Ah Valentines Weekend, here you are.
A weekend where everything seems to pass by in a bit of a dreamy loved up haze. For us ladies it's an opportunity for the men in our lives to pay special attention to us, to shower us with physical attention and an array of little treats - like morphine and paper pants.
Yes, like most other girls my Valentines weekend will be spent flat on my back, wearing not very much at all, hoping that the man in front of me can make all my dreams come true.... Or to more specific, I'll be wearing a surgical gown, some paper pants, enjoying a bucket of morphine and hopefully my dreams will come true with some nice boobs. Because this Saturday I'll be in for operation number four. The forth in a line of operations to remove the breast cancer that had taken residence and rebuild me to resemble some form of my old self.
I'm not sure it's exactly what cupid had in mind but this being Valentine's weekend and all, I'd very much like it if this year he could make the object of my affection my new boobs.
Whilst I appreciate this is slightly outside of the buxom love baby's usual tricks, I'd really, really like to wake up fully in love with my boobs, and I mean completely over the moon smitten. New boobs Mark 4. Possibly the best valentines gift ever? Well I certainly think so. For one they're going to last a lot longer than those heart shaped chocolates and they'll probably offer way more enjoyment in the long term - although I'll never say no to a choccie.
With it being the fourth operation I know exactly what to expect now. I'm like a boob op pro. My pre operation habits and rituals will be the same and I know exactly how to prepare myself. For example, I know that I like to work from home the day before so I can have some 'me' time, get my flat ready, do some work and allow my distracted brain to wonder when it needs to. It's much better than randomly bursting in to tears in a client meeting or being caught doodling big boobs and nipples on my notebook. Not very professional and a bit unnerving for the juniors. No I'm best off by myself in the haven of my little flat, doodling away.
I'll pack my hospital bag with the essentials; some comfy clothes, iPod, toiletries, phone charger, headband, earplugs and eye-mask - I'm not a princess but hospitals are loud, bright, busy places so the ear plugs and eye mask is a must. When everything in the flat is done, the bed has been changed, I've had a hoover round and it's all nice and clean, I'll then treat myself to a night out. This is officially known as the distraction method, the 'break here in case of emergencies' wine button or simply the 'get me very drunk now please' approach.
The very first one was the night before the mastectomy, the now infamous Bye Bye Boobie party with the boob shaped cookies and as much alcohol as I could possibly consume until the midnight cut off point. Apparently after midnight you turn in to a cancer pumpkin or something?! The pre operation night out has become as much as an essential as my red spotty headband. Side note here to say don't judge the headband, I know they are normally the domain of children under the age of 10 but you never know when a hot doctor or guest might stumble in to your room, and trust me when I say that my hospital bed head is truly dreadful. I'm not quite sure what happens in surgery but every time I emerge it's like I've spent five hours rubbing my head against a giant balloon, backcombed the life out of it then rolled around in glue. I'm sure that's not what they do to me when I'm out cold on the operating table but nevertheless, every time I wake up my hair resembles an out of control birds nest, of gigantic proportions. There are small animals nesting in it... twigs and everything. I'm the hair equivalent of Worzel Gummidge (anyone under the age of 30 might need to look that one up). No, the headband is absolutely essential. As is the night before fun.
I'm sure lots of people will disagree, they'll believe that I should stay in, be centered, be true to my emotions, eat healthy things, drink green mush and prepare by body for the surgery ahead. Bollocks to all that. Don't get me wrong I love a juice and Quinoa is my new best friend. But the night before the operation... oh hell no. What I need then more than anything else is wine and giggles.
I need to forget what I'm still in the middle of dealing with, what I'm just about to go through. Again. I need to forget how it's going to feel when I come round - the shakes, the pain, the discomfort - all of it. Just for a few hours, I want to push it all to the very back of my head and hide it there under a rock with a sign that says, "Oi you, yes you, piss off, there's nothing to see here". I need to drink a lot and laugh even more.
Then at 6am when my alarm goes off and my pounding head kicks in the first thought that will run through my head won't be 'Jesus I'm scared, I don't want to do this... again' it'll be "Bugger me my head hurts. What the hell am I doing awake at this stupid hour? Where am I? Has something died in my mouth..." Then I'll start to dream about coffee, even though I can't have any. I'll grab my pre-packed bag and me, mum and my thumping head (her's too) will get the tube up to the hospital.
Then the real fun begins. After I've been signed in I'll go into my room and see the wonderful gown, socks and paper pants waiting for me. The lovely nurses will come in to go through my charts, they'll put a red thing on my wrist for the stuff I'm allergic too, and then they'll weigh me (it's always a joy to feel fat the day of surgery!). Then they'll stick one of those long cotton bud sticks up my nose. Yes this actually happens. I really don't understand what a snot sample is needed for (boobs, noses... nope lost on me), but they do it every single time so it must be important.
When the time's right I'll hug mum goodbye, walk down the corridor, get into the lift and go down to the operating floor. I'll go in the little room that's connected to the theatre by big swishy doors and lie on the trolley that's waiting for me. It's a very white, sterile place with lots of gleaming metal surfaces and beeping machines that you can hear but can't see. I hate this bit. Lying on my back in the scratchy gown and paper pants, staring up at the mottled ceiling tiles above, as nurses and doctors come in and out, busying themselves with other things. I feel so exposed and alone in those moments. But then the lovely anesthetist will arrive and we'll have a little banter about how he's going to trick me in to being to be knocked out. The first time I totally fell for the "Now we're just going to give you something to calm you down, then we'll do the proper injection." Needless to say I was out like a light. Clever man. Or maybe I'm just very gullible... yeah sounds about right.
That's it. That's everything until the moment I wake up. This is thing I dread most. Obviously I want to wake up, of course! It's just that the waking up bit is the most frightening, which I know sounds backwards but it is. I'm all disorientated, the violent shaking kicks in, my face gets all itchy from the morphine and I do the smacking myself in the face action over and over again like a drunk buffoon. And the pain... even with the morphine it's there. Every time.
Once I'm back in my room things calm down a bit. But at some point I know the tears will come. In the hours and days following surgery the resolve I normally have is completely gone. The 'I'm fine' banner, hat and matching jumper are discarded on the floor. C-Monkey has set fire to them and is doing a tears inducing rain dance around the smoldering ashes. He loves it when I have an operation. He gets to run riot through my thoughts. He barges through my emotions like a drunken uncle trying to get to the dance floor, knocking aside every ounce of fight I have in me. My once strong defenses, the ones that have gotten tougher over the last few months fall apart in a moment and I'm usually left a crying, snotty mess. Feeling guilty at not being able to hold it together in front of mum, who doesn't need C-Monkey to have a cry... she'll be off at the sight of me in the paper pants! (Love you mum!)
Once I'm back at my flat it'll be all about resting up, getting some sleep and some much needed quiet time. Which sounds easier than it is. Despite being desperately tired and sore I know I'll be determined to do something, which never really works. But I know I'll still try. Because when I do nothing C-Monkey wins. My only real defense against him is keeping busy, filling my head with work or friends or fun stuff. When I'm drifting between sleep, semi awake and sleep again, he wins. There will be nothing in my head apart from him, what he's done to me, to my life, to my body. In those days I am completely at his mercy, again. Unable to ignore the pain, unable to distract myself from the hell of the last seven months and the weight of it all just pushing down on me.
So come on Cupid, what d'you say, could you spare a few arrows for me this Valentines weekend? If you could aim them at two slightly rounder targets... then maybe, just maybe I'll be able to love myself again and be all the stronger for it.
Happy Valentine's! x