THINGS THAT ARE DIFFERENT SINCE HAVING A MASTECTOMY: #6 SHAVING MY ARMPITS

Well, it’s not so much shaving my armpits, but more, how much of my armpit I can shave.

When I lift my arm to trim my under-hair my expander pops out like an angry soccer ball and constricts 1/3 of my armpit. It’s a section just above where my drains were and it’s nigh-on impossible to get a razor in the crevice.

This leaves me with a patch of hair, not dissimilar to a little goatie beard.

Any suggestions for removing hair from small places, (that isn’t laser- too near the implants, or nose clippers- too humiliating) please send them my way.

Goatie

Infection = Bad: The last 48 hours

Boy. That’ll teach me for being bored. A lot has happened in the last 2 days (days 9 and 10) so I’ll cover everything in bullet form so this doesn’t become biblical. Before I do here’s a quick synopsis to bring you up to speed.

In a nutshell:

Some of you will remember my right-side drain leaked on Day 6, we tried to save it, but it looked like it was on the way out so we removed it on Day 7.

I woke up on Day 8 to find my right boob had swollen up and felt like a water balloon.  I freaked out because I’ve repeatedly been told fluid in the breast cavity is bad, fluid can lead to infection, infection = bad! Ultimate consequence, removal of the expander that is sitting behind my pectoral muscle, we have to wait until it heals, we can then run this show all over again.

Both the plastics and breast surgeons didn’t feel I had anything to worry about. The fluid wasn’t much, it would in all likelihood dissipate through my body in time, otherwise they’d drain it with a needle…

Got it? Now we can begin:

48 hours

Day 9

8am – 10am

  • I woke up and updated my Twitter and Facebook status claiming that today was a think positive day.
  • Nice breast surgeon from Manchester came to see me. He checked my right boob, said it was OK and unless I was in pain, to leave it. Looked at my left side drain and said if plastics were happy, I could go home today or tomorrow. IMMENSE!
  • My lead breast surgeon comes. He agrees with what everyone has said. Offers to overrule everyone and take out my left-side drain and discharge me there and then. I may be a bit bolshy at times, but I don’t like breaking rules so I say no. If it wasn’t for the fluid build-up in the right side I would have jumped at the chance and agreed.

12pm

  • Plastics team come to see me. They are less enthusiastic about the discharge chat, but agree that the right boob still looks fine and IF, IF, my drains are low enough tomorrow, I can go home.
  • I hit rock bottom, cancel my visitors for the afternoon, but head out to meet Mr F for lunch. There are no trips to the beach today, just up to my usual coffee shop around the corner.
  • Lunch – I cannot stop crying. Mr F has a rubbish lunch.
  • I come back and try to read but am too woozy so I got to bed for a couple of hours. Wake up shivering  Put some more clothes on and get back into bed. My chest is really tight so I loosen up my binder and try to go back to sleep.

6pm

  • Can’t sleep, still shivering, I feel sick and my chest tightness is becoming unbearable. I can’t breathe and I’m having sharp pains down my back.
  • I call the nurse and ask her to take my temperature. She does and it’s fine. However I can’t sit still long enough for her to take my blood pressure and run to the toilet thinking I’m going to be sick. No vomit.
  • My breathing and pain in my back becoming worse. My most matronly like, and Welsh, nurse tries to run an ECG but my back pain is too bad to sit still. She calls a Dr.

7pm

  • Before I know it I have 3 Drs in the room asking me questions. They have felt my right boob again and still don’t think that’s the culprit. I have blood taken from 3 different places. A 4th Dr comes, lots of questions, finally an ECG, and they take my temperature again. My heart rate is 100 beats per minute and my temperature is 39.3.

8pm

  • They want to take a chest X Ray and ask if there’s any chance I might be pregnant. It’s very unlikely, but this whole surgery thing has played havoc with my cycle so is there any chance? A minute one, possibly? I think I could maybe sue them if I am and my unborn baby is damaged by the X Ray radiation? So, I take a test… Not pregnant! Don’t worry; X Ray commence.

10pm

  • Cut a long story short, it is determined that I have some sort of infection, they pump a lot of antibiotics in me and my temperature comes down. By this point I’ve called Mr F to hospital from the pub. He is lovely, concerned and smells a little of beer.
  • I am shattered and terrified.

Day 10

8am

  • Wake up feeling better than I did, txt my friend who I had cancelled on to tell her about my infection, she calls straight away, I can’t stop crying.
  • She calls my ward and requests to break visiting hours protocol to come and sit with me.

9am

  • She brings me breakfast and sits with me to do crossword puzzles.
  • My nice Manchunian breast surgeon comes, he looks at my right breast. He’s not happy. The fluid has increased and my breast is red. He recommends we do an ultra-sound to determine how much fluid in there. We’ll stick a needle in to drain the fluid (remember, plastics don’t like this as it’s a foreign body, which also may risk infection).

10am

  • My Child Plastic Surgeon (CPS, who I now really like but I need consistency in my names so you know who I’m talking about) comes. He also thinks we need an ultra sound, but at the same time he is concerned. Wants another urine sample. I am forced to drink a lot, quickly, in short succession. I pee on demand and, sorry this is gross, but it’s boiling hot!

