Things are slowly returning--I don't think I can say to normal.  Diana had a successful operation and is now home.  I am daily confirming that I made the correct career choice in not becoming a nurse or a doctor.

On Mon. at 11 we presented ourselves at the hospital.  Diana was soon stripped and put into a bed and given an IV hookup.  A friend of Diana's (and not a terribly close one, actually) volunteered to come to the hospital with us, and showed up at 11:15--I'll call her Suze.  She has a big-time academic job at one of the universities in Boston, but, it being Christmas week, she didn't have much to do.  The surgeon came in and talked with us for a few moments, and then it was time to wheel her in.  This was the day we were supposed to leave on our honeymoon.  We had decided on St. Lucia, but really wanted to go to Europe.  I told Diana that when she was under, she should look for a sign whether we should go to Paris or Vienna...

We were showed to the waiting room, which was surprisingly empty.  Most of the time we had it to ourselves, or shared it with one or two other people.  Suze and I, who weren't really that well acquainted, talked about various things for the two hours or so of the operation.  We got lunch at the cafeteria--a surprisingly good and very cheap sandwich.  Some angel had brought in what must have been 25 pounds of cookies and fudge.  We were pretty restrained, but not completely.  After about an hour and 3/4, the surgeon appeared.  She said that the operation had gone very well, and that Diana was in the recovery room.  And that we could see her when she was wheeled upstairs in a couple of hours.

It was very different, having someone to wait with.  My natural instinct would have been to get a good book and bury myself in it.  Patterns from the past--exercise the mind, and don't feel anything.  Having Suze there kept me in my emotions, and, overall, that was a good thing.  She said what I had suspected, that a number of cancer patients had said that the worst part of the whole experience was the time from diagnosis to the operation.  I said I hoped so, since the previous week had been very difficult.

After about an hour and a half, Diana was wheeled upstairs, and we rode with her.  She was dopy, but when I asked her "Paris or Vienna" she smiled a little and said "both!".  That's my girl!

Time was, when you had that kind of an operations, swelling was a big problem.  It put strain on the stitches and it hurt.  Now they insert a small tube to drain the fluid out of the area.  No swelling.  The fluid changes over the days from cherry red to a kind of yellow-pink.  When the amount of fluid is small enough, they remove the drain.

Unfortunately, the drains hurt.  It is hard to keep them from moving around, and they do, and the tissue where they are attached is sensitive.  Diana, of course, tenses up when it hurts, and that makes it hurt more.  So most of the post-operation activity has centered around the drains.  There are two of them--one in the breast area, and the other in the area where the lymph nodes were removed.

When Diana came out of surgery, her face was totally relaxed--she looked 20 years old, not a wrinkle to be seen.  As the pain hit, she looked more like 80.  Then each day, she has looked better.  More color in her face, more sparkle in her eyes, more animation.

They often send people home the next day from this kind of surgery.  But they didn't have the pain under control, really, so she stayed a second day.  Christmas day dawned with snow and sleet and rain and predictions of 18 inches.  But it was so beautiful--the first white Christmas I can remember.  We had celebrated with the boys before putting them on the plane to see their dad, so we didn't have presents to contemplate.  I was at the hospital at 9, chafing to have her released while I could still drive.  She was finally released at 12:30.  They gave us a prescription for pain medication.  On Christmas day.  So I dropped Diana at home and drove off into the blizzard in search of a rumored 24-hour pharmacy.  It actually existed and was easy to find--aside from a couple of Chinese restaurants, it was the only thing open!  They do Christmas more seriously here than in CA.  I didn't think anything closed Dunkin Donuts!

So I got the pills, and then headed back to the hospital, since they had neglected to give us some little bottles to use with the drains.  Got them, and was finally home for good at 3PM.  Just as the snow and sleet really started to pound us.  I was afraid we would lose power and there were a couple of heart-stopping one second interruptions, but we kept power, and the total was more like 8 than 18 inches.  The next morning (Thurs) we went back to the doctor's office in the afternoon, and the first of the drains was removed.  More recovery.  On Sat., we get the second drain out.  Diana is still in pain, but moving around much better.

The phone has been ringing off the hook.  Neighbors stopped by with everything from soup (a couple of gallons!) to a whole chicken to a British fish pie.  Jolie stopped by and actually went out and shoveled our front walk.  I wouldn't have bothered, having shoveled the back stairs, using muscles that were not much exercised by sitting at a computer.  Another friend stopped by and while I was off shopping she did everything from rearrange the furniture in the bedroom to changing the laundry.

And yesterday, I heard Diana laughing--luckily, it doesn't hurt when she laughs--as she talked on the phone.  And life seemed pretty good.  A couple of weeks of recovery, and then the chemo and/or radiation will start.  Diana had been dreading that, but after the operation it seems not so scary.  Much better than a relapse...

And the preliminary pathologist's report showed no cancer in the lymph nodes (that is good!).  But it also showed several areas of cancer in other parts of the breast that had not shown up on any of the tests.  That is also good, in a way, since it shows that taking the whole breast was the right thing to do.  But it's not particularly reassuring.

Meanwhile, I'm looking at tickets to Paris and Vienna.

Thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2002 Pete Stevens. All rights reserved.