• Reconstructive Surgery – Recovery (Part Three of Three)

    {This is the third post about reconstructive surgery (click for one and two). This post is coming a little late because some good friends flew all the way from California to Texas over the Easter weekend just to see me. Quality time was more important than a blog post, so this is going up a few days later than expected. Thank you for your patience. ~ Meghan}

    After the first 48 hours I recovered quickly. Each day I stayed awake longer and longer.

    I experienced feelings of weakness and my hands shook terribly. After a Google search I realized the weakness and the shaking was a side effect of the pain medicine. I called my doctor and they said I didn’t have to take the pain meds if I didn’t want to. So I didn’t.

    I stopped taking the pain medicine just three days after surgery.

    I started feeling stronger, less shaky, less foggy and more myself as soon as I ditched the pain meds. There was still some pain an achiness but I found that if I took frequent breaks I managed just fine.

    Once I was up and about I started taking the Tamoxifen again. I was ordered to stop taking it two weeks before surgery because the estrogen blocker is known to cause blood clots.

    With the return of the Tamoxifen came the night time hot flashes. I’d forgotten about them until I awoke one night feeling like I’d been lit on fire and left to slow roast on a spit. Being surrounded by pillows made it even worse. The hot flashes have since subsided as my body grew used to the Tamoxifen again, but they were epic while they lasted.

    Every single stitch holding my body together itched as I healed. I was grateful the Monday after surgery when I returned to work. I am very fortunate that I was able to work from home for a week after surgery. Work was a great refuge. It let me focus on something other than my recovery.

    Last week, three weeks after surgery, I was given the go ahead to start walking for exercise. This was an enormous relief. I’ve been twitchy and anxious without exercise. I’m looking forward to getting back into a regular workout routine.

    I still have a drain on my right side. Having to constantly be aware of the drain sucks (ha ha. sucks. . . drain humor. get it? right. never mind.).

    The drain output has to be below 25 mLs per day for two consecutive days before it can come out. I’ve come close to that two days of 25 mL or less. The drain has dropped to 26 mL one day, 20 mL the next but then the output jumped back up to 40 mL on the third day.

    So I wait.

    While the drain is a total nuisance (it catches on stuff, it’s uncomfortable when it shifts, I can’t sleep on my side, etc), I know it’s just doing its job. I’m better off with the fluid outside my body than inside. If the fluid is left inside it becomes a bacteria farm. Besides, I discovered a new and awful word: seroma. Those pictures were enough to convince me the drain can stay in as long as it needs to.

    I find the more I do (i.e. housework, lifting things, carrying things) the higher the drain output. So if I want to have this drain taken out I have to back off. I’m not very good at backing off, but I am trying.

    The physical recovery after reconstructive breast surgery is only part of my overall recovery. The mental recovery is very real, too.

    I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster of grief (missing what I used to look like before cancer), moments of regret and self-doubt (‘maybe I should have gone bigger’ or ‘maybe I should have used silicone instead of saline’), and moments of acceptance (‘relax, you did what was right for you’).

    Looking at myself has gotten easier. The bruising is fading and the incisions are healing. I can see what my body will eventually look like if I give myself time to heal and adjust.

    That first look was hard. As hard as peeking under my hospital gown after the mastectomy. I keep reminding myself of something my counselor told me while I was going through treatment: you won’t always feel this way.

    Every day is one step further away from the mountainous journey that breast cancer treatment implies. I’m down in the foothills of that long road. Like Frodo, though, I came back with scars. Some of the mental ones run very, very deep and I still feel my breath catch when they are bumped.

    There will still be bad days, but there will be good days, too.

    Such is life.




One Responseso far.

  1. mom says:

    I am the mommy and want to take it all away from you so you won’t hurt any more. I really am glad that you are strong. Besides you still have the kids to perk you up. You remember what your counsler said you won’t always feel this way. Love you lots, mom

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