Yesterday I had to be at Mass General Hospital in Boston at 7:30a.m. for a 12:45 p.m. surgery. I decided to take the 6:25 a.m. train, and risk being a little late, which proved to be no problem. (Yes, I took the train by myself because I didn't want Chubba sitting around. I kind of like this time alone on the train. Really, I had a root canal that took more time than this day surgery.) I set my alarm clock for 5:30, giving me plenty of time to beautify myself before the surgery. I slept terribly, flipping and flopping all night like a freshly caught fish on the deck of a boat! I slept for about 20 minutes at a time. After one stint of sleep, I decided to give a one-eye peak at the clock. It was flashing! The power went out! What time is it?! I stumbled downstairs to the cable box clock, the only reliable clock after a power outage, and discovered that it was on 3:30. Phew! Chubba's alarm clock has back-up batteries, but they were dead. I guess I better change then when I change the smoke alarm batteries - which I never do. I usually change the smoke alarm batteries when they make the obnoxious, high-pitched beeping sound in the middle of the night. Does anyone other than firefighters, and my friend Bubble Wrap, actually change the batteries in their smoke alarms as recommended, on daylight savings?
The pre-op instructions said no make-up. I try to not go anywhere without mascara for fear of scaring small children. At 5:45 a.m. I was thinking about the song "A Little More Mascara" from La Cage Aux Folles, so I plastered it on! Why can I remember a song from a Broadway musical I saw a million years ago in The City, aka San Francisco, with my brother, T, but I get the words "asthma" and "cancer" mixed up? Maybe I need brain surgery too.
I arrived at 7:50 for my 7:30 check in. Fashionably late. I had to put my necklace - 40th birthday gold locket with pictures of the girls in it, and wallet in the safe. They asked me to remove my wedding ring, but they would have to cut off my finger to get the ring. Since moving to the East Coast, I somehow managed to blow up like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon. I am still looking for the release valve. Can you say, "s t r e s s - e a t i n g?"
After changing into a stylish hospital ensemble, pants, top & robe, I sat in the waiting area for only a short time. I walked to a curtained off pre-op"room" that was only big enough for the bed, a chair, an IV stand, and a few instruments. There were over 25 of these "rooms." I was curtained off only on the sides, which made it possible for me to watch the parade of doctors - some frighteningly young, nurses, med students, and techs go by. Since I was only divided by curtains, I could hear the people talking on either side of me. One neighbor, who sounded like an older lady, has had two hips replaced, two rotator cuffs replaced and was there for her back. She must be bionic by now. She kept telling the doctor that he looked too young to be a doctor. He kept telling her that botox made him look that way. I bet he was barely into his 30s. After a short time, I was wheelchaired off to radiology for another mammogram. Been there, done that. The nice young girl wheeled me through the bowels of the hospital to get to radiology. Clearly, remodeling has not hit everywhere yet. This area and the pre-op area could use a good cleaning with Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. (If you haven't tried these magical cleaning tools, you need them!) Dr. T. Best told me that Day Surgery will be in the new building currently under construction, adjacent to the main building. It will be open next year, 2011, for the hospital's 200th anniversary. Mass General is the third oldest hospital in the US. Remember that little tidbit for your next Trivial Pursuit game.
I had another mammogram on the right side. After this smashing event, I went into another room where a I was put into another mammography machine, but with a moon-shaped cut out in the upper smasher paddle, and a light projecting grids onto my smashed object. The radiologists were pinpointing the tiny metal marker that was placed inside my breast after the MRI biopsy several weeks ago. Next, they numbed the skin with a shot and inserted a wire down to the marker. I had to look away so that I wouldn't get poked in the eye. (During this procedure the saying, "That's better than being poked in the eye with a sharp stick" kept coming to mind. And the revised version, "Better than being poked in the eye with a long breast wire." The original is much better.) During surgery, Dr. T. Best followed this wire down to the marker and removed a mass around it. As the radiologist we doing the procedure, the two radiologist, x-ray tech and I were just chatting away. It would have been a nice little coffee klatch, except there was no coffee, and I was partly naked.
I was told not to move my right arm for fear of moving the wire. I kept it locked to my right side like a tin soldier.
Back in my curtained room, I watched more of the unending parade, read a little bit, and then finally feel asleep. When I woke up, I was famished. All I could think about was an In-N-Out cheeseburger with grilled onions, hold the tomato. Sorry non-Californians, you have no idea what you are missing! Five Guys in Gloucester is the closest we have found to In-N-Out, but not quite. (I am nauseous right now, so this writing this is not a good thing.)
