Girls on film

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Today I achieved a first.  I was the subject of a topless photoshoot.  Thankfully the photographer did not have to stand on her assistant’s shoulders but I am pretty certain I saw her stretch to tippy toes.  It was not as glamorous as I would have expected.  There were no louche youths lounging.  No trays of cocaine.  And the champagne was conspicuous by its absence.  In fact, it was all rather NHS and clinical.  You could be forgiven for thinking this was more medical imaging and less page three.  Ah, yes, and there it is.  My reason for being there was less about my perfect rack being featured alongside a comeback campaign for the lovely Samantha’s assets and more about preserving the original to provide a pattern for Surgical Spice to work with on Monday.  Apparently I get to repeat the exercise.  More than once.  Wonder if my lean into the camera and pout look will have been perfected by then?  Seriously, I had to do this.  Well, not the pout bit but the lean in bit.  What was that about?

That was the end of my hospital visit today.  Generally it was all about prepping for Monday.  Surgical Spice was her fabulous self – I do like this woman.  She talked me through the operation which is feeling larger and more complex the closer I get to it.  Words and phrases like ‘catheter’, ‘two teams of surgeons’, ‘six hour operation’ and ‘week in hospital’ floated around the room while I did my best to not look like a guppy.  In theory it is all good.  In theory I am ok with it.  In practice I am more than a little scared.  I am remembering Teresa: ‘All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’

Meanwhile, I have been having continuing problems with my node biopsy site.  It has been swelling and getting increasingly uncomfortable.  The skin irritation has just about calmed down but the swelling has made it difficult to put my arm by my side.  Paracetamol has become necessary and I am generally just uncomfortable.  Surgical Spice took one look and decided a very large needle was called for.  Actually, it was really only an average sized needle but that does not sound nearly as good.  What I had developed was a seroma, which is a standard complication of the surgery.  Normally they are left undisturbed.  Unless particularly large.  And when did I ever do things by halves?  Forty mls of fluid later, my arm pit was considerably more comfortable, although Surgical Spice cheerily announced that there was ‘plenty more where that came from’.  She also reassured me that by Monday’s operation, the seroma would be every bit as large ‘if not larger!’  Such fun.  I have to say, it is already filling steadily and is annoyingly uncomfortable.  Ah well.

In other news, the kitchen creeps on apace.  It may even be functioning by, ooh say mid April?

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Lymphing on

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Having had three lymph nodes whipped out from my left side is not without consequence.  I am currently banned from all scented products in my left under arm region.  Including deodorant.  So I should probably apologise to those around me now.  I am more than a little paranoid in the smelling department and am finding myself constantly sniffing in the direction of my left arm pit.  I cannot use anything scented for fourteen days.  FOURTEEN!  By my reckoning that should be just about in time for my next lot of surgery to ban its use for many more weeks *sigh*  Maybe I should just provide you all with nose pegs?

But this is not the only issue.  I have already documented my external blueness.  I have mentioned my blue wee.  What I have not before revealed is these are not the only things to have been stained blue.  Pretty much everything has been.  Especially all things excretory.  There are not many one can share this information with, clearly you lot are excluded, so on first discovering it I excitedly texted the Captain at work.  He replied, ‘You’re basically a human slush puppie, aren’t you?’

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More seriously, it seems I am now at risk of developing lymphoedema.  To minimise the risk I have to forever avoid doing anything that will increase pressure or my chances of infection in that arm.  So having my blood pressure or bloods taken from my left arm would be something to be avoided.  Being bitten by insects should be something kept to other areas of my body.  That should be easy, right?  And anyway, it is not as if I am allergic to insect bites or anything.  Oh.  Wait.  Bollocks.

Blue Tits

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I have always been very fond of blue tits.  My blue tit poem even won a competition when I was eight.  I fear it was down to lack of entrants but who am I to complain?  Winning is winning after all and I was never going to win anything with my sporting prowess.  However, this liking for the feathered variety does not mean I ever expected to wear one on my chest.  But here we are.  It really is blue.  I’m peeing blue too.  I like to think on that as my reward for having made it to the bathroom at the top of the stairs.  Nothing like a bit of variety.  Spice of life and all that.

Yesterday passed in a blur.  For much of it I was not conscious.  For much of it I was calm, even peaceful.  For a very little I was scared witless.  But only a very little.  There was an initial flurry of activity as those of us waiting for biopsy were herded, dressed in hospital gowns and slippers, down through the main hospital waiting area for our radioactive nipple stabbings – which were as you would expect: short-lived stinging but otherwise ok.  Before we went, I had a pregnancy test done.  This amused me.  I asked the nurse if the word ‘hysterectomy’ meant anything?  ‘Not much, sadly, it’s protocol,’ she replied.  After that there was much waiting around and twiddling of thumbs.

We were returned to our respective bays on the ward and initially kept to ourselves.  But after about an hour, three of us wandered out and congregated in the sun streaming from the windows.  The next couple of hours passed quickly as we chatted, giggled and generally swapped notes and compared experiences.  Much better than sitting in splendid isolation.

Shortly before midday, I was summoned to theatre first.  I trotted round in my dressing gown and slippers to be greeted by two of the jolliest anaesthetists I have ever encountered.  The whole thing was delightful.  And I do realise what a bizarre thing that is to say.

Two hours later, I was back on the ward, drinking water like a dehydrated fish and asking when I could go home.  Speedily by NHS standards.  I ate the required toast, drank the required water (and then some) and peed the required (blue) pee so having chatted with the surgeon, I left within two hours and was home by 5pm.  From the surgeon’s point of view all went well.  They took 3 nodes which is typical and my results will be available next week.

