Girl on Top (Part 10) -Twists and Turns

Slowly opening my eyes, I spied the first rays of the July sun streaming through the gap in my closed bedroom curtains.  My mind focused, as the last waves of sleep cleared and the day that lay before me sharpened in my mind.  Instead of enjoying a summer’s day off work, the events stretching before me meant that it would be as far removed from a relaxing break as imaginable.  There would be no sitting in the park eating ice cream, or strolling around the shops for me today.  Instead, I would be admitted into hospital, where I would undergo surgery to have my right breast removed.

Due to the nature of my operation (the surgeon had decided to whisk me in at the last minute, only the day before) it meant that I had to play a waiting game for the majority of the day, until I received a call from the hospital to tell me the exact time of the operation.  I had packed my bags the previous night, along with having my last food and drink before the op.  It had been specified that I wasn’t allowed to consume anything that day and, by mid-morning, and with no phone call having come through from the hospital, my stomach had begun to make the obligatory rumbling noises and my mouth was dry in the summer heat.

Although I had tried to fill my morning as I might usually have when at home, my mind kept wandering from any task that I tried to engage in, and my eyes kept being drawn back to my phone, willing  the screen to light up and the number of the hospital to be displayed there.

Finally, just after midday, I received a call and was instructed to be in the hospital at 1pm.  My brother had been on standby ready to drive me in and, once I had checked and double checked that I had everything I needed, we made the short trip to the hospital.  Although I had hoped that once there my wait would be over, I was wrong.  Another two hours ensued before the nurse told me that they were ready for me and that my operation was imminent.

During that time, my thought process skipped erratically from one thing to another, but one image loomed large – and that was a vision of what was to come for me physically.  I had had many conversations regarding the mastectomy and what would await me on the other side, but sitting in the waiting room, watching the second hand of the clock slowly tick down every minute, I could not help but imagine what I would look like in the space of a few hours’ time.

I had always hoped that the nature of the operation would allow me to have an instant reconstruction whilst under the same anesthetic, but my surgeon had informed me the previous day that this was not to be the case.  The thought of having a silicone implant and tattooed nipple had been a slightly challenging one, but to be left, indefinitely, with just one breast was an even more difficult thought for me to come to terms with.  Many of my friends had told me to consider the reconstructive surgery as a ‘boob job for free’ but, in the back of my mind, I had known that this simply wasn’t the case.  Now, I was faced with the prospect of being without part of my body for an uncertain amount of time and having to come to terms with looking at a very different version of myself in the mirror each day.

At 3pm, I found myself being wheeled down the corridor on the hospital trolley.  In the theatre, a pleasant sight greeted my eyes; a young and quite dashing anaesthetist with a clipboard, ran through a number of questions with me.  Suddenly I was acutely aware of the bandana around my head and lack of make-up on my face, as he questioned me regarding allergies and diet. He searched for my vein and injections were then given, as we chatted and joked, and my eyelids began to feel heavy.  I swiftly fell into an anaesthetized state.

Just before 6pm, my arm was gently squeezed by a nurse and I felt as if I were returning from a very long, very deep sleep.  My handsome anaesthetist winked at me as he stood alongside my surgeon and they told me that the operation had been a success and I was again wheeled along the corridor (this time in the opposite direction) and into a room.  To my delight, I found the room which I was to occupy for the next four days was in the private wing of the hospital and was nothing short of a hotel suite!

The first evening I was surrounded by friends and family and, at one point, there were at least ten people in the room, all so pleased that the operation had been successful.  It was the first instance that I had stayed for a substantial amount of time in hospital and the luxury of having my own room made me want to stay there for another week!  Two tubes were fixed to my side and these drained the blood and liquids from my body into little bags, which I had to carry around with me.  I was quite intrigued by these and even took pictures to show what they looked like to friends who couldn’t visit me in hospital.

Finally I had to face my own reflection.  I was no stranger to having to deal with a different vision staring back at me as, over the past six months, chemotherapy had meant that my image had changed quite drastically and that I had had to deal with different versions of myself along the way.   A bandage covered the area that had been operated on and the only difference that I saw was that the area was flat.

After four days, my tubes and bags were removed and I was able to leave my luxurious ‘hotel room’ and return home, where I had really good care from those around me.  I had been signed off from work for six weeks, and my recovery went swiftly; plenty of friends came to visit me and, slowly but surely, I began to heal.  I was finally grateful that my operation had been in the summer, as this enabled me to take walks in the park and spend time in the sunshine.

