Mobility in Recovery

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.

arms outstretched
No Snow Angels for Me

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.

overhead stretch
Barely Reaching Overhead

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: Science in 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.

Image from http://science.howstuffworks.com

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!

Recovery: Let’s Sleep On It

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.

  1.  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.

      iPhone 6+
                                Put Down Your Phone
  2. 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.

      herbal tea
                      Find What Relaxes You
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Post-Surgery Entertainment: Exploring New Frontiers

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.

earbuds
On the Podcast Bandwagon image via Rob_L. on Flickr

 

Post-Surgery Emotional and Physical Support

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

"Ice Cream Break," 1944
“Ice Cream Break,” 1944
Taken from: http://i-cherski.livejournal.com

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.

compression garments
Mastectomy Pinup Girl?
Compression Finery

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?

IV Bruising
IV Bruising

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.

Healing 9 Days Post Surgery
Healing 9 Days Post Surgery: Chest, Hip, and Liposuction Incision Site

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.