Feb 5, 2013

Boobie Replacement Day Recap: A Story of Waiting

Last Monday was probably one of the longest days of my life. My family and I arrived at the hospital for my mom's surgery at 4:30am. Given the circumstances, Ma seemed to be feeling okay.

After our first spell of waiting, she was finally sent off to surgery at 6:45.

"Ma is starring in a new musical: Bye Bye Boobie."
The Cleveland Clinic provided us with a pager for the day. It told us when she was in the OR and it alerted us when surgery officially began at 8:05am. What was already a long wait turned into only the beginning of the longest wait.

My mom's mastectomy to remove her breast cancer was scheduled to last 2-3 hours followed by 6-8 hours of reconstruction. The nurse gave us a more specific timeline of 9.5 hours total for both surgeries, meaning she'd finish up around 5 or 5:30 that evening, so my brother, his wife, and I hunkered down in a not-so-quiet corner of the two-story waiting room and settled in for the long day.

The waiting room was noisy with a large fountain and lots of chattering people; a large and reverberant space, it echoed the hospital's unsettling attempt at relaxation with a near constant blast of spa music seemingly cranked to 11. Though even louder than the Pure Moods: Hospital Edition soundtrack, the live harpist around lunch time was a welcomed break.


At around 9:45am, Jason and I were called up to speak with the first surgeon who did the mastectomy. A very nice and amiable woman, she explained the procedure. Rather than what my mom thought was going to involve a lot more cutting, the mastectomy involved only removing the nipple and then (I'm using my own words to paraphrase here) essentially cleaning out all of the tissue as if to hollow a pumpkin. She told us that the surgery couldn't have gone any better and offered both her office and cell phone numbers for us for any questions or concerns in the future. We then returned back to our too-brightly lit corner to continue waiting for the even lengthier portion of the surgery.

We brought things to fend boredom... cards, smart phones, tablets, snacks, our sleepiness... but the waiting gets to you and you start getting creative. Observing a woman descending the stairs, Jason points out that since we couldn't see her legs, that if she walked a little more smoothly, it would look as if she were riding an escalator. I responded simply with "Challenge accepted."

(I apologize in advance for the poor quality, but you get the idea.)



I ended up doing this with every trip up or down those stairs; when heading up to refill my coffee or water or before wandering off to the cafeteria, I tried to perfect my "smoothness". At war with extreme boredom, this was really entertaining for us. (Meaning, we laughed so hard we cried.) I'm not sure if it's that funny to everyone else, but I thought it may be worth sharing if only to show what we had resorted to during our wait.

We then received two more updates during the late morning and early afternoon that were short messages assuring us that Mom's surgery was progressing nicely. At 3pm, two hours ahead of schedule, we met with the plastic surgeon. Friendly yet efficient, he sat us down and grabbed a pen and a large sheet of paper. He began to draw, quickly explaining his procedure; how he took tissue from the abdomen to fill her left breast and how he reconnected the blood flow, and where he put in drains, then added to the top the projected hospital timeline. He shook our hands and handed us his doodle.


Mom was moved into PACU for recovery. It was about 2.5 hours more before we could see her, which was what we had expected. Once out of recovery and settled into her room at around 7pm, we finally got to sit with her for a bit.

"Where's my nipple?"


Did I mention that they used skin from her abdomen to fill the hole where her nipple was? It's so weird! That, and since her belly button was part of the tissue that they were removing from her abdomen, they cut it out and put it back on in a new, aesthetically correct place on her newly stretched skin.

After a short 30 minute visit and a long 15.5 hours at the hospital, we were ready to head home and crash. Mom felt lucky that she slept through it all and I suggested that the hospital offer a courtesy anaesthetic for waiting family members. (But not really, that's dangerous.)

1 comment:

  1. That video is hilarious! Your mom is such a superstar doing to mastectomy AND the reconstructive surgery all at once! Chris's Mom had her mastectomy in October and is getting the reconstructive surgery this month. Glad to hear everything went well!!!

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