My Fingerprints Are Back! Now Dreading Surgery
WORDS: Corrine Barraclough PHOTOGRAPHY Corrine Barraclough
CB’s BC Journal
While some things are returning to normal in my life – like my fingertips returning to their wrinkly old selves and tiny little hairs beginning to grow back on my head – my body is about to go through change of a more permanent kind.
My surgery will be two weeks from today.
I’m not going to lie; I’ve had nightmares, tears and internal tantrums about it. I don’t want to do it, frankly, and I’m incredibly scared.
This week, I went for a flurry of pre-admissions appointments at Robina Hospital and it all felt horribly real. There was talk about pre-surgery blood tests, medical body scrubs and specific anaesthetic plans. The fact that I had to have a face-to-face consultation with an anaesthetist because it’s such a long surgery made me even more nervous than I was before.
All of the hospital staff are lovely, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m going to be having a three hour surgery, in pain when I come round and have months of slow recovery ahead.
I’ll take whatever they can possibly give me to manage the pain afterwards. My hospital bed is booked for five days, and then I’ll (hopefully) be sent home. I’ll have drains to contend with and regular hospital appointments to have my dressings changed.
I have to have all of my lymph nodes removed on my right side and I’m very concerned about that. The more nodes you have removed, the higher the chance of lymphedema; swelling in the body’s soft tissue due to a build up of fluid in the lymphatic system. If I was having one or two removed, I’d probably be less concerned, but I’m very worried as I’m having all of mine taken away on one side.
And then there’s post-surgery bras to think about. The hospital gives patients one bra that’s supposed to be worn 24/7 for several weeks but they have a reputation for being scratchy and uncomfortable. So, I’ve been shopping around online for post-surgery bras in case I need some back up. The problem is: what size am I looking for? I’m going to emerge from surgery with the expanders under my skin but the actual saline injections to fill them are done over several weeks, so I’ll be constantly changing!
In an effort to feel like I have a tiny amount of control over this whole surgery chapter, I’ve been making lists.
I’ve been shopping for comfy, button up pyjamas.
I have new slippers and a gown for hospital.
I’m hoping that these little comforts will help future me smile a little. But, there’s no getting around it… I’m bloody nervous about this surgery.
I had a chuckle with the anaesthetist at the hospital. She said, “I see in your notes that you seemed to handle chemo well? And I also see that you shaved your head before chemo? That’s the kind of positive mindset that makes all the difference!”
“I can’t believe that’s in my medical notes,” I laughed, but I guess there are worse things that could have been recorded.
Yes, I shaved my head before chemo to literally get myself into the right headspace.
Yes, I tolerated chemo pretty well and managed four rounds of AC and all 12 rounds of paclitaxel.
But now I’m counting down to major surgery and feel like a beginner at this journey all over again.
Lots of self-care is in my diary; meditation time, a sound healing, walks with my little dog (who’s been in animal hospital, thank f**k he’s ok because I would be really lost without him right now), and plenty of quiet time.
For now, I can’t do anything except buy future me treats and take this all one day at a time…
Corrine was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, which has spread to her lymph nodes. Her medical oncologists are pursuing a “cure”, which will begin with a six-month course of chemotherapy at Gold Coast University Hospital, followed by surgery at Robina Hospital and then likely further treatment. Corrine will be writing a weekly blog journaling her personal journey for Ocean Road Magazinethroughout her breast cancer.