This post is more for my recollection.
Checked in at 5:30 am on May 30. Pastor Ellen came to meet with Paul and I to pray for a successful surgery for me and the surgical staff. To pray for healing and to cope with future issues that will be related to my cancer.
I was called for a blood draw and then escorted to the OR prep area where they had me sign off on a bunch of papers, agreeing to the surgery and treatments. Due to the type of surgery, breast cancer patients should not have IVs inserted in their arms. If they have to pull more than the sentinel node then the patient is at greater risk for infection. So the nurse proceeded to put the IV in my foot.
I was not to excited about this, never having one done besides by arms. Each time the nurse tried to get the IV going, she would first give me a shot of Novocaine and then try the IV. She did this three times and each time my veins would buckle. She went for help and they tried again. I was in tears with frustration and pain. I remember asking Dr. Edney to do something – make the pain stop – I was feeling like a human pincushion. The top of your foot is not a fun place to have an IV placed. He said I was in good hands and within a few minutes, Dr. Reilly stepped in and said “get it in her arm, we need to get going.” With no known cancer in the left side, this was our alternative option and it worked immediately. Once the IV was started, they could get me calmed down. I remember a brief kiss to Paul and then breathing into the mask.
I woke up at 3:00 in my room and in pain. The nurse gave me morphine. At 3:30, I remember asking about a headache that I had and whether or not it was from anesthesia or morphine. I was told it could be both. The surgical pain went away – morphine works fast but does not take the pain away for a long period of time. Tylenol with Codeine was next and I still had a headache. The headache was localized on the back side of my head, just to the right side. I continued to assume that the headache was from meds but Paul brushed my hair later in the evening and I had a lot of tenderness and a bump.
No one can explain why I have a bump on the back of my head. It is possible that my head was in the same position for so long that it caused trauma to the tissue.
I never really had surgical site pain, more muscle pain. They switched my meds Thursday morning to Hydro-Codone because the Tylenol Codeine kept me awake all night. They also added in a Valium and Flexeril – a muscle relaxer. This combo kept me in and out of sleep all day Thursday. I slept better Thursday night and had a good nap Friday morning.
The compression vest came off on Thursday morning when Dr. Edney checked in. That was a huge relief as it was digging into my arm pits against the stitches and also rubbing against the drainage tubes that are inserted between my ribs and muscles.
I have just two drainage bags (rather than four!) and the fluid is less and less each day. The nurses said I was doing great and healing well. Incision areas look good. I was discharged from the hospital at 5:30 last night (June 1) and came home to a delicious home cooked meal by my mom. I am so glad that she and Dad are here. It was a comfort to see them after surgery.
I keep pillows under my arms to help keep the muscles relaxed. This helps a lot. Sleeping at home last night though was a challenge. Paul referred to me as the Princess and the Pea because it took us 5 or 6 times to figure out how to prop the combination of pillows so that I could sleep upright and still have my head supported and be comfortable. I will need to sleep upright until the drainage bags are removed and on my back for at least the next three weeks.
I have been drinking lots of water as the meds leave me with cotton mouth. I also have a breathing device that I have to use 10 times an hour to stretch my lungs and help prevent pneumonia.
It is difficult getting up from a sitting position and even harder to get in to bed without pulling on the muscles in my arms. Day by day it gets better and moving around helps too. I have been walking a few laps around the first floor of my house.
Through all of this, Paul has been by my side. He spent the night in the hospital recliner next to me Wednesday night and until my pain meds were given to me at midnight on Thursday. I know that this is hard on him and yet he has been meticulous about keeping notes in the hospital about my meds and other activities that needed to be logged. I am thankful for his presence.