Monthly Archives: August 2011

Strange pains and social outings

The seroma is collecting more fluid but not at a ridiculous rate since I’ve been applying compression. I speculate that activity increases the fluid that collects but I don’t know if that is true or not. I’ll ask the PS tomorrow when he drains it. My FIL is driving me to the appointment so Jeffrey can work. It’s not like he would be able to hold my hand for this procedure. He’d probably just be cowering in the corner trying not to get light headed.

I’m having some interesting pains in the middle of my shoulder blades on my upper back. It a very sore spot that gets worse with pressure and it’s on the same place on each side. They are spots that are about the size of a thumb. I was thinking it was just muscular because of how I was sleeping but since I’ve been sleeping in bed with better posture the sore spots haven’t gone away. I Dr. Googled it and there are some anecdotal reports and a few symptom checklists that discuss nerve pain that can occur in the shoulders and underarms after mastectomy. I’m wondering if it’s nerve endings that were affected by the surgery. I wish I knew more about anatomy and physiology but my knowledge in this area is limited to the face and neck. I would consider going for a massage but then I would have to explain that I just had surgery so she could be sensitive of the area and then I’d have to listen to her talk about her aunt/grandmother/mom who had breast cancer so she knows exactly what I’m going through. I just don’t have the energy for that.

I enjoyed my first social outing last night attending a friend’s graduation party. I went with the flat chested look since the foam pads look silly. I’m considering getting some silicone inserts to help with the transition during plastic surgery but to be honest, I don’t care all that much. I think cancer has made me less vain. For work it might be good though. Since no one knows me I don’t want to start work with no breasts and have them strangely grow to a full C cup by the end of winter break. That might be weird.

This week I hope to have some energy and feel okay enough to accomplish a few things. My next surgery is Friday so I know that I won’t feel good for long. I’m just hoping this surgery will be an easy recovery. It probably will be considering what I’ve gone through the last couple weeks. Friday is the left side oophorectomy and right side tubal ligation. He said the tubal will only add a few minutes to surgery so we’re going to go ahead and do it. I have been having wacky periods and I have a fear that this won’t fix that problem and I’ll have to go in for another surgery. But considering all I’ve been through I’d probably just deal with it rather than do another procedure.

Advertisements

Seroma

So, I knew this was a possibility but now it is a reality. I have a seroma on the right side where the drain was possibly removed prematurely. It isn’t painful but it’s definitely concerning since the skin in that area has a “waterbed” appearance. I can see and feel the fluid slosh around under the skin. TMI?

I caught it in time yesterday that I called the plastic surgeon and he scheduled me to come in on Monday to have it drained. In the meantime I’m supposed to apply compression and warm compresses to 1. keep more fluid from accumulating and 2. help the body reabsorb the fluid. I immediately put back on my Lilly Wrap. This is a huge ace bandage type thing that Dr. Lilly put on after my first surgery. At the PS appointment they told me that this is the “ugly duckling” phase. They said that I can’t do anything to make my “breasts” worse than they are at this point. I can wear a sports bra or not wear anything at all. Of course I chose not to wear anything but that choice may have allowed more fluid to accumulate. I knew that one of the drains was not ready to come out but it was getting infected and was really uncomfortable so the PS pulled it anyway. But, given the choice of leaving the drain in through the weekend and going in for removal Monday OR taking drain out, getting seroma and going in Monday to get it drained I would take the later option. Both involve an uncomfortable office visit but only one involves a very uncomfortable weekend.

I am still tender and sore with limited arm movement but it seems to be getting better. I’m wanting to do more than I am but I have to stop myself so I don’t get hurt. We all know what happens when the mommy isn’t able to take care of everything. No one notices what isn’t getting done except for me. I’m also having some trouble sleeping since I’ve reduced my medication. I’d go in to my regular doc to talk about that but I really can’t schedule another appointment. Just too much going on. And I can’t drive myself.

Drains are out!

All 4 drains are out! Woot!

Jeffrey brought in his excel spreadsheet with a line graph of all drains and their output over the last 10 days. Dr Treece said they all looked ready. I need to watch for swelling, especially on the side that was still having higher output. There is a possibility that I will have to go in to get it drained. But, for now, I feel great! We are going out for lunch.

On Sunday I can start walking for exercise and doing the range of motion exercises for my arms and shoulders. Once I get full movement back and I’m off the narcotics I will be able to drive.

