Genes, Boobies and Other Accessories

Archive for the ‘First 30 days Post Op’ Category

Lean Cuisines and Beer

Mom left today. Sucks. Happy and I are looking around the place wondering what we’re supposed to do now. It was great having her here. Today marks my 30 days (yay!) and I thought I’d share a break-down of the my first 30 days to fill you in on all the pieces and parts that I haven’t written about yet.

Let’s start with what I did this month:

  • Slept
  • Basically been uncomfortable (in everyway) for the entire time
  • Took vitamins, antibiotics, and pain meds
  • Sat on the couch and watched mom cook breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • Supervised mom’s projects
  • Watched two seasons of Downton Abbey, two seasons of 24, tons of movies (some good some bad), and whatever else we could find
  • Slowly recovered enough to bathe myself, put on my own bra, get myself off the couch or out of bed
  • Learned how to finger-knit, arm-knit and started crossstitching
  • Read 3 books
  • Made mom a scarf out of tshirts
  • Painted my nails
  • Drove my car twice (just this week)
  • Lost 7 lbs (in addition to the 3.5lbs that my old boobs weighed)
  • Babysat Emmy (see pic below)
  • Went to the zoo this week!

Here’s Happy’s contribution to the last 30 days:

  • Slept
  • Ate
  • Followed KK around
  • Begged KK for food
  • Waited for KK to cook her breakfast (yes, I said cook)
  • Took walks
  • Laid on KK’s lap (see pic below)
  • Slept in KK’s bed (because she’s a traitor and bailed on me when she realized I couldn’t cuddle grrrr)
  • Slept

Here’s Mom’s (KK’s) last 30 days:

  • Played nurse
  • Stripped/monitored/measured surgical drains
  • Helped her 32 year old daughter dress/bathe/exist
  • Cooked  lots of her hippie foods
  • Did laundry
  • Cleaned
  • Watched two seasons of Downton Abbey, two seasons of 24, tons of movies (some good some bad), and whatever else we could find
  • Walked Happy
  • Fed Happy
  • Talked to Happy
  • Spoiled Happy
  • Weighed step-stools and ladders to see if they are under 10 lbs so that I can move them myself
  • Moved items around so I can reach them
  • Stocked my pantry
  • Made new pillow cases (see pic below)
  • Painted two accent walls (with Elena’s help – Thank you Elena!)
  • Hung my tv on the wall
  • Created and painted a frame for said tv (see pic below)
  • Organized my closet and put up my winter clothes
  • Went to the zoo
  • So much more than just what’s on this list
  • Spoiled Happy (and me)

So as you can see…it’s been GREAT having her here. Now, Happy and I are missing her and nervous about fill #2 next week. Tomorrow Jessica will get here! And then next week Johnna and her bff Elizabeth will be here. I cannot wait for Johnna to get here. It will be her first visit to Ohio. Yay! Two more weeks and I’m off restriction which means I can raise my arms over my head (e.g. put on a tshirt, wash my hair standing up, stretch my back, reach for things on shelves, open doors by myself, go to the gym….you get the picture). I keep reminding Happy that Mom will be back in a few months for my next two surgeries so she can ignore me again…and she’ll get spoiled again which means I will too. So for tonight, we don’t have our chef here and it’s back to lean cuisines and beer.

Here are some pics of our month with mom:

Happy

Emmy

New pillow case for couch

Avacado green accent wall and framed tv

First attempt at finger-knitting (yes that’s wine in the background)

Mom spoiling Happy

Me and Mom on a train at the zoo (that’s the scarf I made)

 

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Barbed-wire and Maxi Pads

This is such a weird process to go through. I don’t know that you can ever be completely prepared for it. I’m sooooo grateful for the women that have walked me through their experiences so that I could be somewhat prepared. I hope that I’m able to weather all of the weirdness by reminding myself that it just gets better from here and it’s temporary. I can do anything for a year, right?! What’s weird this week will be normal next week. The last two weeks I’ve encountered three things that make my new life weird: maxi pads, barbed-wire and fills.

