“Is it Cancer?” the UAB Medical West nurse nonchalantly asked when she got me behind the curtain to change into my surgical gown. “They usually don’t remove the lymph nodes unless it’s Cancer,” she continued. “No!” I replied explaining I was there to have two lumps and an enlarged lymph node removed to be biopsied. Immediately thereafter, she acted surprised to find my blood pressure reading was high.

Having allergies and/or sensitivities to a multitude of prescriptions, including all opiates, I brought the paperwork showing the results of my DNA testing which specifically listed in three columns: drugs I could tolerate, drugs I could use with caution, and drugs which I should not use. This paperwork was scanned into the hospital when I came for pre-registration. The anesthesiologist came to visit me and we agreed to use the opiates for pain management.

Only one lump was palpable, so the surgeon ordered an ultrasound and guide wires inserted into the deeper, larger lump.  The regular radiologist was in the ER when I was taken for the procedure and the radiologist I saw didn’t understand the orders. I explained one lump was palpable, so surely it didn’t need a guide wire. Erring on the side of caution, the radiologist called the surgeon and left a message. Thirty minutes later the radiologist is standing over me stating he’s going to put wires in everywhere because he hasn’t heard back from the surgeon. I motion towards the radiology tech standing behind him holding the phone. He returns stating the surgeon was at a funeral and that the lymph node would need no wire.

Once the wires are in one of the radiology techs questions whether they need to do mammograms on me? The radiologist ponders aloud stating, “Hum, I should have asked the surgeon while he was on the phone.” So he decides to just go ahead and do them. The first one is horizontal and the film comes out fine. The first, second and third positions are vertical, with the tech saying “this is going to be tight and it’s going to hurt. Don’t forget to breath.” She repeatedly returns between each vertical shot saying, “I didn’t get that one and need to try again.” Upon the third try, I inform her there won’t be a fourth attempt.

I am helped into the wheelchair with four wires protruding from my breast and wheeled into the hall to wait for central escort. A lady comes and starts pushing me asking me if I’m from STU. I explain I don’t know what “STU” means, but I’m there for one-day surgery. She returns me to the main surgical center where the nurses promptly inform her “She’s not one of ours.” She replies that she’s just going to take me on the scenic tour of the hospital.

I awaken with the nurse asking me to rate my pain level.  Five, I reply. She responds, “That’s the difference between you and a man. A man would have said 10.” My friend who brought me relays the information she received after my surgery. The surgeon had to dig deep into my armpit to remove my lymph nodes and I have a two-inch incision closed with staples as well as two incisions on my breast closed with glue and steri-strips. I also have a drain inserted into my side below the incision.

I hear the nurses discussing how I am allergic to “everything.” They send me home with Percocet instructing me to augment it with Aleve and Tylenol not to exceed a maximum dose of 4,000 mg of Tylenol within a 24-hour period. 

A week later, after I’m off the Percocet, I realize they have misread the DNA results and assumed I was allergic to the drugs in all three columns instead of just the first two columns.

Monday, May 2nd, after returning from the surgeon’s office to have my drain removed, I ask Verna Mae’s daddy to accompany me to the dog park for some canine affection. He gladly complies and wet kisses are received from Joy, a pudgy Jack Russell, which are both welcomed and much appreciated. It is my first trip to Loch Haven Dog Park without Annie and I just didn’t want to go alone.

Sometimes progress, both physically and emotionally, are best taken in baby steps.

This process had started April 21st when I had received the following results of a needle biopsy of my enlarged lymph node from the surgeon in his office: “Well, I’ve got good news and bad news. It’s only not Cancer because the needle went straight through the lymph node and pulled muscle tissue. So it was a sampling error."

I’ve made a lot of progress and hopefully today my staples will be removed. It has been painful, not the breast incisions, but the incision under my armpit. The drain was very painful.

In retrospect, I now understand why I could not have cared for Annie during my recovery time. She was 33-pounds of pure muscle and always pulled me on the leash. Movement has been painful after surgery – even if it was just lifting something the opposite arm. Now, 13-days post surgery, I’m off the Percocet and just using the Aleve and Tylenol.
Proverbs 2:6-9 (NLT)
For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.