Although I’ve been given the clear to resume normal activities, I’ve found myself doing so with some hesitation. I want to resume kickboxing classes but I fear I lack the mobility to engage properly. I’m not a very flexible person by nature; I have to work at it. Throw in something debilitating (like this surgery) and I’m even worse.
Here I am, lying flat on my yoga mat. A normal person could sweep their hands across the ground, snow angel style, to rest above his or her head. This “t” shape is as outstretched as I can get. My chest muscles won’t let me reach any further.
Reaching directly overhead is not much better, as you can see. Sorry for the crappy quality of the above image, but you can get the gist of what I was trying to portray.
Breast Implant Anatomy 101
I’ve taken the image below from How Stuff Works: Sciencein an article entitled “How Implants Work” by Robert Valdes (2004) so you can see why I’m lacking flexibility. As the image shows, my implant is sub muscular, placing particular stress on the pectoralis major muscle. I don’t have the natural breast tissue shown in the image, thanks to my mastectomy, so the muscle helps hold and smooth out the look of my implant.
The muscle suffered trauma during the surgery since it had to be cut to remove the tissue expanders and get the implant in there and is still adjusting to having a large foreign object placed under it.
Physical Therapy Here I Come
I called my doctor to request physical therapy. I’m rather surprised he did not prescribe it to begin with, but perhaps he thought, given my active nature, that I would be able to work through the issues on my own. I am not comfortable, however, making assumptions on what exercises I should and should not be able to do, nor do I wish to hurt myself trying to accomplish my goals.
I have my consult with the therapist at MD Anderson on Monday. I am lucky in that I met my out of pocket max for this year (thanks to my implant surgery) so my physical therapy should be covered in full.
I’ll keep you posted on how this process goes. I anticipate lots of pain and swearing. But, as the expression goes, no pain, no gain!
Sleeping during recovery is a mixed bag. I’ve struggled with insomnia during my adult life. My insomnia induces anxiety. My anxiety creates more insomnia. Repeat…
I decided to go off my anti-anxiety drugs back in November. Even though I faced all the stress of surgery and recovery, I think this was a good choice for me. I still experienced occasional bouts of insomnia even while on the meds, so the drawbacks of the medicine weren’t worth it. I realize that medicine may be the correct choice for some individuals, but I am a firm believer that lifestyle choices are the better choice for me at this time.
Rest and Recovery in the Healing Process
When I’m just lazing around (typing this blog, for instance), I feel like I’m fully recovered. I loathe the support garments and I feel like I should be able to go out for a run without a second thought. This, however, is fiction. I still need to rest during the day (take my endeavor into folding from yesterday) and I am still under physical restrictions.
Since I want to speed up my healing process, I know that rest is a quintessential part of my routine yet getting a good night’s sleep has proved tricky. Sleeping in my recliner left me waking any time I needed to adjust position, which I had to do frequently because my butt cheek, and sometimes even an entire leg, would fall asleep.
With permission to finally side sleep from my doc last week, I moved to the bed with a great deal of enthusiasm only to find sleep allusive. I decided to stop the sleepless nights and put into practice what I preach by establishing a good bedtime routine.
Sleeping During Recovery: Adults Need Routine, Too
I realize most of this is common sense. You don’t need a degree in psychology to understand the importance of good habits. As adults, we often skimp on sleep due to this or that activity that it seems we can get done only at the end of the day. Throw in a physical condition that makes falling asleep uncomfortable, and you are opening up a whole new set of issues for catching some zzz’s.
After several weeks of stressing about surgery, restlessness of sleeping in a recliner, and trying to adjust to sleeping, once again, with a new set of boobs, larger and firmer than those I was born with strapped to my chest, and I found myself awake until 2am several nights last week. Something had to change.
Here are my suggestions for getting the rest you need.
Put down your phone, damnit.
Set your phone aside at least an hour before bed. I realize your phone may have “night mode” or some nonsense, but staring at a light before bed while soaking up social media or news is not good for settling the mind. Throw politics or work into that mix, and you have a perfect recipe for staying awake for hours.
Find an activity that relaxes you that does not involve technology.
I love a good cup of hot tea before bed. I found a non-caffeinated herbal tea that is touted to help induce sleep.
Take a hot shower or a warm bath.
Listen to some relaxing music.
Put on your favorite pajamas.
Snuggle with a pet or loved one.
Pick up a good book or keep a journal.
