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I really thought I would die...

Posted by Emilienne Rebel on

Five years ago this week I took the plunge to get a second mastectomy and double breast reconstruction (bi latteral).

The decision to undergo the nine hour intensive surgery was not made lightly and I really struggled with the thought of putting my now healthy (then post cancer five years) body under so much surgery... not to mention the worry and risk for my young family. However I did go ahead and early morning on the Monday stood in front of the hospital mirror whilst my surgeon drew lines and explained changes to the expected operation. She told me my skin was in very good condition and (I am a fastidious moisturiser!) therefore she would be putting normal implants in instead of the expected expander implants*. This was a massive relief for me because it reduces the overall time of the procedure by months and reduces the risk of possible infection. The only decision, what size? she asked. Hah, as large as possible please... well why not? 

My Cancer surgeon also explained she would be trialling an new procedure to only take part muscle from the back to form the pockets in which my implants would sit. The muscle stays connected to the body, just brought round to the front. Again, I felt very fortunate and lucky. This would mean there was less chance of back problems in the future. 

I awoke from my surgery late evening already in my super heated room. The heat in essential to help the skin to heal. I was woozy and used the morphine drip as needed. 

Somehow I made it through the night. Laying on my back. Skin and muscle removed from my back to make the breasts so therefore uncomfortable. Surgery to my front (obviously), but also four drains attached two either side (one for front and one for back) to capture any fluids and drain them away from the area to heal. Pumps on my legs. Catheter in. And about a billion tubes and attached to my swollen left arm. Right side out of order because of lymph node removal. At one point they were even taking blood as I received a blood transfusion!

The following day unable to move I really understood the severity of the operation I had undergone. I was very nauseous and stopped using the morphine drip and switched to paracetamol instead. The pain really wasn't that bad. I guess I have a high pain threshold, but still, extremely uncomfortable, but not bad pain. The surgery looked like it had been a success.

The following days that passed, I gradually got sicker and sicker. And just imagine, surgery, in bed constantly, vomiting, not able to move... barely able to sit up enough to vomit into a cardboard bowl. I felt disgusting. The vomiting or just heaving got worse and worse until I reached a point I genuinely thought I was going to die of some Norovirus. All anti-sickness meds hadn't worked. The nurses powerless to do anything without a doctor... a doctor never came. I really wondered if I would ever actually eat food again.

I had no one around me to fight for me, so I stood my ground as well as I could given the situation. I demanded that my consultant come to see me immediately. "We can't call her it 6.30 am" the very unsympathetic nurse said. I just replied "Call her, I've waited for the doctor all night, call her". Well my wonderful consultant was there within half an hour. Looked at my chart and said "The combination of drugs we've been giving you have been poisoning your stomach!". At last an answer!

That was the turning point. The 'nasty' nurse... and yes I feel qualified to say that after ten years of hospital visits encountering only two amongst the hundreds on wonderful nursing staff out there who genuinely care... finished her shift, not before poking her head through the door with a smile saying "Do you want your porridge?"...urgh.

Then a wonderful thing happened. The lovely nurse that was there as I was admitted came in to see me, surprised I was still there. 

She gave me a hug.

The first hug in a very long week. Disgusting non-showered, smelly me who felt so alone. She told me she wouldn't leave her shift until I felt better. I owe a lot to her kindness. 

And there I was. Two boobs later. No drains needed anymore as I'd spent so long in hospital... off home... happy to be reunited with my babies. ready to heal and look forward to the next stage... nipples! Or would I...?

I would still do it all over again. I love feeling more feminine again and have some shape to my body. Thank you again to everyone who helped me with this part of my journey so far.

*Expander implants are empty and get inflated with saline gradually over time. The ports remain under the arms (both in my case) for about six months. 


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