Friday, February 26, 2010

I'll Take Mental Stir-Fry for $1,000, Please, Alex.

Well hello, blogosphere! Where have you been? Oh. You've been here all along? Hmm.

It has been four weeks and one day since my surgery, and HOLY CREAMSICLES, if I haven't had a few problems. Shocking, I know, for someone in this family to experience complications. With life.

First of all, part of the incisions in my left breast have separated (wound separation), which is wreaking havoc on my sense of CLOSURE where this surgery is concerned. Okay, bad pun. So I'm nursing one side to get it to heal. This is all a very short and sweet version of what Mrs. Zipps, my BFF, would certainly title, "The Weeks That I Have Had To Yell At Holly About Having Patience Regarding Surgery Recovery; Volumes 1-42."

Second of all, the medication I was given for the nerve damage in my arm from the surgery turned me into about 14 versions of crazy. Two and a half weeks of it from start to finish, which was two days ago. So just yesterday and really more today am I starting to realize that it was, in fact, the med that was making me want to hang glide into the side of a mountain and not some twisted new reality I'd stepped backwards into.

Seriously, I fled my family to stay at a hotel because my life was closing in on me. I ate seven orange scones from Panera Bread in that hotel room. In one evening. That alone should tell you how desperate I was feeling.

Now granted, I do have an overwhelming existence at times with the issues my boys have going on. With one with autism, one with a mood disorder and one with severe ADD, I am more a circus ringmaster at times than a mom; but this was frightening - even for my life. 

Turns out, the med I was on was capable of producing "unusual/sudden changes in mood, thoughts, or behavior including signs of depression, suicidal thoughts/attempts, and thoughts about harming yourself." Really, I just wanted to harm everyone else, but I digress.

So the last few weeks have been a complete blast. Not to mention the fact that I am in the middle of being offered an extremely unique opportunity career/life-wise. So throwing a life-changing decision into the mix has just pushed it all right off the charts.

I believe my mind and mental state are returning to normal (normal for me), though you would have to confirm that with my husband and the Zipps, whom I spend the majority of my waking time with. So here's to making rational life decisions, quick and efficient wound healing, and the love and happiness of all mankind.

Just thought I'd throw that last one in for good measure.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day Eight

Today was a definitive turning point in my surgery recovery. I feel nearly completely back to normal! All in one day. Wow. It's an amazing feeling of relief to be back in my life. Truly. It was fun spending a week high on painkillers in my recliner - I think - from what I can recall - but my real life is so much more interesting and never dull. So glad to be back!

I had an appointment with my surgeon this morning regarding the nerve issue going on in my left arm. Ironically, I woke up this morning and my arm felt significantly better. The pain has decreased almost to nothing, but the numbness is still there and quite bothersome. My dr. reassured me that none of the nerves in my arm where I am having trouble connect anywhere near where he was working during the surgery. So he believes it probably has to do with the way my arm was positioned during the surgery or something to do with the blood pressure cuff - perhaps a nerve was pinched and is trying to heal now. Either way, he believes it is temporary. We shall see.

As a bonus, since I was there, he removed all of my bandages and clipped a few stitches that were sticking out of the skin where my drain tubes were removed earlier this week. All is healing nicely and at this point, the incisions just need to heal and the swelling needs to subside and I'll be as good as new. Woot!

I questioned him about what he thought about using silicone strips along the incisions after they are closed. Basically, these are strips of silicone that are *said* to aid in the healing of scar tissue - making it more flat and less red. He said he'd never seen evidence of any product that helps scars heal better than just letting them heal, and he spent 15 years in the burn unit at Riley Children's Hospital. So the dude knows scars.

He said he'd never had a patient take him up on this: putting the strips on one breast and nothing on the other to see for himself whether they work. Me being me, of course, immediately said, "I'll do it!" That's so right up my alley. I love stuff like that. So we laughed, shook hands, and agreed that once the incisions are closed, I'm going to put the silicone strips on one side and not the other and do our own experiment! I'll keep you posted ...

Mrs. Zipps took me to my doctor appointment, so after that I was so excited to be feeling normal again, we went shopping at Costco. That's right. Not Nordstrom or Macy's. Costco. And we had coupons.

