The day of the op was cold and frosty and I was wrapped up yet trendy with my huge scarf, fleece, grey jeans, boots and gillet. I still looked like a Geography teacher.
I’d removed my wedding, engagement and other rings, earrings, necklace, bracelets and watch and left them in the bedroom.
Andiamo! We were off in plenty of time to park in the impossible car park. In fact we were so early that we went to Costa’s for a cup of fruity tea. It was good to people watch, people finishing a shift, early morning meetings, patients like me killing time – all of life in the microcosm which makes up a regional hospital.
My first appointment of the day was at nuclear medicine. As we checked in we passed an extraordinary looking man who was completely wired up with wires and stickers all over his head, he was sitting with his wife and very jolly. He was obviously a frequent flier in Nuclear Medicine and knew the staff. As usual I needed a nervous pee and went off to the loo – where there was a big sign to inform people that had you had nuclear medicine treatment you had to use the special loo – presumably in a lead lined box.
My name was called and Nick and I went into the treatment room where we met another lovely, kind, matter of fact Radiographer. We went through the checks – name, date of birth, address and then she paused and said she had to check something with the Consultant. A few minutes later she returned and told me I had to have two injections as the tumours were in different quadrants of the breast.
Oh bugger! She also said there was no anaesthetic and I warned her I would probably swear.
Top off, bra off, lie down on the scanner bed, left arm above the head, right hand holding onto Nick. The injections were dreadful, if you have ever tried breast feeding you might remember the pain when your new baby latched on, that was nothing compared to this… my toes didn’t just curl but I felt as if my entire foot did, dislocated and then turned 180 degrees – I tried to do pilates breathing but saying “f*ckitty f*ck” was more effective.
Once the radioactive isotope was injected in to my left breast Nick was invited to massage it around – final farewell to that baby… before the screen showed a myriad of stars showing where the isotope was going. I think he enjoyed the physical and the physics aspect of this treatment. The aim is that the radioactive isotope flows into the armpit by the lymph and is trapped in the sentinel lymph node. This then helps to guide the surgeon, who holds a gamma probe over the skin, to the lymph glands. Later on during the surgery the surgeon injects blue dye into the nipple to stain the sentinel lymph nodes to make them easier to find and the reason for this is to find out if those horrible cancer cells have escaped from the breast. We were done, sent on our way with the Radiographer wishing us good luck and a swift recovery. Next stop Freedom Ward.
Tip: Accept that some treatments are going to be painful – don’t swear at the staff and let them know if you are going to swear in advance. Try not flinch and breathe deeply. DO NOT SWEAR AT THE STAFF.