Drains and Pains

A little update…tomorrow I have an appointment with my plastic surgeon, so I’ll probably have more news then, but venting is cathartic, so here comes random stuff.

I’m over these drains. Over them. I’d kill to be able to lay on my side, even if only for five minutes. My butt is over all this supine nonsense. They’re still putting out about 30-40 CCs a day each, so I’m doubting they’ll be removed tomorrow. Yay. I can’t remember the magic number from my doc, and the web ranges anywhere from 30-50 in a 24 hour period. So my hopes are not up for removal. The most frustrating deal with the drains is accommodating them. I have to be able to clip them or tuck them somewhere. It’s annoying.

I’m taking pain meds less frequently, so I’m starting to feel more soreness in my chest and tummy. It’s more of a discomfort than anything else.

And it looks like the part of my tummy incision we’ve been watching, the spot where Dr H said I’m most likely going to have necrosis, seems to be living up to the hype. I honestly can’t tell all that well because the incision still has the suture tape over it, but it is peeling a little bit in some spots, and from what I can tell from peeking underneath the tape in that specific spot, is that there’s necrotic looking stuff happening. And that’s about as technical as I can get, since I literally have no idea what I’m talking about. I happened to Google images for “necrosis” and “tummy tuck” (which I don’t recommend ever doing, ever) so I’d have an idea of what to look for, and basically it’s a break in the incision, like an open cut, and there’s yellowing of the tissue. If you don’t heed my warning and do Google the aforementioned terms, I swear on all that is holy (hole-y, get it, har har), my stomach does not look like that. The spot I can see is about an inch worth of the incision, if that, and like a millimeter wide. It’s like a dash, not a gaping hole the size of Rhode Island.

Anywhoo, all signs point to no swimming for me when I go on vacation in a couple weeks. Or when I step out in the backyard… Totally sucks, but whatever. I can dip my feet in and I guess that’ll do for now.

So I’m a little whiny and mopey because I feel like this will never, ever end. Then I read an article on my local news app that a news anchor and a photojournalist from a Greenville County news station were on route to do a story in NC when a tree fell on their vehicle and killed them both. Sort of puts things in perspective. I survived, you know? This is just the bumpy road back to my normal.

Thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those two individuals.

Oops.

I’m pretty sure I have a pulled muscle in my lower back. I consulted Dr. Google with my symptoms and the location, and it makes sense. It’s tender in certain positions, but particularly when I take deep breaths. So there’s a muscle in your lower back that works with your diaphragm, and it can be pulled or strained.

This doesn’t surprise me considering some of the odd ways I’ve had to maneuver to get myself up and down, laying and sitting, shimmying and scooting…all while trying not to put too much pressure on my upper arms and abs.

And of course, I’m probably doing more than I should in general, but I feel good so it’s hard to not try a little more when I think I can. Despite what anyone says, there’s no rule book for recovery. Everyone is different, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. I was told to listen to my body, and I have been. I didn’t pull a muscle running a 10k, I probably did it doing something simple, something we all take for granted when we’re healthy and operating at full capacity.

Anyway, needless to say I’m taking a step back and trying to not be as mobile as I’ve been, which is so incredibly frustrating because the walking is fine. I’m good at it even. But unfortunately the getting up and down and readjustment of positions is sometimes a problem. I just hope the increased sitting doesn’t hurt my posture, because I was doing great with that!!

(Did you check out the new title and banner?? Progress!!)

Cupping & Needling

I’m all sorts of out of order here, but I just found a picture in my phone and remembered that I wanted to talk about it here.

One of the things the PT did during my visits was cupping. Google it if you want more info, because I am absolutely not going to provide a technical description.

Basically there are these cup-shaped things they put on your problem areas, areas with cording, scar tissue, etc. There’s a little tool that sucks the air out so that the cups stick to you. They either leave the cup in place, or move it around like a massage.

This is one result of that.

Looks like a hickey, right? Or what I’d imagine my arm would look like with the vacuum hose attached for a while.

The first time I had this done, ouch! What she was trying to break up was tiiiiight, so it hurt something fierce. The second and third time, not so bad. And it definitely broke up some of that scar tissue in my right under arm, so that’s cool.

During my last visit to the PT before I had surgery, she did needling as well. They use a small acupuncture needle to do like a quick jab into the corded tissue, and it helps break it up. She compared it to a rope, so if the scar tissue was a rope pulled tight, then the needle goes in, it unravels the rope. Simple enough concept.

Anyway, the needling were all small pricks, and one definitely hit a nerve that made my finger twitch (all of the needling was happening in my under arm). I felt it much more later that evening, like a dull ache.

