The following afternoon (5 May 1999 to be exact) I checked into the hospital. I was not going to have my operation till the following day, but I was needed for blood tests and to check that I was well enough for the operation.
I waited around with Tom not really doing much. I was healthy, I didn't smoke, rarely drank, attended a local gym a few times a week. It seemed ironic that I walked into the hospital feeling my healthiest, but just one operation later and I crawled out of that place in a lot of pain. I think my recovery was hampered simply because I had my operation when I was feeling very well. Afterwards, I felt very ill and because I could not physically feel the benefits of the operation, it made me feel low and had a slowing down effect on my recovery.
I was informed of the side affects of having a neck dissection and total thyroidectomy. I had to sign a disclaimer to say that the hospital was not responsible for any possible problems
That evening I was all alone,for the first time since I was diagnosed. It was hard as I wasn't tired, and there was no-one about who could keep me occupied. I managed to find a room down the end of a vacant ward where I could phone a friend. I stayed in there watching the Geri Halliwell documentary. Well at least my life wasn't that bad!
I took a few sedatives to help me sleep. I was woken up at 6.30am and told to get washed in preparation for my operation for 9am. I got into my operating gown and waited for Tom to arrive. At this point I had no restrictive visiting hours.
Tom and I waited in the empty room and watched tv to try and occupy our minds from what was about to happen. I was then informed my operation wouldn't be till 11am as the previous operation had taken longer than first thought. This only increased my anxiety and upset.
By this point, I had come to terms with having cancer, but was upset because of the scar I was going to have. Not like one you get when you have your appendix out that can be hidden, but one humdinger of a scar slap bang on my neck. There was going to be no easy way of covering it up. I had never had an operation before and was not psychologically prepared for surgery. I had great images of me reading books and relaxing in bed, boy was I wrong. When I wasn't throwing up from the morphine, I was sleeping.
Finally they came to get me. This was it, no going back. I was wheeled through to theater where my last image was of Tom crying and me crying.
The doors swung shut. I had no-one now, it was only me and five other strangers who were going to save my life.
The tears didn't stop, which possibly helped that I didn't notice a large plastic tube being stuck in the back of my hand.
I was told I would have two injections to anaesthetise me, the first one would make me feel drunk, which may I add was a damn fine feeling, then the next would send me off to sleep. One of the nurses, said, think of being on a beach in Australia, then count back from 10 to 1, I was gone within the first image of sitting on Bondi Beach drinking a nice cold alcoholic beverage, there was no need to count numbers.
The operation took three hours and consisted of making a huge cut and stapling my neck to my chest (I have the staple marks to prove it). They removed the tumour, thyroid and a few lymph nodes it had spread to. I also had a neck dissection so that they could investigate the possible spread of the tumour. I then had two drains put in my neck to remove the fluids that would form whilst my neck tried to heal itself. These were kept in with stitches. I was then stapled back together with over 30 staples.
I was then left to recover
from the anesthetic.
The above photograph was taken
a week after the
operation with half of my staples removed. This
is of the front section of my neck. You can just
see staple marks on my chest where they
stapled my neck apart.