Friday, 15 October 2010

Special forces.

There’s a new breast surgeon on the block at Smiley Surgeon’s clinic. A breast surgeon so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s only fair she is awarded the moniker Stunning Surgeon. And yes, I know I have a weird crush on everyone there who’s ever treated me (hell, anyone who’s ever even taken my name on reception) but this particular clinician-crush, dear reader, is more than warranted. Seriously, she’s a sharp-dressing, shiny-haired bombshell of a knockout. With the bust of a goddess. Which, when you think about it, is probably a prerequisite for the job. I haven’t mentioned her before because, well, I wasn’t sure how long she’d be sticking around. But since I now see Stunning Surgeon as often as I see Smiley Surgeon, it’s time she was officially introduced to the blog.

Someone else I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned is another of the nurses at the clinic. You see, long-time blog-favourite Always-Right Cancer Nurse is actually part of a team of two – let’s call them ARCN1 and ARCN2 for simplicity’s sake. ARCN1 is the nurse with whom I’ve had the most contact – she’s the one you’ll have heard me gushing about on every conceivable blog-and-book occasion – but I think it’s important for you to know that ARCN2 isn’t any less wonderful. I just don’t see her as much, is all. Or, at least, I didn’t see her as much until recently, thanks to all the prophylactic surgery shizzle.

In fact, I’m seeing a lot of everyone at the clinic at the moment, given the plentiful post-op care being bestowed on my squashed right tit. (Which, if you’re interested, currently looks like it’s been ironed out by a wicket roller.) And so, lately, the Dynamic Duo of Smiley Surgeon and Always-Right Cancer Nurse (who – don’t tell the others – will always remain my fangirly faves) have, for my post-surgery treatment at least, doubled in size to become The A-Team. Cue bullet-hole-animation opening creditsIn 2008, a crack clinician unit was sent to examine a 28-year-old woman for a lump they didn't like the look of. These doctors promptly helped the 28-year-old escape from a maximum-shit-causing tumour to a clear histology report two and a half years later. Today, still wanted by the now-31-year-old, they survive as soldiers of Bullshit-beating success. If you have a problem; if no one else can help; and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team. Doo do do dooo dum dum dumm.

Aaanyway. Where was I? Oh yes – my plentiful post-op care. There was a time when I’d have blogged about every single Bullshit-related appointment I went to, but that was back in the heady days when having The Bullshit made me interesting. (As opposed to the current, far less interesting – but exponentially more preferable – status of having had The Bullshit.) But just because I haven’t blogged about my favourite medical team for a while doesn’t mean that they’ve been any less present. In fact, with all the excitement of the past couple of weeks, they’ve effectively gone from doctors to mates. Which is weird given that, on the last two occasions I’ve seen them, I’ve left the clinic looking like I’ve done several rounds with Floyd Mayweather. So when I say ‘mates’, then, I suppose I mean the kind of ‘mates’ who get you in a headlock in the playground and give you a dead arm on your way home from school.

It speaks turned-up-to-eleven volumes that despite my last two eye-watering appointments – one in which a plastic valve beneath my skin was tweaked like a radiator key, and another in which minor surgery was required – I’ve still found myself leaving the building with a smile on my face. If those things had happened anywhere else, I’d have sobbed like a reality show finalist, become traumatised to the point of insomnia and would have demanded cake as soon as I got home. Instead, however, I laughed along with each procedure, listened in on the department in-jokes and told The A-Team how much I was looking forward to seeing them again next week. (I still demanded cake, mind. I'm not a complete robot.)

I’d better give you the background to all that melon-twisting, hadn’t I? Forgive my complicated technical language here, but currently residing beneath my flattened-marshmallow of a right nipple is a beermat-sized deflated lilo known in the trade as a tissue expander. The idea behind it is that, once everything’s been ice-cream-scooped out of your nork during the mastectomy process, the expander is inserted flat, then left alone until the tissue around it has had the chance to heal... which is usually around the same time it takes for this board to revolve the X-Factor boot-campers to become finalists. At the live finals, then, the beermat-lilo is gradually blown up (read: injected with a needle and filled with saline) until it matches the size of the other tit. Later on down the line – presumably by the time Louis has lost all of his contestants – when the skin encasing the fully inflated beermat-lilo has had time to adjust from bee-sting to B-cup, said tit (and, you’d hope, the woman attached to it) gets whipped back into hospital for an operation in which the beermat-lilo is replaced with a fully-fledged silicone falsie, and Bob’s your uncle. (Is it just me, or are beermat-lilos suddenly looking like a good product? If you ask me, Team Apollo missed a trick with that one on this week’s Apprentice.)

