Going to theatre for the lumpectomy.

A week after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I was booked for a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy.

Early Monday morning, Basil and I drove to Christiaan Barnard Hospital where I was going to have my surgery. When we arrived at the Admissions Desk at about 6:05, there were already many folk waiting to be admitted.  The decor and the coffee aroma created a pleasant ambience for the stressed occupants of this area, except of course,  for my dearest hubby.  We left  our home later than I had anticipated and Basil had to cut his morning routine short.  This freshly-ground coffee aroma in the Admissions area wreaked havoc and forced Basil to flee down the corridor.

 Fortunately Levona, my sister and Trevor, my only brother, arrived to fill this gap with light conversation and jokes. Trevor had obviously worked hard on his repertoire of jokes because I was chuckling away most of the time.  Soon after a visibly lighter, relieved Basil joined us.  So there was definitely something heavier that weighed him down than my pending surgery.

Pre- theatre visits in the ward

View from my bed in Ward 5B

I was given a window-bed with a stunning view over the Bo-Kaap, Vredehoek and part of Table Mountain.  I tried to soak in the view and think of all the beauty that surrounded me.

Soon I was in my hospital gown.  It was time for blood pressure and temperature checks.  Next the radiologists visited me.  I was getting some ink squirted into my breast.  This radio-active substance would show up any lymph nodes that looked suspicious and that had to be removed during the surgery.  Next the anesthesiologist visited me to explain the procedure.  All this activity is absolutely daunting. Luckily everybody was chirpy and kept my spirits high.

 I was bumped up to the 9h00 slot because of some problem the original patient  no. 1 had with her medical aid.  The friendly anesthesiologist, Dr Roth, met me in the waiting bay at the theatre and got so excited when she saw my the veins in my hand all popping up beautifully.

"Oh wow,"  she said, " it's not often that I have such a huge choice.  There is usually one that shouts " Me.. me..me... Drip me!" But today there's a whole bunch of them competing."

Dr Jenny Edge, the breast surgeon

Dr Jenny Edge(Right) with Sister Tonichia Hendricks

Hmmm... it's amazing what gets us all excited in our professions. I get excited when our schools do well and they show off their children's talents.  Here a network of veins in my hands just made an anesthesiologist's needle super excited!

 I tried to picture Dr Jenny Edge and her excitement trigger when she sliced my breast to see the tumour. Everybody who heard that Doctor Jenny Edge was my surgeon, sang her praises.

"She is the best in the country," said one. She may look stern, but she is brilliant."

I obviously already knew I was in the right hands. When I met Dr Jenny Edge in her rooms at Christiaan Barnard Hospital, her penetrating eyes and her signature green-framed spectacles grabbed me. She is professional with a dry sense of humour.  You get all the information quickly and clearly. You know you are dealing with someone who has a deep understanding for her patient's situation, without compromising her 'surgeon' aura. Dr Jenny Edge's blog is a super resource about breast cancer and the advocacy campaigns.

After Surgery and the effects of the anaesthetics

I don't recall much about the theatre.  One minute I was introduced to Dr Scheepers who was Dr Edge's assistant and the next minute, I woke up in the recovery room.  I drifted in and out of sleep the entire day.  I was nauseous and lightheaded all the time.  The side effects of the anaesthetic were far more crippling than the wound at the time.  I loved the family visits but I was exhausted.  All I could cope with were ice cubes that the friendly nursing staff kept bringing me. I was happy that the operation was successful.

I was envious of the two ladies, Michele and Alia, who shared the ward with me. They were having animated conversations. They looked at me sympathetically and worried that I wasn't eating.
During the early hours of Tuesday morning,  the nausea lifted and I felt the hunger pangs. I was able to finish the jelly that Michele, my room mate,  had given me to eat.

By 5h30 I was ready for breakfast. And I was ready for conversation. But guess what? My chirpy neighbours who were talking non-stop, drinking coffee and eating chocolates the night before, looked drained.  They were under the attack of the nausea and lightheadedness that had gripped me the night before!

"Oh no," I said. " This can't be. Are these the same lovely, bubbly ladies that gave me jelly and lozenges while they were yapping away?"

Both Michele and Alia just smiled weakly and tolerated my banter.  Taka, my neighbour in the bed next door, was happy to watch the drama while she caught up with some office work on her laptop. I can so identify with such madness, I thought.

Alia and me on Wednesday morning, just before being discharged.

The drip was removed and I could move around more freely. That was good and I wanted to fit in some mild walking.  Our bodies are subjected to extreme shock and trauma during an operation. One  can so easily forget this because of the easy access to painkillers and other medicine to help you deal with the physical pain. You have to do light arm movement exercises to prevent your arm muscles from stiffening.  And, you need to walk about to prevent your blood clotting.

I was ready for Tuesday. Between all the mandatory temperature and blood pressure  checks, I was going to try to be far more mobile and help my healing.

Look out for the follow up blog post where I share my encounters with interesting folk in the hospital.


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