My operation began at 8am, Mark was told to call around 3pm to hear the operation was a success and I was safe in recovery; instead as I wake up in a cold sweat feeling disorientated and sick I look to the clock and see its 7:10pm. My surgery had taken 9 hours to complete. I remember pulling the oxygen mask from my face and breathing a deep breath, before being injected with anti-sickness. I was hot, then I was cold and I was very dizzy. I felt uncomfortable and restricted in a really tight fitting surgical compression top. It was the worst I have ever felt in my life and I wasn't even 100% conscious. I see a body stood at the end of my bed, its a doctor and he's lightheartedly telling me I look great in my new lycra compression top, like I'm going for a bike ride. Soon after I'm being wheeled off in my bed to a ward where I will stay until I leave hospital.
I reach the ward and am placed into a room full of people, a lady in a bed next door to me tries to make conversation but I cant speak, I try but nothing seems to come out. She introduces herself as Lynn and reassures me everyone in the room is a great and to shout if I need anything, I must have seemed really rude. A while later a phone is handed to me by the nurse, she tells me its Mark and we speak, I dont remember what I said other than I was fine and that my op had taken 9 hours, he laughed as he too could tell I was away with the fairies, humoured what I was saying and told me he would see me the following day.
After a few painkillers I am sent back into the land of nod, amid a few late night buzzers and a few loud shouts from my new neighbours I slept pretty well, up until 3am where I wake and soon begin to feel exactly where my operation had been. My armpit was sore, aching and uncomfortable, beneath my compression top had been stuffed with with extra bandages to keep everything super tight and it felt like my top was getting tighter and tighter, I had to keep it on to stop any swelling for the next 6 weeks. At this point I begin my short-lived love for Tramadol painkillers and as they begin to work I slowly watch the surrounding ward turn from night to dawn.
The next morning I posted this photo to let friends and family know I was ok. My phone was non stop bleeping with messages of support and close ones waiting to see if I was ok.
It was also during that first morning awake that my second plastic surgeon came to see me, to see if I was ok; she continued to tell me despite the 9 hours Dr A had cut operated for without a break, that all went well and they were confident all of the tumor was removed.
Dr V then proceeded to tell me I may require further treatment and that the next step would be to decide what was best, be it chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I paused as she spoke, my head was full, numbed by the painkillers, did she just say chemotherapy? I was under the impression the operation was a success, why the need for more treatment, more pain? My heart began to pound, but my mind and body didn't have the strength to get too worked up. I began to ask questions before she stopped me talking and told me to get some rest, she reassured me that all will be explained soon. It was at this point I realised my fight was not over and with that she was gone.
Later that morning I was visited by Jaye, my Macmillan nurse, she looked as every bit pleased as I felt tired.
"Hello young lady" she said with her warm, caring voice. I smiled, happy to see her on the other side of the nightmare she had carried me through over the past 2 weeks. "You look fantastic!"
We sat and chatted about how well the operation went and I told her I was feeling relieved, but I had to find out more about what Dr. V had said that morning, so I asked. Jaye replied, slowly explaining that because the melanoma often tries to come back, It may be that I qualify for a new form of chemotherapy based treatment that would follow after my rest bite to try and prevent a reoccurrence. I asked about the radiotherapy to my armpit that had been mentioned and Jaye nodded, telling me that it was an option but that she felt I was far too young to undergo it, that I would run the risk of developing lymphadema in my arm later in life. Jaye explained that this was why this new form of treatment could be a better option going forward. In the meantime I was to let the doctors decide on their next weekly meet the following Monday and to concentrate on getting myself better, she handed me a card with the name of a physiotherapist who would visit me that day to go through exercises to get my arm moving again.
Speaking of which, wow did my arm hurt if I moved it. I was sore, stiff and aching; getting it moving again felt like it was going to take a while, I really wanted to see the scar. I also had a tube coming out of my side, below the bandage, attached to a drain. This ugly plastic tube and bag was to become a part of me for the next few weeks as it drained the excess fluid that my glands once would have taken. I had had a full lymph node dissection, all 17 glands were gone and I was left with this clinical looking 'handbag' that when I forgot to pick it up or take it with me, I would be sharply reminded as I felt it pull.
The rest of the day for me consisted of visits from Mark, my family and friends, visiting hours were packed full with everyone coming to see me. I will never forget the look one each persons face as they walked around the corner into the ward that afternoon; they looked helpless yet so happy to see me sat up in bed, their faces flushed with relief from such despair. Little did they know what I had been told earlier that day, that really the fight was only just beginning, but for that moment in time I decided to protect them from any more worry and let their poor minds rest; as far as they were concerned the cancer was gone and at that moment, that was all that mattered to any of us.