11am

  • CPS returns to say he has spoken to a plastic surgeon (not my main guy, but another guy who I don’t rate for reasons too long to discuss) who recommends that I go back into surgery, they open me up, remove the expander, clean out my cavity, sew me back up again and add another drain. I ask CPS what the chances are of this not working and me losing my expander – he says’ there’s a 15 – 30% chance I will lose it. CPS is clearly a glass half full kinda man, and I think he’s made up these stats.
  • The surgery can’t be until 5pm as my lovely friend just brought me breakfast.

11.30am

  • Mr F arrives with a Cadbury’s Whisper Easter Egg, which of course I can’t eat as I’m nil by mouth. My temperature fluctuates throughout the day and my chest is still tight, making it difficult to breathe.
  • I have a moment where I question everything and wonder what the hell I’ve done. I’ve mutilated my body on the off-chance I might get cancer, and now I’m about to go back into surgery which may or may not increase the chances of this whole thing failing?

6pm

  • I’ll be honest with you, I’m still not in a great place as we head into surgery. Just as we are about to go through the double doors into theatre, CPS tells me that he has spoken to my main silver-fox plastic surgeon and he doesn’t want to remove the expander and just wants CPS to open my right chest cavity, drain it and give it a good clean. Everyone seems really pleased about this and is implying I should be too. In retrospect I understand it’s a much less risky procedure.

8.30pm

  • I return. CPS says it went well and the infection had’t spread to my muscle and my chest expander. My temperature is down and I can breathe a little easier.

So, as I was saying, a lot can happen in 48 hours. What happens next is anyone’s guess. All I know is I’m going to sit very still, not move very far from my bed and hope for the best.

Time

It appears that I don’t know everything…

BREAST SURGEON DOWNLOAD

I used to think I was awfully clever and the reason I thought this, was because I knew everything.  I never turned to anyone for advice or asked questions because, duh, I knew everything! However a few years ago, a very clever woman told me that clever people asked questions because they know they can’t know everything, and the only way to be successful, is to ask more and more questions.

The problem with asking lots of questions is that whilst you may get the answers to your initial questions, you will also get a lot more information than you started with.  And with more information, comes MORE QUESTIONS!  So this is my roundabout way of saying I don’t have all the answers following my visit with the breast surgeon… just more information… and a couple more questions.

Iknoweverything

MORE INFORMATION

We arrive at Dr David Thomson’s office and he’s keen to see my most recent MRI, mammogram and ultrasound scans to make sure they are clear (I already know they are so there’s no suspense required). We talk about the dates for surgery and he informs us that whilst we are booked in for 21st March, we’re not ‘confirmed’ until I’m in the theatre and under aesthetic! So, I need to get comfortable with the reality that timings may still change and that needs to be OK.

OPERATION PREP?

The surgery is in the afternoon so I can’t have any food after 8am . Already I’m thinking whether I’ll be able to go to the 6.30am Body Attack class, followed by toast and coffee at 7.30?  I don’t know how Mr F will feel about this, but it sounds like a plan to me! I am also given a list of things I can’t take for 10 days before the op. It’s mostly pain-killers and anti-inflammatory drugs that that will thin the blood and prevent it from clotting. There’s about 50 items on the list, and even if they’re not, I’m supposed to avoid all things medicinal regardless, including  Berocca?! (Please note, former question ‘What will I need to stop doing before the op?’ ANSWERED)

THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION

Then come a few bits of information that freak me out.  We are sparing the nipple and in some cases the nerves behind the nipple might die and some, or maybe all, of my nipple will fall off. OK, this is pretty rare, but he said something about maybe a corner peeling off – I don’t know.  It all sounded very dramatic. Feeling in the boob is going to disappear, maybe for a year. Over time this may feel strange, like little creatures, tingles or phantom pains in my boob. Oh, well, good to know these things in advance.

CHECKED IN

I will be in hospital between 8 – 10 days, which is longer than I had expected, to allow the drains to run clear, reduce the risk of infection, and allow my now empty boob to lie flat against the wound – again, information that freaks me out.

Day two is the potential danger day for depression.  He says it’s quite common for the emotions to come crashing down after the adrenaline of the operation – note to self, choose a ridiculously upbeat, self-help book to load onto my kindle.

ANY ANSWERS TO ANY QUESTIONS?

We do finally get round to some of our questions. It’s 6 weeks before I can do any proper exercise and after this I thought the questions about the bike and resistance bands were a bit futile.  Apparently I will be able to do everything I could before  – the problem is the pain, not the ability.  So as long as I am hard as nails, I should be fine.

What Mr F and I are gathering is, as far as the breast surgeon is concerned, his job is pretty much done when everything is removed. It’s the plastic surgeon who’s going to be concerned about my levels of movement to avoid knocking the expanders out of whack and giving myself one boob that sits under my arm pit and the other in the middle of my chest – so we’ll save the vanity inspired questions for him.

MORE QUESTIONS

After we leave, the questions we now have center around how much time Mr F needs to spend with me at hospital and the best times to visit. My spoilt side has requested every morning before work and every evening during visiting hours.  I would also like a couple of hours on the weekend. I realise I may not be the best or most riveting company during this time, but there have been a lot of occasions during our relationship where I am also not great company, and he’s still had to spend time with me so this can’t be that different. Surely?