The Best in the West Rib Out! – #4

Monday March 24th crept up quickly. Lots of anxiety and sleepless nights and of course no damn rib pain! Isn’t that how it always works? Nothing happens when you actually need it to. No signs that you’ve made the right decision, no validation. I remember a week before my mastectomy as my body was coming out of chemo-pause, my hormones coming back and my breasts were getting sore as if they were saying “Please don’t cut us off.” My breasts waking up from a chemically induced coma just before they were being taken off I perceived as a sign I shouldn’t have a mastectomy, everything would be alright and it wasn’t time yet. It didn’t help that I absolutely did not want a mastectomy to begin with and as my medical team will tell you, I explored every option imaginable even making up some of my own creative procedures while we discussed stuff. This was also how I felt about my rib being removed. I did not want it taken out, have another scar, a mangled body and deal with a lengthy recovery.I needed my rib to hurt to help me accept and understand that it needed to be taken out and as Mother Nature and Father Time would have it, I was feeling great!

*I have been judged with comments that I’m vain and selfish and not seeing the big picture… ‘The only important thing is that cancer needs to come out or you’re not defined by your breasts and it’s only a rib, you have more and (my personal favorite) it’s just a scar. I disagree. My quality of life is just as important as my quantity of life. And being confident when I look in the mirror every morning and wanting to feel good about my self is a part of that.  Choosing to remove any body part is a deeply personal decision . I’m very attached to mine and I’m tired of them being picked off one by one. 

We scheduled Mom’s flight and I got busy with preparing for recovery at home and at work. It was very important to me that my staff was comfortable manning the department with confidence. I had no doubt they could handle it, they are amazing and I am very fortunate they are part of my team. My extended work family had been tremendously supportive as well, offering assistance while I am out and just making sure things go smoothly in my department while I’m gone. Thank You and I am so very grateful to be part of the South Meadows Family. Also, ‘Family Meetings’ were held letting my Rooster and the Hens know what was going on. They were of course very supportive and understandably confused and sad. (Thank you Megs for helping me with this blog… I hope I’m doing it right!)  I’m sure you’ll hear more from the Hens and our Rooster in the future.

I was also busy figuring out how I am going to pay for my surgery, subsequent treatments (if needed), scans and was concerned about missing work days. Yes, I do have insurance and a small savings account but medical bills add up quickly and I’m a single income. Every scan I have is $250 and doctors visits are $40 a pop. I needed to have a financial plan in place that if this growth in my rib wasn’t metastatic breast cancer, I was to prepare to have scans every 6 weeks as The Blood Guy stated, “I’ll be watching you very closely.” I started printing off some applications for financial assistance, as I did before, and hope they can help.

I wanted the surgery staff (and myself) to have something fun to look at other than the usual everyday patient body parts. I do work with them daily so I wanted to be different, let them know I’m gonna be ok! Lulu (Genevive) came up with this idea that when I look down at my feet I should see happy faces. Later I was told everyone loved my toes! Goal accomplished!

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6:00AM check in. surgery at 7:00. The Saturday before I had experienced some intense sternum pain on my right side. It hurt to take a deep breath and actually I thought I had another broken rib. I thought , ‘Ooooh, so this is what it feels like when it hurts to breath.’ Something I had not experienced with my left broken rib. ‘Ok, I get it now…. I better let That Rib Guy know.’ I called him and he said not to worry, we would do a chest x-ray or something before surgery. By Monday morning the pain was gone.

My anesthesiologist, Dr. Rahimzedah (aka The Drug Guy), again who I work with almost daily, popped his head into the pre-op holding area. He had this surprised/concerned look on his face. Asked a bunch of questions, he held my hand, told me everything is gonna be ok and do not chase the pain. I had explained I have a tendency to wait for it first then take pain meds. He said I absolutely cannot do that with this surgery and consequently the pain that will come with it. I would have a pain pump and I promised him I would use it. It became my most favorite thing after surgery and I got very cranky when the nurses hinted it was time for it go!