A week after the operation, I went to see my surgeon and have the bandage removed.  On my first viewing, the scar had begun to heal beautifully and looked really neat.  I had, of course, been hesitant to what would await me on the removal of my dressing, but I was pleasantly surprised with what greeted me.  My right chest area was totally flat and carefully stitched into a curved line, which almost resembled a smile.  It wasn’t ugly at all, but just different to what I had been used to viewing.  I breathed a sigh of relief; I could deal with my slightly changed torso without any major issues and without feeling sad or resentful in any way.

My surgeon also told me that he had removed twenty lymph nodes in my right armpit. Only one of these had been infected with cancer and, due to the removal of them, I had to be careful not to get an infection in that arm.  If it was cut or burnt in any way, the lack of lymph nodes would mean that my body could not easily fight off any infection and that lymphoedema might ensue.

So many happy memories were made over the month of my recovery, including my friends from Singapore and my aunt from Lithuania visiting, birthdays, a trip to the New Forrest and a friend coming all the way over from Canada to see me.  During this time, my hair had continued to grow steadily back and I made a decision to dye it bleach blonde in the style of Jessie J!  The new style and colour were an instant hit and I found that my confidence returned a little more, as I no longer had to wear (or be conscious of) my wig.

I also made the decision to begin a blog.  I had toyed with it for some time and quite a few friends had suggested that I should take up writing in order to express how I felt.  My first blog was penned (or typed!) during my recovery time and it inspired me to continue my writing to this day.

I returned to work in early September, and my radiotherapy was scheduled to begin a few weeks after that. Two days into my return, I was administering Bio Oil to my scar, to help reduce the marking, when I noticed two very distinct red marks just to the side of where I had been stitched.  A barrage of questions filled my head and I tried to search for answers; I had been here before, but to return to this place again was bewildering.  Examining the marks again, the overwhelming question was quite simply that, if they were cancerous, how would it be possible to operate on tissue that had already been extensively removed?  I shut this thought out; they were surely just an extension of the scar tissue that was healing, nothing more.

A sickly sense of dread filled me. Was it possible that the cancer had come back and if so, how?  Had my surgeon not cut enough out, and were these marks due to me not starting my course of radiotherapy earlier?  So many questions and so few explanations.

I needed answers – and fast!

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5 thoughts on “Girl on Top (Part 10) -Twists and Turns”

  1. Beautiful lady: Once again I feel myself in awe of your strength and courage. You are truly inspirational and words fail me to express what I want say. ..
    You are inspirational, keep going, stay strong and whenever you feel the need for support call on those (including me) to encourage/distract/support or what ever you need. With love xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura, again it is beyond of extraordinary. You must have an enormous power inside. You have figured out your own way to deal in a battle with a cancer. You learned about yourself, what you are made of. This is so tremendous, extraordinary , also you are sharing this with us. Helping others who are going through with the same thing. It puts you to the test and it also brings out the best in you. You are going through loss, anger, fear and always you discover hope. So massive, gigantic thank you for sharing with us, educating all of us. Very proud of you Laura!!! I have seen so many extraordinary things, nothing seems extraordinary any more reading your stories. Un beso gigante.x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Inspiring and moving, your lust for life and positivity still shines through your words and your actions…thank you for reminding us all about the power of courage to light up the dark xxx The fact your scar is shaped like a smile, the hot anaesthetist etc.

    I can remember the hospital room like it was yesterday, Laura. Having just looked at my calendar I can see it was Sunday 26 oct last year that you first told me in wagamama that you had a lump that needed attention. What a year it has been for you, and thank you again for your blog so that others in the same situation as you were back in oct 2014 have got a bit of insight as to what might lie on the path ahead xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great and truthful insight into the part of your story which, for many on the same journey as you, will have been the hardest corner to turn; the biggest challenge to face.

    Your true courage, hope and determination demonstrate that even the biggest obstacles can be overcome with humility and optimism and that no mountain is too high to conquer, no sea too vast to swim.

    You are a true shinning light, Laura and I hope that the resilience that you have shown will give us all the strength to carry on if we are ever faced with half of what you have been through.

    Liked by 1 person

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