Op and Post-Op

September 8:

My alarm goes off at 5:45 a.m.. I roll out of bed, roll into my clothing, and thirty minutes later, roll into my car.

My husband Les and I arrive at the hospital by 7:30 — half an hour early, but at least we missed most of morning rush hour. A not-enough-sleep migraine sinks tendrils into my head.

I’m too tired to muster a last-minute panic attack, too tired to be afraid, and too tired to dwell on today’s surgery.

From my gurney in the surgery holding room, under a mound of blankets, I speak with several nurses and an anesthesiologist who explain procedure and answer my questions. My oncology surgeon stops by, and then the plastic surgeon. A second anesthesiologist discusses drug reactions.

I don’t remember getting drowsy, but I didn’t awaken until almost two hours after the surgery ended.


A nurse sits by my bed in the recovery room.

“Meredith, wake up and breathe! You’re not breathing properly.”

“Sorry, I keep falling asleep.” I take several deep breaths and lapse back into unconsciousness.


I set off the oxygen monitors twenty, thirty, forty times. The nurse is talking to me, but I can’t remember what she says.

Les tells me that he spoke to the plastic surgeon after the operation, and she said the surgery went well. I ask him questions, but fall asleep before he finishes answering.

My oncology surgeon calls. I manage to slur out several questions before my eyelids turn to molten bricks. I hand the phone to Les, and drift back into empty dreams.

I’m discharged from the hospital at 8 p.m. when the nurse determines I can finally breathe on my own.

When I get home, I stumble onto the living room recliner and sleep for two hours. In faltering lucidity, I pull myself upstairs.

Swaths of red stain my T-shirt. My surgical bra and gauze pads are soaked with wet blood.

I contemplate going to the emergency room, but I’m too damn tired.

                                               * * *

September 9:

I’m still fatigued and migraine-ing. On the plus side, I’m no longer bleeding.

In my post-op appointment with the plastic surgeon’s Medical Assistant, the MA says that the amount of bleeding is normal for my surgery, and it should stop completely by the fourth day.

I have a Jackson-Pratt drainage system under my armpit to siphon excess fluid. The original plan was to cut out the three sentinel lymph nodes, but a fourth was removed as well. I asked my oncology surgeon during her post-op phone call— Why the extra lymph node? — but I fell asleep in the middle of her explanation.

She told Les that she’d take out the drain during my appointment next week. However, the MA takes out the Jackson-Pratt now, as per instructions from the plastic surgeon.

Did the plans change? Or are my two surgeons not communicating with each other on this issue?

I’ll get the answers next Friday, along with the pathology results. I’m hoping for the best, but I’m scared.

In the mean time, I need to breathe.