Asking for help has always been hard for me to do. Some say it’s because I’m hard-headed, stubborn and independent. I like to think that it’s because I’m driven, focused and self-sufficient. In the last few weeks however, I’ve found myself in a couple of situations where I was forced to ask for help. I get frustrated when I have to ask because it makes me feel weak. I realize how silly I sound. I also realize that if any one of you were in my position, I’d be telling you the same thing people are telling me. “You need to ask for help.” “There’s no need to be super woman today.” “Why won’t you just let me get that for you?” “You didn’t have to carry all of that in the house; I could have helped you if you’d just waited for me to get here.” Blah Blah Blah – You get the picture.
As you may remember my left side has been the one with the most problems from the beginning of this whole process. It’s the one that had a very large hematoma on it that lasted for about 10-12 weeks. It’s also the one that I had the most issues with when I still had my drains. For whatever reason, my left boob hates me and it is determined to make life hard (pun intended). Someone must have told it that I started physical therapy and that this would be a great time to be a jerk again, because it’s been kicking my ass for two weeks now. It’s so bad this week that I’ve cancelled next week’s fill and changed it to the following week. I’ve spent most evenings in bed with ice on my chest. When my ice packs thaw out, I put them in the freezer and then grab some frozen broccoli. (So warning to anyone that opens my freezer. That might look like perfectly normal frozen broccoli, but it’s been thawed and re- frozen and under my shirt a few times.) I’ve basically turned my whole left side into an expander popsicle because I’ve iced it every chance I’ve had.
In Monday’s physical therapy session my therapist asked if I had anyone around that might be willing to help me with my exercises. (The problem isn’t that people aren’t willing to help….the problem is I don’t ask for it.) So for today’s session, I brought Maren with me. Now, Maren knows that this has been a painful few weeks. She also knows that PT has been rough on me. I’m not sure she was prepared for the crying that occurred today. I know I wasn’t prepared for it.
The therapist first taught her how to hold my left arm while I’m laying on my right side, put her hand on my shoulder-blade and gently move the shoulder around. This particular exercise is what helps me get a little bit of relief from the pain in my arm and shoulder. So, this part wasn’t too bad. She got the hang of it pretty quickly and probably felt a sigh of relief thinking that this was going to be easier than she thought. Exercise number 1? Check.
Next, I had to lie on my back while the therapist started on my left side. At first she just held my arm and then lightly applied pressure on my shoulder. (I’m hurting at this point but not anymore than I had been.) She began working around my left expander. Taking slow motions, with her fingers, she started just under my collar-bone and ever-so-lightly pulled the skin down towards the expander until she gently applied pressure to the expander. She does soft and slow moves until she makes her way all around the expander. This is supposed to help move the connective tissue and relax the muscle.
Now, the way that I just described this makes it sound like it’s relaxing and soothing. In fact, while I was typing that I felt myself relax like you do when you get a soothing massage. In reality, it’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Why?! Because I’m soooooo tight and my muscle doesn’t want to move. And today, as she began to show Maren what she was doing and explain what was going on with the muscle, I heard a pop and I felt something rip.
(Physical Therapy + Breast Reconstruction = Mandy has developed Tourette Syndrome – ‘cuz sometimes all you can do is cry and yell MF)
Immediately I tell her to stop. I started to cry. I lifted up my shirt to see if something was out-of-place or maybe my incision busted open. It was horribly painful. She stopped and got me some Kleenex. We took a minute to chill and let me cry and gain some composure. When I was finally able to breathe again she explained that it was scar tissue that “broke up.” I’m told that this is good…at the moment it was all I could do to not come off the bed swinging. I’m not sure that telling me this is a good thing actually made me feel better. How can that be a good thing? I heard it pop! Ugh! Yuck! Gross! MF!!!
I got myself under control and the pain subsided a little bit. She asked if I was ready to have Maren try. Whaaaa???!!! You can imagine the look on Maren’s face at this point. I asked, “Can she try on my right side and not this one?” I’m pretty sure I saw the color return to Maren’s face when she realized she wouldn’t have to touch that left side. I don’t know what Maren was thinking at the time, but I have a feeling she was working hard to focus and calm her nerves. I’m sure that seeing me cry didn’t boost her confidence.
Maren followed her instructions on the right side and got the hang of it pretty quickly. Then my therapist says she wanted her to move to the left side. We both got a little panicked. I can’t imagine the anxiety she must have felt knowing that this was the side that had just sent me into tears. The therapist had a good point though when she explained that she wanted her to feel comfortable working on the left side and it would help to have her [the therapist] there for guidance before she and I try this outside of the clinic. And of course, in usual Maren fashion, she manned-up, put on her game face and grabbed my left arm to get in position for the exercise. Right before she started, the therapist told her to remember how much pressure she used on the right side and decrease it 10 times because that’s all I can tolerate. I saw the color leave Maren’s face again. No pressure there, Maren. Just decrease that by 10 times, you know how to do that, right?! Geez. I felt bad because I was trying to find my “happy place” so that I didn’t start crying again and therefore I couldn’t really say much to reassure Maren that it was going to be okay. So, I let her practice just long enough to feel more confident with the left side, but at some point had to stop her because I was still in too much pain. Exercise Number 2? Check.
My mother called today’s experience “Extreme bonding.” We both agreed the only thing that would top it is if Maren and I had done colonics together. (I’ll take this kind of bonding over that – ANY DAY. I will not go number 2 in a bucket amongst friends. Sorry peeps, but I have my boundaries.) I’m pretty sure I owe Maren my first-born or at least a lifetime of Starbucks or counseling sessions for the PTSD she’ll have when this is all over. (lol just kidding, M – I promise it won’t be that bad.) It’s not every day that you get to ask someone, “Hey, ummm do you think you would be able to ummm come to my PT appointment and ummmm learn how to mash on my expanders and move my arms while I cry like a baby? I don’t yell and cuss until I get my car, so I won’t completely embarrass you, I promise.” I’m sure she never expected to be asked that question in her life. It’ll definitely go in the books as one of the most personal and awkward things I’ve ever had to ask someone to help me with. But then again, this whole ordeal has been nothing but personal and awkward.
…and I’d like to go on record – I actually asked someone for help.