My next appointment is in 3 weeks to get saline fills on the tissue expanders. I think I’m going to ask him about any specials he has going. I heard a lady mention a coupon she had for her Botox and I saw a sign for free microdermabrasion with the purchase of a chemical peel. What do I get with the purchase of made from scratch breasts? That ought to be good for at least a free microdermabrasion.

Drains

I’ve been honest thus far so I guess I’ll keep it going.

These drains. Are fucking. Killing me.

Good news is that 3 of the 4 have reduced output. I wonder if he will take out 3 and leave one? I’m actually seriously considering lying on the fluid measurements so I can get the 4th one out too. I don’t care if I get a seroma an have it go get it drained. I just need it out!

Tomorrow at 10:15 is the appointment. Counting the minutes.

Really, really painful

That trip out of the house was just what I needed. I almost feel like a normal person again. We came home and got a lunch packed for Xander for school tomorrow and got all his paperwork and his backpack ready. First day of 3rd grade!

My drain output is still high. Unless it drops again tomorrow I won’t be getting drains out on Thursday. *sigh*

So, Jeffrey admitted to me yesterday that even though he has witnessed me during an emergency c-section after 10 hours of labor and then during unmedicated childbirth he has never seen me look as awful (sick, miserable, in pain) as I was on last Monday after surgery and into Tuesday morning. I don’t have much memory since I was heavily medicated but it sounds like it was terrible. Really hoping the next surgery goes better.

Housekeeping

My house is gorgeous and clean thanks to my step-mom and grandma! They hired a maid service to come help out today. It definitely needed it and it will be some time still until I can do anything like cleaning.

I’ve been trying to rest more today than yesterday. I was more active than I should have been and ended up with extra drainage and was very sore last night. I probably pushed myself too much. And I promise I didn’t even do that much. I’m just going to keep my activity low in hopes that I can get drains out on Thursday.

Having said that I am planning on going to Amira’s soccer practice tonight for my very first outing. It only lasts 45 minutes and I’m just going to sit in a chair and then sit in the car. The 4-5 year old soccer kids are just so cute I can’t stand missing it. I do have the problem of concealing drain bulbs while going out. They hang around my middle and add quite a bit of bulk that is difficult to conceal. I tried on the foam breast prosthesis from the doctor’s office but they look ridiculous. I’m rather liking the flat chested look. It’s very slimming. But the padding does help detract from the bulk of the drains.

Today is a little better than yesterday but I’m getting really tired of the soreness and feeling achy all the time. I want to be able to do things and I can’t. I have to just sit here. I did sleep in the bed last night for the first time but surrounded myself with pillows. I hear life gets much easier after drains are out. I sure hope so! I’m really uncomfortable.

I forgot to mention in the last post that even though I haven’t left the house I’ve been enjoying visits from friends daily. This has definitely boosted my spirits. Amira loves visits from people too. She loves an audience. Xander isn’t so interested in the people but has been enjoying the meals they provide. I wouldn’t be surprised if that boy puts on a few pounds this week. He’s eating and loving everything.

Jeffrey took the kids today to the movies and then to two book stores and a quick stop by the grocery. Apparently Amira ate her body weight in M&Ms at the movies since mommy wasn’t there to stop her and then they each picked out a new book. Daddy likes to spoil them.

Today was kinda a rough day to start. I woke up stiff and uncomfortable and tired and sad. I’m still taking pain meds but as the pain decreases I’m also taking less meds so it’s kinda the same. I’m moving around okay but trying to hold my shoulders up and back takes effort. I’m allowed to do shoulder shrug and shoulder roll exercises and I’ve been trying to do those. I’m also sick to my stomach a lot during the day so I’m not eating much. I’m not vomiting but just have a vague woozy feeling often. It’s made worse because I have to get up and take a bunch of medication that all give me a yucky tummy. I try to eat something to save my stomach but have a hard time forcing myself to eat. The last two days I have been hungry by dinner and have been able to eat a good portion of protein and vegetables in the evenings. For the morning meds Jeffrey got me some protein shakes today to see if it helps my stomach. I’ll try that tomorrow.