I love to read before bed. But, if you do this, make sure you are able to put that book down when it’s time for lights out.
Make sure your bedroom is a relaxing environment.
Dim those lights, set your thermostat to a comfortably cool temperature, and prepare a clutter-free space well before bedtime. Rushing around to clean a space that is supposed to relax you will not help at the end of the day.
Avoid watching tv in bed.
Try melatonin or another sleep aid after discussing your options with your doctor.
I’ve been taking melatonin this week and it seems to be helping. I can’t say whether the positive changes I’ve experienced are due to the melatonin, the deliberate changes to my bedtime routine, or a placebo effect, but I’ll take them. I haven’t felt this rested since my reconstruction surgery.
I hope you find these recommendations helpful in getting a good night’s sleep during recovery. Take control over your routine like you have taken control of your health. Your body will thank you.
As you all know, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. No lifting, pushing, vigorous exercising, or reaching has put a damper on my daily activities. Since I’m fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom of school-aged children, I’ve had a very quiet house from 8-3 each day.
I’ve extinguished most of the series I yearned to watch on Netflix and Hulu and, frankly, I’m just sick of tv. I’m proactive, the stress being on the “active” part of that word. Sitting in front of a tv takes more patience than what it’s worth on most days.
Behind the Times: Jumping on the Podcast Bandwagon
My husband has been listening to podcasts for years, but he spends a great deal of time in the car on his commute and doesn’t have children vying for his attention. Up until these surgeries, I haven’t had the ability to enjoy listening to anything that requires mental attention. Now, I find myself walking instead of running, and able to focus on listening for the first time in what seems like a decade.
Entertainment Roundup: Podcasts I’ve Enjoyed This Week
This American Life is a podcast produced by Chicago Public Media. It’s host, Ira Glass, is an amazing storyteller. The show is a collection of journalistic essays revolving around a themed episode. Occasionally humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking, these stories will have you riveted.
The Minimalist Podcast is a collaboration between Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists. I enjoy listening to their message, and each podcast has a different theme. I recommend you pick and choose your episodes based on a topic that appeals to you. I will give them credit for having passion for their message, but there is a lot of repetition between episodes. As even they have pointed out, you could play a dangerous drinking game with the amount of times they say the phrase “adds value to your life.”
Young House Love Has a Podcast is a spinoff of one of my favorite home decor and renovation blogs. When home blogging became a thing back in the early 2000’s, this was one of the first blogs to which I subscribed. Started in 2007, the Young House Love blog is a product of John and Sherry Petersik; known for their home renovation and DIY projects. In June of 2016, they jumped on the podcast bandwagon and released their first episode. I listened to two podcasts this morning and found I really enjoy the lighthearted discussion and the simple format.
Recovery Entertainment: What’s next?
I’m on the hunt for my next podcast. I’m intrigued by the self-help category; I’ve taken care of my body and now it’s time to take better care of my mind. I’ve heard about the Good Life Project by Jonathan Fields. The Good Life Project website states that the podcast includes interviews with “some of the wisest, most-accomplished teachers, creators and leaders, learning at their feet, then sharing their wisdom.” Call me intrigued.
I’ll let you know my thoughts on that podcast in my next post.
I’m nine days post implant surgery. I’m healing up nicely in spite of the nagging pain under my left breast. Due to this pain, I’ve returned to lazy mode and my laptop. In my research, I stumbled upon a Facebook group mentioned on someone else’s blog and have already fallen in love.
Post surgery: finding emotional support
You need emotional support during recovery. While family and friends are important, they cannot empathize with you. If you want empathy, turn to the Facebook group “My Destiny: Prophylactic Mastectomy.” It’s a closed group, so you have to be approved to join; send a request. From what I’ve seen, this is a great group of ladies.
I’ve already done some responding to others’ questions and asked some advice for myself. For example, how weird is it that there is a spot I can touch on my sternum and then have phantom feeling in my arms? Doesn’t work backwards, though. I can’t touch my arms and feel it in my sternum. It’s a one-way nerve circuit. Weirdo foobs (fake boobs, for those of you not up on the slang). Unless you have been through this process, you have no idea what I mean! Don’t isolate yourself. You aren’t alone.
