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!

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.

Reconstruction- Shaping Up

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.

girdle
Girdle Up!

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.

Liposuction Bruising
Lipo Bruising- Keeping it Real

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

purple bruising
Pretty in Purple

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.

post surgical bruising
Marked with Sharpie and Bruising

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!

 

Awaiting the Next Surgery

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’m a previvor and I see my glass half-full!