I did have to call the plastic surgeon yesterday because some of my drains got a clog in them right where the tube connects to the bulb so I wasn’t able to clear it. I had a significant decrease in the amount of fluid output so I was afraid it wasn’t draining properly. On Friday night around 9:00 I called the on call plastic surgeon but it wasn’t my guy. He essentially told me to take my pain pill and not worry about it. It also sounded like he was at a bar. He was definitely the cocky kind of plastic surgeon. Saturday morning it seemed worse so I sent a text message to my regular surgeon and he called me back right away. He said I could detach the bulb from the tube and clean it out. The nurse at the hospital insisted that we should never ever try to disassemble the connection so we were afraid to do it. After cleaning everything out I did have trouble getting one of the bulbs to hold suction but I tried drying it off and then the suction held. Problem solved! The left side is having very little drainage now but I think it’s just time for it to decrease anyway. The right side is the cancer side and there was significantly more work done on that side so one of the drains is still quite active. They have to have the output down to less than 30 cc per day in order to get the drains out and 3 are below that number. The 4th drain still has more but maybe the fluid will decrease enough by Thursday that I can get all the drains out. That is my 10 day follow-up appointment and I would love to say goodbye to the drains.

I’m also going to ask for more details at that appointment about how he’s going to take my mutilated looking chest and turn it into breasts. I’ve seen the end result on other people and it looks fabulous but I have no idea how they get from here to there. I know I will need to go in for “fills” on my saline tissue expanders but I don’t know the schedule for that or how many fills I will need before I do the implant surgery. The description of this process sounds kinda comical. I have a port on my saline implants under the skin. I go into the plastic surgeon and he injects more saline to increase the size. So I go into the office a A cup (or maybe AA cup, I don’t know what I am right now, I’ve never been this small) and then come out a cup size bigger. That’s just funny right there.

Tomorrow I am having the babysitter come here to help out with the kids. I’ll still be here but they need an adult to help supervise and get them lunch etc. I’m not quite ready to handle kids all day on my own yet. In the evening is Xander’s soccer practice AND orientation for school. I’m not going to make it to either. There will be too many people and too much standing around. I am setting a goal of going to Amira’s soccer practice on Tuesday evening. Someone can set up a chair for me and I can sit and watch and then go back to the car. I think it will be a good first outing.

Sitting around

I’m trying to think back to the last time I’ve spent this much time sitting around doing nothing. It was a long time ago. I actually had a flash of guilt today that I hadn’t accomplished anything but I know logically that there is nothing I need to be doing. I didn’t take any narcotic pain meds today because I was tired of how they make me feel. I’ve been doing 800 mg ibuprofen and then I may take a percocet for bed. The pain has been okay but since I’m just doing nothing I tried skipping the narcotics so I could actually focus on reading a book instead of sleeping all day. It may be because of the change in meds but I’ve been noticing a different pain today. Of course, it showed up after my visit from the home nurse. It’s a tight, pressure, tingling type of pain in my left underarm. Which is interesting because that was not my cancer side and they did not touch the lymph nodes over there. I have been babying the right side more so maybe I over did it on the left. I woke up last night once with my arm raised higher than it should have been and the night before I pushed up off the recliner with my left hand without realizing it and had searing pain. Or, it could just be that I’m starting to get feeling back more quickly in this side compared to the side that had more work done.

The kids had another fabulous day with their grandparents and I hope that they (the grandparents) pace themselves since I know how exhausting these kids are. They are complete opposite personality types and it’s impossible to please both of them.  Xander is ready for things to go back to normal. Poor kid likes his routines. Amira is ready for anything but is missing her “mommy time”. She is a wiggler and doesn’t sit still for a second and has a tendency to kick people randomly when you think she’s sitting still so we have been keeping her at a distance. I’m afraid I’m going to rupture sutures from a little knee or elbow to the chest. She is missing her “mommy time” and I’ve figured out a way for me to put a pillow on my chest and a pillow on my lap and then she can lay her head there without too much risk. I hope no one takes offense to this but dinner was supplied by Aunt Patty tonight and the pressure is on for the rest of the dinners. Xander said, “Whoever made this meal is the best cook in the whole world!”

I’ve been frustrated mostly by the things that I can’t do for myself and have to ask for help with. I really should have gotten a shorter haircut because I can’t comb my hair or put it up. Jeffrey gave me a frizzy 80’s style side ponytail the whole time I was in the hospital and I was horrified when I saw myself in the mirror right before the very hot resident plastic surgeons came into visit me. When did doctors get so young? They look like babies. I swear they had to have graduated at 16. It couldn’t possibly be that I’m getting older. Other limitations are the result of limited use of my arms. I can get myself a quick snack but we keep all the good snacks up high out of reach of children. I’ve also been using kid cups and bowls because I can’t reach the adult stuff. Frustrating. I wanted some salsa but the huge jar we put the homemade salsa in felt too heavy for me. I’ve also been having hot flashes for some reason. I’ve needed a fan frequently.