After all that excitement, I spent the evening snoring on the sofa while pretending to watch the tele.  I do not think I fooled anyone.

And so it begins …

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Tomorrow is quite a big day for me.  It is the day it all begins.  Although it is going to result in more waiting.  What with all the practise I am getting, you would be forgiven for thinking I was getting good at that.  Waiting I mean.  Psalm 40 is all about waiting and is a bit of a personal fave of mine.  Except I have never done anything patiently.  Especially waiting.  I live in hope that God will overlook my disinclination to patience and still turn and hear my cry.  Maybe if I continue to sing endlessly like U2 I’ll get somewhere, no?  Then again, perhaps you should all take pity on both me and God and do the crying out on my behalf.  I seem to get no further than ‘Oh God’ at the moment.

Very shortly I shall be taking myself for an extra bath.  ‘But wait,’ I hear you cry, ‘surely it is not your birthday?’  Indeed it is not.  But extra cleansing is called for.  You see I have a list.  And on my list it tells me ‘to shower or bathe from head to foot the night before your operation’.  It did make me wonder if people really do manage to shower or bathe without including their feet.  I mean, just how athletic would you need to be to bathe/shower from the neck down to your ankles but not get your feet wet?  My mind is boggling at the contortions of the ablution avoiding public.  Having done this I must stay clean.  So no games of tag rugby in the dark then, damn.  Tomorrow morning I must get up at bloody hell o’clock to repeat the process. And presumably avoid rolling in oil slicks before arriving at the hospital.  I won’t lie to you, it is going to be tough.  But clean I shall stay.

So tomorrow then.  It is Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy Day.  I shall arrive at hospital for 7:30am.  Actually, given my propensity for overachieving in the promptness stakes, I will probably be there well before then.  After that, it will a brisk step along the corridor to Nuclear Medicine for them to inject my breast with radioactive liquid.  Yes, I said inject.  My breast.  Oh goody.  That will be lovely, won’t it?  They say the amount of radiation is similar to having two mammograms’ worth so not enough for the Greenham Common Women to start picketing me.  Thank the Lord.  I would always have been happier on their side of the fence than the other.  After that, I am left to drain.  Well, my lymphatic system is left to drain.  I do not think I actually need to do anything to assist in this process.  I had wondered if some sort of ceremonial chanting was in order, but apparently not.  It happens all by itself.  The radioactive liquid works its way from my breast, into my lymphatic system and then drains into my lymph nodes.  The sentinel node is the first one that is reached.  It is different for everyone but by just removing that one it is possible to see if my cancer has spread.  Because if it has spread anywhere, it will have spread there first.

Once enough time has passed, I will be hopped skipped and jumped along to theatre for a general anaesthetic.  Once asleep, my breast will be filled with blue dye.  I kid you not.  Blue.  So I really am going to turn into a blue tit.  Be careful what you wish for people!  This is to show up sentinel node which will then be whipped out.  If anything else node wise looks a bit dodgy, that will be scooped out too.  Thereafter it is just the small matter of recovery.  Simples.

But it is a big deal.  Because while I will not know it for more days/weeks/I-do-not-know-how-long this minor procedure will map out my coming year.  And that is scary.

Best Laid Plans

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So remember today’s plan?  Go to clinic; decide on operation; book date; open gin.  It was tempting to reverse that order but no, I thought, best not let them know I’m a gin sot.  No just yet.

Item one on list accomplished with aplomb.  Made it to (still hideously pink) clinic.  Still overachieving in the arrival stakes.  Must work on that.  Getting to a cancer clinic 25 mins early impresses no one.  It was at this point the list went downhill.  Not even Meatloaf sang ‘One out of four aint bad.’

How hard could it be?  I mean seriously, all I had to do was pick a new set of knockers.  Actually, very hard as it turns out.  Reconstructions usually use implants.  Implants are a bit of an issue so we were hoping to avoid them.  The favoured tummy acreage option also presents problems: apparently my vast acreage may not be enough (I have never felt so sad at being told I was not fat enough.  I mean, that surgeon needs to go to Specsavers.  Your life in their hands, sheesh!); it could not be done at the local hospital (this did not worry me as my preference was to go to the All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit up the road); it could all go horribly wrong if I need to have radiotherapy post surgery.

As a consequence, we’d nearly settled on going for the implant option right up until the moment we were told:

‘There is a 10% chance of rejection in the normal population.  In your case we’d expect that to be much higher.’

Boom!  Deal breaker.  Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And that was just the Captain.  OK, I exaggerate.  I did the wailing.  More of a drippy weeping but snot was involved.  There are times I really really hate this whole Partners in Care that the NHS have going on.  I just needed someone to tell me what to do.  And THAT, my friends, is how you know just how awful this whole experience is.  Because how often have you EVER heard me utter such a thing.  And how many people have lived to tell the tale of How They Told Me What To Do, hmm?

Gorgeous Mr Lovely, who we met last week, and while being stunted in the height department was still easy on the eye, began to tentatively take charge.  His boss had laid all the options out but we were floundering.  He reassured us that the seriously dodgy bit (or the grade 3 invasive cancer) of my 52mm crappy area was actually only 6mm in diameter.  This gives us time.  Not much but enough.  His advice was to go to the All Singing All Dancing Breast Unit up the road.  An urgent referral means I should have an appointment by next week.  There I may be offered lymph node biopsy prior to surgery to decide exactly what my treatment plan needs to be.  There are too many possibilities to go into about what may happen but this does feel like the right course of action.

So item two: decide on operation – fail

Item three: book a date – massive fail

Item four: open gin – you’d think this was a safe bet, wouldn’t you?  Inexplicably I did not want gin.  I wanted wine.  I know.  Who’d’ve thought it?