Finding a sense of community has been fantastic given that I’m stuck at home and don’t want to pester my doctor with non-emergency questions. Protect your mental health during your healing time just as you care for your body.
support under it all…post-surgery fashion
Let’s talk about physical support in the literal sense. Did you know I’m a 1940’s pinup girl wannabe? Truly, if I changed out the fabric for polkadots and curled my hair, I could seriously play the part. Everyone I see comments how good I look. Well, yeah….I’m tucked in like a pig in a blanket. Though, seriously, those bathing suit models had some serious guts to wear a bathing suit cut like that. It’s not a look I would sport, especially given its lack of comfort.
These Maidenform Control Hi-Waist Boyshorts aren’t the most comfortable bottoms nor are they particularly flattering to the thighs (I’ll spare you that image). It’s hard to sit comfortably since they go almost all the way up to the foobs. Then, I have to wear this lovely front-close post-surgical bra because it’s the only thing I’ve found with a wide enough band to be even tolerably comfortable given the under foob pain I’m experiencing. This particular bra is made by YIANNA and retails on Amazon for $18.99.
There are many types of post-surgical bras and compression bottoms out there, if you need them. Your doctor should hook you up with a surgical bra and your insurance should cover it. I wanted an extra so I turned to Amazon because I have a Prime membership and at that price, it couldn’t be beat.
What’s squishy, swollen, and yellow all over?
Yes, me. You guessed right. If you don’t look too closely, you couldn’t tell I ever had surgery. I do look so much better than what I did just two days ago, but I still have some swelling (probably will for several weeks) and lovely bruising. The bruises are fading, though. I bruise really easily, so take my status with that thought in mind. You may heal much faster! Whenever I try to do too much, like I did on Monday and Tuesday of this week, I remind myself that I’m not healed by looking at the back of my right hand; on that hand lies the evidence of my IV. If I can still look this nasty from a simple IV, what must my body look like inside? Yes, that question is rhetorical. I don’t really want to know….
From the outside, my chest, hip, and liposuction scars are healing really well. I only hurt if pressure is applied to any of those areas. Just sitting around, I don’t have any pain. Truly, it’s just the left under-foob pocket that hurts, and even that goes away when I take off the surgical bra. If I could spend all of my time in the shower, I would, since it’s the only way I get to experience the relief of being braless. I can’t wait for that burning pain to go away; it’s not pleasant.
Post-surgery reflection: I’m lucky
Since I joined that Facebook group for Prophylactic Mastectomy, I have a new appreciation for the simplicity of my experience. Not all women have had these surgeries free of complication. These women spoke of infection, necrosis, multiple surgeries, etc. I have been very blessed with my limited pain experience and my textbook healing. My heart goes out to these women. I hope they find strength in the community, just as I hope my voice helps my readers realize that they are also never alone. There is always someone out there who understands. You are never alone.
I am one week post-op today! Yay! I am feeling great but I am still under limitations–doctor’s orders. No driving. No reaching over my head. No lifting. No pushing/pulling (vacuuming/sweeping). I am allowed to walk. So, walk I have been doing. Yesterday I went for three (yes, three) walks. I checked out my step count on my fancy new Garmin yesterday at lunch time and I was already over 13,000 steps.
So, yes, I’m feeling pretty good. I find it difficult to sit still, so walking is the way to go.
What does recovery look like at one week post reconstruction surgery? My chest is still bruised (and, yes, that purple marker is still hanging on). I can tell that I am still retaining fluid; there’s some odd squish going on. So, I’m still not sure what I’m going to look like when this swelling goes down.
My hips are still bruised but they hurt less–just don’t go poking me or anything. Keep in mind that I bruise easily.
I cannot tell if I’m going to notice much of a difference after this swelling goes down. Dr. Hassid indicated that I should be excited but I can’t say I share his enthusiasm; I think I still look like me.
Recovering with the support of friends and family
I am grateful for the friends and family who have been checking up on me. They keep me sane. I’m not one to be happy in my solitude, and not being able to drive in a town that is unfriendly to pedestrians isn’t the best. If you are in my shoes, don’t hesitate to reach out to people; they want to help–let them!
I’m three days post-surgery. I haven’t done a whole lot. In fact, my view is pretty much as it was after my mastectomy. The good news is that I am a lot more comfortable this time around. I don’t have drains to contend with, so I’m a happy girl. I can’t sleep in my bed comfortably, but I’m not miserable either. In fact, I only took Tylenol yesterday and today I haven’t had anything for pain. Whoohoo!
reconstruction recovery: sitting…pretty?
Sure, this is all great, right? Yes, I’m doing okay but if you see me I look a bit like I’ve been in a car accident.
