Thursday 26th May – Well well well, how naïve am I? Usually I breeze through biopsies but this one has really caught me out. I went in on Tuesday for my sentinel lymph node biopsy, SLNB. Got dropped at the door, as usual, and in I went. I had received a call the day before confirming surgery and stating that I’d be put in main hospital as opposed to day therapy, suits me as much nicer and more comfortable. When I arrived there was a change of plan and off I went to day therapy. So wait, fill out usual forms, directed to another waiting room and finally nurse shows me my bed.
It’s a room of 4, quite small but fine. She very nicely decides to explain the procedure to me and I notice she is touching her breasts. Hmm, then I notice she is wearing a breast nurse badge. Okay, right this is odd. She continues and I finally interrupt her and tell her I don’t have breast cancer. She asks which breast my lump is in, I again state I don’t have breast cancer, she looks at me oddly and asks when did I have my mammogram, I tell her almost 3 years ago, and no I don’t have breast cancer. Agh I’m now about to scream – she says that you’re in for a SLNB I reply yes of my groin! I am furious. The very first page of my file states I am having a SLNB of the left groin. She disappears out the door and I don’t see her again. A few minutes pass and another nurse comes in. Hi I’m … pleased to meet you, you’re here for a SLNB which side is your lump on reaching to touch my breasts. Ok this is now like a bad dream and I almost scream at her. She is very taken aback but I tell her that if I had breast cancer there would be a higher profile and more treatments available than the bloody bitch of a thing I’ve been fighting for the past 22 years. She doesn’t run away! So I change and get ready for everything to kick off. The house doctor arrives and yippee he has read my file so no talk of breasts here.
Eventually I am taken to the nuclear medicine department, where a doctor first injects local anaesthetic then radioactive dye into the four quadrants of my graft. I am told to walk around for a while then return where I am placed into a scanning machine for approximately 20 mins where 4 different scans are taken to track the dye. This is to see where my actual sentinel lymph node is, the chances are it is in my groin but the lymph system can have other ideas. It is confirmed it is in my groin. I return to day therapy and wait. By now I could murder a cup of coffee as I’ve been fasting since midnight.
Not too long afterwards I’m called to theatre so off I go. The theatre nurse once again goes through the normal questions, nearly know them off by heart at this stage, no I don’t have any prosthesis, glass eye, hearing aid etc. etc.! Then she starts asking me which side my SLNB is going to be taken from. I tell her left, all very well so far. She then starts putting on the monitors and is fussing over my left arm, then asks when I had my breast lump removed. Did you even feel like elevating and just leaving? That was the moment when I came closest to exploding through this entire experience. I appreciate that to have a SLNB of the groin is less usual than armpit but Oh MY God I really wasn’t feeling patient with yet again having to explain that I don’t have breast cancer. Another nurse arrives, as I see her going to her breasts to start to ask the question I stop her, No I don’t have breast cancer, please don’t suggest I have, I have enough problems without everyone thinking I have that as well. She laughed! It turned out she was the anaesthetic nurse and was lovely. She was from Scotland but had worked in Australia and we discussed how far superior both the treatment and profile of malignant melanoma is there. She understood entirely why I was upset. She had to go off and get various things for me which my surgeon likes, apparently that’s why I was supposed to be in a ward as everyone knew what was wrong with me and had better instructions as to how to prepare me both pre and post op. Just my luck.
The surgeon comes out to have a chat – he is going to take maybe 2 or 3 nodes, doesn’t plan to use the indelible ink/tattoo and reiterates the rest I will need when I come home. Now I understood that I would been bed rest for 48 hours and very little activity for 2 weeks with the leg elevated above my heart but I naively thought this was keyhole surgery and that I would be as right as rain. Oh No I couldn’t have been more wrong. When I returned from surgery as usual I was very cold, had advised nurse of this reaction, so they had heating blanket for me then extra duvet. My BP collapsed and they got quite worried about this – I wasn’t it’s my usual reaction, once they finally gave me a cup of coffee it started to pick up. I had 2 rehydration IV’s, a paracetamol IV and pethadine, didn’t really expect all of that especially as I also had local anaesthetic pumped into leg during operation. Then I took a peek – flipping heck it’s all of a 6 inch cut right along the groin just at my panty line, even the nurses were surprised, and I’m covered in either indelible ink or tattoo, not too sure which yet. Big triangle and lines but on the positive no stitches all internal.
So it’s now two days since, and I’m very sore and swollen. I was very naïve about this surgery as really expected to be feeling so well I’d be struggling to rest. Not at all instead I’m sleeping most of the time and not eating very well as feeling overall very ill. I guess 3 general anaesthetics in 4 months have just caught up with me. Tomorrow is my son’s graduation from school and whereas I was so looking forward to the night and heading out with the boys and our pals I am now just hoping I will feel up to going at all. I will crawl on all fours if I have to – not missing it. I return to see the surgeon in 2 weeks, actually the day the leaving cert starts and my OH’s birthday. He said I will hear from him before then, I look forward to that conversation to find out exactly what happened.