Elephant In The Room

I'd like to say I woke up bright and early the next morning ready to take on the world or at least my hospital breakfast. Alas, in reality, I was in no position to awake given I had hardly slept. Imagine, if you will, a sizeable (are there any other kind?) elephant sat on your chest. The pain as I moved my back rest into a sitting position was up there with labour pains. I had 3 drains snaking from under my bandage in to a grey plastic bag and I was on a drip on my right side. And don't forget the elephant. And I needed to wee. I really needed to wee. I tentatively moved my right leg and an instant wave of pain shot through my chest. The slightest move was breathtakingly sore. I buzzed for a nurse. I told her I needed help to get to the bathroom and we managed to get me on my feet albeit shaking and unsteady. I gritted my teeth and shuffled the few steps to the bathroom and me, the elephant, the drain bag and the drip just about managed to fit inside and shut the door. Sitting down brought some more exquisite pain to my chest and I remember thinking there's no way i'm getting out of here today (the hospital not the toilet). I looked in the bathroom mirror and did a double take. What the heck is that? My lower left lip was double in size. I poked it with my tongue. Jesus that hurt. I stuck my lip out and saw bite marks. Transpired it's quite normal to bite down when the tube is taken out. Great. Feeling miserable and looking like shite I shuffled back to bed and, with yet more pain, hoisted myself back on the bed. The nurse brought codeine and paracetamol and I was given tea and toast which I couldn't eat as it was too painful to open the butter (didn't think they'd like me buzzing for that). 

Mid morning a nurse helped me into my nightie which hurt like hell but I felt better afterwards. Those hospital gowns have a power all their own to make you feel worse. 

I was counting down the minutes until visiting time and, several Take A Break and Chat magazines later, David and my Mum and Dad arrived bearing food. I managed half my Ploughman's sandwich and David had the bright idea of feeding the remainder to the seagulls he assured us would come if we opened the window slightly. It's not that my Mum and I don't like animals because we do, we always had a dog when my sister and I were growing up and I donate to 2 animal charities every month and have done so for many years. David and my Dad, however, are in a whole other class of animal lovers. Our dog, Sabre, is the singularly most spoilt creature I have ever known. Days out, holidays and even trips to the retail park must be planned with his utmost comfort in mind, he is fed fresh meat twice a day, has as many soft toys as our children, and is allowed the window down in the car even when it is zero degrees outside. I have often sat sulking, freezing my tits off (ooh that's ironic now) in the passenger seat whilst that big lummox of a dog has his head stuck out the window swallowing air. He is a long haired German Shepherd who is allowed on all the furniture including our bed and we are now on our third vacuum cleaner in a year due to his incessant moulting. Vax Pet? I don't think so. Anyway he's lovely and loyal and I feel much safer with him around so I'll get back to my point. Which is that, although I knew hospital staff wouldn't take kindly to us having dirty seagulls sat on the ledge outside the room, that they would do it anyway so best to let them do it quickly. And lo and behold as soon as the window was opened a crack a few seagulls appeared to see what was on offer. 2 or 3 of them made short work of the sarnie and a latecomer, who was predctably taken pity on by both father and fiance, was treated to ready salted crisps. 

Hours later, when all visitors had gone and I was lying down with my book, I almost died of fright when a loud knock at the window made me actually shriek. Looking to the window I locked stares with the beady eyes of a seagull who proceeded to strut up and down on the ledge rapping its beak against the glass. Cheeky bugger. A nurse came in and shooed it away and told me they had big problems with seagulls as some people liked to feed them. "Really?" I raised my eyebrow and lowered my head back into my book.

When my visitors came back for the evening visit I banned them from feeding the local wildlife.

When the pain in my chest became too much to bear I asked for some stronger pain medication and was goven a morphine drip which I could use as and when I needed it. This seemed to take the edge off and I slept slightly better that night. I was still tightly bandaged so couldn't see the results of my surgeon's handiwork but he seemed to think things had gone well. 

Strangely I hadn't really thought too much about the results of my lymph node clearance. I think the mind can only handle so many things at a time but, when the morphine wore off, I was ready to know. It transpired that, yet again, I was a bit of an enigma. My surgeon had found a micromet in 1 of the nodes yet they didn't really understand the significance of such a finding. That's OK, I thought to myself, I'll google it later. Strangely enough not one of the sites I looked at could give any definitive answers to the significance of a micromet either. Oh well, I counselled myself, at least they hadn't found lots of cancer cells in lots of lymph nodes.

On the Thursday night I was taken off my morphine drip and moved to a communal ward. Friday morning the drain in my armpit was removed and I was allowed to go home after being assured the district nurses would visit daily to assess my 2 remaining drains.  I was in absoloute agony as I walked step by painful step down the corridor to the exit door. I asked David to keep me upright and get me out of their as fast as he could before they spotted how much pain I was in and got me back. We finally made it to the car and me, the elephant and the bag of drains were going home. I had left a little part of me behind but, really, I was going to see my boys, I wasn't riddled (hate that word) with cancer and, at that moment in time, the hospital was in my rear view mirror getting smaller and smaller and nothing else mattered.


Latest comments

20.12 | 20:45

Hi Dave,
Thanks for the kind words.
I did indeed work in North Cyprus back in the day - Turkbet?

18.12 | 11:06

Hi Donna, remarkable, uplifting and inspiring read.
Did you ever work in North Cyprus around 10 years ago?

15.10 | 17:15

Hi Donna, you are so inspiring. I have just had my 2nd mastectomy 8 days ago out of choice, first one was 5 months earlier as small cancer found.well done you

30.09 | 15:12

well done for finishing EPI!

I can't send a longer response on here but would like to share my experience of CMF at dvfox76@aol.com or the forum on macmillan.