Before I had surgery, a nurse from Northside Hospital called me to ask me some questions.  One of them was, “using a scale of one to ten, what number do you think you need to be before you take pain medication?”  I had absolutely no idea how to answer that question.  I know how I would have answered it before I got clean.  I asked her what other people said and she said most people used the number four.  Even though most people weren’t heroin and methadone addicts in their former lives, I told her to put four down for me as well.

I have been terrified all along about the fact that I would need to take drugs after surgery.  Honestly, losing my breast is preferable to losing my sanity, my clarity, my sobriety.  Trent says that after they gave me the tranquilizer before taking me to surgery he saw a tear roll down my face as I felt the drug take hold of me.  And when I woke up with that pain pump, I used it and my body itched all over.  My body still remembers how  it responds to opiates.  As a child, cough medicine with codeine made me break out in a rash.  As an adult, heroin had me itching uncontrollably all over.  After surgery, dilaudid had me itching all over.  And that action of scratching gave me this horrid feeling of deja vu.  I felt like I was in danger.  I hated it.  That itching feels way more life threatening to me than breast cancer. 

So I’ve had a mastectomy now.  I now know how that feels and where it fits on the pain scale of one to ten.  The worst pain I have ever felt in my life was the withdrawal of methodone and xanax cold turkey.  It simply cannot be described.  I thought that maybe this surgery would redefine my pain scale and would create a new depth and new definition of the ten I knew previously.  I was wrong.  On a scale of one to ten, a mastectomy is a 6 to 7 in pain and perhaps an 8 in discomfort at times.  It is still, as everything else, oodles less painful than kicking a habit and wishing myself dead. 

Today I have taken nothing.  Just advil.  And the sun is shining, and Trent is handsome as ever landscaping our yard, and  my chest hurts but  on a scale of one to ten, I’m about a five and for someone who once seemed hopeless and helpless, that still feels like the angels are singing.

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