Plastics Post-Op

I went to see Dr. H on Monday for my post-op. He said everything is looking very good.

He removed the upper drains (yay!), and left the lower. I have another appointment next week and those will probably come out then. They’re still putting out enough gunk to keep them around a bit longer, which is fine by me because they weren’t hurting me the way the chest drains were.

My right nipple needs to get it’s act together. It was super dark in the hospital, like almost blue-black, and it has since lightened, significantly actually, due to me applying lotion to it on the regular. Apparently that’s not uncommon. The left nipple is a little blistered, but again not unusual. That one gets some ointment. So I’d like for them to go back to normal, any day now. That’d be great. 👍🏻

The tummy incision is doing fine. There’s a spot in the center that is likely to experience necrosis. Again, not unusual. Apparently when the skin and tissue is pulled super tight like that, it’s possible that there will be an interruption to blood flow, causing some tissue to die. So basically if it dies, they’ll take care of the wound (removing nasty tissue), pack it, and just keep taking care of it until it heals. He said that whole process may be a month. But we’ll watch and see what happens because the only thing I know with certainty is that anything can happen.

I felt a slight pinch when the drain was pulled out on my right side, otherwise I honestly barely felt it. I was also still on the cycle of pain meds, so there’s that. I felt nothing on my left side. Didn’t even feel weird. Wounds were covered with a bandaid. No big deal.

Kind of bummed about the possible necrosis going on around my gut because my already slim chance of being able to hit the pool when I go to Florida just got slimmer. So boo on that, but I’m alive and cancer free, so that’s pretty cool, too.

I think that’s about it as far as updates go. I can’t think of anything that’s occurred over the last couple days that’s worthy of mentioning.

Oh, there is just one small thing.

That small little chart is of my bowel movements since being released from the hospital last Sunday. Holy medications, people! Needless to say, I’m working on softening that stool on a regular basis.

I will say one thing though. Before cancer, I prided myself on my regularity. I’d eat, poop, eat, poop, etc. Then chemo happened, and I never thought I’d see a solid crap again. Then after chemo things started to get tougher (consistency, not physical strain), but still not exactly solid. But now…things are solid. This is noteworthy stuff right here. It might not be occurring as often as we’d like, but it’s occurring!

Work for strong, not for skinny.

When I’m bored, or when the app icon has a little red notification tag, I go Pinterest hopping.

I have to admit, it’s given me tons of great ideas over the years. Some I’ve tried, some I’d like to try, some I never will try, but are there for wishful thinking.

Like everyone else, I’ve got boards for food, home, sayings, etc. I have a Breast Cancer board with random tattoo ideas, words of wisdom, and miscellaneous ideas. I’ve also got a Fit Inspiration board I filled with lots of inspirational words for me to reflect on and to motivate me when I don’t want to lift my middle finger, let alone a dumbbell.

Anyway, I was scrolling today and saw this one and immediately pinned it.

Work for strong. Not skinny.

In retrospect, when I started doing Beachbody back in March, I had skinny on my mind. It wasn’t the entire pie, but it was a respectably sized piece.

But now, as I sit here in recovery, I realize that regardless of my mindset at the time, my results were more strong than skinny, and that has made the real difference.

Am I dead lifting one week post op? Heck no. But am I pacing the house, going for walks, getting up and down by myself? Heck yeah!

If I had achieved skinny, but not strong, I probably wouldn’t have the energy to rise and shine every morning (or afternoon after a much needed nap!).

So I guess my point is that exercise doesn’t have to be about getting skinny. It’s about being fit and healthy and having all the right kinds of energy. It’s being able to use the bathroom independently post-surgery. It’s about so much more than a number on the scale.

If you want to chat about what I did to get strong, and what I’ll be returning to as soon as I can, let me know!

Officially Cancer Free! Like for real, this time.

I may have jumped the gun in announcing that I was cancer free back in January.

It was the initial thought after the lumpectomy, that whatever cancer was left after the chemo, was removed during the lumpectomy. But when the pathology cane back for that, the margins weren’t great, so it was assumed some was left behind. Not a big deal since the mastectomy was in the works anyway.

Fast forward to today, when I saw Dr JB and got the results of the mastectomy pathology, and now we know it’s really gone! There was even more left behind from the lumpectomy than they’d initially assumed, but that was completely removed and the margins were great.

So hooray! I can officially say I’m cancer free! ❤️

Feels good.

Do I have a new belly button?

Never thought I’d ever ask that question.

There’s a nice, upside down view of my new belly button. Pardon the wrinkles on my tum from my clothes and blankets.

