I’m back! Dan has gracefully handed the blog back to me, his words were beautiful and from the texts/emails I got from you, it seems his posts caused a few tears to be shed!

Today is day 7 following surgery – what a week…

Monday – early start, answering lots of questions. The surgeon drew an arrow on my collar bone to signify which side was the evil one. Slightly surprised that he still hadn’t seen my boobs, but I guess he’s done this before and knows what he’s doing…?!  I slip into the most glamorous gown of my life – geez why has no one redesigned them – and it’s goodbye to my headscarf, so I’m a fuzzball in public for the first time. Then it’s a walk along the corridor to the door of theatre and a brief farewell to Dan with the porter watching and people walking past – not quite what I’d imagined. Then into the anaesthetic ante room, and then the last I remember is being wheeled into the operating theatre.

The next thing I’m waking up in recovery, groggy and dreamily thinking about Tilly.  Then the next time I wake I’m on the ward, then Dan is next to me holding my hand. I’m feeling pretty good, a bit delirious I suppose. A friend also visits in the evening and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t making much sense.

Tuesday – Snoozing, up occasionally and getting used to having 2 drain bottles to carry with me. Occasionally forget with painful consequences. Get to know the others on my ward – 2 ladies with breast cancer (good to be with others in a similar position) and 3 who have had hip replacements.  A really lovely bunch.

Wednesday – An old friend from my chemo days comes to visit – vomit. Throw up all day despite lots of antiemetic drugs. Awful, keep apologising to everyone on the ward, how vile for them to have this going on in the bed next to them while they’re trying to get better. See my surgeon, home coming delayed til Thursday, possibly Friday. See myself in the mirror – I’m shocked I look so ill, looking like a classic cancer victim. Shuffling around carrying my two bottles of goo and without anything covering my lack of hair, it all feels very strange.

Thursday – After a hideous night, prospects of going home are delayed til Friday, possibly Saturday. Ugh. A day of crying ensues. I am so exhausted – proper sleep on the ward is impossible and privacy is non existent. I’ve had enough of feeling so ill. It’s months and months since I’ve felt well and I don’t have the energy for this. My most wonderful Macmillan nurse saves the day, comes and holds my hand and wipes my tears. She’s seen it all before, realises the enormity of the last few months without me having to say a word. She sees I’d be best to get home as soon as possible. To see Tilly, to sleep and hold on to a little normality. She puts the wheels in motion to get everything organised. I’m taking drugs to counteract side effects of other drugs so I decide to take myself off all drugs and stick with the basics to see if that improves things. One drain is removed – the weirdest feeling – the nausea subsides and the knowledge that I’m going home tomorrow is comforting. Visitors brighten the day, and a beautiful friend visits in the evening, who speaks to the nurse in charge on her way out, clarifying what needs to happen before I leave, and asks them (in no uncertain terms) to ensure there are no delays to my leaving tomorrow.

Friday – I wake up demob happy. The nurse my friend spoke to is back on duty and he is on the ball to arrange my leaving, mentioning that my sister, ha ha, is keen to have me home. I’m allowed to have a shower – bliss – then the final drain is removed and dressings changed. A meeting with my Macmillan nurse to give me care instructions for my fragile arm and a list of exercises, and I’m free to go. By 1pm Tilly comes onto the ward for the first time and runs over to me – as the rest of the ward says ‘Aaaaahhhh’ in unison. She flashes them all her best grin and I say my farewells. Then a very slow walk to the car and home.

A weekend of resting and eating! So pleased to be home, with my amazing family. So nice to be away from hospital, and after a full five days of ‘Ooh, that’s an unusual name, how to you pronounce that? Where’s that from? What does it mean?’ several times a day it’s nice to be in a place where everybody knows your name!

So a rough week, but…

I am so so lucky to have been assigned an extremely skilled surgeon with the best bedside manner which gives so much confidence in my care. Thanks to him and this hospital visit, I am hopefully cancer free for the first time in who knows how long.  My Macmillan breast care nurse really scooped me up and made me feel so cared for.

The staff, on the whole, were great. They are understaffed and underpaid and work against the odds to do a great job. The meals were pretty awful – food’s role in recovery seems totally ignored in hospital. The standard of it doesn’t exactly entice you to eat/give you an appetite. Is it budget constraints? Logistics? Staffing? Disinterest? Sleep is rare thanks to constant noise and nurses doing obs. But, but, but we are so lucky to have an NHS available to us. It’s acted quickly throughout for us and without its experience and expertise we’d be lost.

And a heartfelt word to family and friends. Your support has been out of this world. Mum and dad came up for the week to keep Tilly’s week going and free Dan up from some of his usual Tilly duties, and they came up to see me every day. Friends gave up their evenings to come and visit me, a couple of them came several times, and when you’re in hospital those few precious visiting hours are so important to get you through. And I’ve been really moved by all your offers of help and time, messages, flowers, cards and very unexpected presents.

Little Tilly has found this week quite hard, confusing and unsettling, but hopefully my being at home will settle things. And wonderful Dan has held things together, with a ton of other pressures including the heating stopping working, and Tilly choosing this week to stop her afternoon sleep and wake up at 5am each day – great timing Tippins.

But we remember, many people are in a much worse position than us, and we are very lucky in many ways.  Thankyou everyone, we couldn’t get through this without you.