Mastectomy Prep 101

Right! It’s been a few days since I’ve written a substantial post, but I have been trying to give myself a break from constantly thinking about breast cancer, and happily it has been working (on and off).

Tomorrow is my operation. So, in preparation for my mastectomy I’ve been doing all sorts of things (and not doing all sorts of things) which I’ll summarize in a list for anyone who is interested. Here it comes, my “getting ready for a –bleep– ing mastectomy” list.

One: Have the talk.

Mmmmhum. This one-to-one pep talk was conducted while Zsolt worked some overtime on his recent paper submission. I whipped off my shirt and bra, sat down in front of my Ikea mirrors (mirrors because we were too cheap to buy a full length… instead we have several squares lined up vertically on the wall), and just looked in the mirror for a while. And yes, there is a physical difference between my two breasts; the right nipple (cancer boob) has started to turn in, and a bit of red spotting has appeared on the skin. I looked up close, I leaned far back, I covered my right side and tried to image it was a patch of scarred blankness.

And finally, I had the talk. Basically it went along the lines of, “Catherine, you have cancer and losing the breast is the best step to being rid of it all.” Which I found hard to believe. “I have cancer? Me?” “Yes, you have cancer.” [Fun Fact: people may tell you that cancer is inside your body, but it is incredibly difficult to believe them. I can go to the screening, see pictures of the lumps, have my breast removed, be told I’ll need chemo . . . and all the while I’ll still be saying: “who, me?”] “Yes, you.” This is what I kept telling myself. And then, moving on, “You can’t be scared because this operation is a good thing. It’s a good day, and a freaking miracle – and they know what they’re doing – so just let go of your control issues, at least on Thursday.”

Anyhow. No more details on that. It was a discussion to remember, but I’m glad I had it. My mom suggested talking in the mirror, and I’m very thankful she did.

Two:  Get on with life.

Which, sorry Mom and Dad, is the reason I haven’t written any posts. There were things to do, people to see, and places to go. Saturday was a night out with friends, Monday turned into drinks and a £4 brownie down at Tragos, and Tuesday was my writing group, followed by a discussion on flirting and online dating. Also there was work, and acupuncture (or acupressure, which I tend to prefer), and going to the beach with my man. All the while my surgery rose and fell in my mind, but thank God for good company – they have all been so wonderful and supportive. Overall, it’s been a very good week.

Three: Pre assessment.

Zsolt and I arrived at the hospital 9.00 am sharp. The waiting room was totally empty, so we sat and hummed and watched the nurses and doctors arrive.  About 9.10 am we were called into a side room. Here the nurse took my blood pressure, weight, height and asked me to go back into the waiting room.  She was quite nice. Then, around 9.20 am a second nurse called me into a second side room. Here we discussed my medical history, she gave me some disinfectant to shower with, and I had to swab my nose and leg/stomach crease. It felt formal, quite quick. She was less personable, but not bad.

Also, I had a bit of Thursday explained to me. Apparently I would arrive at 12, say goodbye to Zsolt and then wait for my surgery (which could happen any time between 12 and 7pm). I would then be taken to my room to sleep off the anaesthetic.  It was likely I’d be able to see Zsolt, though she wasn’t definite on that.

Eh? What? Are you kidding me? To sit alone for an entire afternoon waiting for an operation while twiddling my fingers and quietly freaking out does not sound like fun. No sir. Not for me.

So today I called one of my Breast Care Nurses (incredible team of women!) who managed to calm me down. She said Zsolt would be allowed to take me into the Day Surgery Room, and we could possibly get away with having him there for a short while. Apparently the area can get crowded, so the nurses like to keep it clear. But at least he can walk me in.  Then I’ll see a round of doctors and someone will come round to give me some giant socks to stop blood clotting.  She also said I probably won’t have to wait all afternoon. Thank goodness for great people skills, because she calmed me down quite a bit.

Anyhow, there’s a picture of what I’ve done this week, and what I may be doing tomorrow. Which leave the last step. . .

Four: show up.

And then the rest is up to them. So breath – in, and out, and in – and let go of the control . . . in and out and in . . .

Thanks to everyone for all your support and encouragement. It means an incredible amount to me. If you can, please spare a thought tomorrow at some point between noon and seven. That’s when I’ll need it most.

See you on the other side. Tomorrow this cancer is OUTTA HERE.  Whew!

4 thoughts on “Mastectomy Prep 101

  1. Hi Catherine,

    Sounds like you had a good “one-on-one” talk. I use Marcelle’s mirror technique whenever I need to do some serious soul searching – yup, her technique is awesome!

    Sounds like you have a good medical team backing you up. I remember how reassured I felt when my GP found out I was getting the best surgeon (over here it’s the luck of the draw on who you get), then every nurse I met for my pre-surgery tests told me I was lucky to be getting that surgeon.

    I’m impressed with your pre-surgery steps.

    I’ll be thinking of you on Thursday.

  2. Catherine- we continue to pray for your health to be fully restored.
    We pray that God provide you with the best possible medical care and that you be surrounded with love from those who care for you in hospital.

    May you feel God’s love and strength carry & protect you as many lift you up in prayer especially this day.

    • Hello Sandie,

      On the day of my mastectomy I received your card and bag of names. It was incredibly touching – moved me to tears, and really appreciate everyone’s efforts. I took it into the hospital with me, and just knowing it was in my bag helped me feel better.

      Please let everyone know (or those you meet with) how thankful I am for their prayers. The card could not have arrived at a better time.


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