I’m wearing a support garment to keep the fat around my middle springing back into the proper position. I’m not so pretty underneath it. I have my two stitched and bandaged incisions where my surgeon entered through the same scarring that occurred after my hysterectomy surgery, and I have some nasty bruising along my “flanks.” I’m nicely bloated and bruised all at once.
These bruises are on each hip and about 2.5-3in in length. In other words, my kids are sad because they can’t hug me at all. They’re rather silly in that they sit on the floor and hug my knees!
Breast Implants: the big top
Since I’m swollen and bruised it’s hard to tell what I’m going to look like when I’ve healed around my midsection and on my chest. Regarding my top section, I can tell you that my body looks and feels very different from what it did when I had the tissue expanders. My “breasts” feel more like breasts. They don’t feel like I’ve shoved rocks under my chest wall any more. They sit lower on my chest and have a natural slope instead of the half-a-grapefruit look. This change is due to the teardrop shape of the implant. I rather liked my porn star cleavage of the tissue expanders simply because I’d never had any real shape to me before surgery . I have to adjust to what I look like again. As long as the fat grafting takes around the top edge of my bust, my chest should maintain its natural look and you shouldn’t be able to see the edge of the implant.
recovery look ahead
I am not one to dwell in my recovery limitations. I asked, even before this surgery, when I’d be able to start running again. Apparently my surgeon thinks I’m hilarious; it’s going to be a while. In the meantime, I’m dreaming of family pictures in March. We haven’t had professional pictures done in years and I think this is the perfect year to document how far we have come as a family. I am in recovery, but I am so excited for each day of a healthy future!
I had my last surgery yesterday…well, my last until I may need my implants replaced someday (they aren’t made to last forever). As I previously wrote in “Pre-Surgery Nesting Part 2,” my nerves were not fun this time. I have to say, my nerves were totally unfounded. So far, this recovery isn’t bad at all.
Why the Nerves?
My mastectomy and tissue expander surgery was long and painful enough to include a spinal block. You can read about that procedure here. So I had a good reason to be fearful. I dreaded recovery and what that would mean in terms of comfort during sleep and general pain.
When we arrived at the hospital yesterday, I was ushered back to the prep room in no time at all. My awesome plastic surgeon, Dr. Hassid, was already there when I walked into the room, so he took out his awesome surgical Sharpie and marked me up. After that, the nurse came in to take my vitals and asked for a urine sample for a pregnancy test, which gave me a good laugh when I told her I’d had a hysterectomy so we could skip that step. Then, they hooked me up with a nice warming blanket. This wasn’t just a warm blanket, but it was hooked up to a heater; it was the bomb diggity.
After a visit with the anesthesiologist I handed my glasses over to my husband and was led by the nurse into the OR. I’ve never walked into the operating room. For my hysterectomy, I was wheeled in and was out before I rounded the nurses’ station. For my mastectomy, I had a spinal block and was out as the nurses held me in prep for that procedure. This was the first time I had consciously walked into the OR, had to climb onto the table, and wait for anesthesia. I have to say that I was shaking! My head knew there was no reason to worry but my body had other ideas! Luckily, it didn’t take long for the anesthesiologist to come in and get the happy juice growing.
out of surgery
I was in and out of surgery in what seemed like no time. This was an outpatient procedure, after all. I saw the clock in the OR at 7:25am. I was home (a half-hour drive later) by 11:45am.
I came home wearing a granny bra of the utmost finery stuffed with gauze and wearing a girdle help abdominal swelling from where I had liposuction along my flanks to round out the tops of my implants. So, in short, I was back in my sexy post-surgical finery. Other than the tightness of the girdle and the bruise on my hand from the IV, I’m doing quite well. I have to remind myself to take it easy. I’m not in much pain at all.
I’m headed to see the doc this afternoon for my post-surgery follow-up. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes, but I’m expecting a good report! As always, if you have any questions on what it’s like being a previvor, feel free to comment!
Happy New Year! Yes, I know we are well into January, but I haven’t written a post in quite some time so wishing you a blessed New Year seems appropriate. I’ve started this year with a focus on accomplishing a to-do list a mile long in preparation for my implant surgery. First on this list: run my half marathon on Sunday! I’ve been training for this race since my plastic surgeon gave me the “go” after my mastectomy/tissue expander surgery at the very end of October. I’m ready. I’m not going to be fast, but I’m going to do it! In fact, my friend Fern and I picked up our race packets today. We are stoked!
