The biopsy results answered just one question, the big question. I HAD CANCER. But like with most thyroid cancers, it would take surgery to truly see how big, what type, and how aggressive the cancer was. Had it spread? Was it in my lymph nodes? What other treatments would I need?
I would have a total thyroidectomy, removing the tumor, all of my thyroid, and any surrounding lymph nodes that looked “suspicious” (wearing dark hoodies and trying to act casual, I’m guessing). My surgery day was March 22, 2016. It was a tough day that started the night before when I had to stop eating at 9 p.m. For the 15 minutes that spanned 8:45-9, I ate like a prisoner on death row, scarfing down their last meal. I feverishly rummaged through the kitchen pantry like a bear in a campsite.
The next morning the hanger (hungry-anger) set in early. I spent most of the morning in silence, a merciful gift I bestowed upon my family. I didn’t even have to report to the hospital until 11 a.m. When I arrived, vitals were taken, pee and blood was given (by me…for labs), and I changed into my hospital gown and slippers.
Side bar: I understand that the fashion industry doesn’t have much interest in giving the healthcare wardrobe a make-over, but this thin blue and white striped get-up has been around since the early 1900s. If not before, how was this standard not changed post WWII?! You know who loved the use of these striped jammies? HITLER! It’s reminiscent of nearly every pic I’ve ever seen of prisoners in concentration camps. I move to have hospital clothing changed to…. damn near anything else!
And why can’t I keep my underwear on? They made me take it off and go “commando”… for NECK surgery! (Just let that sink in a second) What could go wrong that they need access to my vagina?
“Well ma’am, unfortunately a major artery was nicked during your daughter’s neck operation. Sadly, she did not follow instructions to remove her panties before surgery. Without immediate and direct access to her vagina and anus, we were unable to help her and she bled out. We are very sorry. But let this be a lesson to other women who try to cover their beavers, in an effort to maintain some sense of control and dignity, during major surgery.”
Any who, it would be HOURS before I was called back to the pre-op area. Once back I was visited by the anesthesiologist, who looked about 16 years old. She ensured me that despite my LONG history of nausea and vomiting after general anesthetic, she had cooked up a cocktail of anti-nausea measures to avoid this.
“We’re basically going to throw everything at you but the kitchen sink,” Lil’ Miss Doogie Howser, M.D. tells me. “We were even able to get a new pill, special ordered just for you, that is top-of-the-line.”
“I hope it’s a chewable,” I thought, STARVING.
“Before you go back, I’m going to give you a little something to relax you,” she said with a wink. “It’s just going to make you feel like you had about two margaritas.”
“Soooooo, it’s going to make me feel like I need ‘just one more’ margarita?” I confirmed.
I was rolled back into the operating room, instructed to think “happy thoughts” and I faded away.
The surgery took more than 4 hours. I awoke in the recovery ward in pain and struggling to open my eyes. A nurse asked me my pain level, but when I tried to speak, nothing came out. So I just shot up one hand gesturing my pain was a 5 out of 10. I pointed to my ring finger, hoping the nurse spoke “drugged up” and knew I was asking for my husband.
“He will be waiting for you in your room,” she said.
By now my pain had increased to an 8, which I relayed via hand signals.
“I can give you something, but then you have to wait another 20 minutes to go to your room,” the nurse threatened.
Like the champion I am, I pointed back to my ring finger and refused the drugs.
Once back to my room I was comforted by the sight of my husband, but the pain was getting out of control. The staff worked quickly and administered a healthy dose of morphine. I could feel it rush my veins and I was immediately BURNING up! I ripped off all my blankets and tore off my gown. In my altered state I had forgotten about the no-panties rule and sat there, legs spread wide and boobs hanging out like an aboriginal tribes woman, as no less than 12 people cycled in and out of the room providing care.
The next day, my husband would tell me how he tried several times to cover me up, but I’d refused adamantly.
“Oh my, gad! Everyone saw my goods?” I asked him.
“Oh yeah, and your ‘bads‘,” he teased. “But I’ve walked around the ward and seen the other patients… You’ve definitely got the best bush on the floor.”
It was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to me. (Tear)
As my pain came under control the nausea hit hard. I was going to throw up. Though I tried to speak, just air came out. I motioned to my husband to hand me a nearby bucket, both arms stretched out in front of me. He thought I wanted a hug and came in for one. Terrible timing, to say the least. I spent the next hour or so vomiting uncontrollably as the medical team worked to tame the nausea.
I know the surgeon visited that evening and told me the surgery findings, but I remembered nothing and was able to ask no questions.
I sent my husband home to be with our son and spent the evening under the care of an incredible nursing staff and VERY attentive med-tech. I’m confident his extra and thorough visits were all about providing the utmost in patient care and had nothing to do with the free boob and cooter shots I unknowing provided throughout that first night.
I would find out more about my surgery, and it’s unfortunate complications, the next day.
But more on that next time.
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