Just livin' the dream, baby. Just livin' the dream.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hey, Did You Cut Your Hair? Lost Some Weight? Get A Chemical Peel?

Well, today I am seven days post-op. I've got sutures - something like 50-60 of them - all over my chest. If you know me IRL (in real life), you know that I've been, let's say, given more than my share in the upper chest area - and last week I had breast reduction surgery. 

Yes! I've been very well-endowed my whole life since adolescence. Always the one with the rack; the big hooters; stacked. One ex-boyfriend would call me "Hollywood" (because I've got the "hills"). That is absolutely true.

My sister and I were both blessed in this area - passed down from our similarly-endowed paternal grandmother. We are both similarly-shaped; I am 5'2" and she is slightly taller than I am. We have both dreamed of having normally-proportioned bodies since we were in junior high.

Around 15 years ago, I tried going through insurance to have the procedure covered, and was denied. I never tried again until this past fall after my sister's insurance company approved to cover it for her. So she had it done in October and here I am now.

Thank you, God! Even just one week out, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

I would just like to say that as swollen as I still am, with stitches all over the place, I am so excited to be even this small - and I'm only going to get smaller as the swelling subsides. It's amazing! I look normal!

You have no idea how your self-esteem and your outlook is skewed when people define you by some physical attribute you have that has nothing to do with your personality or who you are. An attribute that you didn't ask for. An attribute that you would do anything to rid yourself of. Well, on second thought, maybe you do.

It was the first thing people saw. It was the only thing some people remembered. You can't hide big boobs. If you try to, you look frumpy, twice as big as you really are, in a word - huge. If you don't try to hide them, and wear clothes to fit your body, it looks as though you are flaunting them because they make everything too tight. So you're either a frumpy mess or a showy Hooters girl.

Sure, over the years you learn ways to deal with them, but sometimes - like in a bathing suit - there is absolutely nothing you can do but be who you are and watch people just stare. And they do.

It's mortifying. Humiliating. Especially when you are a teenager and don't even know who you are yet. How I was treated and what people said about me because I simply had large breasts very much shaped my feelings about myself and my self-worth.

Beyond the mental and emotional impact - is the physical. My back has hurt every day of my life since I was about 15 years old. In addition to having so much to handle in front, my body also has to deal with the fact that I have scoliosis - curvature of the spine. So my back hurts along the top and shoulders from my chest being so top-heavy, and along the bottom from the scoliosis. It's been so fun being me all these years!

I am so looking forward to being able to buy clothes that fit, feel better, and not stand out in a group of people because my chest is large. I desperately just want to blend in.

The first six days were not as bad as I had anticipated; and here is how they have gone.

Day one. I check into the hospital around 11:30 am after not having eaten or had even a sip of water since midnight. And there is a Starbucks right beside registration at the surgery center. What kind of sick, twisted man in a suit decided that would be a good idea? I decided that someone, somewhere is AN IDIOT.

When we checked in a second time in the area where Sean would be waiting during the surgery, two women working at the desk begin singing the praises of my surgeon - talking about how he is so wonderful and they wouldn't have anyone else work on them, etc. Well, good. I'm so glad that I don't have Edward Scissorhands working on me today. Or some guy without opposable thumbs. This is of great comfort.

When we were taken back to the room, I was given the most adorable pair of thigh-high hose. They were hot. Sean could barely control himself. But the icing on the cake was the anti-embolism contraptions they put on after that which pumped my legs during the surgery to keep the circulation going to prevent blood clots. This and new boobs? Thank. You. Lord. 

My surgeon then came in to draw on me. With a purple marker. He had me sit on the side of the bed while he, very slowly and meticulously, drew where he was going to cut me open. He was very intense and serious. Which made me feel better; because if he had rushed through, stood back and shrugged like, "Good enough!" I might have been a bit concerned. No, he was more like Picasso contemplating his next brush stroke. I kept looking back at Sean and grinning. There was no room for modesty. Or humility. I was being drawn on by one man as my husband stood by and laughed. What world is this?

As I was wheeled into the OR, the table I was going to had a long hose pointed at it blowing warm air onto the bed. So when I got onto it, it was toasty. And the blankets they covered me with were heated. I asked if they could all come home with me and treat me like this every day. They laughed and agreed, but then one of them stuck a needle in my IV and I floated away. That was the last I saw of any of them, so I don't think they're going to follow through on that.

