By Tanya Dodd-Hise
The day had finally arrived. I was ready. But I was also a little scared. But I was more ready. Ready to get this thing out of me; this thing that has been growing quickly on its mission to rob me of my life. I knew that this major surgery was the beginning of an uphill climb, but I willingly signed on for it, just like any of the 5Ks that I have done in the past – and will do more of in the future!
We arrived at the hospital just before 10:00 AM, where I checked in and waited to be taken back by a nurse. Holly arrived right behind us, and Lorrie arrived from Oklahoma City shortly after that. I am so blessed that my three best friends in the world were all there beside me – beside US – on this day that would change our lives forever. The only thing I had said that I wanted to wake up to was my wife and these three best friends – and they all made sure that it happened. This meant the world to me. Kim wasn’t there by the time I got called back, but she arrived before I actually went into surgery.
“Fall Risk” – I should have one of these every day of my life
When I got taken back, Erikka went with me and stayed while I changed and went through all of the typical pre-op routine. They made me wear bright yellow socks with rubber grippies on the bottom (like the socks we put on Harrison), as well as a bright yellow bracelet that said, “FALL RISK” on it. I can’t really be offended, because on a good day I am typically a fall risk…hahahaha. The girls all thought it was pretty funny though when they came back….but they know me, too. After the socks and bracelets were on, then the nurse put my IV in. I asked for the “calm down” drugs, but she said that I would get those after I talked to a few more people. Pretty soon, the no-nonsense anesthesiologist came in and went through all of the same questions that the first and second nurses had asked. Lorrie didn’t like him because he didn’t have a sense of humor when she asked if he was going to share the “good stuff” with her. He WAS all business, this Mr. Personality.
Mr. Personality…aka the Anesthesiologist
After he left, then the OR charge nurse, Marti, came in. She was awesome, and had on a cool pink surgical hat – all except for the Texas A&M logos on it. We all loved it, especially since it was Wear Pink for Tanya day, and everyone we knew was wearing pink, including all of the beautiful women that were with me at the hospital.
Pretty soon, all that was left was signing the boobs away and the good drugs. Yes, I said sign away the boobs. Each person that came back asked me all of the same questions: full name, date of birth, allergies, what procedures were we doing. Then they gave me paperwork giving them permission to lob off my left and right breasts. Somewhere in there they gave me a small bit of something in my IV to “relax” me, and I apparently started talking to my boobies – telling the left one that it was rude for trying to kill me, and apologizing to the right one that it had to be put down all because of the left one. This was high comedy I hear! After he gave me that first little bit, I I remember saying, “Oh I don’t feel ANYTHING!” and soon they were kicking the girls out to take me back. I remember hugs and kisses from Holly and Lorrie, and lastly from Erikka – and that’s all I remember. I don’t remember the trip through the halls of the back hallways into the operating room. I went OUT.
Hours later, I am in a private room, being awakened by a sweet nurse in pink scrubs; surrounded by Erikka, Holly, Lorrie, and now Kim, too. I vaguely remember asking what time it was, and it was much later than I thought it should be.
The surgery had gone smoothly and not taken any longer than it should have; I had been hard to wake up (which is typical for me after any surgery). I remember looking at Kim and saying, “Hey! You’re not wearing pink!” It’s funny where the brain goes when it is in an altered state! I was so out of it, but was SO thankful for the nice little anti-nausea patch that they had put behind my ear just before I went into the operating room. I had a drain coming out of each side of my chest, and was wrapped in a compression bra. I remember looking down and putting my hands on my now flat chest, and thinking, “Oh my God, they’re really gone!” Then I was in and out of consciousness for the next few hours, while my wonderful and amazing friends stayed and watched me sleep or hung out in the waiting room.
Soon, Lorrie would need to get back on the road to Oklahoma, and Kim would need to get back on the road for Ft. Worth. Holly was going to stay for a while and keep Erikka company and have something to eat with us. I don’t think that any of them know how grateful I am that they spent the day in hospital waiting rooms for ME, and for my wife. They will never know, and I could never repay, the blessing that they all were for staying with Erikka and making sure that she kept it together instead of being sick with worry and fear. After Kim and Lorrie left, I slept for a while more while Erikka and Holly went and found some decent dinner – Subway. It was so nice to finally be able to eat! And something that I LIKE! Shortly after we ate, Erikka needed to leave and go pickup our little Peanut from my mom; and Holly decided that she would stay for a while and keep me company. I kept dozing off, in and out of sleepiness, so I finally told her to go ahead and get home and rest. I was good for the night, as long as I had my anti-nausea patch and sweet little pain med button that I could push every six minutes.
The night was uneventful, and Erikka was back mid-morning that next day. Over the course of the morning and early afternoon, I had lots of visits from nurses, as well as a Breast Cancer support staff person, who brought me some things to take home. I also had a visit from an occupational therapist, who came and showed me some arm exercises to do three or four times per day when I got home – those were tough that first time! The last visit that I was waiting for was Dr. Garner, after she got done with her surgeries for the day. I didn’t think that I was ready yet to go home, but rumor was that she would probably send me home if she thought I was doing well.
Late in the afternoon, Dr. Garner and her P.A. stopped by to check on me. After she checked my sutures and drains, she deemed me to be doing great and said she was sending me home. She did sit down and tell me that there were at least seven lymph nodes that had been cancerous, and they were still analyzing them all. She said that based on that and the size of my tumor, I would likely be categorized as a stage 3 – which upset me quite a bit for the rest of the afternoon. This was not the news that I had been hoping to hear.
Off to home we went. It felt good to be back in our bed. Erikka tucked me in before running Noah to my mom’s for a long weekend, and I fell asleep again, thankful for our amazing family and friends who had gathered around us for this major occurrence in our lives. I go back to the surgeon a week after surgery, and hope that she takes out one of these miserable drains, if not both. Then I will find out more information, and probably find out about the next step: chemotherapy.