After a few days in the hospital, I am officially home and resting. I will admit that I although I was still in some pain from my first round of grafting in December, I really had blocked just how painful this aspect of my surgery was going to be, but the extreme muscle weakness and pain came flooding back into my mind, the moment my post-opt nurses tried to get me out of bed for the first time. To be completely honest, I am in a LOT of pain and I am moving really slow so far, but at least I am home. At this point there isn’t much that I can do on my own with the compression garments that I have to wear from my chest down to my knees. Ok, to be real, I cannot do anything on my own. My husband has to help me remove my compression garment so I can use the bathroom, I am not allowed to shower or take a bath yet so he has to help me sponge clean and wash my hair, and he literally lifts me into bed and wipes away the pain induced tears that fill my eyes when getting into bed.
As directed I am staying on top of my pain meds and I am resting as much as possible. I was told that my surgery took close 3.5-4 hours and I spent a good few hours in recovery before my family was able to see me. I will admit that this was the very first time, I didn’t have a great experience with my post-opt nurses. In reflecting, I honestly believe they both thought I was there for an elective breast implant surgery, and liposuction because they both seemed to have very little empathy for the pain I was experiencing and were down right abrupt or rude, until a LPN tried to take vitals from the wrong arm, and I mentioned that she couldn’t use that arm because of the lymph nodes that were removed during my mastectomy. The one nurse actually looked down at me and said… so you had breast cancer? I said ‘yes, I was diagnosed last year and I have been going through treatments and surgeries ever since’. Her face went blank in that moment and her whole demeanor changed, even the softness in her voice. She then calmly looked at me and said “but you are so young to have had breast cancer”….I’m glad I only had these nurses (NOT PICTURED) for a short time, and that both of them changed their tune, but the truth is, it shouldn’t have mattered what I was there for, I was in pain, I needed help, and it is part of their job to try to help me. Feeling like I was being stereo-typed during such a difficult time, just made it a lot worse on me and honestly made me fear that there are stereotypes for women who go through breast reconstruction. But in reflecting I’m hoping this was just an oversight on their part and they typically have much more empathy for their patients.
After being moved to my post surgical floor on 1-E, I had the VERY best team of nurses that I could have ever asked for. These Nurses were not only interested in me and my care, but they were also interested in me as a person. They were amazing! As usually my bladder wouldn’t wake up post-surgery complicating my stay and requiring several straight caths, they made even this comfortable for me and helped me to gain the strength needed to actually stand on my own and start moving again, with the help of two nurses and a gate belt that is. My equally amazing surgeon stopped in to chat with me before my surgery, two of the following mornings to take a look at my surgical incisions, and again on my last day she stopped in on her way to another patients surgery just to make sure I was good and ready to go home.
The good news is that she was very pleased with all the progress she made during this round of surgery. She was able to treat, repair and remove scar tissue around my port site, replace my left expander with an implant, nipple reconstruction on the left side, and immediate stretching and implant placement on the right, in addition to fat and tissue grafting from my thighs and lower legs. The most surprising aspect was that I actually woke up with two breasts! I knew this was a possibility, but I did my best not to get my hopes up just in case. In talking to Dr. Timek, there is a possibility that the nipple reconstruction that she did on my left side, could fail based on the damage done to my skin during my 28 round of radiation treatments, however she is watching it quite closely. At this point, I am going to remain optimistic that it will take. She didn’t say what our next steps would be if this fails, but she did elude to the fact that the harder surgeries are behind me.
On the up side, I am going to pat myself on the back and tell you that for the first time ever I have listened to my medical team 100% and spent the entire day in bed. My mom took my sweet baby girl to the other side of the state and I have used the entire to day rest and relax. In fact, other then a few emails and phone conversations with vendors about my passion breast cancer awareness project, as well as a conversation with a women about a project with Spectrum Healthcare, I spent most of the day sleeping and catching up on TV shows that I haven’t watched in months… ok years.
As always, thank you, so, so, much for all of your cards, love, positive thoughts, flowers, prayers and well wishes this week. It would be really hard to face any of this without the support of all of you.