Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Hospitalization - Visitors

Having a mastectomy is not like giving birth, where everybody wants to drop by, give you flowers and coo over your new baby.

It's hard to coo over the loss of a breast.

I knew I'd be in the hospital at the most two days, so I'd made sure in advance to let people know I didn't want visitors. 

But that doesn't mean nobody dropped by.  A whole cadre of concerned people stopped in to see how I was doing, including the breast navigation people, a social worker and a chaplain, all to help me deal with my loss.

Last time I was hospitalized I had my appendix out.  Nobody arrived to help me deal with that loss, which is a serious oversight if you ask me.  I liked my appendix.  As a kid,  I'd been told if I ate sunflower seed shells they'd get stuck in my appendix.  It didn't stop me from crunching the shells,  and I loved imagining that poor little organ looking like a porcupine with all those shells jabbed into it. I'd also been told if you swallowed gum it would get in your appendix and stay in your body the rest of your life.  Naturally, I swallowed all my favorite pieces of gum.  So, having an appendectomy was quite a loss, knowing I was losing that juicy fruit I'd enjoyed back in 1964.  But,  where was the chaplain then?  No wonder I'm an athiest.

Anyway, my first visitor was the breast navigation people, who carried two bags of goodies, along  with profuse apologies for standing me up at my pre-mastectomy appointment.  I got a card with an apology, a plant, and not one, but two mastectomy camisoles, so all is forgiven.  They also give you some very helpful things to have in the hospital and recovery - a water bottle, lifesavers, chapstick, men's wifebeaters (so you can pin your drains to them and not worry about ruining your clothes) and many other helpful items.  Aside from my bumpy start with them, they do try to help women and the items were useful.

Next came a social worker, who asked me if my husband was going to beat me when I got home (nurses asked that too), whether I had a history of depression (I have a history of optimism) and how I felt about losing my breast.  (Um, fine?)  I actually told her that I'm the kind of person who accepts what is and I'm not one for looking back and I'll move on just fine.

Which is true. 

She gave me a bunch of pamphlets about mastectomy after-care and exercises to regain movement, some information on where to get wigs, a large pamphlet on chemotherapy side-effects,  and some support group information.  I'm not exactly the support group kind but I thanked her for all the information, and she was on her way.

Next, came the chaplain.  In your pre-op paperwork they ask you your religion and whether you want chaplaincy care (or whatever it's called). Naturally, I said it was unnecessary, so I was a little surprised to see her walk in.  She asked me if I was in need of her kind of support, and I said no, I was fine, thank you.  She was very pleasant and said she was just checking in, not selling, which made me laugh/ouch!  She wished me luck and went on her way.

But, my very favorite visitor was surgeon Rockstar Raja, because he is the guy who is going to send me home.  I confess to lying a bit about how I felt. I was ready to get out of there so I told him my pain control was about a 5.  (Never got that low).  I didn't think my insurance was going to pay for an extra day anyway, since I had no signs of infection or other complications, but I wasn't going to take a chance that pain counted towards keeping you in.  No matter how bad I felt, it would be better to feel bad at home where somebody can hand me water (and imitrex)  if I needed it.

So, I said I was ready, I was fine, and he signed the orders.

I'm going home.



  1. I never want a lot of visitors in the hospital either. Why have a flow of people coming in to see you when your hair looks like crap and you are in pajamas. I was never a support group person either but went to one weekly for two years and now have switched to a monthly one. It has been a very positive experience.

  2. I think I'm just not a sit in a group and talk about it person. My mind wanders since I already know the best way. And I don't like whining - I bet there is whining. I'll never serve on a jury for the same reasons. My way or the highway, baby! :)

  3. I think it's interesting how different the experience can be for people depending on the hospital you go to. At a state of the art teaching hospital I didn't receive any visits from a social worker or Chaplain, nor did I get any gifts of useful items from anyone employed by the hospital - no camisole, none of it (which is totally ok with me). My stay was 5 days because my pain was seriously out of control due to one nurse screwing up on her shift on day 2 but I was OK with staying b/c I had an infant at home that didn't sleep through the night and I needed the sleep desperately. I'm glad you were able to figure out how to get home since that's where you knew you'd feel more comfortable.


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