There has been many of nights I’ve laid in bed crying myself to sleep wishing I just had my normal life back. Everything seemed to be falling apart even more than they already had and I couldn’t get my head around the fact I needed surgery.
The morning of the biopsy arrived Wednesday 19th December; YEP just before Christmas, GREAT! I had to be at Leeds St James for 7am!! This resulted in us having to get up at 5am and start travelling to the hospital at 05:40am. What an early start.
We arrived at the hospital and there was so many people I remember turning to my Mum and saying; ‘all these people are having surgery?’ I’d never seen anything like it because I had never had an operation in my life. We walked onto the Pre Assessment ward and I got told to wait in the pre waiting area. I instantly knew this was the area where they leave you ALL day because your last on the list. Absolutely brilliant for my anxiety levels.
An hour or so later still shaking like a brick the Anaesthetist called me. I immediately started to cry (yep I know, like a baby and I don’t care, I was petrified), he was lovely he asked me what I was so scared of, and I replied ‘being put to sleep, what if I wake up? What if I don’t?’ to which he explained he did this everyday and he would be with me through the whole operation keeping a very close eye on me.. so basically he knows what he’s doing, it still didn’t relax me though! After the chat I got sent back to the dreaded room where everyone was sat in silence and it was roasting.
A few minutes later the Registrar came in to see me and drew a massive arrow on my left side, I guess just in case they forgot which side… Jesus Christ! He told me I could be waiting a while as I was last on the list. That was until about half an hour later I got called, my Surgeon had bumped me up to second as he knew how anxious I was, and would probably end up leaving if I had to wait until the afternoon, that gave me enough time to talk myself out of it haha!
I got taken into a cubicle where I had to put a gown on and ted stockings, sexy! The next 30minutes seems a blur to me and the next thing I noticed I was on the trolley in the anaesthetic room, my Mum was with me of course, they allowed her because I was so nervous. I was given a drug to relax me but to be honest it made me feel extremely sick and dizzy I felt really drunk, I kept saying to my Mum, the Nurses and Surgeon I can see three of you, the next drug was to put me to sleep GA they hadn’t even put it all in and I was already asleep, my Mum said I had the last word though. I wanted to have a nice dream so I told them all I was going to the Maldives but it didn’t happen I was gutted when I woke up!
I was over an hour in Theatre because unfortunately they couldn’t get a sample via bronchoscopy so they had to cut me at my left side just below my arm pit, take away some of my ribs to gain the best sample they could, ‘the hot spot’ they called it. I was happy about this when I came round because I definitely (hopefully) wont be doing this again in a rush.
After coming round at 13:00pm and finally arriving on the ward getting to see my Mum and Dad at 19:35pm (yes you read that correctly, 6.5hours in recovery, nothing was wrong with me ‘apparently my bed wasn’t ready’, my ass! But in all honesty I think they forgot about me) I was led on trolley for this many hours, my bottom was killing me and I was only given 2 glasses of water. Drifting in and out of sleep I began to notice the time was getting later and later each time I woke up, so I demanded to ring my Mum. I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Bless them both they were sat on the ward in the freezing cold waiting room complaining every half an hour because I hadn’t arrived yet. Three Rimmer’s all complaining, I feel sorry for the staff now!
That night I got into my bed feeling like I’d had the most hectic day but I’d been asleep for most of it! I was happy away with my morphine button which I didn’t really press because I think I was still high as a kite. Next thing I was wakened for observations this was when I had spiked a temperature, so the doctor came in to check my bloods to see if I had an infection or was just due to the fact I had just had an operation. As he left the room I went to the toilet and in front of me was a mirror I noticed that my left breast was swollen up right up to my chin (honestly) and it was solid. I immediately called the doctor back in, the Surgical Registrar came in to have a look at me, I had air under my skin; Surgical Emphysema– the more technical term. Basically this happened to me because my lung cavity is damaged from all the chemo, so I don’t heal like a normal individual would, I take a little bit longer and where they had gained the biopsy sample from my lung air was leaking out when it was contracting (when I breathe) to the rest of my body. I was warned about this risk in my consultation but I was that mortified I had to be put to sleep I didn’t really think of anything else.
The next morning I can only explain I looked like a moon head. I screamed the nurse came running into my room, ‘my face, my face’ I screamed. I was huge, think of the scene on Willy Wonker- Violet Beauregarde (when she blows up) I was like that but just my chest, back, neck and face, ( I’m not even over exaggerating) I looked the double of my Dad but times him by two haha! My observations on the other hand were fine so they tend to ‘watch and wait’ with Surgical Emphysema to see if the body begins to absorb the air itself, if not a blowhole is inserted ( I turned to my Mum and started crying because I only thought whales had blowholes) a blowhole is where they make a cut on your chest, quite deep and insert a sponge which attaches to a machine then the air is sucked out that way.
They again allowed my Mum to stay with me because I had my own room she came on straight away, I rang her in the morning crying saying ‘I’m fat, I’m fat’ she had to ring the ward because I wasn’t making sense at all. I was so relived when she arrived everything seems to go wrong when I’m left on my own!
By 18:30pm I started not being able to swallow, I couldn’t eat and it was becoming difficult to keep my fluids up. I pressed the nurse call bell and demanded a blow hole instantly I was getting bigger and bigger, also tighter and tighter, my voice had completely changed (I sounded like a chipmunk being strangled). The blowhole was inserted and my god it was painful. I think I nearly broke my Mums hand and don’t think the Surgeon appreciated my singing throughout, I sounded like a cat being strangled.
The blowhole was changed twice in hospital, they have to keep changing it to make sure it is clean and so your skin doesn’t start to heal over it. The pain is unbelievable, they didn’t numb it and it’s not exactly normal pulling a sponge out of somebody’s chest over and over again.
I finally got to go home for Christmas on Sunday 23rd December but my handbag ( the air machine) had to come with me. I was also in so much pain (it was the worst thing I have ever encountered) but I was just so thankful I was home. You do miss your home comforts.
Thursday 27th December we had to return to Leeds for the blowhole changing again. I was so scared I couldn’t prepare myself for it. I had to have an x-ray before to make sure the air was going down. After the x-ray the Surgical Registrar came to see me because he said it looked to have worsened on the x-ray, I was so confused because my face, neck and back had completely come down but however my right breast was still swollen (I looked like I’d had a botched boob job). Once he looked at me clinically, had a feel of the air, the sponge was taken out he said my body should absorb the rest and the wound was nice and healthy so needed to be stitched now.
Nobody prepares you for stitches, they numbed it but my god I could still feel it. Even when they are taken out don’t listen to people if they say they don’t hurt, they lie😉
So now I have two wounds for the price of one. Which are both healing nicely. I’m still in a little discomfort but I need to remember I’ve not long had the procedures done so I need to cut myself some slack. But what a nightmare!!
Lots of Love Ashleigh Maggie xxx