An early morning surgery in Beverly Hills, we checked in at 6am for a 7 o’clock start time, to find and remove the sentinel node, and any surrounding suspicious nodes, and to implant her port-a-cath.
Dad and I sat in a fashionable urban waiting room, with inviting upholstered sofas, and blossoming pink orchids in every corner. The sunrise soon poured in through the floor to ceiling windows, which were garbed with sheer drapes facing another building, which was covered with woven plastic, making a high contrast black and white orchid.
Surrounded by magazines and books that we’d brought to entertain ourselves during the procedure, we chattered quietly while the HD flat screen next to us rambled away about hurricane Sandy battering the East Coast, the Giants winning the World Series (which my dad is particularly exited about), and the morning not-so-surprising congestion on the 110 Freeway.
Around 9 o’clock, Dr. V came out and said she was able to locate the sentinel lymph node, which is the one that drains the tumor. Prior to the surgery, we were worried that the lumpectomy may have disrupted the drainage of the lymph vessels from the tumor, making it difficult to identify.
My dad and I, giddy with excitement to see my mom, leapt from our comfy chairs and briskly walked into the post-op room. Upon seeing my mom, I’m sure our faces fell. She looked miserable. With chapped lips and puffy eyes, she frowned when we touched her hand.
“This hurts way more that my lumpectomy,” she said in a voice I had never heard before. As the anesthesia wore off, she would repeat this multiple times before her short term memory recovered. She was child-like, still a little dopy, helpless.
When I was a night-nurse in a busy oncology unit, I saw many patients after surgery, reoriented them, and helping them with basic self-care. But as I helped my mom to the bathroom, and put on her socks, panties, and blouse, it felt surreal. This was my mom, my idol, my role model, the woman who always has, and still does at times, take care of me.
As I helped her to the wheelchair, I thought of how happy I was that I was able to get the day off from work to be there with her and my dad. Every action I made was softer, every touch had more love. For once she needed me, and I was so proud to be there. There was no place in the world I would have rather been, than at her bedside, kissing her forehead when she came out of surgery.
When I told her later that I dressed her, she embarrassedly asked, “You did?! You helped me pee too? Oh God!”
Of course, my dad and I had fun teasing her latter that evening about the silly things she said, and did, and how cute she looked when she would stick her head out like a turtle, then squint real hard, then open her eyes wide like she’d seen a ghost, just to get her eyes to focus.
After napping the remainder of the day, she recuperated quickly, and only had to take a few half tabs of Norco before she switched to Ibuprofen.
Now, with the sentinel node out, and a few others around it, doctors can test to see if the there’s cancer there (results in approximately four days), and we can get a better understanding of the cancer and prognosis, and develop a game plan for a chemo and radiation regimen.
It’s now Thursday night, four days after the lymph biopsy and still no pathology results. Nerves are high.
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