My New Normal

9/23/16

In and out.  Beeping.  Nurses passing.  Talking.  Echoes.  Footsteps.  In and out.  Beeping.  Beeping. Intercom. Talking.  Talking.  Talking.  What?  Finally, I am coherent enough to realize I am in a hospital.  Ugh.  Anesthesia stinks.   Apparently, both my surgeons have come to talk to me in this twilight state to tell me everything went well.  I have absolutely no recollection of ever speaking to them or seeing them.   I don’t really even remember getting to my room.  Only that they slid me from one bed onto another just by sliding the sheets over with me on top of them.  The first few hours are a blur.  My thoughts are jumbled.   I sleep for a bit until I wake up feeling a pain jabbing at my chest.  It is in this moment,  I even remember what has just happened to me.  I call the nurse, who comes to put drugs in my IV.  The relief is immediate.  I’m blurry and groggy again in about five seconds.  Then almost as if on cue, I vomit.  Then vomit some more.  And then some more.  Great.  I have never done well with anesthesia, and every time I tell the anesthesiologist.  I’m always told that they are going to fix me up so I won’t get sick.  It never works.  Unfortunately for me, the nurse in the room sees it, and tells me she is only going to feed me a liquid diet while I am here.  Seriously?  Come on!!  I haven’t eaten for 24 hours.  I contortionized myself in a CAT scan machine, had a wire hanging from my armpit, and I just had my boob taken off.  Maybe just a sandwich?  I feel as though I have earned it.   Of course not.  I have to settle for jello, juice and broth.  Yum.   My favorite.

The rest of the evening is more of the same.  Liquids.  Vomit.  Pain. Drugs.  Sleep.  Liquids.  Vomit.  Pain. Drugs.  Sleep.  Liquids. Vomit. Pain. Drugs. Sleep.  It could be the beat of a song in its regularity.

My mom stays the night with me as Chris heads home to take care of the kids and let them know I am alright.  She pulls up a chair next to me with a pillow and a blanket and sleeps beside me even though there is a bed for her.  I watch her as she is sleeping as I know she used watch me sleep when I was little.  I smile thinking of how I am turning into my mom right before her sleeping eyes.   Oddly, it is peaceful to be the only one awake at this hour and yet, it is in the dark of night that my reality seeps into my thoughts.   My breast has been taken.   I will never see it again.  Ever.  I don’t want to see myself in the mirror.   The thought of it makes me cringe.  I don’t think I ever want to see it.  I try and tell myself the bright side.  I don’t know who has told me in my drugged state, but I got to keep my nipple.  My breast surgeon tested it while in surgery and didn’t see any cancer cells.  So, I got to keep it.  This is amazing actually,because the reconstruction will be a lot easier.   But in this moment, it is not sinking in.  I feel as though I have lost my womanhood.  I am a freak.

Sleep. Pain. Drugs.  Sleep. Pain. Drugs. Sleep. Pain, Drugs.

Finally, it’s morning.  My friends, DeAun and Kellie visit, and my pastor stops by to offer prayer.  We  laugh and have good conversations.  At least I think we do.   I am grateful they have come, though I can’t remember much of what we talked about.   I’ll admit it.   I am seriously drugged out of my mind.  I mean really drugged.   Maybe things are only funny to me.  Not them.  Do my giggles sound weird?  I really can’t tell.   What I do know is  their presence is enough to jostle my mind for a bit.  For a few moments, I forget that I am still bald and am one boobed.  What I don’t forget is that  I am still on this stupid liquid diet.  I need food.  I am seriously hungry, and I don’t even like jello.  Yuck.

In the evening, it is time for me to go home.  Yep.  Apparently,  I only get one night in the hospital per my insurance company for a mastectomy unless there are complications.  I still can’t believe it myself considering I can’t move.  At all.  I can’t even get myself out of bed, and the pain is immense.   As my mom helps me up, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror when my hospital gown slips down.  I didn’t want to see it, but I do.  I stare at myself.  I can’t look away.  I am frozen.   My right breast is still there.  Next to it, lots of clear tape all over holding my skin and nipple in place with an incision just below where my breast used to be.  A drain coming out of the side of me filled with blood.  Another incision on my side where my lymph nodes were taken out.  It is a numb moment for me because I am not ready.

But on our way home, the pain sears into me with every pothole we hit.  It stabs through my chest, into my body and pounds at my brain.  My new normal is here.

Author: jillmbarber

I'm a full time mommy to three young children and a part time commercial actor. In March of 2016, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This is my battle. This is my story.

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