag over my shoulder was kind of surreal. I had a real peace. In fact even in the days leading up to surgery I was calm.  I asked my husband more than once "shouldn't I be freaking out right now? My surgery is in _days!" he said no there was no need for me to lose it... I was already ready for the surgery... I made my choice over a year ago. He was right. I think that's why I didn't feel the need to write here either. There was nothing new to report: unless you want to hear about my holiday-which was amazing :)

Once we had "checked-in", I confirmed the fax was being sent to the Home Care people.  I was separated from my husband almost immediately after we checked-in. The lady gave him a number to call at 10:45am to check in... I should be done by then; I was lead to a room where no family was allowed. My husband gave me my last hug with my old breasts - he held me longer than needed to pray for me and the surgeons - again what peace I had!

I was led into a room with 8 different curtained off areas, each with a gurney.  I was told to disrobe and wear nothing but a hospital gown. The nurse went over a list of questions with me... Was I wearing contacts, nail polish etc? I was wearing red toe polish, she sent me to the washroom with wipes to take it off; I guess checking your toe nail is a way they can see if your blood is flowing properly.

They stored my ‘overnight’ bag and boots, labeled with my name on it.  My Plastic Surgeon asked me to bring a front closing bra with me to surgery… I dug it out of the bag and kept it by me on my hospital bed (gurney).  I found the bra at Wallmart, nothing fancy, just cotton.  I did by one size bigger than I normally would.  Normally I’m a 38 so I bought a 40, I figured I’d be swollen after surgery.  I was.

The nurse set up my IV with a saline solution as well as an antibiotic that was requested by both my Drs as a precaution. The nurse made sure I was comfortable and we waited for both my Drs to come for a visit.

The fist Dr to arrive was my Breast Surgeon Dr M.  He was wonderful; made sure I was doing well and asked me if I had any questions for him.  I re-confirmed with him that there would be no lymph node dissection.   That was a concern of mine because of what happened to a friend of mine.  Because I did not have cancer, there is no reason to take a lymph node. (that’s one of the ways they check to see if the cancer has spread)

Next came my Plastic Surgeon. Dr T.  In her usual no fuss way, she asked me to sit on the side of the bed and lower my gown.  She drew all over my breasts and chest with a blue marker, drew around my nipple, marked all sorts of stuff, she had a measuring tape and everything.  Once she was gone, I asked the nurse to come in to take a picture of all the markings she drew.  I will not post them here, they are my old breasts, you are welcome to see and share with me my NEW ones!

They wheeled my bed to the OR, where there were about 3 or 4 people already in the mirrored room.  All had hospital scrubs and gowns on, most had face masks in place.  They asked if I could move myself to the OR table from my gurney, I was able to do that (there were the same height) The OR table was quite narrow; they got me to sit on the edge of the table.  A nurse was chatting with me.

I met the anesthesiologist.  Dr. A, he was really good, asked me if I had any questions about the medications.  I mentioned that I would like to have a ‘blocker’ it was something that was recommended to me from a girlfriend that had just had the surgery.  DR A said it was called a BLOCK not blocker.  :)  The block is essentially an epidural, but much higher on your back, starting just between your shoulder blades and up.   He started messing around behind me.

Someone administered something in my IV to help me relax; actually I can’t really remember exactly when this was done for sure.

I do remember Dr A said he had to prepare the needles for the block, all 10 of them.  TEN!! You’ve got to be kidding me!?  No, he said he wasn’t; 5 needles on both sides.  He got me to lean forward; the nurse told me that although good posture is normally important, it’s not now… Lean over and curve my back.  I felt the DR poking my spine, quite aggressively actually.  I learned later that he was drawing on my back with that same type blue pen the Plastic Surgeon had used.

Below is a picture taken the day of surgery later to show the markings the anesthesiologist made for the block.

To distract myself from the 10 needles that I was going to be receiving I started chatting with the nurses.  They were so kind.

Then I woke up.


I wish I had this dramatic memory of falling asleep.  I don’t.  I remember talking with the nurses while Dr A was poking my back then I remember waking up.  They said, “It’s done.”  I said, no it’s not!  :)

I figured I must have fallen off the table and the nurse caught me before I hit the floor… I know this because I checked for bruises.  :)

When I went to see my Dr two weeks after surgery, he told me that in fact I was TALKING the whole time before surgery.  I was telling everyone how my husband and I met.  He looked at me and asked, “you don’t remember that, do you?”  Nope.  He said my eyes were pretty glazed over as I spoke. (I guess I was pretty animated because Dr M said he was doing paperwork before the surgery and put his pen down, turned around to listen) ….  Now I know for sure I never fell off the bed!

The time following the surgery was a bit of a blurr.  In fact I remember very little about the recovery room.  I do remember a nurse asking how I was doing… my throat  was sore, she gave me ice chips.    I do remember looking down and seeing my chest flat… the first time in many years.  I liked it.  I also know that I was not in any pain.  

You see, probably one of my biggest fears going into this surgery was the waking up after and being in pain.  I saw a loved one wake up from surgery in agony once; that stuck with me.  It was a COMPLETELY different kind of surgery, but the image stuck.

I had NO pain.

They wheeled me to my hospital room from the recovery room; I remember asking for my husband, they said they would call him and tell him to meet me in my room.

I remember sitting up in bed and thinking, man, this really isn’t bad at all!!  In fact I remember standing up almost immediately upon getting to my room to put on my underwear and bike shorts… NO pain.

I was in my room just after noon.  My husband tells me when he called at 10:45, they told him I was already in recovery and that the surgery had gone very well.

