Within minutes I was wheeled in and out one room thru another hallway to the next and finally parked in a dingy spooky room with glass windows that overlooked what appeared to be giant industrial sinks. Facing me on a well appointed blue sheeted gurney was a woman who was waking up from some other universe and she was asking the wall and her pillow if she could go home now. As my own head spun around to survey the crypty concrete and the odd green gowned creeper muttering into a mask I too was quite ready to go home.
""You ok?" asked Liza with all the confidence of a lifeguard in a leaking shark tank. "How is Ethyl doing? Is she still wilted? Excellent distraction. I had completely forgotten what had happened this morning. 'Let's take one last look!" She popped open my gown. " Ew"
Ethyl did not look so good. Aside from having to get up stupid early the poor girl had to have to have her self smothered in emla cream ( which numbs tissue) be swaddled in saran wrap ( not unlike like Evelyn in Friend Green Tomatoes) and injected with radio active materials. She was sheet white and wilted like a wad of wriggley's gum on a sun bleached sidewalk. Not even Buddy would have eaten that.
However gross, the purpose of the radio active dye is really important. It is to help the surgical team find any cancer cells that may have partied off from Peter Paul and Mary and ended up in my lymph nodes. They run a Geiger counter over your breasticle and armpit and if the nodes light up then the team removes them for further scientific experiments. You want them to check. You do not want them to find anything. Metastatic cancer is a game changer.
Ps. Getting a needle in your nipple - even a numb one smarts. Kind of like a tap dancing bee who gets one good "ta da" in before it too dies. And why I felt the need to flick Ethyl to see how she was doing was beyond me.
It was also beyond the anesthesiologist who had been standing there watching us clutching her clipboard to her chest. Women talking to walls is normal. Women talking to dead nipples is clearly not.
We put Ethyl away, my dungeonmate was wheeled elsewhere I sat up and we began the very serious business of deciding how to keep me under and as pain free as possible. Admittedly I was very overwhelmed by it all. In the past 6 weeks I had poked prodded bled, interviewed, weighed, splayed and x-rayed just one too many times. I essentially said yes to all that was offered including a series of injections in my back and shoulder that would help reduce pain afterwards if they had to remove more than just the sentinel node. I figured they would be using a back hoe to get it all so I wanted to make sure I didn't wake up screaming. I just wanted to wake up.
"You will" Said the incredibly smart, kind and forgiving of my weirdness purveyor or pain relief. "You ready?" said the attending nurses as they came in, removed my shoes, and gave me little slippers. "Yup." Ok Liza you can go back to the waiting room and Kelly you come with us. I clutched at Liza. I was trying to be brave but when she kissed my cheek and swept my hair out of my mouth I lost it. I buried my head in the blankets.
The nurses smiled and pried me off the gurney, WALKING? Why am I walking? I am walking right? I am still alive right? You smell nice - dear god - I just walked into an operating room. An operating room filled with green people, blue people, floral people, blood, mirrors, sharp things, and a giant yellow padded cross front and center for me. The nurses helped me onto the table and put a little hat on me. Then my arms disappeared and I felt warm and pokey.
"Do you know why you are here? asked the surgeon. "Yes I am here for a simple mastectomy on the right breast and a sentinel node biopsy. But I am not so sure this is going to be simple..." and with that the medications went in, the sounds faded and the lights went out.
The only thing still on was the faint glow of hope pulsing in my heart. Because I can assure you - nothing will ever put that out.