Below is a poem I wrote a week after my mastectomy. I was not given a choice, it was remove my breast or die. I had a large grade 9 triple negative tumor in my right breast, and because of my age (41) my chance of recurrence was extremely high.
While writing this poem only took me 30 minutes, it perfectly describes my ordeal. In retrospect, I would have asked for a home pain pump (they are available and I strongly recommend that everyone looks into them), and the “Boob” bandage, a bandage that has a breast shape (with even a nipple !). What ticks me off is that there are no comfort standards for cancer surgery. Every woman should try and find a woman surgeon (I don’t care how great a surgeon is, men just don’t get it), and be offered an ambulatory pain pump after surgery. Every woman should have a Boob Bandage® applied, at least for the first day to help relieve that intense shock of what I describe below. Someday I may write “A Breast Cancer Guide for Stupid People” and give it out to all surgeons.
I don’t care how strong you are, how much you are prepared, it is mutilation and a private agony that only time (and a new breast) will heal.
I chose on surgery day to go alone.
I needed to get into a “battle zone”
and knew that people attraction
was an unwelcome distraction.
I pretended this terror was unreal.
After all, it was just a big old skin tag.
But, fooling myself, I knew cancer did steal
my feminine mid-life “booby bag”!
I chose sentinal lymph node testing
(a procedure pinpointing cancer nesting).
So out came my boob, as an elderly dude
stuck my nipple with a needle times eight!
But, kind man, sparing me terrible pain
four of the shots were only lidocaine…..
Each injection felt like burning fire!
My eyes shot out flames most dire
and, as it “seared my brain”,
I silently screamed, “THIS is less pain”?
The monsoon had started as rain…
I waited for hours on a hard pre-op bed.
I did nothing but try and prepare my head
for this day that filled me with dread.
Proudly, no tears marred my day
I was a fearless soldier all the way.
I awoke to the most intense pain,
all I could do was moan and shake
as I heard many voices shout
“Wake up Lorene, come on out,
deep breaths you need to take!”
My chest was on fire, I couldnt breathe.
They wanted a pain number from me.
I was so indignant, I wanted to shout
“Go stuff your pain number you louts!
Am I surrounded by moronic brains?
Can’t you tell severe pain”?
Ah, a pain button! Praise the Lord
morphine was now on board.
But it didn’t work, just make me puke.
I suffered for 90 minutes in pain so acute
I prayed for a gun, a bullet, or better, a nuke.
But, FINALLY, the morphine took hold.
And as the pain eased its grip
the nurse started to scold,
“You are not breathing enough”!
I fought her with mighty ire
and would not give her my pain wire!
So I told her a lie (I must confess),
“I’m breathing just fine,
I’m just holding my breath,
now give me my button
or you will receive your death!”
So I spent the night in acute fright
that I would go asleep and “see the light”!
I should not have worried…..
leg pumps, IV’s, drains, puking, pain…..
sleep would not have hurried!
By morning, retched out, my plea
was for a “big gun” anti-nausea IV.
It worked like a charm, I was right as rain
and began to suffer acute hunger pain.
They refused to give me any food!
That really got me in a foul mood.
My empty stomach is making me ill
I’ll be fine when my stomach is filled!”
I was right, I knew my body the best,
a concept that is not often addressed.
My surgeon arrived and had great news!
No lymph node cancer in biopsy views.
A huge worry gone, thank the Lord!
He stated, ” Your incisions are open to air”.
Deep breath, sneaking a peek down there…
I was horrified–what a jolt to share
with one who will lose both boob and hair.
Psychologically, dressings would really spare
the graphic horror of immediate post op care.
Over the course of that horrible day,
I viewed my “house of decay”;
an apt description I must say.
Incision 12 inches long, it looked all wrong
like a zipper that was sized too long.
My chest was sunken in places
in others, pockets full of fluid spaces.
The drain, icing on my cadaveric cake
winding throughout my chest, a stiff snake
biting into me with every breath I take.
None of the pamphlets, none of the books
had real pictures how this would look.
The sick horror felt like a physical blow
and I was furious that I did not know.
The first week was traumatic and rough.
But I know that I am made of sterner stuff!
I am rubber in a world of concrete;
I will bounce away from the word “defeat”
and both cancer and pain I will beat.
My humor finally started to return
and I thank God for His Mercies!
If nothing else I have learned;
loved ones should not be spurned.
There is a funny spot, dontcha know……
I can now call myself my own “Van Gogh”!
Planning ahead, here’s my heavenly plea….
Lord, may I have a perfect boob in Size D?