It’s officially been 2.5 years since I last purchased any type of feminine product. Now, I find myself being a connoisseur of maxi pads. Why?! You might ask. It’s because I now have incisions that go from my sternum to under each armpit, and they need covering. I have to wear a compression surgical bra or sports bra 24 hours a day.

— Hold on, let that sink in. 24.hours.a.day.–

Underneath said bra, I have to have some type of gauze or protection from the fabric until the incisions are fully healed. Anyone ever tried to find gauze pads (at a retailer) that are at least 6 – 8 inches in length?! Yeah, it’s difficult and expensive. Regardless, the nurses told me that maxi pads are the cheapest and best way to accomplish this task. I’ve now made my way through most brands and located the thinnest and longest ones that I can find. So now, if you see me you’ll know that I’m wearing maxi pads under my bra. How weird is that?!

In addition to maxi pads in my bra, I’ve also had these horrible sutures poking me since the surgery. The suture they use in this surgery is the kind that your body absorbs. They leave about 3 inches of it sticking out on each side of the incisions for the first 2 or so weeks. The suture itself feels like barbed-wire. It gets caught on my bra and hurts terribly. For the last week my only source of discomfort was from the silly sutures. And it’s totally weird to see purple wire sticking out of your skin. I went in for my first fill Monday and the nurse cut the sutures down…immediate relief! It is nice to have them gone.

I thought most of my pain would go away once the barbed-wire was gone, but then I had my first fill. Fills are weird too. I’ve explained before that I have tissue expanders under my pecs now. The expanders are like balloons. Every few weeks my doctor will fill them with 75-125 ccs of saline until I get to the size I want to be. (Sidebar: My new size is still up for debate – my posture is better now than it’s ever been. I might go smaller than my old size now that I get to test it out before getting the implant.) They fill the expanders by injecting a needle into a port that’s located under my skin. This week, my doc only put 75ccs in because I still have a hematoma on the left side. In fact, my left side has been completely yellow and black since the surgery. They also removed 75ccs of fluid from around my expander which is making the bruising start going away…but makes it hurt now more than ever. I’m not sure that I could’ve handled much more than a 75cc fill though. I haven’t ever felt pain like I do now. In fact, Monday I had to remind myself to breathe most of the day. My left side still hurts so bad – it’s hard not to cry thinking about it. I’m sure it’s just because of the bruising that I already had. Regardless of the pain, here’s the weird part…when they injected the saline solution in my expander, it was like watching a compressor air up a mattress. I WATCHED MY BOOB GROW. It was freaky feeling too. I couldn’t feel the needle at all but I could feel the cool of the saline and feel my skin moving. WEIRD! And now I have this perfectly round area around my sternum…like the beginning of cleavage! EVEN WEIRDER!

And now I begin my life of maxi pads and fills. In a few weeks, this will just be the norm for me which is the weirdest part of all.

 

 

 

Part 2 to Goodbye dwainnnnz…Thank you drains

Today I came home excited to sleep tonight without those stupid drains. Today was also the second time that I have been out of the apartment since my surgery. It feels good to wander out a little bit more each day…but it totally wipes me out. I put on new pjs and turned on the TV (hehehe I’m still in pjs all day every day – don’t hate!). Oprah’s life-class series was on tonight. Yesterday, I noticed the series because I saw TD Jakes in the title of the show. Don’t laugh…yes I said Oprah’s life-class. Hang with me and you’ll see I haven’t totally become a phony, self-help workshop-zombie. There’s something to be learned from everyone.

Side note: TD Jakes, for those of you that don’t know, is a pastor that I believe contributed to saving my life 16 yrs ago (happy to share that story if you’re interested). Although I know many of you may be surprised that the one with the seemingly complicated spiritual and religious history (and the token Jew in many of your lives) learned something from a big-time TV preacher. I did. I will forever be grateful for the time that I picked up a book in Books-A-Million and read the first page while waiting on a caramel latte. I’m still so grateful for the lessons he taught me as a 17 yr old freshman in college.