The surgery itself took around three hours, and I was in recovery for a few hours, and then I went home. I was put under general anesthesia, which I do not have any trouble with. So beyond being completely loopy that first evening, I was fine. This was last Thursday.

I was sent home with drains that had to be emptied every four hours. This was no bid deal. They were like little rubber hand grenades attached to tubes that snaked into the bandages under my armpits. The "grenades" would suction out excess blood and whatever else (no idea!) over a period of hours and Sean or my mom would empty them and record the amounts. As soon as the amount coming out in a 24-hour period was less than 25cc per drain, I could have them removed.

So for the first four days or so, all I did was ice my chest, swallow whatever pills they gave me every four hours, get up to use the bathroom, and eat whatever they brought me. And ice my chest. Seriously! I was so doped up, that is all I did. I couldn't focus on reading, so I just sat in the recliner with the tv on, though I really couldn't focus on that, either. It's all pretty much a blur. Did I mention icing my chest?

On Sunday morning (day three), I woke up with my left arm hurting like crazy - as if I'd really, really slept on it wrong. My bicep hurt so badly when I would extend my arm. There was no discoloration, it didn't feel different when it was touched. It just hurt. When I woke up Monday, it hurt even more.

On Tuesday (day 5), the output in my drains was low enough that they could come out. This part I was very afraid of.  Once we arrived (after being sent on a wild goose chase by a receptionist at the hospital) and were in the exam room, the nurse told me to breathe in a few times and breathe out and on the second time, she would pull the drain out. Turns out - I didn't even feel a thing. It was a big nothing. Thank you, God!

By this day, the pain in my arm had begun to weaken the use of my left hand and give it a numbing sensation. Upon telling them about my arm pain, I was prescribed a med for nerve pain. After a bout with major dizziness in the exam room (I had to lie there for awhile to be able to walk again) and a few new bandages over where the drain tubes had been, we left to return home.

I never realized how comfortable I would be sitting in a room with no shirt on until I'd done it so many times in the span of a few days. My mom bought me a Starbucks on the way home, I no longer had tubes coming out of me, and I'd stood upright and even walked a bit. Life was getting better!

Day six was spent in the recliner, doped up, boohooing mostly about my left arm hurting like I couldn't even describe. I watched reality tv all. day. long. Keeping Up With the Kardashians was having some sort of marathon; and then there was High School Reunion. Honest to goodness - I am now hooked. I actually went downstairs for most of the evening when the Zipps brought over dinner and we all had what is a typical evening together.

All of this time, I am keeping ice packs on my chest because the swelling is crazy. I can only describe it as being like when I was nursing. The swelling feels exactly like when I would get very, very engorged and need to nurse or pump (or explode!). Ice packs, ice packs, ice packs.

Today, day seven, is the first day I've been up and around. My arm pain is still pretty bad, and my hand is so weak that I can't do much with it, which is scaring me a bit. Of course I've been searching the internet and finding that nerve damage after surgery is somewhat common. I'm thankful that it's my left hand and not my right, but still - this is not good. I cannot extend my arm out all the way without excruciating pain; and pushing on a certain part of my bicep results in the same pain. I have an appointment tomorrow morning at my surgeon's office to start to figure this out.

As far as the rest goes, I still have bandages only over where there are sutures, but the only suture area that hurts is where the drains were pulled, since they are a few days behind everything else in healing. The sutures are dissolvable, so they will eventually just go away. My greatest complaint right now (besides the arm issue) is the swelling. I have to keep 'em iced to feel okay. So I wonder when the swelling will subside?

I know this is a lot, but I am writing it so someone else searching the internet will, perhaps, benefit from it. I am lucky that I had my sister go through this a few months before me, so I knew a bit about what to expect. If someone stumbles upon this and it helps them, then I'm glad I'm being straightforward about it.

I know some would probably prefer to keep it hush hush and then just reappear looking different. But if you know me, you know that's not me at all. I never try to be anything that I'm not. I'm the first to confess all the hairbrained things I do so that I can laugh with someone else about it. So when you see me again - it's okay to notice! It's okay to say something about my surgery. It's okay.

I had a breast reduction. And it's okay that you know that. I'm excited! This is a good thing!

I will keep you posted on how it's going.