I have started to look forward to the morning rounds of doctors visits. There are three worth mentioning.
Scene one goes a little like this…
The plastics team are the early risers. Rhythmic footsteps in the corridor signal for me to arouse. Muffled discussion about my flow volumes and output can be heard if I tilt my head the right way and then, the privacy curtain flys back as though there has been a puff of wind. There they appear, like superheroes that have just landed. It’s almost like an episode of House. Except thankfully there is no Gregory in the team. They whip in, fresh from showers, clothes pressed. Smelling like they have been freed from this place. The reality is they are chained to it. With their 6am arrivals and 9pm departures. So I asked them how they do it? What drives a person to work such hours, day after day?
I am getting more efficient at disrobing for the examination of body parts. Those parts are mine. I am detached from the process and the parts themselves.
Clipboards ready. Pens clicked. I am poked and observed. I am discussed. The suction drains that go into my chest and armpit are checked. The bags of blood and fluid are measured. Yesterday, one line to a chest drain was closed. A simple oversight by a wonderful nurse. I felt as though I was going to explode.
The head of this team, my plastic surgeon will visit later. There is something they want him to check. On the day of surgery he wore a tie that was very similar to the texture and colour of his head and facial hair. It was a little unsettling. I was transfixed by it while he marked me up with a purple texta.
Normally a tissue expander is gradually pumped up over time to increase the size and volume of the breast, I asked the plastic surgeon if I would need regular visits to the city to do this. He said that they won’t be expanding me because it is big enough. So essentially a flat expander will be enough for me. I just feel a little sorry for the little expander that doesn’t get to live out its purpose.
In the months to come, this unfulfilled expander will be replaced with a small implant when the surgery for my other breast is completed. It is best to have them done together. Symmetry is everything.
This visit from the plastics team lasts just one minute. Pens down, light off, curtain pulled. They are gone. And I am left to return to slumber.
Her heels race up the corridor. There is always a sense of urgency in the way she moves. Time is critical. The sound is different because she always wears stilettos of some description. In the visit to the ward, she is always on her own. No team required here. It is summertime so I have seen a vast array of beautiful summer designer dresses. A Carrie Bradshaw of sorts. Her perfume is captivating and it lingers in the ward long after she has gone. I have now asked her about it twice and have had a breast care nurse ask her in a meeting. It is now Chanel ‘something?’. With all the medication I can’t for the life of me remember what it is.
Her visit is always short. She assesses her handywork. She is thorough. She calls me darl and she will see me in 7 days time with the full pathology results from my mastectomy, the extent of nodal involvement, whether my nipple must come off after cells were question marked in surgery (after the inside of it was scraped and frozen and tested), and what the chemotherapy regime will be. I am dreaming about my breast surgeon. It feels like I have known her before.
On the mornings post surgery, my breast surgeon’s sidekick swings by. He is warm and his voice is slow and calm. He sits on the arm of the chair and talks to me at eye level. On the third meeting, he tells me he is a runner. Connections between runners are made instantly. He has no more time than any of the others, yet his approach makes it feel like a longer visit. He laments not being able to run four nights a week with the hours of his job. He reviews my charts, overall progress, medications and makes notes about an impending discharge date. I disrobe and I am poked again. We must free up the bed but only when I am ready. He smiles and makes eye contact as he leaves.
Outside I can hear the grand lady Melbourne waking. The sun is rising and there are rays of sunlight reflecting off skyscraper windows. I can see trams and joggers. It will be a long time till I am jogging again. One day at a time.