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  • All about Gertrude

    Gertrude is the name we decided to call my cancerous breast hence the title of this blog. Although I had to keep my breast through chemo and radiation due to the nature of IBC - once it 'blew up' it no longer looked like my breast and I couldn't wait to get rid of it. Calling it Gertrude was a way of seperating it from myself. This main page is where I write about the general goings on that relate to Gertrude, there is another page that are more a diary of treatments etc This blog is a public blog so although I am being very honest about my battle with Gertrude I have "changed names to protect the innocent" - because everyone can see it if you write comments on the blog pages please use the same abbreviations for other family member or friends that I do. Please feel free to ask questions if you want clarification because then other people who might have been wondering the same thing can read your question and our answers.
  • Abbreviations

    OH- Other Half (Hubby), OD- Oldest Daughter, MD- Middle Daugher, YD- Youngest Daughter, SB- soulja boi MD's fiance in the army (now ex fiance), OD's R OD's partner, BS- Breast surgeon whose initials just happen to be BS as well, BC- our GP (family doctor), Dr H- my medical oncologist, all other friends family etc will be referred to as initials etc
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    No Princess Alone button

Is the war over?

Thought seeing it is ANZAC Day I would give my blog post a title reflecting it but also because I refer to this as my ‘battle’ with Inflammatory
Breast Cancer

Well a quick run-through of the week that was – about the only thing the private hospital lacked was a wireless hotspot for me to do my blogging from.
 On Tuesday I arrived at the Brightside hospital at 6.30 – I had got up at 5.30 to have shower etc and left home right on 6am. Admission procedures followed, included weighing me where I was another 6 kgs lighter than I had been at the public hospital a week and a half before. I dont think they are calibrated correctly but will check weight when I go back to visit my oncologist at Auckland hospital this week –  interesting thing is I weighed the same on the “Brightside” scales after my surgery so not sure what is happening there especially as BS my surgeon was saying Gertrude was so big she couldnt weigh it when she took it off because her scales in the operating room only go to 1.5 kgs

I had an absolutely lovely anaesthetist CK who was very friendly, much more of a people person than some of the anaesthetists I’ve met.  He took me up to theatre and gave me my first shot of “gin” just after 8 am.  I drifted off during the following discussion of wine versus gin & tonics. I don’t remember anything from then until coming to in my room with OH already in attendance. Asked him what the time was and he said about 1.30pm.  BS had rung him about 12.30 to say operation was over and had gone well.  Feeling very drowsy and was in and out of sleep until OH left about 8pm he said I was only with it about 30% of the time for most of the afternoon rising to about 70% by the time he left. The first time I went to get out of bed to go to the toilet I had to get OH and the nurse to help me. It was very painful to move and had to get out of bed slowly. I had 3 drains in, two on the right side and one on the left.  I felt quite woozy that first time and almost fainted.  When I repeated the performance later that evening, I was much better, still slow and painful but no dizziness.   I was hungry for dinner, had just ordered some chicken soup but when I went to eat I promptly threw up, so just water was on the menu for Tuesday – they also had me hooked up to IV fluids until Wednesday morning.  I went to sleep for the night at about 9pm although they woke me up a couple of times to take my blood pressure etc I slept really well. 

Wednesday morning I was sick again just before breakfast arrived and I think that got the last of the anaesthesia out of my system because after that I was fine, I ate about half my small breakfast of scrambled eggs and felt fine – but thought I would leave it at that for my stomach to get used to having food in it again..BS came in and inspected both operation sites and was very pleased took the post operative dressings off and put more normal dressing on.  I had had large wide crepe bandages over the op dressings and they also went just leaving a long narrow waterproof dressing on my mastectomy side and steri strips and a couple of no stick telfa type pads on the other..  I was surprised to look down and feel no negative emotion seeing the flat space where Gertrude had been only a feeling of relief and a physical feeling of  light and airiness instead of the heavy pressure that Gertrude had become.  My other breast was exactly the size I had imagined and although it is a bit puffy due to post op bruising etc I’m sure I will be very happy with it.  Wednesday morning dressing change was when they took the drain out of my left side.  I start being able to get myself out of bed to go to the toilet although still have a bit of a problem with the drains attached to bottles on the right hand side, having to cart them to the loo with me each time I go.  By Wednesday evening I have devised the way to do this and amazed at the mobility I have especially the use of my right arm which I thought was going to be much more immobile.  My very first visitor was my “IBC sister” L and it was so nice to see her.  Her having “been there, done that” means I dont have to explain to her how  I’m feeling, but she is surprised to see how perky I am.  OD then OH arrived shortly after and so I didn’t need to call the nurses for much as they were on hand to help with my drains etc.  MD and Sis M visited in the evening after work and I think everybody was surprised at how much I had recovered including me. Including being able to eat my tea using both arms etc and giving myself a body wash although I needed help with my back and my legs.

