Remembering My Hospital Stay

Having a mastectomy is not like giving birth, where everybody wants to drop by, give you flowers and coo over your new baby.

It’s hard to coo over loosing a breast or both.

I knew I’d be in the hospital at the least one night after my bilateral mastectomy (maybe three at most). So, I made sure in advance to let people know they could just visit me at home after I was released.

But that doesn’t mean that no one dropped by. A small group of concerned people stopped in to see how I was doing, including the breast navigation people, a social worker and a nun, my Mom, brother and his wife, along with my youngest daughter and g-baby all to help me deal with my loss.

Looking back on the last time I was hospitalized, when I had my hysterectomy, nobody arrived to help me deal with that loss, which is a serious oversight if you ask me. I liked my uterus (it held my babies for 9 months each)…it just didn’t like me.

When I got to my room, my Mom and husband were already there. Mom didn’t say anything at first…she cried for about 5 minutes, then pointed out how awful I actually (she said my skin was gray) looked after 7 hours of surgery.

Anyway, my first non-related visitor was the breast navigation people, who carried two bags of goodies, along with profuse apologies for standing me up at my pre-mastectomy appointment. I got a card with an apology, a plant, and not one, but two mastectomy camisoles, so all is forgiven. They also give you some very helpful things to have in the hospital and recovery – a water bottle, lifesavers, chapstick, men’s wifebeater t-shirts (so you can pin your drains to them and not worry about ruining your clothes) and many other helpful items. Aside from my bumpy start with them, they do try to help women and the items were useful.

Next came a social worker, who asked me if I was afraid my husband was going to beat me (do you feel safe returning to your home?) when I got home (nurses asked that too). She asked if I had a history of depression (I have a history of optimism) and how I felt about losing my breast. (Um, fine?) I actually told her that I’m the kind of person who accepts what is and I’m not one for looking back and I’ll move on just fine.

Which is true.

She gave me a bunch of pamphlets about mastectomy after-care and exercises to regain movement, some information on where to get wigs, a large pamphlet on chemotherapy side-effects, and some support group information. I’m not exactly the support group kind but I thanked her for all the information, and she was on her way.

Next, came the nun.  In my pre-op paperwork they asked me my religion. Naturally, I said it was unnecessary, so I was a little surprised to see her walk in. She asked me if I was in need of her kind of support, and I said no, I was fine, thank you. She was very pleasant and said she was just checking in, not selling, which made me laugh/ouch! She wished me luck and went on her way.

After a long night (complications with a bleeder) I saw my very favorite visitor, surgeon Dr Beall, because he is the guy who is going to send me home. I confess to lying a bit about how I felt. I was ready to get out of there so I told him my pain control was about a 5. (Never got that low). I didn’t think my insurance was going to pay for an extra day anyway, since I had no signs of infection or other complications, but I wasn’t going to take a chance that pain number counted towards keeping you in the hospital. No matter how bad I felt, it would be better to feel bad at home where somebody can hand me water if I needed it.

My Plastic Surgeon, Dr Saar walked in as Dr Beall was walking out. I’m sure Dr Saar told Dr Beall that they thought about pulling me back into surgery the night before.

OMG! Please don’t make me spend another day here.

Dr Saar comes in checks his work. Makes sure I have been able to use the restroom. Do I feel nauseous? Do I get dizzy when I stand and make the short walk to the restroom? He asked me about 10 times about my pain level. He walks outside the room, and turns back, “I think you’ll be fine to go home today.”

So, I said I was ready (was doing a happy dance in my head) and he signed the orders.

I got to go home.

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