The operation

So, I went into the hospital again on Thursday. As luck would have it, this time I didn’t have a room to myself, making disturbed sleep more regular. My companion was perfectly nice in daylight hours, but rather prone to moaning in the early hours of the morning.

Still, Friday arrived pretty quickly. I’d wondered if I could really have been correct about them seeming to forget about the lymph node part the previous time. Well, it seems pretty certain now – I had definitely been taken to the operating theatre first before they realised they’d skipped a bit.

Anyway, this time I (and my bed) did get taken to the nuclear medicine place at 0800. They put the tracing stuff in – four injections around the site of the melanoma, which had been numbed beforehand, and then used some kind of gamma ray detector to see where it had gone in the lymphatic system. The first scan didn’t show anything up so I went back to bed for a while before getting called back in again.

This time it was much clearer- you could see a line leading to a clear dot on the screen where a lymph node was filtering out the radioactive tracer. They’re clustered in groups but this one is described as the ‘sentinel’ as it’s the first one affected by the tracer (and any cancer cells that have made it that far).

So if it’s fine, the rest are probably fine, and if it’s not then it’s safest to take all the lymph nodes in that area out, and possibly carry out further treatment beyond that.

That’s pretty drastic though, hence the most common procedure now is to identify the sentinel node, remove it for testing and then only take the rest out if necessary. So there was a bit of zooming in with the scanner and looking from different angles and a final poke with a marker pen before I got wheeled back up to my room to wait for the operating theatre to be ready.

The man who wheeled me down again seemed in quite a hurry, dashing round the bed trolley to open doors and summoning multiple lifts at once to grab the quickest. Quite fun for both of us, and a good distraction from the impending operation.

When I was parked outside the theatre the two anaesthetists came out and asked a few questions. They then mentioned it was a possible option to have an injection into my back (epidural), knocking me out from the waist down rather than completely unconscious as I’d expected. My initial reaction was definitely not wanting any needles (did I mention I don’t like them?) in my spine..

Then I thought about it a bit more and decided that being rendered completely unconscious is probably not great for you either, and it did seem like an interesting idea to be awake for it. I talked to the anaesthetists a bit more and they seemed to think the epidural was probably the best plan, with less chance of nasty after-effects, so I changed my mind.

I did wonder if it was a good idea when I got uncovered and realised how cold it felt in the operating theatre. At least the benefit of an injection in your back is that you never see the needle – it was hard enough to keep still without shivering, let alone worrying about that. In the event it was surprisingly painless – a small injection first to numb the area, and then the main one.

Although I was conscious I don’t actually remember that much about the operation after that. They put a curtain up so I couldn’t see what was happening – at the time I quite wanted to though I’m not so sure about it now.

So my main memories of the rest of the time in the operating theatre consist of one flap of the curtain occasionally falling in my face and people having to remove it. Oddly, I don’t remember hearing anything either, except people occasionally checking I was OK.

When it was done I went to a recovery ward where they blew hot air under the bedcovers. It was wonderful. I’d have happily stayed there a long time if I hadn’t been expecting visitors to my room upstairs, so I was quite relieved when I could eventually manage some movement of my lower body and they sent me back up.

It was lucky Petra and her daughter Marjolein were running later than they’d planned – I hadn’t been back long before they came in, and it was great to see them, and then Paul and Hilary, who came a while later.

So the evening was very good, but the night less so. The blue control panel could make the bed do all kinds of tricks, but didn’t necessarily make it comfortable. The actual cuts weren’t really the problem, just backache – probably from the epidural compounded by the limits on posture due to the cuts.

So I was quite glad when the morning came around, even if I did then have to wait quite a while longer to get my discharge paper – in fact I ended up having lunch there, having done some more reading and admired the view from the windows.

As well as getting me out of there, the discharge paper was handy for trying to clear up one mystery – why I had three cuts in me; in the leg for the melanoma, in the groin for the lymph node, and one more in the groin for luck?

Having read it, I’m quite glad I couldn’t see or hear anything during the operation. It seems I would have witnessed something like the following (well, assuming my Spanish was better anyway).

*looks for marker pen blob*
*cuts*
Hmm, quite hard to see the sentinel node. I think it’s behind that wibbly bit there.
*pokes*
No, there’s something in the way
Try the other side
*pokes*
Maybe you should just hack straight through to it?
That usually causes more problems than it solves. I’ll have another go.
*rummages*
No, that does seem impossible. Let’s just close it up and take a different one.
*stitches*
*cuts*
Ah, that’s better. This one should be fine, right?
Yep. Anyway, if we don’t mention it today we’ll all be at home when he finds out about it tomorrow.

Or that’s my impression anyway. With it being a Saturday when I found out, I couldn’t really get any more information that day. Consequently I was quite irritated that it hadn’t been mentioned the previous day – though I guess that does suggest it’s probably fine.

Still, it does worry me – as I understand it the point of testing the sentinel node is that it’s the most likely one to have been affected. So if another one is fine, I would guess it’s not as certain that the lymph node as fine as it would be the other way around.

So I’ve been waiting over the weekend to find out more about that. Dave and Taryna had very kindly offered to take me in on Heymede, which is definitely proving worthwhile – with a big bunk I can just about make myself comfortable overnight using lots of cushions, and it’s good not to be on my own at the moment.

My lovely wide guest bunk – though it appears to be occupied..

Me after reclaiming the bunk from Scabby (Mike and Caroline’s frequently roaming cat)

(you can almost see my get well card from Dave, Sarah, Bryn and Bethany on CAPE behind my head)

Though I wouldn’t really be on my own anyway – there are plenty of other people I know on boats on this pontoon which is very nice for company while I can’t get out much. Especially as they can’t either at the moment as it keeps tipping it down with rain! MuahahahahAHAHAHA!

EDIT – no more information on the lymph node issue – I called the hospital and it seems they got some tissue from the area, but it’s not necessarily clear whether it would definitely have the sentinel lymph node in it or not. I’m still assuming it’s probably ok or they’d have told me about it on the Friday.

2 Responses to “The operation”

  1. Chris Hibbert Says:

    Oh faff 😦 I really hope you hear back for sure on what they did soon… fingers crossed…

  2. maidofmettle Says:

    Indeed! At least that bit is sorted out now..

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