Wednesday, December 08, 2004
It Only Hurts When I Laugh
Surgery now seems like a distant memory, well, except when I move or try to lift something. Before it gets too far from memory I wanted to share my experience.

I had always heard of the amazing reputation of the hospital where my surgery was performed. Loma Linda University Medical Center has been a leader in the medical community and I was very confident that I was receiving excellent care. I knew that this hospital was associated with the Seventh Day Adventist faith community; however, I didn't know much about the Adventists other than they are a Christian community. In doing my research, I found out that "The Seventh-day Adventist faith in today and in the future comes from seeing this life 'overflowing' with hope!" What better people to be affiliated with when it comes to cancer care and research?

Going into surgery was as expected. The various visits from doctors, residents, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc. I was also visited by a woman who asked if she could pray with me. It was a lovely way to go into surgery feeling calm, confident, and cradled in God's hands. Coming out of surgery was a completely differently reality. Until this procedure I had never had anything more than day surgery/quick procedures. This procedure went just four hours (less than anticipated). Beside the nausea related to anesthesia, I awoke to a harsh reality of pain. I could hardly breathe, move my head, wiggle a finger without feeling it in my chest. I could not move to make myself more comfortable or adjust my position in anyway. Strangely enough I was shocked by this. I just kept thinking about the people who have breast augmentation and are sent home the same day. While this was more involved, I was certain something must have been terribly wrong to feel this much pain. I had to be moved from my bed twice and remember looking into the eyes of a male nurse begging him not to move me because I was quite comfortable. I also remember clinging to his scrubs as they moved me from side to side.

Finally in my room that evening, I was able to see Joyce. I remember being so grateful that I would see her, because I was certain she could stop these people from moving me. One of the first things I told her was, "I had no idea." I was speaking of the discomfort and pain. One of the first things she told me was, "I had no idea this was a caffeine free campus." After 13 hours at a hospital on 3 hours sleep, I think her pain was equal to mine! As I settled in and met my nurses, I began to relax. I had such wonderful nurses. They were so kind and compassionate. One watched in disbelief as I got up within an hour of being there to use the facilities. One recurring theme I have had during every stage of my breast cancer journey has been allowing others to do things for me. This was no exception. As long as I could walk, I wanted to move around for myself. The morphine was also a big help in encouraging me also. As the evening progressed I realized that moving, though painful, actually made things better. By the next day I was sitting up, and getting out of bed on my own. I was off the morphine and onto other less reality altering pain meds. When I was asked if I wanted to walk out of the hospital or have my sister go get a wheelchair, I felt that if they thought it was possible, why couldn't I at least try? And without swinging my arms, I did walk out slowly and pale and on my own.

What a difference 24 hours made. And what a difference it made to be surrounded by caring nurses with positive attitudes. And what a difference it made knowing that any remaining cancer in my breasts was effectively gone. The worst hurdle of the last phase of treatment was over.

(Stay tuned for the next installment)
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12