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Monday, September 20, 2010

Part 3 Discovering Cancer 101

I can't convey the weight of attending your mother's ash spreading after being freshly diagnosed with breast cancer. Determined to keep this news from my children until after the occassion was over and everyone was safely back at their homes and into their own routines, I nevertheless spilled the beans to my sister who after one look at me said, "What?" There must have been that "deer caught in the head light " look on my face. My brother and his wife caught on as well.
Breaking news of this magnitude is never easy. You can't tell how the reciprocant will react. My daughter took it the worst, which is to be expected. I know she didn't think of it at the time, but this will now affect her life as well, how she is handled by the medical profession with maternal cancer looming behind her. My step daughter put on a brave face- she lost her mother to lung cancer in 2000. My son and step son are men. Keep them posted. Cheer up. You'll be fine. That's what I thought too. This would be over as soon as you can say "heal from surgery." Right? My son's girlfriend's mother went through this. Diagnosed, surgery, radiation, living day-to-day until hopefully the golden prize of the five year "clear" mark. We would have a scar party when we finally got the chance to meet.
On August 9, 2010 my husband and myself travelled to Terrace and booked into a hotel. We were to see Dr. E this day before surgery to sign the consent form and to go over any last details. I had a page of questions. How many nights in hospital? Can I prearrange no fat meals? Are there private rooms (yes, at $160 extra). How big will the scars be? Does the hospital have hair dryers? "You won't need to wash your hair," he tells me. He may know a lot about surgery, but really, what could this man know about a woman's hair? (In the end, I never had a shower. It was the furthest thing from my mind after surgery. I know, it's a recurring lesson I need to learn!)
At 6:20 am without usual adornment of make-up and jewellery, I walked into the Emergency area of the Terrace hospital. Upstairs in the Nuclear Medicine dept my right breast was injected at 4 quadrants with blue dye. I was taken to surgery where I was braceletted, weighed (149 pounds)and asked about false teeth (prove it) and diseases. Back to Nuclear Science for x-rays of the right breast to see where the dye went to. I carry the hard copy of the images by hand back to the surgery holding area.
Next I'm off to ultrasound to have a wire inserted with the use of ultrasound. This is so the surgeon can find the exact spot where the tumor lies to extricate it. Oh, oh. Dr. Pain again. I tell her this is her chance to atone for that painful biopsy. With my permission, a student was allowed to attend. With breast tissue as dense as mine, Dr. Pain, after three attempts, had the tech hold the breast in two hands while she again attempted to drive the wire deep into the breast to the tumor site. With alligator tears rolling, toes clenched and curled and all breathing stopped, the student was told to leave the room. This was getting ugly. "I suppose failure is not an option," grumbled Dr. Pain under her breath. With surgery pending within the hour, I guessed not as well. Again, then again she tried until searing pain pierced something inside of me, was drawn backward, then pushed through again. It was in place. I had to ask them to leave me for a minute to get myself back in place. But all that did was unleash everything I had kept pent up for the past month. The Why Me, the WTF,had my mother been in this much pain, what was ahead of me, more of this torture or not. It all came out in torrents. The tech helped me to mop up and personally rolled me down the hall toward surgery, where two nurses came looking for me.
Once behind the surgical area doors, I was questioned again by nurses (Alice) and a grumpy anesthetist who had been on call and up all night. He wondered about the strokes in 2002 and I told him they now figure they were a result of taking ritalin for my ADD. And who diagnosed the ADD? I couldn't remember,I have ADD remember? This made the nurse laugh and I was out a split second after. I went to sleep feeling like a silly old woman. (How can these morons be trusted with their own bodies!)My husband later reminded me it was not one but two separate diagnosis from psychiatrists that recommended the Ritalin.
We'll wake up together in the next Blog sequence!

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