Dear Doctor, The mastectomy recovery was difficult…

“You need to get yourself off the trolley and on to the bed” the nurse said. I couldn’t move. I wanted to do it but after several attempts I just couldn’t lift myself up. “Can I hold your hand?” I asked the nurse. I didn’t want to ask her, it felt stupid but I had to! “Of course you can!” She gave me her hand and I pushed myself onto the bed. I need to ring my Mum I thought, I hadn’t spoken to her since 8am, it was 4pm now. I rang home and told her I was ok, it just took them four hours to find me a bed! My mum told me she had gone home to get her inhaler but I needed to ring my friends as they had been waiting all day in the hospital.

I rang M, “Where are you?!” she asked. I looked around to see if I could see any signs, “I’m on ward C3 I think”, I said. Within minutes they were there. “Wow that operation took longer than we thought! Me and S had been going from ward to ward looking for you since 12 o clock, I can’t believe they didn’t find you a bed until 4pm! We were starting to get really worried! What happened down there? And how are you feeling?”

I explained everything to them as best as I could. I was still groggy and not fully with it. This was the first time I’d ever had a general anaesthetic or an operation. I hadn’t known what to expect. The nurse came and gave me some liquid morphine, I was grateful because the four hours on the hard trolley had really triggered off my pain. Next a dinner menu came round, “why don’t you have the fish?” S laughed as we all know I don’t like fish! As soon as the words came out of her mouth I felt sick. I told them “I think I’m going to be sick!” M quickly got a sick bowl just in time, S held my hair back and M changed the bowls around. I thought in my head not the glamorous recovery I was hoping for but how lucky am I to have these two! Once I was finished being sick S laughed at me , “We can’t even mention the word fish in front of her!” and we all laughed.

The pain was still there and now the morphine had come back up but I wasn’t allowed any more for hours. Another one of my friends arrived. I was very tired, M and S figured it might be too much for so many people to be around, so they decided to leave. Before they left I realised I hadn’t even looked at the surgical side of things! So as friends do, we all had a look together. It was hard to tell, there were too many bandages. I wasn’t impressed though. They thought it was a good job, so the doctors were impressed but I just thought for a reconstruction it looked really small.

As they left I felt really bad, they had been waiting all day in hospital and then only saw me for five minutes. My friend N then asked me how I was, I started again and then then another two friends came, asking how I was. I was so surprised to see people. “I’m only staying in one night”, I told them all. But they told me they just had to see me! By then I was shattered! I wanted to sleep, but I had family to come yet. I needed help getting up to go to the toilet at which point I realised I had two drains attached to me, two tubes inserted into my body, I honestly hadn’t noticed until then! Wherever I went I had to carry two bottles of blood with me too. Great I thought to myself.

I really struggled to get up and go to the toilet and it was so far away, but I pushed myself! Not being fully mobile and then having to carry two heavy bottles of blood wasn’t easy. On my way back I saw my family, it was good to see my mum looking better! I think when they saw me they were a bit surprised though. They felt sorry for me I suppose. We chatted a little while. “Every time I end up in hospital for something, I always get put on a ward with older women with dementia!” I complained. The last time I’d been in hospital a lady had tried to get in my bed at 3am. “Never mind” my mum said, “you will be home tomorrow”. It was 10:30pm so they said their byes and finally I could get some sleep!

Did I get any sleep that night? Not one wink! My neighbours didn’t let me. The next day I just wanted to go home, I needed some peace and quiet and my own bed. The pain was getting to me and it was hard to get the nurses attention to ask for pain relief. I could tell they were busy and I felt like I was pestering. I messaged M telling her I was in a lot of pain, I was surprised at myself because my pain threshold is really high, she told me to get them to give me something, easy for her to say I thought.

“What time can I go?” I asked. The nurse replied, “you should be out of here by 12 as soon as your surgeon as seen you on their ward round.” The night before they told me I’d be out by 9am and clearly they needed the bed but they didn’t seem to be in a rush. I patiently waited until 4pm, nobody came. Everyone else had been seen! So I asked again, finally half an hour later a registrar came to see me.

I was disappointed, I hadn’t seen my actual surgeon before the operation and she didn’t bother to come see me on the ward. I kind of felt like she owed me at least a hello, all I saw of her was a quick glimpse when I came round from the anaesthetic. She had asked me if I’d been crying, which wasn’t really a flattering comment to make. Anyway the doctor that came took one look, said it looked fine and that I could leave. Thats all I’d been waiting for all day?

I rang my family to come and get me. I wanted to go home but I was also a bit worried, what if something went wrong or what if the drains got detached. What would I do!? I was in so much pain, which wasn’t controlled by the medication they gave me and I had had major surgery, I wondered if they letting me go home too quickly. I felt much worse than I had imagined I would.

On the drive home each bump on the road was painful, in fact any movement hurt. “I just have to pop into Tesco to buy stuff for your dinner”, Mum said. Are you joking? I thought, I just wanted to go home but first Tesco, then home.