Thursday was when I definitely felt more like myself, the post-operative pain was subsiding to a murmur with judicious use of painkillers and not doing anything too fast or twisting the wrong way.  BS still very pleased with progress and the drain draining fluid from my chest wall was pulled out as it had only collected about 50 mls since the operation.  With only one drain left to maneuver around this left me much more mobile and BS suggested that I go for a walk into the hospital garden later that afternoon just to get my circulation going properly again – one of the complications of surgery is the risk of DVT and for the first two nights as well as sexy white support stockings I had worn blow up compression devices called scuds that gradually inflated upwards up your leg and then deflated.  I devised how to hook my drain bottle under my robe so no-one could see it and so I wasnt having to walk around with it in my little hot hand.  After my body wash in the morning I got in my own pjs (two days in a hospital gown was enough!!) When OH arrived later in the afternoon we took a stroll round the little garden, me doing two laps of the path round it – shuffling and taking tinier steps than I usually do but at least I did it.

Thursday was the day I started really appreciating the difference between public and private hospital food; for breakfast I had a croissant, jam and coffee with a small dish of stewed pears on the side

For lunch I had a caesar salad which impressed me so much I took a picture of it. and a little fresh fruit platter on the side.  I also loved the variety of drinks you could get, I ordered lemonade for lunch. 

my caesar salad

my caesar salad

my lunch

my lunch

BS’s nurse from her rooms came to check up on me and got a surprise to see me sitting up in the armchair, she had expected to see me on the bed but because I was more mobile tried to vary my position in bed and in the chair sometimes just for a change.

Friday  I had more mobility again no longer shuffling but walking a little more normally I had to wait for BS to visit she didn’t come til the afternoon but she was still happy with progress although there had been a little seepage from the suture line on my left side (reduction side) I had also reacted a little to the tapes but all in all she thought it was fine to plan for my discharge today.  I was able to order a celebratory glass of wine from the menu to go with dinner last night.  When OH came up in the afternoon it was not good weather to go to the garden so did a couple of laps of the hospital instead – going from the end of my ward to the end of the other ward at the other end of the building.

BS visited me bright and early this morning and authorised the removal of my final drain.  so I’ve come home with no drains in and fairly mobile.  I have had lots of people telling me to take it easy, rest and recuperate so I am going to behave – do the exercises and level of movement mobility that is recommended but I am hopeful this is the start of a very good and fairly rapid recovery.

I get the pathology results on Tuesday so it will be interesting what they say.

Back to my battle analogy – when L came to visit we had a talk about how some people don’t like to use the battle analogy for their dealings with cancer but I think it is very apt.  My “war” has consisted of three distinct “campaigns” chemo radiation and surgery and we will find out on Tuesday whether Gertrude has “surrendered”.  The ongoing herceptin chemo can be likened to sending in the UN peacekeepers and ongoing monitoring  – CT’s blood tests and the like compared to surveillance missions.  If there is an ‘official surrender’ we still have to be aware that there are ‘militants and terrorists’ microscopic cancer cells possibly among my normal body cells that may be needed to be battled against in the future.   So that is my thoughts on my own personal war, this ANZAC Day.

So glad to be home and will probably update blog on Tuesday and Wednesday after my appointments with the surgeon (Tuesday) and Oncologist (Wednesday)

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  1. jayne

     /  April 25, 2009

    Your description of the last week makes for compelling reading and so appropriate with Anzac.
    Glad your taking everyones advice and taking it easy after your ‘war’. Its great to know so many people are ‘gunning’ for you too, even if we aren’t in the ‘frontline’.
    (Don’t think I could be as good a soldier)…
    I’m still so amazed at how quick you got to go home,
    You really seriously should consider writing a book,..and thats another story. Love always x

  2. Sis M

     /  April 28, 2009

    You really have soldiered on extremely well withyour head held high – and you are definetely winning this war. Carry on soldier. Lots of luv


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