35. The afterparty

Warning: perhaps not the boob shots you’d typically want to see, but in the interest of honesty and completeness of the blog, I’ve decided to include photos of the boob. I have debated this for a while, but the whole idea of the blog is to help people understand what this is really like, and if I leave out the photos, I’m not giving the full picture. So I’ve decided to include them.

Early progress

In the first week after surgery, I made good progress in healing, and I took photos every day of the wounds so I could see and compare how they were healing.

There are two wounds: one on my boob (where they removed the tumour) and another in my axilla / armpit (where they removed the lymph nodes). They warned me in advance that the boob would heal better/faster than the axilla, because the latter is a trickier area to get at. They were right, and the axilla was a bit more sore, but they did a good job in surgery and neither is too gory, just lots of colours from bruising etc. But if you’re squeamish, scroll quickly as photos follow!

Unfortunately, since the elation of Wednesday’s “all clear” news, things haven’t quite gone as smoothly as I was hoping. By 2am on Thursday morning I was in A&E, and I now feel like a new mum battling with nappies and sleepless nights! So what on earth has happened in week two?

My first ride in an ambulance – slightly embarrassing

I’ve also debated whether to include this, as it is somewhat embarrassing! But given that it’s a side effect of chemo, I feel I should, for honesty’s sake.

So at about 8pm on Wednesday evening, I went to the loo. Or rather, I didn’t. Or rather, I couldn’t.

Note: during chemo, they warned me that a possible side effect was constipation, and I was prescribed Magnesium to help me ‘go’. Luckily, I didn’t have this side effect, so when I finished treatment I gave back the unused magnesium, along with my other unused meds. (Very conscious of the cost of all this, I wanted to save the health service whatever I could by returning unopened meds to the hospital. They were very grateful!) 

Unfortunately, this left me with nothing to ease the pain and it just got worse and more painful. By 2am, there was no pharmacy open and I’d already tried to sleep through it, without joy. So I called 112 (the dutch equivalent of 999), expecting them to send me a paramedic with some meds on a bicycle. But no, they sent an ambulance and wanted to bring me into A&E (as a precaution, I guess, because I’d had surgery the week before). Despite being in awful pain, I apparently asked the paramedics if they shouldn’t be helping people in accidents of something? And suggested if they could just give me a bowl of All Bran or some prunes, I’m sure I’d be fine?! But no, they insisted on taking me in. So I had my first ride in an ambulance, bent double on my side, strapped to a bed, all because I couldn’t poo. So embarrassing!

The floodgates

I won’t go into more detail on that, needless to say they sorted me out. Meanwhile, while lying on a bed in A&E, I suddenly noticed that the wound under my arm has started to weep, by the gallon. Erm, Nurse? That’s not supposed to happen, is it?

On Wednesday, I’d pointed out to my surgeon that there was a huge ‘bag’ of fluid under my skin in the wound, which was bounding around and tugging on the wound, uncomfortably. She’s said that was normal, and that it’d go in time. I thought she’d meant it would drain internally, but apparently not. Sometimes it drains out of the wound.

So they found me a surgeon to take a look, and he was happy it hadn’t become infected as the fluid was clear. So he had a good prod around it to try and get as much fluid out as possible, before slapping on a large plaster and sending me home.

Despite my mentioning it at least twice (I have a rubbish pain threshold) he chose to ignore the fact that my skin was red from the previous plaster which had been on the wound, or the fact that I’d had five months of chemo and therefore had super sensitive skin. He just slapped that plaster on and said “just use Zinc Salve for any soreness, like you do on a baby’s bottom, you’ll be fine“.

By Thursday morning, the plaster was ready to change, so I went back to hospital for my morning appointment with the nurse, and she removed the plaster, painfully again taking half my skin with it – OH MY GOD! But still the wound didn’t stop weeping. So after cleaning it up and again, having a good prod to empty the bag of fluid as much as she could, she redressed it, this time with an absorbent pad and silk tape, giving me a good supply to take home, and instructions to redress it 3 times a day.

Unfortunately, when I later removed the silk tape to redress the wound at home, it was no better than the plaster and another patch of skin came off with it. ARGHHHH!

It’s like changing a nappy, baby every few hours!

So since then, I’ve been improvising! How do you hold on a 10cm-wide absorbent pad under your armpit without using tape or plasters, while avoiding the areas where you’d typically attach tape (as these are now blistered and covered in thick, gloopy nappy rash cream) and without aggravating the wound on the boob?! I’ve tried bandages over my opposite shoulder, scarves around my chest, bikini tops, and even cut the arms and waist off my hockey base layer (as it’s tight enough to hold things in place, but too hot to wear in it’s full form). All creative ideas welcome! By this point, I’m trying all sorts!

I’m not scheduled to see the nurse again until Tuesday, so tomorrow I plan to be at hospital for 08:30 to see what they think – surely it should’ve stopped weeping by then?!


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