Body, Journalling, Medical Humanities, News, Self-portrait without Breasts

The other side

I’ve never been a particularly good sleeper, but during the weeks immediately following my surgery, sleep was a very precious commodity indeed. So was patience!

21 Dec, 2006

Ten days exactly since the operation, since coming round in the recovery room, the white walls gradually swimming into focus, my ears stuffed with pain relief, a transparent oxygen mask over my face. Thick unnatural smell of anaesthetic. The clinical clatterings and hollow metallic sounds of medical equipment everywhere around my head. The lovely anaesthetist: ‘You’ve done well, it’s all gone well, very little blood loss.’ Later he told me it was a pleasure to work with me! I’ve not heard the patient/anaesthetist relationship referred to as a working partnership before, I liked that.

The winter solstice, how appropriate – shortest day, most quotient of night. The nights still feel very long at the moment, my restlessness is from lying on my back, unable to prop in either direction and change the pressure points. Sleep is coming better though, generally 2-3 hours at a stretch and spells awake are shorter.

Those periodic bouts of fear that characterised the first day or two (when anyway you have no sense of anything much beyond getting through the next hour or so or doing what you are told or reacting to the drug or the meal or the phone call or the physiotherapist or the fact you are too cold) were soon supplanted by better days and hard hard work and progress. Then the apprehension of that last day in hospital: drains out, journey to make, feeling a fool in tears of pain, relief at leaving hospital, euphoria of getting home.

I’ve reached that most unattractive stage of patient-hood – grouchy and frustrated. Endless discomfort alternates with muzzy relief. The wounds are sore. I am bruised and ache all over. And I am surrounded by so much kindness and love. Yet here I am in the middle of it wanting more rapid progress even than I have, which seems ungrateful and thoroughly awkward of me.

I am tired, and not yet rested, and there is tomorrow: another journey to London for wound inspection, dressings off, draining the seromas that have now become ghastly false boobs, heaving and watery and tight like the early days but in a less positive way. And pathology reports.


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