Bye bye lymph. And how your knickers could kill you during surgery.

I wasn’t particularly scared when Ged dropped me off for surgery to remove my lymph. I think this is because I’d received a letter saying I would be having a local anaesthetic and so would avoid the awful chemical warfare in my throat that I was left with after the lumpectomy.

I also thought I was less likely to die during surgery if I was having a local because I would be keeping my beady eye on the surgeon whilst he was slicing me. And surely there should be less chance of leaving theatre with bruises to my inner thigh if I was awake? The bruising (see my previous posts) occurred when someone strapped an earthing machine to my leg, in a rather rough fashion.

About twenty women arrived simultaneously at surgery reception and queued with their letters. The receptionist checked every letter against the pile of patient files.

My file was missing.

“Just take a seat in the waiting room and we’ll call you through when we have them.”

I sat alone in the waiting area and thought ‘Only me’ in more ways than one.

I was then taken through to the ward and given a bed to sit on.

“Your notes should turn up soon so we’ll carry on as normal. The anaesthetist will be over to see you shortly.”

Sure enough the anaesthetist arrived and I was mightily relieved to see it wasn’t the same one I’d had for the lumpectomy. Even if I wasn’t having a general anaesthetic this time, I didn’t particularly feel like seeing him again. Especially as he had been the person who complained to matron about me having a photographer in the room last time.

“You’re first on the list today Gillian as you have a latex allergy. We want to make sure the air is uncontaminated and that no latex has been inside the theatre before you are operated on.”

“OK. I’m having a local anaesthetic by the way.”

“Really? I have you down for a general.”

The anaesthetist went off to find my surgeon – Mr Almond who also did my lumpectomy.

Mr Almond was not best pleased with the news that I was apparently having a local anaesthetic.

“Who told you that you would be having a local anaesthetic? Did Miss Gadd, the consultant say this?”

“No she didn’t. The letter I received after I had seen her said this. The receptionist has it.”

“Well I didn’t write that letter. I won’t perform this operation under local anaesthetic! I hope you haven’t eaten anything.”

“Well yes, I’ve had tea and toast for breakfast because the letter told me to.”

“This means that you cannot go to surgery this morning and the theatre has been prepared for you to be first on the list. This anaesthetist has a different list this afternoon. Now he is going to have to see if he can change his list so that you can be the first patient in after lunch when the theatre has been decontaminated from latex again.”

Somehow, it seemed that all of this was my fault. And I was suddenly panic stricken that I would have the same problem of the chemical warfare in my throat if I was to have a general anaesthetic.

“Well, as my notes have gone missing anyway, it’s unlikely that I would be going to theatre first.”

“Your notes will be here somewhere. They can’t have just disappeared.” He said this with more confidence than I was feeling.

I really, really didn’t want to have the same anaesthetic as last time. “Please will you make sure that the ingredient in the anaesthetic that caused the chemical taste is changed so it doesn’t happen again?”

“I don’t know what was in your anaesthetic because I don’t have your notes.”

“Well, fortunately, I made a written note of what was in it after talking to the consultant and I noted which component was likely to be the culprit according to her.”

“I can’t take your word for what was in it. I would need to see your notes.”

I was already seeing this whole scenario as an episode of ‘Only When I Laugh’

Only I wasn’t laughing because I was more scared of the anaesthetic than anything else.

Mr Almond stropped off and a nurse approached and asked me if I’d like to go and sit back in the waiting room until they’d found my notes.

“Why don’t I just go home and if they ever turn up, you can call me.”

“I’m sure they’ll be here soon. How about we put you in a room of your own so you can have a lie down while you’re waiting.”

I think this translated as ‘Let’s get you out of the way before you start getting upset and causing a fuss.’

I curled up on the bed in my room and messaged Ged to tell him what was happening.

“How can they lose your notes and why the hell did you get a letter saying you were having a local anaesthetic if you’re not?”

Fuck knows.

After ten minutes the door opened, a nurse shouted ‘There’s somebody in here!’ and then closed the door without saying a word to me.

I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep in case they were thinking of putting someone else in my room. This lady was not for budging. I fell asleep and woke up shortly before 1pm when a nurse brought a gown in for me.

“We’ve found your notes and they’ll be ready to take you down shortly if you’d like to pop your gown on. Do you have any nylon in your knickers?”

“Erhm, yes. Maybe. Why?”

“You’ll have to put paper knickers on then. The nylon can combust when the electric cauterisation is used to stop you bleeding.” Lovely.

Suddenly I was filled with the panic that I would die under anaesthetic and I hadn’t said goodbye to my kids. It was one thing to be saying a long goodbye because I had cancer but if I was going to pop my clogs today, I needed to leave them some kind of note. But I didn’t have a pen or paper.

I decided to message Zoë, my seventeen year old, via Messenger because I knew she had data turned off while she was in school so she wouldn’t get the message until she was home. I didn’t want her freaking out in class.

But of course, for the first time ever in living history, she had her data on. The following screenshots are of the message exchange between us ***By the way Ducky and Freddie are my bedtime soft toys. Freddie has a long history but Duckie was a present for myself when I had half my breast removed as his long soft neck was perfect for helping me sleep on my side – he replaced the missing boob and stopped the remaining half-a-boob sagging and dragging.***

. Ducky and Freddie

So I wrote;

There was a sign taped to the door of the theatre saying ‘Latex free zone’. Inside, the nice anaesthetist was waiting to talk to me.

“The strange taste you had after the last anaesthetist, was it of garlic, onions and herbs because that’s a common reaction? The chemicals trick the brain into thinking they have a strong Mediterranean flavour in the mouth.”

“Nope. That sounds delicious but this was pure chemical warfare.”

“In that case it seems like the anaesthetist didn’t put enough lubrication on the tube that he inserted down your throat for the gas. I’ll put plenty on today and you should be fine.”

So I went under the anaesthetic with an image of the last anaesthetist ramming an un-lubricated tube down my throat because he was pissed off that I’d had a photographer in my room.

An hour later I woke up in recovery and was told that they’d only had to remove one lymph node so I presumed this meant that if the cancer had travelled at all then it hadn’t travelled further than the first lymph.

I was beyond excited at the thought of going for a wee because I’d been told that as well as my skin having a blue tinge from the dye they’d injected into me, I would also have blue urine and would cry blue tears. Oh and I would have a bright blue nipple for a few weeks.

I snuck off to the loo with my phone and took pictures of my blue wee and then spent a good five minutes trying to cry so I could take photos of blue tears running down my face.

But there were no tears to cry. I’m sure this must have been because of the anaesthetic or just that I was dehydrated but even thoughts of Joe crying beside my coffin couldn’t conjure a tear.

Nothing. Bloody typical.

I messaged Ged to tell him I was alive, only one lymph had been taken for the biopsy and that I’d be home as soon as my blood pressure had gone up a bit.

Ged messaged back to say I had curry from my favourite Pakistani curry house waiting for me and I realised that I’d be able to taste it in all its deliciousness because I didn’t have the foul chemical taste in my throat this time.

Which made me loathe the first anaesthetist even more. Bastard.

****In the next post I’ll receive the results of the lymph biopsy and make plans for the future***