Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today: 0.00 miles; Running Total: 165.62 miles)
Day 207 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.
Hi everyone. This is Meghan. I’m back!
It’s a little strange. I know a week has gone by but it only feels like a couple of days. The last week has just been a blur.
The relief of having surgery behind me is enormous (is there a bigger word than enormous? Gargantuan? Colossal? Monstrous? I don’t know, you pick one). I still can’t believe it’s over.
Thank you to Tina for filling in for me in my absence, to her husband Tyler for helping with the administration of the website and to Tammy for her beautiful guest post about her step-father.
My words run dry but my gratitude runs deep.
I feel bad that I was heavily drugged and slept through most of Tina’s visit. For the time I was lucid she was an amazing caretaker, letting me do as I wanted and helping when I (finally) asked for it.
So a week later, here’s the status:
[WARNING: Some graphic content below.]
Sleeping sitting up is a pain in the ass, but I do sleep thanks to a combination of Tylenol 3 and Valium.
I’ve been relying on my left hand, my stupid hand, to do most everything because my right arm is still, as my mom would say, “useless as tits on a bull”.
Have you ever tried opening a pill bottle with one weak arm? It’s the ultimate catch 22. You need the pain medicine to bear the pressure of pressing down and twisting to unlock the top, but you can’t get to the pain medicine because it’s inside the bottle you can’t open.
I have managed it a few times but I usually just hand the bottle to someone else and look pitiful until they open it for me.
I’m still pretty sore. I don’t feel much in the skin on my breast. A little tingling but that’s it. Plenty of muscle soreness though. That’s from the tissue expander beneath the muscle – a muscle that has gotten used to being flat for 35 years and is now being forced to bend into a different shape.
My right breast (what remains of it) looks like a deflated balloon with a five inch seam glued shut across the middle.
The first time I looked beneath my hospital gown and saw my breast I stopped breathing. At the time I was either too shocked or too drugged to cry (probably both), but it took a long time to work up the courage to look again.
Crying came later when I showed Justin and then again when I finally got to take a shower. And maybe several times after that when sitting at the kitchen table with Tina who just rubbed my neck and made soothing noises.
A week later? I still don’t like it. I’m not sure I’ll ever like it. But I’ll learn to live with it. What choice do I have? What’s done is done.
All I can do is try to keep in mind that this is only the first phase of reconstruction.
My right arm is gaining more functionality every day. I can stretch it (gently) now without pain (though I’m always waiting for the pain to return).
Sitting up and getting out of bed has gotten easier with each day too. I had no idea how often I used the muscles in my arm and side until I couldn’t use them anymore. This makes me think I should have done more core strength training prior to surgery. Strong abdominals would have been very handy this week.
I still need pain medicine during the day. I have muscles spasms around the tissue expander but they are becoming more bearable.
I left the hospital with two drainage tubes in my right side, not-so-creatively labeled #1 and #2.
(I would have preferred something more memorable like Mork and Mindy, or Sonny and Cher. Maybe Siegfried and Roy. But #1 and #2 is what I got. Which leads me to believe I’m a total weirdo and my gallows humor puts me in the minority of breast cancer patients.)
A quick lesson on the purpose of the drains:
The drains collect fluid that would otherwise collect under my skin while my body is healing. This fluid is like what collects under the skin when you get a blister. It has to be drained off because it’s a petri dish primed for an infection (the last damn thing I need).
The hospital staff said the drains had to be stripped (more on that in a minute), drained and the resulting fluid measured twice a day. Once the drains produce less than 33 mL of fluid per day for two days in a row they can come out.
Some thoughts on stripping the lines:
Having a nurse strip the lines for the first time after surgery was one of those fun hospital experiences you hope to never repeat and are likely to have nightmares over for the rest of your life.
The nurse pinched the line at the top near my skin so the drainage tube wouldn’t move, then with her other hand she pinched the tube with an alcohol swab and squeezed the fluid down the length of the tube pushing all the fluid into the bulb at the bottom.
A simple operation but I almost flew out of the bed when she did it.
The post-stripping vacuum effect at the top of the drainage tube felt like I’d been impaled by a large gauge needle.
And, I was to find out, I had the dubious pleasure of doing this twice a day for several weeks.
A week later I’m happy to report that stripping the drainage lines doesn’t hurt anymore. I barely even feel it now.
In fact, good news! My doctor removed one of the drains!
Only three days after surgery Drain #1 wasn’t producing much fluid. It dropped from 56 mL to 15 mL in one day, then stayed at 9 mL for two more days.
I was scared to death that #1 was clogged. I’d been warned this could happen. I had visions of having to go back into surgery and starting all over.
I called my doctor’s office and they made me an appointment for today. The doctor took one look at #1 and said, “Yep, it’s time for it to go.”
“Wait, are you sure?” Now that the reality of removing the drain was upon me I totally wanted to back out. I thought for sure the removal would hurt. I mean, everything else has hurt. Why not this, too?
I had visions of three feet of tubing coiled throughout the inside of my breast about to be yanked out like a snake from a drainage pipe.
As though she could read my thoughts she said, “This isn’t going to be as bad as you think.”
I said, “Okay.”
I thought, I don’t believe you.
I closed my eyes while she snipped the sutures. She told me “Take a deep breath” (I don’t think I breathed at all), there was a quick pinch and – BAM – “All done,” she said.
I opened my eyes and blinked at her.
“Yup,” she said, smiling. “Really.”
I was so happy afterwards I wanted to skip down the hall. Except skipping is still a tad out of reach. I settled for a fast shuffle instead.
But I grinned all the way to the elevator.
So that’s it.
I’m stiff and sore and badly want to move faster than a shuffle but I’m trying to take it easy. I’m mostly succeeding. My days consist of eating then going back to bed.
My mother-in-law is here with me this week and Mindy arrives Friday. I’m getting a little better each day, so hopefully by the time Mindy gets here I’ll be in better shape than what poor Tina had to deal with.
Today’s silver lining: One drain out, one to go.
I have a new found respect and sympathy for anyone who has had a double mastectomy. A single mastectomy is bloody well hard enough.
Two… I can only imagine.
What’s your silver lining today? I love comments!
Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share? Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.