Well, Grampa has brought in a laptop for me to tell all. It might be easier to talk you through it day by day as so much has happened I might get confused.
Mad Lucy dropped in during the day on Monday to give me some witchy talisman crystal thing. She has never let it out of her sight before so I am honoured. She asked me ever so seriously if I had said goodbye to my nipple. ‘Yes, of course‘ I answered, confidently. Later I had a bit of a panic because I realised that was not true. I had not really said goodbye to it. Still haven’t. Oops. Too late.
All that day I received phone calls, texts and messages on the blog and on facebook. I realised that the burden really has been shared. My friends and family and blog readers have been shouldering little chunks of the worry for me.
That evening, I went to Lorna’s yoga, which is not for the faint-hearted. She is like a Sergeant Major and she really really cares more than her life that you do the poses right. We did Tadasana and Trikonasana and Gotagreatbigarsana. In Trikonasana I felt strength coursing through my arms, shoulders, back. In the Warrior pose I thought of my warrior and really tried very hard to keep my knee back and the back foot pinned down and my trunk straight and my arm shooting out in front strong. I looked out over the arm and saw vistas unfolding before me. We did downward dogs, upward dogs, Uttanasanas, where you hang forward and powerful back-bends over a chair. This was like a last supper for my lymph nodes.
After all that I was so buzzing I thought I’d never be able to sleep but conked out no problem.
On the way to the hospital I impressed upon Chloe and Fred the importance of buying the green sack of dog food for Huggi from the pet shop. ‘Please, if you only do one thing, do this,’ I begged. Fred dropped Chloe and me off at five to seven am. The pre-op people filled in forms and asked me questions. One of them was ‘Have you had any Mad Cow disease in your family?’ That made us roar with laughter, it was so random yet so apt. We are all Mad Cows.
Miss Benyon turned up all smiles and with undisguised glee drew on my back and front with her black pen. I was glad that Chloe could meet her and see what an ace person she is.
I lay down on a bed, with my stretchy stockings on, a hospital gown and a stretchy tube on my head. Many green-clad people milled about calmly. They put a line in my arm and said ‘We’re going to put something in that will make you a little drowsy, OK?’
Then they were saying ‘You can wake up now,’ and honestly it was just like Mad Lucy said, ping, I was awake and alert as anything, and the five-hour op had been done. I just could not believe it. Lying in recovery was bliss. The morphine was making me deeply relaxed and ecstatic. Then they wheeled the bed to ward M5. Along the way the scenery changed like with camera angles on the telly. It was quite a bumpy ride but enjoyable. I was wheeled into a room and Fred was there straight away. He held my hand. I could only whisper, so he whispered too. He tells me now that I kept forgetting what I had just said but I was under the impression I was making perfect sense. Miss Benyon popped in and told us all had gone well. She said that my insides had been quite sticky but that is caused by the chemo and they are used to it.
I was bowled over by my private room, the wonderful view of poplars out of the window and the gentle hands of nurses making me comfortable. Fred got to see the boob and said it looked great. I told Fred what to write for the blog.
That night, nurses came in every hour, checking the boob was warm and pink. They checked the drains and catheter, took my blood-pressure, temperature and pulse, reassured me, checked the pain-relief and antibiotics in the drip. Teams of them worked hard all night to help me. I was impressed and grateful. In the morning a lovely nurse sponged me and put my feet in a tub of warm water. She helped me out of bed to a chair with infinite tenderness.
That day, Wednesday, Miss Benyon popped by again. She is my absolute Top Woman now. Honestly, you should see her. She is beautiful, funny, extremely talented and has a wicked throaty laugh. OMG so many people must be in love with her. I can’t believe my luck that I had her doing the job. It does make me wish I had really engaged my brain, tried harder in Science lessons and maybe had a massive career helping people the way she has. She told me I had a great muscle on the back with which to rebuild. This made me glad of all the yoga and heaving hay bales over the fence wot I done.
Miss Benyon showed me the boob. It is beautiful. Honestly, anyone would be impressed. The skin is all still there, apart from the nipple, which is now a circle of skin from my back. The circular scar is covered very neatly with white gauze, which is covered with a highly advanced kind of cling-film. My whole chest is covered with thick padded gauze to keep it warm. The new breast is younger-looking and a bit higher than the other one, but will apparently drop to match the other more droopy side. (I did breastfeed my babies for ten years remember.) The very best thing about the new boob is that it has NO CANCER in it. She told me that Mr Farouhi managed to scrape everything out, and took out all the lymph nodes from under my arm. She said my insides look so good I will probably live for a long time, much longer than the feared five years. Phew.
