Today is my 53rd birthday, which makes me think of the passage of time and how my perceptions have changed. At my last birthday, I had no idea I’d have breast cancer and would be having surgery the day before my next birthday. But that’s what life has brought me. I’m learning not to try to predict the future but to be content with the present. Yesterday was a day of needles and stinging shots and surgery and nausea and vomiting, but all in all, it was a good day because the surgery was successful and went as well as it could have.
Karla and I showed up at the surgery center at 7:30, and I started with having the IV put in – and the nurse got it first try. However, she couldn’t get it to draw blood to check the blood thinning (since I’d been on Coumadin), so I had to go over to labs to have someone draw blood. Then it was over to the imaging center for the injections of a radioactive tracer to show the sentinel nodes to the surgeon. I had two very stinging injections, almost like yellow jacket stings, one above and one below the tumor locations. Then we waited about an hour for the injections to find the nodes. I knew that the imaging place has quiet rooms and asked if Karla and I could go to one of those instead of being in the room with the television. So Karla and I had a nice hour in a quiet, comfortable room with comfy chairs and talked and relaxed until it was time to for the nuclear medicine machine to do its work and scan me.
Then it was on to surgery prep. That part is kind of vague because they gave me “something to help me relax.” I do remember talking with the anesthesiologist and a nurse or two and answering some questions and the surgeon’s feeling the tumor and drawing a line on my breast, which I assume was his “cut here” line. I can barely remember being wheeled into the surgery room and looking at the lights and equipment all around me. . . . and then the next thing I remember is coming to after the surgery. Lots of what I remember after surgery is vague, too, though I do remember throwing up four or five times. I get motion sick very easily, so I have the tendency to have nausea when others may not. I did manage not to throw up while Karla was driving me home, though I had one vomiting episode when I got home. But just one. As long as I stayed perfectly still, I was okay. In a way, the nausea was good because I didn’t notice the soreness from the actual surgery much at all.
The information about my surgery is all second- and third-hand, even though I was there in body. Karla says after about an hour, the surgeon came out and told her (and two friends who had gone to be with her while I was in surgery) that he had taken out a clump of five lymph nodes which included the sentinel nodes. They were all in the area that had shown some activity in the PET scan. Then after about another hour, he came out to say the surgery had gone well, that he had taken out the tumor, and now we wait for the pathology results. I’ll see him on Friday for that – and for him to check his handiwork.
I’m grateful for all of the people who took care of me yesterday, the doctors and nurses and receptionists and technicians – and my sister. Who’d have thought that a day in which I got stuck with needles several times and had incisions and removals would be a good day? A year ago I wouldn’t have thought that. But yesterday was a good day.
Today I feel much better, no nausea and just a little soreness. The pain meds are doing their work, and I’ve eaten breakfast and lunch with no problem. Once again, what I feel is a lot of gratitude. Karla has become an expert caretaker, and I’ve had so much support – good thoughts and prayers and healing vibes and meals and cards and gifts – from so many of you. And now today, lots and lots of birthday wishes. I don’t think that a year ago I’d have realized that having cancer and chemo and surgery would elicit my gratitude. But that’s just what I feel on this birthday a year later. I’m learning a great deal about life and being in the now. I’m grateful for the support of friends and family, support that manifests in a variety of expressions. And I’m content to celebrate this birthday with little fanfare but with deep trust of the goodness of people and their kindnesses. One year can make a real difference. As this last one has. I’m happy to be where I am now in my life’s path on this 53rd birthday.