The rest of my family arrived around 1:00pm.  I remember sitting up and visiting with them.  I don’t know that I ever slept but I did rest my eyes a coulple of times.

The nurses came by every few hours to give me my antibiotic and pain killers.  I only had one IV injection of pain killers, after that one time; they then gave them to me orally.  Which was fine, I really didn’t have any pain.

I remember when doing my research that it was recommended by Drs and patients alike to stay on top of your pain medication at least for the first 3 days after surgery.  I am a firm believer that a body can heal better if it is resting comfortably.  I never turned down a pain killer when it was offered.

The first time I had to go to the bathroom the nurse brought a portable toilet for me to go by my bedside.  They were worried about my balance.

They took my blood pressure every few hours as well, but because I had bilateral surgery they had to take my pulse off my LEG!  They got this giant cuff that they wrapped around my thigh, just above my knee.  The stethoscope went behind my knee.   They did say if it had been a single mastectomy they would have simply used the unaffected arm.

My arms felt heavy,  I kept them by my side the whole time.  I had very good mobility and surprisingly, no pain.

I was able to stand and go to the bathroom the next time I needed to go (with my husband or nurse by my side "in case").  I did just fine on my own until the end.  I was able to get my underwear on my own but not my bicycle shorts. I had no strength to do it.

My throat was dry and sore at times.  I drank lots of water and the nurse brought me Cepacol lozenges, they were wonderful! They didn’t taste like cough medicine, which I hate. :)  They REALLY helped with the sore throat. I was unable to ‘pop’ them out of the package so I had someone ‘pop’ a few so I could have them as needed.

My work had sent flowers and I asked my husband to call and thank them.  I believe I even called a friend of mine and spoke with her on the phone.  Again, my memory of those first few days is rather blurred.

Before my husband left I had him help me with a few things.
  • Bring me a cup of water so I could brush my teeth
  • Give me my baby wipes to wipe down my face/neck, I was able to do that on my own.
  • Ensure that my iPod, earphones, note pad, pen, throat lozenges, lip balm, eye drops and drinking water were within reach
  • Make sure I could reach the call button comfortably when the bed was in a lying down position
  • Have the nurse stop by before he left, we asked for a sedative to help me sleep; not usually a problem but with the noises in the hospital it can be difficult.
I had the drains pinned to the inside of my hospital gown.  I had to remember they were there when I got up to go to the bathroom.  I pinned them to the side of my bra for a while but the nurse said not to do that… They needed to be lower… Gravity I was told,  plays a part as well as suction for the drains.


I really slept quite well in the hospital.  I awoke feeling very rested.  I was anxious to get going.  Check-out was 10 am.  My husband and sister came around 8.

I needed help to put on my pants, socks and of course boots.  I needed help putting my button blouse on too…  But before I did, I wiped down every spot I could reach with a baby wipe.  I felt very FRESH after!  I tried to keep my arms still and by my side.

Before we left, I had a photo taken, this was actually taken DAY of surgery.. about 3:00pm. If you look you can see a drain on either side of me.

We got a wheel chair and my husband brought me down stairs to where the car was waiting.  They put me in, I put the seat back a little so I wasn’t sitting straight up.  They had brought a pillow from home to put between me and the seat belt. PERFECT.

The ride home was not fun, I felt the bumps of the road; not painful but definitely uncomfortable.  It was nice to get home.

Once we were home they settled me in the hospital bed I had rented.  Before I put my sheets on (the day before surgery) I took disinfectant wipes and gave the whole thing a good wipe down.  Especially the bed control and the cord; I didn’t want anyone else’s germs in my house!   It was actually quite dirty; my little wipes did a good job.

My care givers were diligent in giving me my Percocet every 6hrs.  Every time they gave me my drug, they wrote the time and drug down in a note book.  VERY IMPORTANT.  That way no one is giving me a ‘double’ dose and we can monitor how much I am getting and what time the last dose was given.  I could not be trusted to remember and it was REALLY easy to forget.  I was also given antibiotics to take 4 times daily for a week.  I took a Percocet and Antibiotic at the same time.

The hospital bed was WONDERFUL.  I don’t think I would have done as well without it.  I would HIGHLY recommend renting one if you are able; especially with bilateral surgery.  I would arrange myself to be partially sitting up with my knees bent a bit.  My arms stayed by my side.  I really had no desire to move them.  When I needed to get up.  I would simply push a button, it would raise my head to a sitting position and I could slide my legs off the side and to the floor.  I cannot say enough as to how much I found the bed helpful.  (I kept it 2 weeks)

My sister would also empty my drains; she would mark how much drainage there was in the same notebook as my pill intake… as well as the time.  It is very important to keep track of your drain out-put.

I was very thirsty and my throat was still sore throughout the day.  I kept taking the Cepacol lozenges and drinking tons of ice water.

The first night home I made sure I could reach my water (sippy cup), lip balm, and lozenges.  My sister spent the night on the couch beside my bed.  She walked me to the bathroom every time I needed to go (maybe twice – I was drinking tons!).  I thought at the time I was fine to get there and back; but looking back I’m really not sure.  I was half asleep and high on the Percocet… It was nice to have someone by my side "in case". 

I shuffled around, no sudden moves.  I found it hard to push the soap dispenser pump to wash my hands after… I had to bring it close to the edge of the counter to push down.  Also. putting my hands together under the water to wash and rinse them also was difficult. I would feel the soreness across my chest.  That was difficult for at least 3-4 days.