My sister was there holding my hand as I was terrified. The Drug Guy had a difficult time finding a vein in my arm so he had to move it to my hand. I’m so glad Shauni was there comforting me cuz those pokes really sting. Then came the first med to calm me down and I don’t remember a whole lot after that. I think I told Shauna I loved her and The Drug Guy stayed with me as we rolled into the operating room telling me everything was gonna be ok.

I woke up and it was hard to breath. My body didn’t hurt too much and The Drug Guy explained I had been given a nerve block to help with the pain . I had tubes up my nose and I was scared to move. Shauna and my friend Jolie were right by my side and said The Rib Guy was very pleased with the outcome and I did good. He explained the tumor was seen upon entering the area but was confident he got it all out including the rib with clean margins. He couldn’t tell if the tumor was malignant or not because of type of tissues involved. We’d have to wait for the pathology report. I remember being rolled to my room. Thank you to my special friends (you know who you are) for ensuring I had a private room. It made my recovery so much easier not having to listen to someone snore.

Remember those nights out with your friends and so much happened you find yourself the next morning over Bloody Mary’s and breakfast trying to piece the night together? That’s how my Monday and partial Tuesday was like! I remember really liking my pain pump! A constant stream of Dilaudid with a 1.5MG bolus every 15 minutes I pressed that button! Some people came to visit but I have no idea who (I’m Sorry!), Jolie guarding me like a lioness does over her cubs, Hunsberger pressing my pain button just to make sure I got it all! My mommy got there on Tuesday too! I remember getting very cranky when I wasn’t getting the really good pooping medicine I wanted. Allow me to explain: During chemo I experienced severe constipation and vowed I would never let that happen again. Through trial and error I found what worked for my body and developed a routine I followed religiously. I also experience severe constipation while on narcotic pain medication and over the past 7 months again found what worked and didn’t work for my body. I was very clear with The Rib Guy what I wanted and how it important it was for me to poop daily. Well, I think that sentiment was not explained as clearly to my wonderful nursing team thus leading me to do it. It took a couple calls to The Rib Guy but by Tuesday morning all was better. That is how you take control of your treatment. At the end of the day, I am the subject matter expert of my body and what happens to it, Period.

The recovery in the hospital was hard. All I wanted was to sleep, lay there and not move. But the very attentive nursing staff wanted me up and I had round the clock check-ins waking me up because I would pull the oxygen tubes out of my nose and when I did get to sleep the sensor glued to my finger would catch my O2 levels dropping really low setting off all kinds of alarms! I had to do these stupid spirometer breathing exercises to open my lungs up and stretch those muscles but they were so damn painful I had to press my pain button just to deep breath. The pain was all over and I couldn’t get comfortable. Any movement was agonizing. So I used my button a lot! Especially when I had to go the bathroom, what a production! I had a chest tube for my collapsed lung, oxygen tubes because I couldn’t breath and my precious pain button all had to come with me to the toilet!

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See my pain button? Loved that thing! And then That Rib Guy actually cancelled the order for the pain button and switch me to oral pain meds only 24 hrs after surgery. That was Tuesday morning. I was sooo not happy with that because I wasn’t ready. Therefore, I negotiated with my nurse and That Rib Guy reminding him of our talk about not chasing the pain. I included my conversation about the same topic with The Drug Guy and the facilities Director of Nursing. We agreed that Tuesday night I would try it and we’d see what happened overnight. I can tell you it didn’t go so well but Wednesday morning we discussed other options, came to an agreement and I was discharged home, but not before I received my pathology report (I’m the Supervisor of Medical Records, did you think I would leave without it? LOL). At first all looked good, but I really needed to talk with The Blood Guy.

Mom picked me and took me home albeit an awful ride home. I was so dizzy and thought I was going to throw up which made me cry because I knew it would hurt in a way i couldn’t possibly endure. Fortunately that didn’t happen and I slept all day with my mom watching over me. 🙂

and then The Blood Guy called…..

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