20. Freedom Ward

After all the build up, the tension, the worry, the what ifs, the not going with my plan… it was quite calming to have arrived at the actual surgery day.  I felt I had no option but to hand myself over to the process.

We checked into Freedom Ward and this is where I said goodbye to Nick, this was my decision as I felt I had to do the next part on my own.  We were both teary and he said he’d see me that evening on the ward.

I sat in the waiting area and plugged in my phone/earphones and was on Spotify (thank goodness my daughter had taught me how to access this). I thought the music was a bit quiet, it was for me, however, it wasn’t for the other people and one of the other women in the waiting room asked me to turn it down… I hadn’t plugged in the ear phones correctly and was sharing my tunes.

I got my year 13 marking out of my hospital holiday bag and started to read through their essays.  This was soon interrupted as the nurse called me and brought me into the office.  It was official I was a patient.

Name, date of birth, address and “do you know why you are here today”… “oh yes said I – frontal lobotomy” and thought I was funny… then I corrected myself – skin sparing left mastectomy and sentinel lymph node biopsy.  I thought I should be sensible from now on – just as well as the nurse was a bit stressed, very busy and didn’t need comedic responses.  We went through the paperwork which was completed during the Pre-op assessment, a hospital wrist band was secured onto my right side.  Now I was a patient with a wrist band and then it was back to the waiting room and marking.

I think I read one essay about three times.  I had deliberately chosen a chair where no one could sit by me as at this point I didn’t want any more social interaction.  One essay later and the Consultant Anesthetist introduced herself, picked up my bag and took me back to the same office.  We discussed what I was marking, schools and education first and then talked about the op.  She was lovely and assured me she had lots of good drugs, I asked for some now…but none on her at that moment worse luck.  I told her that I’d had a nerve block when I’d had my shoulder fixed a few years ago and could I have the same – she said she’d been on a course and had all the good stuff because I didn’t want to feel any pain.  I mentioned that if my temperature went up it would be because I was a HRT free zone and hot flushtastic, then I got teary because at the heart of it I thought this whole situation had come about from being on HRT for three years.  Come on Mrs O – get it together. She told me about her sister in law and how well she was recovering from breast cancer surgery and that “she’d got me”.  I had lots of confidence in this lady not least as she said I could listen to my music on the way into theatre.  No time to be the impatient patient, just the feeling like the vulnerable patient – where had I placed by cloak of invincibility?  It was folded up, very small, and at the bottom of my bag, out of sight and not much use.

Tip:  Although surgery may be a unique experience for you, for the people who work in theatre it is a routine event.  Procedures have to be followed.  Apparently some people genuinely don’t know why they are at the Freedom Ward or what they have been booked in for so try to be sensible. 


Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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