Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A week and a day post-op

It has been one week and one day post-op and I am happy to say that I am feeling well overall!  A biopsy was done on my lymph nodes in surgery, and I am also happy to report that it came back negative!   The surgery was 5 hours long.  I spent 4 hours in recovery, as I watched them try to stabilize my blood pressure which had dropped down to almost 60/40.  I spent 3 days in hospital and went home on Friday.  Since then, my cousin Sheila has been staying with me and I am so grateful to her.  She has cooked and cleaned for me, helped me get dressed and even washed my hair for me!  Love her!  I've had so many visitors since my surgery, both in hospital and at home, as well as many thoughtful gifts, messages through Facebook and my blog, phone calls and texts.  I am surrounded by love all around, there is no doubt in my mind that is what has helped me have such a speedy recovery thus far!

The flowers, cards and cookie bouquet I received while in the hospital.
I have had to return to the hospital twice over the weekend for pain in the sides of my abdomen along with what I thought was fluid buildup in my sides.  I've had the pain since day one after surgery, and I've felt as though it was getting progressively worse.  The doctors were puzzled, as they did not even touch that area, but say that I may have bruising from the bolsters that kept me in place while they worked on my side.  Let's hope that is all it really is.

The surgery I opted for was a skin sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction.  With my mass being 3cm x 2cm in size, I was given the option of a lumpectomy, but knowing that there was only a 50/50 chance that the surgeon would get a clean margin I decided that a mastectomy would be the better choice.  The type of reconstruction that was done was a latissmus dorsi reconstruction.  Here, the plastic surgeon took a portion of my lat dorsi, a muscle in my back, and rotated it to the front to create a pocket for the implant to sit in.  The top portion of the implant is tucked under the chest muscle.  Fat tissue from my back and skin from under my arm were placed overtop the muscle.  I had two drains, one from the breast area and one from the back where the muscle was removed, to collect extra fluid.  Those things were a nuisance to have, and luckily I was able to have one removed before I was discharged from the hospital and the other removed just yesterday at my first post-op appointment.

Yesterday's appointment was unexpectedly an emotional one.  They finally removed my bandages (which was extremely painful, probably the most physically painful part of the entire experience lol).  I have a weak stomach when it comes to stuff like that, and thinking about what I might see was making me light headed and nauseas.  But, when I finally felt ready to step in front of the mirror, I was practically sobbing as my nurse prepared me for what I would see.  It came out of nowhere.  I think that was the moment when I realized that I had literally lost a part of myself.  My body is now that of someone who I do not recognize, not mine, and most importantly not by my choice.

The scarring is not as hideous as I had expected it to be, and what I did not expect was all the bruising.  It looked as if my entire breast was sponge painted with dark purple paint, apparently from the broken blood vessels during the removal of breast tissue during the mastectomy.  I will have a scar that runs from under my arm and up my back towards my shoulder blade, where the muscle was removed.  I have blistering on my back from where the bandages sat, my skin was pretty sensitive to the adhesive.

I have lost feeling in my breast, around my side and part of my back, and in the underside of my upper arm.  It was the strangest sensation as the nurse cleaned up my breast after removing the bandages, it felt like there were a few inches of padding in between my breast and the saline soaked piece of gauze that she used to clean me up with.  The feeling in my upper arm is numb, as if it has permanently fallen asleep.  I have trouble moving that arm.  I am not supposed to lift my elbow any higher than shoulder height, but I can't even move it halfway.  I see improvement in my range of motion each day, though; I am now able to pull my hair back into a ponytail on my own, I can do the dishes and I can get dressed on my own as long as my top is stretchy enough.

I am still trying to get used to moving around.  Getting out of bed can be a challenge, and coughing (which I have been doing a lot of since the surgery) causes pain in my chest muscles.  Breathing is still sometimes shallow.  I went for my first walk outside today, Sheila and I went for a walk down to Osborne Village, hung out at Second Cup and walked back home.  It felt awesome to get out and get some fresh air!  But, the walk was slow and I found it challenging to speak at the same time, slowing down often to catch my breath.

Thank you to everyone for the 100+ messages that I received, the lovely gifts, phone calls, texts and visits.  Thank you to my family who have been there for me every step of the way.  Kuya for driving me to the hospital over the weekend.  Sis-in-law Sheila for being my personal counselor/therapist and nurse.  Joel and Len for the stupid little errands that I needed to be run.  Cousin Sheila for helping me and keeping me company once I got home.  Mom for your awesome cooking and dad for wanting to just be there.  And really, I could go on and on... I'm sorry for everyone who I did not name, I really need to start blogging daily to be able to keep up with my "thank-you's."  Mark for driving me to my appointment yesterday.  Also to those who regularly check up on me, some of you almost daily: Ger, Mary Ann and Vernis.  My boss and co-workers.  Ger and Tita Shelly who also visited me daily while in hospital.  Yah, I can go on and on..

BUT, I definitely must send a big thank you to Dr. Ethel Macintosh, my surgical oncologist, and Dr. Tom Hayakawa, my plastic surgeon, and their team.  Thank you, thank you, thank you... not sure what else to say but "Thank you..."

Counting my blessings.  Well, trying to, at least.  There are too many to count. 

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