Once I got home, which was quite the effort, I transferred to my old bedroom promptly fell asleep for a few hours, and that was the pattern for the next day and a half.
The next morning I had to have a look at the wounds as a) I was TOO curious for words to see what sort of cartoon, pirate scars I had and b) they told me to get familiar with them regarding the dressings and to watch out for any problems.
One of the things that are pretty standard where the armpit lymph nodes are concerned is a post-op fluid build up. I pulled the ‘screwed up’ face when they were describing that to me. They explained that I could leave it until my check up a few days later when the dressing was going to be changed or prod it around a bit myself. I think I disguised the dry heaving actions and noises quite nicely and swore to myself then and there, that zero prodding around was going to be done my me.
In fact, once I got to see the wound, stare at it and be impressed that I now had two very impressive scars that would get me sympathy for weeks at least, I did find myself pushing the area to see what was going on and if it were painful or not. Amazingly, for an actual cut in my flesh, it wasn’t that bad on day two. So that was nice.
So, day one = all ok. Stayed in bed the whole time and Mum brought me tea and food when I fancied it, which wasn’t as much as I would have liked. No-one could ever say that I lost my appetite (a quick look at me would ensure that you understood that could never be the case), but I was quite nauseous for most of the day and so relied heavily on soups and the odd sarnie.
Digression: It seems that almost any time I read about someone going through a trauma, illness, breakup or you name it, it appears to be accompanied by the wail of ‘Oh, I lost X stone in weight’ or ‘When I’m stressed, the weight just falls off me’. Well, I’m heartily sorry that anyone has been through an upsetting or stressful time, but seriously, ladies?! Either I’m not wired the same way as all of these women (possible) OR, I don’t ‘do’ bothering about stressful situations (potentially) OR I deal with them by the acquisition and then demolition of cheese, wine and other savoury wonders (likely). Pretty sure its a combination of all three. Dammit.
One last thing to note about the op and its immediate effects is that two days after the operation, I was still sticking to the bed and its comforts when I realised that I had the raging ump. For non-Brits out there, this means that I was in a seriously bad mood. I was down, I was moody, I was stroppy with my mum (good one, since she’s the one going up and down the stairs bringing me food and drink!) and I couldn’t understand it. By mid-afternoon, I would go as far as to say that I was in a black depression. That is not my style at all, and in comparison who knows what they’re talking about when it comes to depression, I was probably 0.01 on the scale, but it was most unpleasant.
Further investigation shows that, apparently, it is perfectly natural soon after you’ve been under the knife and a general anaesthetic, but I was not expecting it or prepared for it at all. Looking back, I notice that I got far less food and drink that day than those before or following. Coincidence? Hmmmm…probably.
Once I’d gotten past the first week, gotten used to the wounds, the dressings, how to wash, etc. (not easy or cool), I realised that I had another bridge to cross which I’d either completely forgotten about or not understood. I was oblivious to the fact that I was I was waiting for the results of the testing to see if cancer had spread to any of the lymph nodes or further or not. All of a sudden, it could be serious again. I didn’t like this. I liked the ‘nasty lump is gone, get better, take some manky drugs for a few years, forget about it’ scenario.
In my mental calendar, my next hurdle was learning how and when radiotherapy was going to happen because the operation had meant that I didn’t have to have chemo. I thought. I genuinely can’t remember how it became apparent to me that I needed another bit of info to tick off on the road to moving on past this annoying episode, but I was due to receive the news at a meeting with Mr S on the Tues or Wed of the second week of recovery.
After a short period of angst, I did the usual and chose to ignore this next step. Classic Kate. Don’t like it? It doesn’t exist. Move on past it. Stick two fingers up at it. There were more pressing concerns for me, such as the horrible fluid in the armpit. Unpleasant, not agony, but awkward and scary, because I had nothing to compare it to. Is it supposed to be this big? Is that much fluid making that size lump reasonable?
A nurse had come to the house three days after the op to change my dressing and he was very approachable. If I had any concerns at all, I could ring them or my surgeon. I tried the nurses first, but because I was due to see Mr S the next day, they suggested that I phone him to see if I needed to come in sooner?
With zero disrespect intended at all – the man DID save my life! – I wasn’t super keen on talking to Mr S on the phone as he spoke very quickly and I felt that any questions I asked were stupid. That was my own insecurity speaking as he never did anything to make me feel like that. I did call him, though, because the worry about the arm just wouldn’t leave my head for some reason.
He came on the phone, and I tried to describe what it was like with no experience and none of the proper words at my disposal. He pretty much pooh-poohed my concerns and said: “Just come in as planned tomorrow, and we’ll sort it out”. I was about to sigh theatrically down the phone as it hadn’t eased my fears when he blurted out as an after thought, “Oh, by the way. The results are good; no cancer has spread. Thought you might like to know that as soon as possible instead of waiting until tomorrow”.
Fuck. Me. Backwards.
All thoughts of him having a poor bedside manner and a brusque delivery disappeared instantly and sweeping back at me came the immediate need for the twenty-second obligatory sob. My knees were very wobbly at this point with the shock and relief. In fact, writing this, I can feel that emotion again. From only recently realising that I had to get these additional results to having a small niggle at the back of my mind, to suddenly receiving the all-clear, it was all a bit too much for me. So I sat down. On the floor. I was aiming for the end of the bed, but misjudged it, slid off and sat down with a bit of a thump. Grace under pressure as ever.
Twenty seconds of crying and feeling all happy for myself, I thought it ‘might’ be wise to let my mum know, so I called down from the top of the stairs that she should come, because I’d spoken to Mr S.
I’m not sure that I really got the news out in a coherent fashion (who am I kidding?), but it was certainly a euphoric afternoon. The armpit suddenly didn’t matter any more.