Oh, what a difference a week makes. And, I think this is the third time in a row I have made that statement. Today marks 3 weeks since my surgery. The transformation and level of healing are simply incredible. I have not one band-aid on my skin. Nothing is stuck to me. Nothing sticking out. Prior to 3 weeks ago I didn’t know enough to be grateful for this feeling, now I know there is nothing like it.
Last Tuesday afternoon was my 2nd post-operative visit and now I won’t go back until Feb when I see the surgeon for the last time. My surgical drains came out at that visit (I was desperate), new dressings on those spots, an additional 48 hour shower restriction (for those counting, I was already at 15 days with no shower) and I got the green light to start driving. Woo-hoo! I was free! Let’s go! Um, straight to bed because I was so tired from spending the afternoon at the doctor’s office. The next day I decided I needed to drive myself to CVS to pick up a prescription. I got no more than a mile up the road when the sweats and shaking started. I was close enough to the store to finish my task but I was quite humbled by the level of fatigue I felt by simply leaving my house and sitting behind the wheel of the car (and I hadn’t even showered yet!). I learned that just because I was allowed do those types of tasks, did not mean that I could do those types of tasks. Good lesson.
I spent the next 3 days or so resting more, gaining more strength and spending more time in the shower than my 12-year-old daughter. The end of last week and this weekend have been a big turn-around. I have been out for lunch with friends, enjoyed a glass or two of wine, gone for a long walk and today ran several errands in a row without needing to come home.
As I progress down this road, I am firmly in the “just accept yourself already” part of the process. I do not consider myself a vain person at all. However, no one wants to worry that they have cause for stares from others in public. I have a flat chest. I have not found ANY padding, insert, etc that looks right, so I have decided not to use any for now. Interestingly enough, no matter how many shirts I angrily throw down on the floor after looking in the mirror, I am not unhappy with the way I look. It is just different. It feels different. It looks different. I am now charged with the task of going through my wardrobe. Every item, essentially, needs to be assessed and sadly, most do not work. In the Great News department, there are many items that were previously too tight (we save those clothes in the back of the closet because of course they will fit again one day) that I now happily throw over my head and stare down amazed that something narrowish can fit around my body without looking too tight or inappropriate. Happily, most of my tanks, running shirts and tee shirts are working…so at least I will be comfy until I have time and energy to replace the others.
One more quick topic before my spoons are gone for the night. Nerves. I was a bit on the cocky side that I was trudging through this recovery with expected levels of incision pain, no problems with healing, infection or complications. When I saw the surgeon he kept asking me “having any zings?” Huh? You know, nerve pain. Zinging pain. Fortunately, I was not experiencing any of the “amputation” possible symptoms. Then, one evening last week it happened. It wasn’t a zing. Zing is too nice. Zing is a lovely flavor in a summer dish. This was like someone decided to stick a pin multiple times into the central, particularly sensitive area of a breast, which I no longer had. Without looking, I would have sworn that my whole breast was intact, and that particular part was there and suddenly very unhappy. Obviously, being a nurse I have known about phantom pain for a very long time (and found it fascinating as well), but until I was desperately pressing on my chest trying to find the area of pain to help rid myself of it, did I realize how powerful it can be. I could not stop myself from pressing all around looking for something that wasn’t there. (for any science geeks like me, the nipple is innervated by the fourth intercostal nerve in the ribs. Not where I was looking for it). The nerve pathways have been interrupted, but they are late to the party, so it takes them a while to realize their path is gone and they need to find a new way. That is why I feel sensation in a body part that is gone. That is why, if I am patient, once they find their way on a new path, all will quiet down. I am very lucky that the “zings” have only happened a couple of times.
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a scene from a few nights ago. Through this process, we try to help our kids appreciate just how many friends, family and neighbors have supported our family. We have kept a running list of people to thank for their help. John asked me to pull it up on the computer and show the kids so they could realize how long the list has become. I started reading the list out loud. My sister who flew here from Philly to be here the days around the surgery; my mom who sat with John at the hospital during the surgery; my father-in-law, who came from Atlanta to stay for a few days while John had to travel, to care for me and the kids; one of my best friends, who flew down from Michigan for a weekend and ended up doing laundry, taking kids to the park and changing my dressings, to about 20 families who have brought food, others who have gone to the store, taken my kids, sent me cards, gifts, told me they love me, are proud of me, help hold me up and cheer me on when I’m not feeling strong, tough or normal. I could not read the list out loud to them without choking up. I am completely overwhelmed with emotion. I have decided I don’t tell any of you often enough how much I feel about you. That will change. Thank you. I love you.
Here’s hoping I will be equally amazed at this week’s progress next time you hear from me. In the meantime, my nerves and I will each be finding our way down our new paths. I hope we both get there quickly and successfully.