Sunday, January 24, 2010

we can rebuild her (part 3 - pains, drains and automobiles)

Yea, I know, I'm a little behind on posting about my surgical recovery. I've been totally unmotivated and honestly- in pain.

I spent 2 nights in the hospital, and I wasn't discharged until well after lunch on the 3rd day, so there was a lot of time for quiet recovery before I came home to my husband, a 3 year old, a dog, and my mom who traveled 1200 miles to help take care of all of us. I knew (kinda) what to expect recovery-wise from going through a double mastectomy 16 months ago, but this surgery was much more painful. Maybe because I did 2 major surgeries at once??? Surprisingly, there was minimal pain from the laporoscopic procedure of having my ovaries and Fallopian tubes removed. I have 3 incisions from that- a big one in my belly button and two smaller ones on each side of my lower abdomen. Each abdominal incision was simply glued shut- not sutured. Interesting......

The pain I had in my chest went from sore discomfort, to throbbing, to stabbing white knuckle pain. It constantly moved from my back, to sides, to front. I was taking Percocet every 6 hours 24/7, and it just barely took the edge off. It was truly some of the most intense localized pain that I have ever experienced. And I have been through some serious pain.

In case you forgot (or are new to my blog) I'll give you a quick recap about my previous mastectomy and this tissue expander procedure. August 29, 2008, I had a radical double mastectomy where my surgeon took 100% of my breast skin and tissue. I had a small amount of muscle spared, but I was left with an extremely concave chest (or pigeon chest as my doctor calls it). January 11, 2010, I began my breast reconstruction. My plastic surgeon made incisions through part of the mastectomy incision scars and then separated my pectoral muscle from my ribcage. He then made a pocket for an implantable tissue expander on each side. The expanders are like super fancy silicone balloons, they go in deflated and then over time, my surgeon will inject saline through a valve beneath the skin. The saline will slowly inflate the balloon and stretch the muscle and skin. Once I am happy with the volume, the expanders will come out and new, permanent silicone implants will go in.

Allright- back to my pain. I came home on a Wednesday, and spent the first few days resting in bed and moving about the house when I felt I could. At some moments I couldn't move, the pain was so severe. I'd clench my fist and my hand would turn white. Then minutes later, the pain would be gone. By Sunday I was feeling slightly better. My mood was better, my mobility was better...things were improving. I also had 2 surgical drains to deal with, one on each side which look like grenades with tubes that go into my sides. Three times I day I'd have to empty the drains and measure the output. Sleeping was a nightmare. I had horrid back pain and muscle spasms from my body trying to figure out what was going on. I started taking Valium at night time to help my muscles relax.

On Monday, my mom flew home, and I went to see my surgeon for a post-op follow up and to have my surgical drains removed. Unfortunately, when my surgeon saw my drainage output records, he was forced to send me home. The drains were not ready to be removed. NOOOOOO!!!!!!! And since he only sees patients in the office on Mondays and Fridays, I'd have to wait 4 more days to have these things taken out! And wouldn't you know- after I left his office that Monday, my drains hardly had any output for the remainder of the week. Figures.

From Monday until Friday I kept trying to keep a positive attitude. There were definitely some tears shed out of frustration, but every day kept getting better. I still had some general discomfort and pain through most of the day and night, but I had to stop taking the Percocet so I could start driving again. My mom was not there anymore to chauffeur us around, Mike was back at work and it was up to me to start up our regular routine...or at least be able to drive Lilly to/from preschool (which thank goodness is LITERALLY in our backyard).

Friday finally came. Lilly went to school, we came home and had lunch, and then hit the road for my 2nd follow up appointment. Lilly insisted on bringing an entourage of toys and dolls to occupy her at the appointment. My surgeon is insanely busy, and the wait tends to be on the long side, so I go prepared. Lilly and I spent almost an hour drawing, including this masterpiece:
Yea, I went to Art School, and I have mad doodle pad skillz ..... pictured is Dr. Bob (my breast surgeon, not my plastic surgeon, go figure), Lilly -walking our dog Caesar, a fishbowl, a swaddled baby and me.

Anyway, I finally got called back to the exam room, got checked out, and everything looks good. First my sutures came out- and believe it or not- I actually felt a pinch in some spots! That means I may be getting some sensation back. Then the incisions were immediately covered with stero-strips. Yea- like 16 of them. Then...the drains. The drains are sutured to the skin, so they first have to be cut and then pulled out- which SUCKS. Lilly thought it was so cool to watch. She ACTUALLY counted alongside the nurse and watched everything. Oh- I may have a Doogie Howser on my hands.

It is such a sense of freedom to be rid of those drains. Sure, it's great that they help prevent infection and get that nasty fluid out of me, but man are they gross. Unfortunatley, the left drain site got a little irritated and was turning red. It hurt- bad, but wasn't infected so that's good. I also got to take off my surgical bra. That thing was big- it zippered up the front and had 2 separate sets of hooks in the back. It was covered in iodine, sweat, bloody drain splatter and 11 days worth of who knows what.

I got to take a shower, which was heavenly. No bra, bandages, drains, tubing or anything in my way. Well, I still had to steer clear of my drain holes which are kinda oozy, and a chest covered with stero-strips, a belly button glued together and 2 abdominal incisions- other than that it was great.

Tomorrow- the reconstruction process will move to the next phase. I go for my first saline fill. I'm excited to document this experience over then next few months. I expect it will take about 8 saline fills over 16 weeks to get to a B cup. Math is not my strong point so I may a little off there.

Coming up next: Fill 'Er Up!!!

1 comment:

Daria said...

Those drains are nasty ... I'll never forget them ... especially when they pull them out ... eek!