So back to pjs, Oprah, and tonight…

I noticed another episode of her series was on and turned to it. This was her master class and apparently the series has focused on gratitude. After hearing a little bit, I realized that I’ve hated those drains the last 13 days…13 lonnnnng days. And although there’s really nothing inherently wrong with hating them or complaining about them occasionally, I’m in a very vulnerable position right now mentally and emotionally. I don’t know that I can afford to be negative too long or too often during this process. The more negative energy I create (and encourage), the more susceptible I will be to the negative and dark side of this process. I’m also less likely to learn all of the lessons that I need to learn if I allow myself to wallow in my own (temporary) misery. I need to grieve when I need to grieve and be unhappy when I need to be unhappy, but I don’t need to start a pattern of negativity that I can’t pull out of. I’m sure you can imagine – looking at my chest right now can be emotionally paralyzing if I let it. I just can’t let it. BUT I can’t ignore it either.

I know that TD Jakes taught me that I am not defined by my past but refined by it. I have to live in the present by facing my obstacles. As clichéd as it sounds, learning how to apply this to my life changed me completely all those years ago. I hadn’t stopped to think about how they might apply to my current situation until now.

So I decided that I have appropriately faced my first obstacles. I’ve started the grieving process over the change in my body. I’ve had time to complain about how uncomfortable those drains were. I’ve had time to freak out about the fact that my incisions are weird-looking right now and the skin is yellow from the bruising. I’ve had time to feel isolated and alone. I’ve also laughed about all of the above. I’ve enjoyed the time with mom. I’ve actually gotten more comfortable seeing myself flat-chested. I haven’t tried my fake/prosthetic boobies yet because I know I need to face this head-on. And now I need to be grateful. I know that having a grateful spirit is what brings peace, happiness, balance and abundance. I laugh at the fact that Oprah, TD Jakes and Tony Robbins (insert eye-roll) had to remind me…but they did.

Tonight I’m going to bed grateful for the drains because they helped me heal. I’m thankful for the incisions on my chest because they are a sign of freedom and courage. They are my silent reminder of the bond I have with a special community of women. I’m thankful for the 4 extra inches of stitching sticking out of the ends of the incisions because, although they feel like barbed-wire, they are a reminder that even when I think I can lift my arms, I still have wounds that are healing and I need to ask for help. I’m thankful for my mother. She seems to be totally unphased by stripping my drains, washing my hair, and waiting on me. (She’s super cool if you haven’t figured that out yet.) I’m thankful that my Daddy calls every day and asks how I’m doing and can so easily talk to me about all of the things that so many Daddy’s would be uncomfortable talking about. I’m thankful for friends that call or text me to ask how I’m doing and then talk to me about random and normal things so that I feel connected to the real world.

I recently saw something on Pinterest that said, “Strong people always have their life in order. Even with tears in their eyes, they still manage to say “I’m okay,” with a smile.” Guess I just needed to acknowledge to myself the tears are there. I felt the need to add this tonight because this blog is my attempt to help my friends and family feel connected to me during this process. I want to share some of the physical and medical aspects of this process. It’s also important for you guys to know that I’m struggling through it, learning from it, grateful for it and being refined by it. And most importantly, I’m okay.

Goodbye dwainzzzzzzzz

I got my drains removed today!!!!! If you’ve ever known anyone that’s gone through breast reconstruction, the drains are one sucky part of recovery. It takes some time to get used to the fact that you’ve got these tubes stitched into your armpit that drain out fluid (gross) that you have to measure each day! Ugh.

