Sunday, 7 June 2009

Major Surgery

Yesterday I had the axillary clearance and LD flap reconstruction. What that means is that they took out all the lymph nodes from under my arm and then re-built my breast using a muscle from my back.

You probably didn’t want to know that much. I know I don’t.

Nick and I checked into the Harley Street Clinic at 2 p.m. I felt familiar with the drill by now. Don the gown and paper pants, roll up the pressure stockings, fill in the menu cards, on with the telly, order tea for Nick.

Nurse Ann came to take my obs and swabs. Nick’s tea arrived and I handed the menu cards to the housekeeping lady. “I don’t think you’ll be needing those,” said nurse Ann, “you’ll be spending the night on ITU.”

Mr Hadjiminas arrived with his black felt-tip pen. After he had drawn the big arrow and X marks the spot I asked, casually, “the nurse said I’m going to ITU, that’s not right is it?” “Oh yes, he replied, “It’s quite a big procedure. You’ll be in theatre for about five hours.” That shook me up. I looked him in the eye, “Mr Hadjiminas,” I said, “I know that you’re going to do your finest work. I just want you to know that I intend to be the next cover girl on that photo album of yours.”


When I came round Nick was smiling at me. “Hey honey,” he said. “Hey honey,” said I. Sometimes that is enough.


Nick left to collect my sister Miranda and my six-year-old niece Eloise from the Heathrow Express at Paddington. Miranda was flying in from Moscow where she works as a diplomat. A most wonderful, kind and funny nurse, Caroline, took care of me whilst he was gone. “You have a good attitude,” she said, “You should recover well.” “Do some people have a bad attitude?” I asked her, “You bet they do,” she replied, “some people just moan and complain and feel sorry for themselves.” I wondered about that. I was so happy simply to be alive. What with that and the free morphine, moaning seemed a bit surplus to requirements.

It must have been late, maybe near midnight when the gang got back. I was overjoyed to see Miranda and Eloise’s faces. If they found the situation upsetting they didn’t show it. Miranda positively beamed at me. Eloise climbed up onto my bed, ignoring the mass of tubes and wires. “I made you a card aunty Lily.” On the front was a pink garden full of hearts and flowers. Diamonds glittered in the sky. Inside was an inscription: “Dere Leely I hope that you are not filing to sick. I woil be siying you agen. we wel visit you. and you get to play A game of Spot the difrins.” On the facing page was a drawing of two cats, wearing pink dresses. One cat had a bow in its hair, the other did not. One cat was wearing pink slippers whilst the other cat’s slippers were red. There were several other observable variations. So at one a.m. Eloise and I sat up in bed in the intensive care unit playing ‘Spot the difrins’. That was one of the high points of my life so far.