Friday, 3 April 2015

Monday 31st; March 2015 ...life with one leg begins.

Confirmation for Brendan's scheduled operation date for the amputation of his right leg came exactly one week prior to the event. That was the day it all became very real, and was the first time in Brendan's cancer treatment and recovery so far that I saw real fear in his eyes. It came with a guttural; almost primal cry as he hung up the phone, a fear that you would expect from anyone confronted with the reality that they were about to lose their leg. It was a release of indescribable emotional pain, and we would both cry together and I'm sure separately many times in the days to come. Grief hit's you in unexpected ways, in unexpected moments, and yes I was grieving along with my husband as we prepared ourselves for the surgery ahead.

Although I absolutely love Brendan as a human being, I also love every little thing about him, including his right leg. It would soon be missing from him and I found that incredibly sad. I also found myself wondering what would happen to his leg after it was removed, and hoped that whatever did, it would be dignified and respectful. We were losing a part of Brendan and I wanted his leg to be treated with care. I couldn't begin to imagine how he was feeling about what was happening or how he would cope, I didn't know how any of us would. We would soon come to know that the path of least resistance would be the most healing one to take.

The afternoon before the operation we had our first call with Michelle; the amputee consultant. It was a conversation that I could not have imagined having in a million years, but here we were talking about shrink socks and the difference between above the knee and below the knee amputation, and the challenges that might be faced as an above the knee amputee. Yep; this was definitely real now. After the call we sat on the bed in our hotel room and I hugged his leg to my chest while I gave a Reiki treatment, I could feel the weight of his leg and the tumour pressing against me, tomorrow it would be gone. Brendan's leg would be gone and so would the tumour. That moment was one of the most bitter sweet of my life.

The morning of Brendan's operation came around fast, and in those last couple of days leading up to it, it got even harder to watch him in so much pain. At one point in the middle of a strong bout, he said through clenched teeth "only a couple of days to go, only a couple of days to go." I could see that his pain was excruciating, but when I heard Bren say that, knowing that in that moment, to him, his leg being gone was better than the pain he was in, that's when I knew that the pain had to be stopped. Now!

Tuesday 31st of March

Sue and Michael met us in the hotels basement car park at 6:15 am to take us up the road to the hospital. Brendan's pain was so severe he had to lay on the basement floor, to wait the 2 minutes that they were behind us in the next lift. We got to Peri-operative by 6:30 am, not knowing what time he would be called for his operation we asked if Bren could be given a bed. The receptionist pulled his file and on the front a red card reading Priority Case Dr Stalley; in large black type, was attached with a paper clip. "Oh!" she said, "you're up first, we can put you on a bed now or you can sit for 15 minutes until the nurse calls you in if you think you can manage." He did. Our relief at being first cab of the rank was enormous.

Bren was called in to get prepped by 7 am. We said our goodbyes and Sue, Mike and I went upstairs to have a cuppa and some breakfast in the hospital cafe. Who should be sitting there with two of his colleagues but Brendan's surgeon. He looked fresh, he was in the building and had had a caffeine hit, that was a great start already. When he got up to leave; carrying an armful of files that I imagine were most likely Brendan's, Mike sang out: "have a good day guys," the doctors looked our way and Sue said "you look after our Brendan," with that Dr Stalley gave us a smile and said "I'll do my best." Knowing that his best is the best, I felt confident and at ease. My man was in good hands.

The waiting was excruciating, at 10 am I rang the number I was given to find out what ward Brendan would be returning to, yet nobody at that number seemed to know where he was or how much longer he would be. The next call I made gave me the ward but still no one knew when he would be there as bed availability was an issue. So we made our way up to the ward waiting room and I think I checked in with the nurse at desk every half hour to see if he was back.

Finally, just after 1:30 pm a nurse came out and called "Saunders!" I half jumped up and said yes ...um no!" and we all had a bit of a laugh, and then not long after the nurse came back and called "Maloney!" I've not moved so fast in a very long time.