At about 1:30 Dr. T. Best and a surgical nurse wheeled me into the operating room. Fashionably late. I think, this is the first time I actually had the surgeon wheel me in and out of the operating room. (I had 3 major surgeries - two resulted in babies, and 1 day surgery prior to yesterday.) Moving the bed around is no small feat because there are only millimeters for clearance on either side of the bed and the doorways. The surgery only took about 30 minutes. There were 4 RN's in the room and Dr T. Best. One nurse sat by my head that was curtained off from the rest of my body during surgery. She was the one who gave me the cocktail so that I wouldn't feel anything. Actually, we talked about cocktails as it was taking affect. And would your believe, she commented on my eyelashes, saying they were the longest eyelashes she had ever seen. See, La Cage was right, you should never go without mascara! I was awake the entire time and only felt a couple of sharp pains near the end of the procedure - no biggie. Dr. T. Best lived up to her nickname. Since the surgery - no pain, no swelling and no bruising. I have not even taken the prescribed vicodin.
The six of us ladies also had a bit a chit chatting before and after the procedure. Within the topic of conversation, I said something to Dr. T. Best about having a life. She said that being a breast surgeon is great because there are almost zero complications, and she very rarely gets phone calls when she is not at work. She clearly enjoys her job. I also learned that she goes to a dude ranch near Steamboat for vacation. I will give Steamboat a shout out as a great family ski destination.
The recovery nurses were quite entertaining. I didn't realize that a floor show was included. They were singing, looking up shoes on the computer I could see from my bed, and wheeling each other around with some weird contraption that looked like a bike mechanic's stand, pretending it was a pump for a well. One nurse was leaving in a couple of weeks for a trip to Northern California. She was spending one day and night in San Francisco, focusing on Chinatown, but didn't know where to stay. I recommended The Orchard and The Juliana on Bush St., and The Golden Gate Hotel on Post St. as smaller boutique hotels located close to Chinatown. Again, I wonder how I can remember the name of these hotels and the streets, but I get "asthma" and "cancer" mixed up?
I observed one odd, and somewhat disturbing situation while in recovery. Since there were a lot of unused curtained rooms, a young female doctor sat with an even younger male doctor - hopefully a med student, sat down in the middle of everything, for all to see and hear, and went over pain medications. The young woman doctor wrote down the numbers 1-9 on a piece of paper and asked the young guy to tell her what he knew about pain medications, and where they fit on the list. He went blank, and could not think of anything! I wanted to shout out: Codeine, Vicodin, Demerol, Morphine, Oxycontin, Tylenol, Ibuprophen. I kept thinking, "Holy shit! I hope this guy doesn't make any decisions!" (Oops, my 80-something Godmother is now reading this, and I better watch my language. Actually, I think I heard her say those exact words at my niece's recent wedding. After all, she raised a house-full of rambunctious kids. Hell, she is probably one that taught it to me.) Anyway, I didn't stare at the woman doctor and guy when they were talking; sometimes I pretended to read or sleep. Actually, I didn't listen to too much of their conversation because it wasn't that interesting. I read several chapters in my book, "The Women." It is about Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life. (When I grow up, I want to be an architect.)
Just as I was getting dressed to come home, I got very nauseous. A nurse gave me a nice parting gift of crackers, a gingerale, and a barf bag. I know this sounds strange, but it was a nifty barf bag. I was a collapsible blue plastic bag with one end stretched over a circular cardboard ring. Fortunately I didn't use it, and will keep it in the car for any carsick emergencies.
When Justin and the girls picked me up, the girls were uncharacteristically quiet. I don't think they said more than 3 words each on the entire ride home.
Later in the evening, Riley(almost 15) privately confessed to me that she was very scared when she saw me be wheeled out in the wheelchair. She said that I looked so helpless. What?! My hair looked good, I was dressed in my finest, and I even had on lipstick! I told her to tell me immediately when she feels this way, so I can assure her that I am okay. I also said that I will be honest when I don't feel okay.
I had to coax Molly (9), aka Little Miss Keep Everything Locked Inside, to tell me how she felt when she saw me in a wheelchair. She finally admitted that she is afraid that "all of this" is going to happen to her. I learned that this is a very normal reaction for someone her age. With the negative results on the BRCA genetic tests as evidence, I told her that this isn't something she can get from me, unlike her short height and her clever wit. I said that when I was her age, I was afraid of stuff like this too, but I'm not afraid anymore. (Well, sometimes I have my moments.)
Today I feel nauseous if I am up for too long. This is why it has taken me all day to write this jibberjabber.
Whacky thought for the day...
Why do zoos get a bad rap?
I was recently talking with a breast cancer survivor that is suffering her fourth infection since her reconstructive surgery two years ago. I mentioned that I am going to Mass General, and she said that she didn't go there because she heard it is a "zoo."
Why when places are busy or chaotic, we say it is like a zoo?
Have you been to a zoo lately? They are very neat and orderly. They are better shape than most kids' rooms. Mine included.