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.