I pulled the curtain back and walked into his room; and he smiled at me, he had the faintest trace of a tear in the corner of his eye, but he looked so good. It was all I could say, "you look so good, you look so good." Yes it was obvious that his leg was gone, and it was weird, and we both agreed that it was weird, but he was still Brendan and the lightness in his face was beautiful. We hugged and kissed, and like I have done every day for the last 6 weeks and more, I put one hand on his heart and one hand on his leg where the bandages were and I gave him Reiki. And we both took a breath.

It was then that he told me that he had woken from the anesthetic crying, and that he didn't know why. He realized that it was because he couldn't feel any pain. His body was reacting to being pain free for the first time in eight weeks.

After we had a little time together I asked if he was ready for me to bring his Mum and Dad in, I knew how anxious they were to see him. He said "juice me up for a little bit longer" that meant a bit more Reiki first. Reiki has a calming, comforting effect and he needed a little extra support now so that he could help his Mum & Dad handle what they were about to experience. We knew it would be especially hard on them.

I could see his Mum and Dad willing themselves to be strong and taking strength in each other as I bought them into Brendan's room. They were amazing and I know it was shocking for them, and there were some quite tears. But another step forward was taken as they embraced him as only his parents could.

Bren's sister Elizabeth was next, and then Sue and Mike. Day one; and six of Bren's nearest and dearest had stepped with him into his new world, it wasn't easy for any of us, but Brendan's strength and courage got us across the line. Sue, Mike and I had stayed with him until visiting hours were up. It was a long day, one that has changed the direction of our lives and it was hard to say goodnight and leave him there.

I had felt Ok all day, and as Sue, Mike and I waited for the lift Sue said: "are you Ok?" I heard myself say yes, but could feel an overwhelming surge of grief and heartache move unexpectedly through my body and I collapsed into their arms sobbing uncontrollably. As they held me up I was aware of the lift door opening and closing, I think because I kept pressing the button. I wanted to get into the lift so that Brendan couldn't hear me crying.

Day one was over, Dear God let the pain be done with.

Wednesday 1st April

After a pretty drowsy day for Bren today; recovering from the anaesthetic and coping with a good cocktail of drugs ...tonight he was wide awake, somewhat clear headed and his spirits were high. I was so grateful that the gorgeous nurse looking after him let me stay past the end of visiting hours because of what I got to see before I left for the night.  Bren was sitting comfortably, completely upright and was able to lift his bum off the bed using his arms and left leg, and did so several times. I'm sure this took a huge amount of energy, effort and co-ordination to do, but I think he wanted me to see that he could do it before I left.  All of his tubes, drips and drains are gone and his doctor is very happy with how the operation went, so tomorrow will be a day of recuperation and possibly a visit from the physiotherapist to start getting him up and about.

All in all things are looking good and are progressing well.

Special Thanks

I want to take this opportunity to say... I don't know how I would have gotten through those first two days and the many that followed, without my sister Sue and my brother-in law Mike, they barely left my side and were a constant support system for both Brendan and I. We will never forget what you have done for us.

To my Sister Deb, and my brother in-law Andy along with Luca, Tyler and Leilanie, for making sure Tyra and Baden are safe and happy while their Mum & Dad are away from them and for making sure the "Easter Bunny" found them, allowing us to concentrate on getting Brendan through the operation and home again without worrying about our children's welfare. Without a doubt the most important thing you could possibly do for us.

To Edsteins Creative Stone for surprising Tyra & Baden with such a fabulous Easter Present, knowing that we wouldn't be at home with them. It floored both Brendan and I that you guys would think to do that for our kids at such a busy time, but it didn't surprise us. We know that's just how you all role. No man left behind. Thank you.

And to #teambreandanm... our family who couldn't be with us, our friends and community, your unwavering love and support is truly inspirational, thank you for all of your messages, prayers and positive energy, we will never be able to truly express just what it has meant to us. Thank you...

Over the following days Brendan's recovery would hit some highs and lows. However he would be especially uplifted by some very special visitors, I will cover that in the next blog!

More soon...

Cal xx





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