She said I could have the catheter out first thing the next morning. It was quite nice not having to bother with going to the loo tbh. She also said that I am doing so well that I might crash, like start weeping and wailing with exhaustion, but then she doesn’t know about all you guys sharing the burden and Dennis talking to the angels for me and Claire and her six children doing the rosary for me (even newborn Aggie I’ll bet!) and all the prayer groups praying for me and my mum and dad wringing their hands for me.
So. I am a plastic surgery convert. Who’d have thought it?
I phoned Claire and told her I wanted her to visit me. She asked what she should bring. I said trashy magazines and Viz. She admired my new boob and reckoned the others would be well jells that she’s seen it first. She also admired my room with a view. It is enormous and very clean. We are massively impressed with the NHS. Fred brought me Private Eye and got my telly working. Really funny, he bumped into Fred’s sister’s bloke Graham down in the Concourse. He is a drug-runner for the hospital. He came up to see me too.
The next day, Thursday, Mr Farouhi came to see me. I was absolutely delighted to see him as he is my new hero. ‘Just a social call really,’ he said with his wonderful smile. ‘I know you are doing well.‘ He told me that the tissue they took out and the nodes looked really good, healthy, not sinister.
‘Does that mean that the cancer is less likely to have spread elsewhere?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘And it means that the chemo did its job well.’
I thanked him again and again.
You know, my friend Cecile told me that she experienced no pain after her op, and I really did not believe her. I thought she must have forgotten, blotted it out. But now I can sincerely say, like her: I have not had even a moment of pain. The first night and day I had a morphine dispenser in my hand. Did get a bit trigger happy yes. It’s so lush though, you can see how people get addicted. Yesterday I was only on Paracetamol, and last night only on Ibuprofen. Today I had two Paracetamol and feel fine.
So, the rest of Thursday, I practised walking about as the physio told me to and did arm exercises. Bash, Alfie, Big Alf and Fred came to visit. This reminds me of a time I phoned the College to see if I could get tickets for their Science Cafe thing. The man on the phone said ‘Give me the names of the people who want to come and I will let them in.’
I said, ‘Well,’ pause, ‘it’s Alf Tingey, Alf Tingey and Alf Tingey.’
The bloke thought I was avin a larf. But Fred is Alfred really, actually Alfred Frederick, which I’m sure is quite unusual. But then his mother Irene was quite unusual. I am sure she is an angel now. And Big Alf has called his new boat Irene Jean after her.
So Alfie lay on the groovy hospital bed and watched the little bikes whizzing over the mounds and people smashing their faces in. Bash told me all about how Fred had forgotten to buy the green food for Huggi so he had squitted everywhere and howled the neighbourhood down. *sigh*
I showed them the drain tubes. I explained (and will now explain for the benefit of Alfie and Bashi’s fwends who, I am told, read the blog) that they gently suck out the gunk and stuff from the wounds. I told them my catheter had gone. I explained that it is a tube which goes into your bladder and sucks out the wee so you don’t have to get up. The end of it inflates to keep it in. When they take it out they deflate it. Luckily, or it would hurt like crap. I think it’s good for kids to be acquainted with hospitals and to know that they exist. They were pretty impressed with my fabby room. We looked out over fields of harvested wheat. We talked about the word harvest. See, Miss Benyon had said she could ‘harvest’ the flesh from my back. The word gives me shivers ever since reading Never Let Me Go, the book about the clones. They only exist in order to provide organs for their Real People in the outside world. It turned out that from GCSE biology Alfie actually knows quite a lot about cloning and how you do it. I was impressed. I told him maybe he could have a career in cloning and on the side create little armies of Alfie Tingeys. Bash groaned at the very thought.
Later my mum and dad came. They were relieved to see me so happy and well as they have been ‘soo worried.’ After that, Dennis came. He gave me healing. It was again unbelievably good. I felt suddenly at one point as if I could let go of that small but ever-tugging feeling that I am a bad person, that I don’t deserve my lovely Fred, my happy life, my lovely children. I think Dennis was pulling away my original sin. I remembered a time when I was about nine, with my sister, when we went to the playing fields on Granchester Road and we found in the hedge a tiny den, with little seats, a rug, a shelf with cups of pencils, notepads, poems, candles. It was so lovely that we were jealous and angry that it was not ours. Do you know what we did? We scribbled ‘UGH!!’, ‘STUPID’, ‘RUBBISH’ all over the poems, we snapped the pencils, we trashed the place. I am now (and have been for years) sincerely sorry for this. Anyway, Dennis took it all away. I slept the deep sleep of the sinless.
Och, Granny has to take the laptop off noo, so I will save the rest for another installment. Sorry I have not had time to tweak. Raw stuff. See you soon!