—Victory in the Valley – Chapter 11—
Now read on . . .
On Saturday morning, Dr. Prinsloo took the wind out of my sails. “You look so good I don’t think you need to spend the weekend in here! Let’s see if we can send you home.”
The night staff had measured the fluid from my drains and charted it. Although not a tremendous amount, there was still fluid draining off. The sister who accompanied Dr. Prinsloo on this occasion was one whom I liked least of all the staff. We had spotted her a few times writing information into charts, which she hadn’t checked. When Dr. Prinsloo asked her if there had been any drainage, her quick reply was, “No Doctor.”
I knew this was not true. I looked at her and said softly, “Actually, I think there was.”
Furious, she ignored me and emphatically repeated, “There was no drainage Doctor!” I wondered if Dr. Prinsloo spotted the slow incriminating blush that crept up her neck. I could easily prove my point. But I really wanted to go home.
The doctor looked at me with his piercing blue eyes, then said, “Okay. You can go home. Contact the hospital if anything worries you.”
“Thank you so much Dr. Prinsloo!” I shot up a quick anxious prayer that it would be all right.
On condition I went straight to bed for the weekend, I could go home—after only five days. I just had to wait for them to remove the drains.
When the nurse came to remove my drains I gritted my teeth. I had often done this procedure on other patients, and I knew it could be painful. Expecting her to take one out at a time, I yelped in alarm and pain as she slowly pulled both out simultaneously.
“This way it’s all over at once!” she explained cheerfully as she drew the rubber tubing from my body.
Thanks for nothing! Who said we were in a hurry? I gritted my teeth and held my breath.
This was the first chance for me to take a proper look at the wound. It looked far longer than I had expected. The unusual scar commences halfway up my arm, travels through my axilla into my breast, then does a ninety-degree turn, before ending on my side below my bra-strap. Every doctor who examines me remarks on its strange appearance, but they also remark on the incredible cosmetic result. I am a redhead, with extremely fair skin. I scar badly. My appendix scar, the result of an operation when I was twelve years old, is an ugly keloid, one inch wide. My breast scar is now a faint line, mostly invisible. However, then it was still raw and puckered, held together by a railroad of twenty-nine metal staples. I didn’t care. My breast was intact.
“Because of the position of the tumor, there was no point in doing a Radical Mastectomy,” Dr. Prinsloo had explained. “I went for a Quadrantectomy instead. I went in from the side, removed the growth plus about a quarter of your breast.”
The tumor was a little over two centimeters in diameter; a stage two cancer. The surgeon also removed a number of glands from under my arm. The pathologist present in the OR examined them under the microscope, and found the “sentinel gland” to be “brimming with cancer cells”. Because of the glandular involvement, my fate with chemotherapy was sealed.
“Oh it’s good to be home—I think!” I walked cautiously through the back door, nervous of Sheba, our young enthusiastic Alsatian, jumping up. Candy, our pretty, white Maltese Poodle, ran around my feet yapping wildly in excitement. Even Yoda, our beautiful ginger tomcat, came to greet me, purring loudly as he rolled his body over my ankles.
“Hello—it is good that you are home.” Our twice-a-week charlady, Sylvia, was all smiles. As she chased the animals away and took my small carry bag, she noticed the sling.
“Ow! What happened to your arm?”
“Nothing happened Sylvia. It’s to protect the place where I had my operation.” I spoke simply to her, as English was not her main language.
“Operation? You had operation?” She looked horrified.
Rob had obviously not told her.
“Sylvia, I have had an operation for cancer.”
“OW!” She gasped in true Xhosa fashion. She stepped back in alarm, dropping my bag. “Will you die?”
I smiled at her forthright question. This was the first time anyone had dared to speak so openly.
Relieved to have something helpful to do, she busied herself making tea, whilst I retrieved my bag and went through to the bedroom.
The Garden Room
“I’ve made you up a bed in the dining room,” said Rob coming up from behind, and putting his arms gently around me. “I thought it would work much better for you during the day. You will be able to enjoy all your flowers, and the visitors will not have to trail through the house.” I allowed him to lead me down the corridor to the dining room.
“Oh, Rob this is amazing!” I gazed around at what became known as the “garden room”. All the flowers Rob and the boys had brought from the hospital, plus a few that had come directly to our home, were in the room.
Beautiful arrangements crammed together on the dining room table. Behind the table, the sideboard stood laden with containers of colored blooms of all description. The carpet in front of the table was adorned with vases. Nearly forty floral arrangements combined to make the most outstanding display that I have ever seen in one small room! I felt so loved.