But of course this beermat-lilo is beneath my tit. And, as history has taught us, my tits don’t play ball. Hence, when I trotted in to what was due to be the first of my inflation appointments, neither Smiley nor Stunning Surgeon could get my expander to inflate. (And you thought blowing up a lilo was a pain in the arse.) They each took it in turns to try, but no dice. Because, as far as they could tell, the beermat-lilo valve (or ‘inflation port’ to those without the mind of an adolescent boy) had somehow turned in on itself and become wedged in place by the tissue that had healed around it: a rare and unpreventable malfunction known in the medical world as ‘a bit of a fuck up’.

‘I’m so sorry, Lisa,’ said ARCN1. ‘There’s always a slight chance that this can happen.’
‘And how often does it happen?’ I asked through watery eyes as SS 1 and 2 continued trying to manipulate my plastic valve as though it were a tie that had disappeared into the waistband of my trackie bottoms.
‘About, ooh, three times that I can remember,’ said Stunning Surgeon.
‘Of course! Well, you might’ve known I’d be the awkward one,’ I said.
‘So we’ll have you back in next week,’ said ARCN2, ‘And if it hasn’t rectified itself we’ll have to do a small surgical procedure in which we open you up and turn the valve around the right way.’
‘Is next Thursday okay?’ asked ARCN1.
‘No probs. I’ll bring cupcakes,’ I said. Because, of course, ‘I’ll bring cupcakes’ is everybody’s first response upon being told they need surgery.

So in I skipped yesterday with my plastic toy box full of strawberry cheesecake cupcakes, cracking awful jokes and acting like a twonk in front of the four ‘mates’ who were about to cut me open. (I know, I know; I am the very definition of a dork. Honestly, I pity the fool who’s charged with my treatment.) When the local anaesthetic went in, I goofed about preferring a bottle of gin instead. When the lights above the operating table were switched on, I tittered about feeling at home beneath a spotlight. When the incision was made, we gossiped about which of the four of them got a kiss from Rod Stewart at last week’s Breast Cancer Care fashion show (all except Smiley, it turns out). When they asked if I could feel any pain, I told them it tickled and giggled so much I had to be asked to lie still. When ARCN1 was cleaning up the blood that had dripped onto the floor, I told Stunning Surgeon to watch out for it spilling onto her lovely suede boots. And when the four of them eventually unpicked the valve from my enthusiastically-healed tissue and successfully fixed it into an inflation-accessible position, I squealed ‘bingo!’

Is this normal behaviour around mid-surgery doctors? No it isn’t. Is it normal behaviour around mates? Well, no, it probably isn’t that either. But see, after two and a half years of countless appointments in which the four of them havent just got to know me, but have got to know my husband, my family, my writing and my colleagues (yep, folks, they’ve already been in touch with the film-team at the Beeb), and have been witness to me experiencing more emotions than I even knew existed, it’s completely impossible to retain the same kind of doctor-patient professionalism that typified our first meetings. But whether it’s the cupcakes and the candour or the gossip and the goonery that have got us to this gloriously unprofessional relationship, I don’t care. All I care about is that my A-Team have, yet again, come to the rescue. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?


Stela James said...

Nice Post.

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CancerCultureChronicles said...

I knew my oncologist (aka Dr Wonder Woman) and I shared a special bond, when in trying to identify a mysterious pox she asked me in a serious tone if I shaved my "back and crack". For the record, the answer is NO !

Unknown said...

You're my most favorite dork ever. xo, Kschaff

Tamela said...

I am still waiting to get my BRCA gene test done. In Denmark, once you are diagnosed with cancer, the surgery is done FAST. However any procedure after that moves at a snails pace, possibly even slower.

Now to the point. You and I are at opposite ends of the age gap. I have had 'people' tell me that if I were, say your age then YES, have both boobs taken off. BUT, since I will, this 09 November be 52, that perhaps I should not do that. Why do I care what my boobs look like, what would be my quality of life. To say the least I was not happy with 'people' basically telling me that I am an old cow, with old tits and therefore should not give a damn how my boobs look. 28 or 52 - it matters what our breasts look like. No matter what size we decide, it simply matters.

I LOVE your article and your humour. Thanks :-)