My friend Victoria came to visit me today and wrote me the best note that I just have to share. If you are offended by language stop reading but this is just the most awesome note ever.

     This morning I was thinking about that saying “when life gives you lemons…” and I thought, “fuck lemons the world has given Lauren a giant pile of shit”
And in true Lauren fashion I know you’ll continue to compost that shit and grow a beautiful garden.

I love it! And while it’s true that I’m still dealing with a load of shit right now I’m working on composting it. Someday maybe it will be more that just that.

Recovery

This post may be random and could use editing but blame it all on the pain meds.

It’s so nice to be home from the hospital but so challenging as well. There is so much I’m not able to do for myself still let alone take care of the kids. My in-laws took the kids again today to let me rest. Poor Xander is so out of his regular routine and schedule and he’s really frustrated. He is more self-sufficient than his sister though and actually helps out some so he stayed with me yesterday when Jeffrey took Sis to the doctor for her ringworm infection. Yep, that’s all we need right now is an infection in the house but we gotta just keep doing the next thing. Amira had to get a blood draw to check her liver so Daddy took her for ice cream after. I think she was already planning on this because she packed her own sprinkles in her purse for the Dairy Freeze. Such a funny girl!

So, I’m on percocet now at home for pain and those work well. They reduce my pain by about 50% so enough for me to move around but not over do it. I now have strong preferences for pain medication. Here’s the rundown: Vicoden = bad, dilaudid = EVIL, morphine = good, percocet = sleepy and bad dreams but keeps the pain away. I was given dilaudid via IV at the hospital because I wasn’t able to eat anything because of nausea. Well, the dilaudid caused severe nausea and actually wasn’t that great with the pain. I was puking and in pain which was not a good combo. They gave me Zofran with the dilaudid but it didn’t do any good. The nurse would give the injections and then leave the room and I’d immediately need the bucket. Finally, I asked if we could try a different pain medicine. She said she’d have to page a doctor cause it’s the middle of the night. I said I didn’t care, I just needed some different medicine. Once we switched to morphine I was good. The pain was controlled and the nausea started to go away.

This is the stuff I remember at the hospital. There was a lot that went on that I have no memory of. Apparently I’m a pretty bad patient when I’m under anesthesia. I’m demanding and annoying according to Jeffrey. But, he said the nurse was understanding and did a great job anyway. All I remember is the pre-op area and the anesthesiologist getting me really drunk and then I remember a bit in the recovery area. I was in pain and couldn’t find a call button so I removed my pulse oximeter to get someone’s attention. Of course, a nurse came over and scolded me for taking it off and I told her I took it off so I could ask for pain meds. I think she was only slightly amused.

One thing Jeffrey wanted me to write about that was fairly repulsive to both of us occurred in the pre-op room. Dr. Lilly had been by to mark me and then a radiologist came in before the anesthesiologist. The radiologist had to inject something before the surgery so that they could do the sentinel node biopsy to check the lymph nodes for cancer. This sounded pretty normal to me so I wasn’t concerned. But, hell no, it wasn’t that simple. I’m not sure why they had to do this before any kind of anesthesia but the radiologist injected tracer into my nipple. I’ll repeat that for emphasis. He injected radioactive material INTO my NIPPLE. Thankfully the breast nurse was still there and she held my hand for this as Jeffrey was fleeing the room as quickly as possible and there is no doubt they would have had to scoop him up off the floor. Poor guy has been very brave but this was unexpected. It was over quick enough but that was not fun.

At home I have a lot of restrictions but the hardest one is that I can’t raise my elbows above my shoulders. A dear friend/neighbor/cousin stopped by last night to help me shower and that was wonderful. I have 4 drains coming out of the surgical area that need to be emptied at least twice a day. The line need to be stripped and the bulbs emptied and the fluid measured and recorded. So far Jeffrey, his mom, Penny and the home health nurse have helped me do this so I haven’t done it on my own. I also need to change my dressings but I don’t have any leakage there so it’s not too big of a concern. I’m wearing a surgical bra 24 hours a day that holds dressings in place. The nurses and doctors all say that my incision looks great. I haven’t looked yet. Dr. Treece (plastic surgeon) was very pleased when he spoke to Jeffrey that he was able to get a good amount of volume in the tissue expanders. He thought I’d be happy but I keep thinking that’s why my pain level is higher.

Everyday I’m improving but this is going to be a long slow recovery. Thank you to everyone who has sent me notes of encouragement and also those who signed up to bring food. I won’t be cooking for quite awhile so it is much appreciated.