Surgery was a Breeze

The Prep is a Whole 'Nother Story

Getting There

Check-in was scheduled for 9 am--a challenging traffic time coming from Granada Hills. We agreed to leave at 7:15, thinking that would ample time. Of course, we weren't on the 405 for long before it slammed shut--bumper-to-bumper. Doug was crawling in the fast lane, and I turned to him and said, "Don't you dare!" He laughed because I had just anticipated his intention of crossing the double-yellow lines to enter the carpool lane. While I didn't think I was nervous about the events to come, thinking I would be late obviously brought out latent anxiety, and I have to admit, I sort of took it out on Doug's driving. Although the carpool lane was also jammed-packed, it bothered me that he left so much space between him and the car ahead (He hates it when people do that to him, by the way.). In my most irritated tone, I tried to get him to speed up until he finally offered to let me drive. Mom was unusually silent in the back seat. We did make it on time, arriving in the parking lot by 8:45, with one more testy exchange about where to park. No...of course I wasn't nervous.

Pre-Op and Breast Needle Localization

My first procedure was the breast needle localization. They place two wires on each side of the tumor so that the surgeon knows exactly where it is. If you've ever had a mammogram, this is 10 times the discomfort and, by far, the worst part of the whole day. At least in a regular mammogram, one is standing and holding on for dear life while they torture you and take the pictures. After each picture, they release the vice grip so you have a breather. I had visualized this procedure to be similar to a biopsy, where they lay you down and do whatever it is they do. Oh no...they put me in a chair, raised me up and then set me up for a mammogram-type experience. My right arm was atop a ledge with nothing to grasp, and because they had pushed me into the grip, I felt like I was slipping off the chair. Of course, they tell you not to move. Once they tightened the grip, they didn't release it until the whole procedure was over--probably 15 minutes, but it felt like forever. They anesthesized the area and inserted two wires. Each time, checking the monitor. Of course, they didn't get it right the first time, so they had to go back and fiddle with it a few times. I nearly said something sarcastic when they told me that they had to do an adjustment because I had moved. I swear to whomever that I had not moved. If someone tells me not to move, I don't move. When they finally freed me from the contraption, I did tell them that "after this, I am looking forward to the surgery."

The Long Wait and Doug's Embarrassing Experience

Once back in the pre-op staging area, it was about a two-and-a-half hour wait until they took me to surgery. It was freezing cold, and I had nothing to do. Fortunately, they allowed Doug and Mom to visit. Doug was the first to enter, and I could see him across the room from where I was lying. When the attendant brought Doug into the area, she took him to stall #22 and pulled the curtain back for him to enter. There was a man (Doug thought he was the doctor.) standing at the foot of the bed. He gently pushed past him and bent over to give me a kiss. Imagine his surprise when the Asian lady lying there was someone else; he got the jolt of his life. He looked up, horrified, and said, "That isn't my wife." The man at the foot of the bed said, "That's my wife." Doug pointed to the attendant and indicated that she had told him to enter. The attendant claimed that she was told that was the stall. She went back to the desk and learned that I was in another one. Before realizing that he was about to kiss the wrong woman, Doug was concerned because he felt that I was in worse shape than when he last saw me. Needless to say, he was quite relieved to find the real me.

The Surgery

The wait for surgery was interminable so Doug and Mom finally went to the cafeteria. Once it was my turn, they wheeled me in, had me slide onto the adjourning table, and started to get me ready. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery room. The worst pain was the sore throat from the tubes they inserted--and still is. Otherwise, I felt fine. It didn't take long until I felt awake so I asked the nurse when I could leave. She told me I had to be able to pee first. Eager me said, "Oh, I can pee right now." So she took me to the bathroom, but had to be there to measure the amount. She said I needed 100 ml. Well, I gave her 500. As Doug said later, "Of course, Denise just had to get an A+ in peeing!"

The Aftermath

The doctor has said that everything went well so I am taking him at his word. I will know more after they biopsy the lymph nodes and tumor. I have to say that I feel very fortunate that my condition and the treatments have been so tolerable. Maybe I am in denial and not taking this seriously enough, but it seems so minor compared to what other people have to endure. A special shout-out to Hee Sook for spending time with Doug and Mom--especially because she was able to take over the Smartphone technology for Doug and send messages to people. A heartfelt thank you to my administrative teammates, Margo, Nancy and Gaye, for providing a very much appreciated dinner that we will certainly enjoy much more than pizza or Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup--and to Claire for the delivery and time spent sharing stories. Most of all, many thanks to all of you. I am awed by the depth and breadth of your continued kindness and support.