Happy Home Life: Productivity at its finest
In addition to running and recovery, I have taken advantage of my time off work this year to make the most of family time. The past few months have looked something like this:
December and early January were full of cookie decorating, acting as party mom for my son’s holiday party, attempting to organize my son’s Lego collection (note the “attempt”…it’s still not done), and even endeavoring to paint furniture and finish painting my master bedroom. Heck, I even did a little research on YouTube and learned how to caulk baseboards! We also enjoyed a trip back home for Christmas (note the snow and the pic with my BFF in the bottom right–we had a great trip!) and took my daughter to the symphony for a Christmas present!
I’m really excited to have crossed off so many of my goals for this time. Sometimes just sitting back and making the most of a less-than-ideal situation is the best you can do. I’ve taken my recovery and used it to gain a happy home life.
mastectomy implant surgery: 11 days away
I’m nervous about my surgery. I’m sure I’ll have great results, but I would be crazy not to feel some apprehension about going under the knife again. I’m looking at an outpatient surgery followed by a minimum six week recovery. For four of those six weeks I have to wear a post-surgical compression bra and a girdle! The doc will be performing some liposuction to add a bit of cushion and a more natural feel to my implants. The girdle is to help prevent water retention and support the loose skin. I hope I can move. Life will not be pleasant, but like this first round, I’ll get through it.
I haven’t posted in quite some time and the reasons for that are numerous. My main excuse is that I’ve been feeling good! My mastectomy/reconstruction was eleven weeks ago! This fall has really flown by in spite of my lack of routine during recovery. In general, I’ve been enjoying my good health, especially now that I’m able to sleep comfortably on my side (praise the Lord!).
To celebrate surviving the fall and my husband’s 36th birthday all in one, we took a weekend getaway. We were able to sleep in and enjoy each other’s company; we even spent half a day hiking, which is something I never thought I’d be doing this soon after a mastectomy! I loved every minute…well, except watching my alma matter lose a football game. That did stink.
The travels didn’t stop with the weekend getaway. My family spent the week leading up to Thanksgiving at Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, Orlando. We had a blast. I was able to do all the coasters without shoulder harnesses and didn’t experience any pain! The kids were troopers, and we had a fantastic time spending the trip with our extended family (special thanks to my father-in-law, Dave, who spoils his grandkids by taking us!). I’m only now recovering from these vacations, surrounded by multitudes of laundry, but it’s all good!
I’m continuing my recovery process by resuming healthy eating habits (I made some kick butt, from scratch, chicken and rice soup) and getting back at my half-marathon training. I want to go into my January surgery in the best of health, so I’m trying not to dig myself into an unhealthy hole.
In spite of the challenges I faced this fall, I can say that it has turned out to be one of my favorites on record. I have so much for which to be thankful!
I slept much better last night…and in my own bed! Yahoo! It’s the little things, people.
I’m in a lull until I meet with my plastic surgeon next Wednesday to determine when my next surgery will be, so I’m feeling better but still can’t lift or do a whole lot. What does that mean? Crafting and reading, of course.
Yesterday night I had the lovely opportunity to get together with some of the teachers from my school and craft, combining two of the things I love best! All of the other teachers painted wood turkeys to hang in their homes for the holiday, and I painted an awareness ribbon! It was funny that this social event materialized, because I had asked my friend who owns her own business if I could buy a blank wood awareness ribbon last week and, and here I was, blessed with the opportunity to not only procure my ribbon but to paint it in good company! If have to say, it looks fabulous on my front door (ignore the dirty door).
This morning, after a good night’s sleep (hallelujah!), I took a walk with my awesome hubby and our crazy dog. I got in 4mi in some nice cool weather (“cold” front, yippee!!!). About 2 miles in to the walk I found this lying in the street:
How funny is that? It’s a pin, so, I’m sure someone lost it off a shirt or bag. Of course, I had to keep it.
In other news, I started a healthy living/eating challenge on Facebook and was surprised when so many of my friends wanted to join. I’ve created a simple Google Docs food diary and am tracking what I eat. If I have to write down what I put in my mouth, I’m make much healthier choices. I have a desperation to get back into my pre-surgery clothes, especially my jeans! I’m really tired of always wearing athletic wear, no matter how comfy it may be. I’m hoping for good results. My goal is to lose 5lbs from around my middle as that’s what I put on since August. I think I can do it! I am the Proactive Previvor, after all. If I can tackle these surgeries, I can tackle anything!!!!