Let me explain why the drains are so annoying. Basically this is how it works in my most “Mandy” way of explaining it:

  • The breast doc cuts straight across your boob and removes a section of the skin including your nipple. Yes, I no longer have nipples…weird!!!
  • He then scoops out the breast tissue and removes it. I picture him actually using an ice cream scoop…I’m sure his ego is offended by my lame way of describing it.
  • The Plastic Surgeon (or as my breast doc likes to say – the bigger ego in the room) then begins reconstruction. He separates your pec from your chest wall, places a tissue expander under the muscle, sutures all around so that he begins to recreate a new “harness” for your implant, and then positions drains under the tissue before he sews you up and puts you in a compression bra and sends you to recovery with really good drugs….there’s much more to it, but that’s the Mandy-abbreviated version.
  • The drains are designed to remove fluid from your body so that it doesn’t collect and cause complications and seromas ala infection ala more surgeries ala longer time before you get your implants.
  • Here’s a picture of a drain. I had 2 drains (one on each side). Some patients that also have lymph nodes removed may have 4-6 drains.

  

  • The top portion is placed from the side of your chest under your armpit and a little bit under your incision: (This is not me – I’m actually bruised and yellow all over right now…I’m happy to share pics I’ve taken if you’re interested)

  

  • Every day after surgery, you have to strip your drains and measure the fluid. Stripping means you squeeze the tubes and get all of the fluid to go down into the bulb at the end. This creates a suction effect so that the drains are actually pulling fluid out of your body. When you’re under 20-30 ccs a day and the fluid is clear-ish, you can have them removed. This is usually 14 or so days post op. This isn’t my drain either, although it looks a lot like it the day after surgery.

 

So you can imagine how annoying and weird this is…and how badly you want them GONE. It is amazing how quickly you get over the weirdness of it. In fact, my mother and I were determined to get these suckers removed because I was soooo close to meeting the requirements to get them out. We started setting an alarm and stripping them every hour to try and get “lefty” to cooperate. It was a success! So to make a short story long, explaining all of this helps me get to the point of this post…

I GOT MY DRAINS OUT TODAY!!!

 (There’s a part two to this post…I’ll post it in a few minutes.)

On the 10th day of recovery…

I think I’m ready to join the land of the living now. It’s been a tough 10 days. Needless to say, I’ve spent these days sleeping, sleeping and sleeping. I’ve been keeping some notes during this time. So here’s a break-down of my first 10 days. In this post, I’m focusing specifically on the physical aspects of my recovery…everything else will be covered in future blog posts. Let’s catch up!

Day 1:  Pre-op was just as I anticipated. I checked in and went back to pre-op where I received my designer gown and matching socks. The nurses were great and my anesthesiologist was a rock star. I woke up in the recovery room to a fabulous nurse, Kevin. He was good to check on me and then check on mom and Jess as well. My docs gave them a great report. Surgery went well, blah blah. I am in and out of sleep in the recovery room. When I’m awake I try to talk to mom and Jess, although when I speak, I’m not real sure what I was trying to say but I’m certain that I either repeated the same thing over-and-over or said something crazy. They kept me in the recovery room longer than normal so that I could be placed in a private room. (YAY!) I went into surgery around 2pm, got into recovery around 4:30pm, and got into a room at 10:30pm. I basically slept this day away and don’t remember much of it. I was really dizzy from the anesthesia and in some pain, but not so much that I couldn’t sleep through it. Good way to start out, huh?!

Day 2: Ugh muscle spasms. In breast reconstruction they place tissue expanders under your pectoral muscles (pecs) to begin the reconstruction process. So where I once had pecs UNDER breast tissue, I’ll now have them OVER fake boobies. This is weird…really weird. My incisions don’t hurt or anything. I just kept having these painful muscle spasms. I could see the muscles contract and twitch. Needless to say, pain management was tough on the second day. The drugs weren’t helping much so I decided to stay one more night in the hospital until we got it under control. Mom and Jess took turns staying with me. Nurses came in to check my bandages. They said that my incisions looked great and my surgeon told us that I was able to keep more skin than most patients which meant my reconstruction was going to be faster and better. I have yet to see how it is faster or better…but I’ll take their word for it right now. I haven’t looked down at my chest yet.

