Disclaimer: I’m neurotic. I don’t know how I’ve managed to make (and maintain) friends. It’s one of the eight or ninth wonders of the world.
I found out in March that I should have a mastectomy.
Which gave me four months to obsess about it.
And obsess I did.
I joined a support group so I could read all the horror stories. Becuase what makes you feel better about having your boobs amputated than a picture of a red, puss-filled, dying breasts on your Facebook feed?
To work through the fear I one) stopped eating. Two) created a checklist of items needed.
I checked it twice.
And a third, fourth…twentieth time (see disclaimer above).
I had all the right pillows, drain holders, a giant box of essential oils, I’d waxed, prayed, cried, installed a bidet…I could NOT have been more prepared.
Day of surgery. We get to the hospital. Six AM check-in. I sign my name and the nurse tells me to have a seat and wait.
You want me to sit and wait? Like put my bony butt in one of those chairs and patiently wait for them to call me back?
Anyway, so I paced the room, holding tight to my breast pillow, like the crazy person I am.
I have no shame.
I can picture the nurses in the back room, watching the monitor, seeing this woman hugging a pink superwoman pillow, carving grooves into the carpet as she marches from the coffee machine to the fake palm tree in the waiting room and back, then rock-paper-scissoring to see who had to prep me.
So the roshambo loser calls me back, takes me weight, vitals….blah, blah, blah. She administers the IV and I promptly ask when I will be given the memory erasing drugs.
She looks at me as if I’ve just sprouted a second head.
I explain to her that most of the women I’ve talked to don’t even remember pre-op, post-op, or much of the first day after having a mastectomy.
The memory erasing was part of my checklist.
But the nurse just stared.
I’m like, come on! Don’t you have a neuralizer in your pocket? Fine, I didn’t say that (obviously) but how about a little Fentynl?
Nope. Fluid. They gave me fluid.
Anyway, so my memory is fully intact when they walk me back to the OR.
After fourteen seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, I knew what to expect from an OR. Except this OR didn’t have the observation deck. Or the gray walls and hot doctors. This OR had windows with the blinds open. I could see the cars zooming by. The plants growing outside. The morning dew on the budding flowers. People walking. It was weird.
I lay down. The anesthesiologist asks if I’m comfortable.
Finally, I’m given the drugs and the world goes black…
“Erin! Erin! You’re all done!” A woman is shaking my shoulder. “Erin!”
I open my eyes and a nurse is all up in my face. The first words out of my mouth?
“Why the hell am I remembering this?”
The second word?
My legs are on fire. Seriously. On fire! Like an army of ants are crawling up my thighs with tiny matches, blazing a trail of burning flesh. Oh, and, my bladder is about to explode. EXPLODE!
Also, I was flying.
I was flying without a helmet on and that just felt irresponsible.
Obviously, I’m as neurotic drugged as I am lucid.
Someone is sitting on my legs to stop them from moving and, somehow, I’m deemed fit to be rolled to my room.
A nurse injects something into my IV.
“Is that going to erase my memory?” I ask. (still stuck on that)
“No,” she replies.
My shoulders fall and I feel like I’ve been lied to. I was NOT supposed to remember this!
I ask the nurses at least fifteen times, “Am I dying?”
“Am I flying?”
“Is my daughter here?”
(side note: I’m so scared my daughters will have to go through this one day)
It wasn’t until my legs calmed down, and my bladder was emptied, and I stopped flying and dying, and finally got over the fact that my memory will remain intact, that I even realized why I had surgery.
Oh, yeah, boobs!
I took a gander down and…holy crap. Sometime between lying on the OR table and the ant attack, Dolly Parton had landed on my chest. Wowza. (The surgeon was able to place implants instead of expanders)
I have stripper boobs!
I promptly invited everyone to look, because that’s what strippers do. Right? I dunno. This whole stripper boobs thing was new to me.
Except, in reality, they didn’t look so stripperish.
They looked more like deformed coconuts. But, hey, before they looked like deflated balloons, so I’ll take it. (they’re swollen and need a few more surgeries).
At some point, I sent a few friends emjoi texts. Of course, THAT I have no memory of. Why someone allowed me access to the internet is beyond me.
The next two days were difficult. My boobs didn’t hurt as much as my back did. Hospital beds are made of concrete, wire springs, and tears. Fetch! Also, someone came in every thirty-two minutes to make sure I was breathing or to give me meds (and ask me my name and birthday every.single.time).
My mom covered me in essential oils, which helped. The nurses could smell me from a mile away.
Annoyingly, they kept asking me to do ridiculous things like…walk.
Ugh. I had to walk down the hallway and back again. Which just felt like a lot to ask of a person who had twenty-pound deformed coconuts strapped to their chest.
So it’s been nine days and my drains are out. I’ve used like 10% of all the crap I bought in preparation for this surgery. My boobs hurt but it’s nothing a little morphine can’t fix.
I’m on Advil and the occasional Valium to help with muscle spasms.
All-in-all, I’d say it wasn’t as horrific as I anticipated it to be. Truly, it wasn’t. I’m still recovering. Can’t go more than a few hours without taking a nap (could be the Valium). I’d LOVE a real shower, but the surgery is done.
Yesterday, I went to see my plastic surgeon and my oncologist.
Both were very pleased with how pink and happy my skin looks.
Both said to lay off the Valium because I looked stoned. (side note: I was).
I received my pathology report back from my oncologist. Going in, I knew that I had one tumor in my left breast. Turns out I had precancerous cells in BOTH breasts. They call that stage zero.
Had I NOT listened to my body. Had I NOT gone for a second opinion. Had I listened to the doctors who told me it was nothing. Those stage zero cells would have turned to cancer.
Here’s what I hope your takeaway from this blog post is.
One) listen to your body and trust your gut! Find a doctor who will listen to you.
Two) hospitals do not administer memory erasing drugs on demand.
Three) a mastectomy isn’t as awful as it sounds (yes, it still hurts and some days are hard, recovery is long, but it’s not unbearable).
Four) I forgot what the fourth was…I’m tired, and weaning off the Valium.
Anyway, thank you for the prayers and well wishes and flowers and food and support.
And a BIG thank you to my Momma who took care of me for the first week. ❤
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