Finally we arrived home, I saw my dad who was pleased to see me. He told me not to worry and that I’d be fine at home. I got dressed and went straight to bed. I slept until late evening. I woke up confused and my mum came into my room. “You need to eat something!” she pleaded. “I can’t come down Mum” the pain was bad. I had swelling all on my front, all the way up my back, neck and shoulders. I lay still on my back not being able to move or push myself up. It was horrible.

My sister came to visit and came up to my room. I was so happy to see her and have a normal sister conversation in my bedroom. I was getting annoyed though, the only position I could stay in was flat on my back. I couldn’t move on my side, on my front, nowhere. I was so tired of lying on my back for hours I tried moving on my side. Then I felt it…my implant, it was like having a 100kg weight inside me it was the heaviest thing ever! There was no way I was going to be able to move about with that! So I just sighed and lay flat. My sister said she needed to leave I really didn’t want her to go. I didn’t want to be left alone.

It was 11pm and everyone’s bed time. I needed to go to the toilet…I was so immobile it was devastating. I didn’t think it was going to be so bad that my mum had to escort me to the toilet.

I lay there that night wide awake thinking bout this whole thing from the moment I was diagnosed to that very moment. I just couldn’t believe it! I was so angry and sad and annoyed! This was pushing my patience to the limit! Why do I get the rubbish end of the deal every single time! I do nothing but try my best to care for everybody and in return I get this to deal with I thought. I had my moment, pulled myself together. I lay there in frustration whilst waiting for morning to come.

I must have finally fallen asleep because the next morning I woke up to massive bouquet of flowers. My mum came and gave them to me. For me? I wondered who would do that for me! They were from my cousin and her family all the way from Glasgow. I was humbled. It cheered me up for sure.

I decided I should attempt to go down. So with my Mum as my carer we went to bathroom she washed my face helped me brush my teeth and brushed my hair I felt better. The post man arrived. I opened the door to a lovely Cadbury’s box. It had my name on it, what’s going on today I thought. I opened the box and it was a box full of chocolates from a friend of mine telling me she was thinking about me. I couldn’t believe it, such a lovely surprise. A few family members wanted to visit that day I told my mum ok because I felt stronger and there’s times when u know you can cope, as they arrived I made myself look presentable. They came with a lovely bunch of flowers. That day I felt ok I was so humbled by the gifts I received.

Then it turned to night time again and I dreaded it because I knew I could only lie In that one position and I wouldn’t be able to sleep. The next few nights I didn’t sleep. I just wanted to sleep on my side or any other way. But I had two drains attached to me and it just wasn’t possible with the swelling and heaviness. I was still struggling with pain relief, what the hospital had given me had run out and I was struggling to get hold of my GP and so now I was just down to my paracetamol and ibuprofen. I took it religiously but it wasn’t enough. Even the co-codamol hadn’t been helping much. On top of that the antibiotics I was on had given me terrible thrush and fissures so that was a whole new unbearable issue.

I was desperate for a bath, I wanted to feel clean and for something to ease my symptoms. I asked my mum if she would help me. I felt disgusting. I kept holding my tears back. My mum bathed me which was weird at my age. I hadn’t thought about the operation affecting me in these sort of ways. Anyway she sorted me out before the nurses were due to come around. I came down and sat on the sofa, I was angry, I hated being disabled and then out of nowhere the tears started flowing and I sat there and cried my eyes out! Like never before. My mum saw me cuddled me and cried with me. “What next Mum I don’t think I can take anymore” I said.

I remembered something my sister said she told me your lucky your lack of mobility is just temporary you will soon recover think about those people who are permanently like this. This made me feel bad and again I pulled myself together and thanked God for all the good that had happened. Finding the cancer early for one.

The nurses came. Finally! The drains were coming out! It was the strangest feeling. She checked my drainage and agreed they were ready to come out. The stitches were so tight we struggled for a while. The nurse yanked them out and I was ready to feel some pain. She pulled the two long tubes out of my body, it was so strange they were so long, she slid them out slowly and luckily it didn’t hurt too much. Once they came out I actually felt so relieved. It was like a pressure was released. At that point the postman knocked again another parcel for me! My friend A also had sent me a huge box of chocolates. My emotions were all over the place I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. S wanted to come round with her Mum, I felt a lot better with the drains out! Her mum came round with a bunch of flowers. I just didn’t understand why everyone was doing this for me! So many messages of love and support came for me! I wasn’t used to it. I didn’t really know what to say or how to react, I was just really humbled by the amount of love and support from my friends and family.

It was madness for the next week or so! The flowers kept coming my house literally became a florists shop, my dad was trying to give them away to people we had that many. For the first time in years my best friends family came over which was nice. I loved every moment and had never felt so blessed in my life. It helped so much in that dark time, it kept me distracted and I was glad I’d told them all, some people say to keep these things to yourself but I was grateful for each and everyone one of them for their support. People actually cared about me! I felt positive.

What was strangest in all this, was that I really didn’t care much about my actual breast. Maybe because it was covered by the bandage and it had an implant in so didn’t look like I’d had a breast removed. It was the thing that I’d worried about most before the operation but thought the least about after. I remembered this operation was only the first step though. I had to start the process of egg harvesting soon. A scary thought!

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