Day 3: The spasms were still happening, but getting a little better. I started muscle relaxers. It was at this point that I decided that it wasn’t going to get much better and I just wanted to go home. The ride home was horrible. Every bump in the road made me cry. I’m pretty sure my mom and Jess were ready to start crying too. I think it was the longest ride of my life. When I got home…I think I just slept most of the day. I really don’t remember. In fact, I know that at some point during the first few days, I was so loopy I wasn’t communicating very well or much at all. At this point, I still haven’t looked down at my chest.

Day 4 – 5: Sleep. That’s about all that I can do. I get out of bed a little bit, but I’m primarily confined to the bed. The medicines make me so sleepy. My muscle spasms are still happening so that limits my movement. When the muscles contract, my arms sort of lock up and all I can do is keep them by my sides. I know that Jess was still here helping mom take care of me and waking me up every 4 hours for meds…but honestly…I don’t remember if we watched TV or what. I think we played cards at some point, but I’m not sure if I just dreamed it. She left on Day 4 to head back to AR. I’m sure mom was already missing her company. It’s at this point that I’m getting frustrated with my lack of mobility and the freaking drains are driving me nuts at this point. I have two drains, one in each noob (no boob). They are annoying and in the way.

Day 6: First doc visit. I weathered the ride to the plastic surgeon’s office pretty well. The muscle spasms were still killing me. Between the muscle spasms and the drains, I really don’t have much else to complain about. I’m doing pretty well at this point. My doc changes my dressings, tells me I can start cleaning the incisions each day with peroxide, tells me my drains can come out when I meet certain criteria, and tells me to keep up the muscle relaxers. I finally looked down at my chest. I’m not as shocked as I expected to be. In fact, it’s weird looking, but I apparently was more prepared than I thought. I’m yellow though. I guess all of the tissue is bruised. Knowing that I am close to having the drains removed, mom and I get more and more diligent about monitoring my drains. I can’t tell you how annoying they are.

By the time we get home, my other doctor calls to tell me that my pathology labs came back and all results were benign. So this was, indeed, a preventative surgery! Good news all around. I slept most of this day as well.

Day 7 – 9:  I’m still frustrated by the drains. I have a hard time not sounding grumpy when I talk to people. I don’t want to sound grumpy, so I work really hard these days to smile and monitor my tone. At this point, one drain is ready to come out, but the other isn’t. My mother has her friends praying for “lefty.” I’m now able to basically bathe myself. Nothing like being 32 and having your mom supervise your bath. I’m thankful she can handle all this, but it’s nice that I’m getting my independence back. She still has to wash my hair for me, but at least I can handle everything else with no supervision. We also started setting an alarm so that we ‘strip’ my drains every two hours hoping that we’re encouraging it to heal faster. It’s definitely getting better, but I’m still not ready to call the doc to have them removed. I might lose my mind over it too. It’s over these days that I’m much more comfortable with my incisions. I have no feeling from under my right arm pit all the way across my chest to my left arm pit. You know the way it feels when your mouth is numb from the dentist? Well that’s the way my whole chest feels. I’m not sure when or if I’ll get much of the feeling back. It’s kind of a bizarre feeling though.

Day 10: I’m going to attempt to only take Tylenol today. I’m hoping that the spasms are long gone, and maybe after Shabbat tonight I can get mom to take me somewhere…anywhere…out of this apartment. We’ve been watching movies and are now stripping my left drain every hour. I can tell it wants to get better, but alas it’s still not the color it needs to be. I’m determined to be in my doc’s office Monday so he can take them out. Seriously, life will be so much easier when I have these out. I’ll be able to take a shower, my clothes will fit better and I can stop wearing pjs every day, I’ll be more mobile, I might be able to sleep on my side…sigh…

So that’s the last 10 days! It’s been rough, but it could be so much worse. I’m not complaining about it at all considering that I’m healing faster than most people do. I’m trying to find things to do (within my limits) so I’ve taken up cross stitching. I’m working on something right now, but next week plan to tackle some of the kits that I ordered off of this site called Subversive Cross Stitch. As you can see, I’m feeling more like myself now. Still keepin’ it real, yo.

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