I knew it was a possibility with the flap that I’d have to get a new one, since the skin gets pulled so snugly together over the tummy. So my previous belly button, or B.B. 1.0, was lost in the process.

I noticed B.B. 2.0 when I was checking myself out, but wasn’t sure if it was new, or if the stitching was just part of the procedure. So I asked.

It’ll be interesting to see how real it looks once it’s healed.

Advice: Fit for Surgery

Whenever you feel well enough, exercise. This was a huge help for me before my mastectomy. I finished chemo in January and started to feel human in February. In March, I started exercising and eating well again. It may not seem worth it to exercise for such a short time (I had about 6 weeks between feeling good and my surgery), but it has made a huge difference.

Squats are fantastic because that’s how you’re going to want to sit down/lower yourself onto a chair or the toilet.

Overall leg strength is also so important because you can’t use your arms except for some no pressure balancing. You’re going to want your abs to be strong, even though they’re going to feel sore. They’re probably not actually sore though, it’s just the belly skin pulled tightly. You’ll need your abs to shimmy into position when you can’t use your arms, and you’ll need them to sit up, lay back, and gain balance.

Of course you can do these things with assistance, but you are eventually going to have to do it alone, and that’s a good thing, as long as you’re not pushing yourself with too much, too fast. But if you’re anything like me, you’re going to want your independence back ASAP.

Listen to your body, but don’t be afraid. I was terrified to sit up because I thought my gut was going to come out. It’s irrational, but the thought was there. That’s the kind of afraid you don’t need to be. Your gut isn’t going to fall out. Not even when you cough.

Don’t over do it, but don’t be afraid to try.

And of course, the sequence of your treatment or your physical condition may not allow for exercise. You may feel like garbage all the time, or you may have your surgery immediately, with no time to prepare. You may not be able to or even want to do it the way I was able to, but if you can even just squeeze in some walks or squats or lunges, you’ll thank yourself later, trust me!

Drains

I feel like the drains are a significant enough piece of post-op that they deserve their own post, even though I may have already shared some of this info.

The tubes go in at each side of my belly incision, they’re sort of fastened into place. There are also two more that go into the underside of each breast.

At the hospital, the nurses and techs were emptying them periodically, but at home I do it twice a day: am and pm. The output has to be less than 20 ccs total per day, I think, to have the drains removed. I need to check the papers to be sure. It may be 10 ccs. Regardless, I’m not at either number yet. Some do put out less than others, but the lower belly ones put out more, which apparently is normal.

I have a camisole I got from the hospital that has pockets on the inside that the drains fit into. It has a Velcro closure up the front. It’s not too bad to wear, and I like how things are properly stowed away.

That’s the inside left side of the camisole. Two bulbs fit on each side.

The liquid gunk that goes into the drains does not smell. Thank God. Because I’d die if it did. I’d be the biggest barfing baby in all the land. Brad, too.

We went to Kohl’s today so I could check out some comfy shirt dresses, and we stopped for lunch. Well, at some point one of the tubes popped off the bulb and a little oozed on my shirt. Brad was pale. I kept my cool, however, because that happened a few times while I was in the hospital. That one is just a little looser than the others. Short of them actually falling out, which seems impossible, I can’t really do anything wrong with them.

But seriously, the drains aren’t as gross or as bad as I’d imagined they would be. There is some soreness where the tubes go in, but I’m learning how to not aggravate those sites when I move.

This is an upside down view of the drain that’s on the left side (my left) of my abdomen. To the right of the white circle is the incision that stretches straight across my tummy. At the other end is another tube. This tube in the picture is the most active one out of the four. The red color of the tube is the actual color of the drainage coming out. You’re welcome.

It’s getting better every hour. No lie. I’m getting up and sitting down with little resistance from my body. I’m trying to take it easy, while continuing to get/keep my blood flowing.

I’m telling you, working my legs and abs so hard before the surgery was probably the smartest thing I could have done. I have no ab or leg soreness and I’m using the heck out of them! I’d probably be in bed a lot more if I hadn’t worked those muscles so well.

I’m home!

When I met with Dr H yesterday, he said if I was still looking good, I’d be able to go home today. When he came by to do rounds today, I was walking the halls, and he cleared me to leave after a shower.

I showered, had lunch, and got some pain meds for the road. Brad packed up all my goodies, and we were off!

The ride home wasn’t bad. Bumps didn’t feel all that great, but Brad was careful. I’m still taking oral pain killers and muscle relaxers. I’m wearing sleep pants, but they’re pulled up above my tummy incision so they don’t rub. I’m probably going to buy some casual shirt dresses since I won’t have to pull them down/up when I use the bathroom. Kohl’s has quite a few, and I’ll try to head that way sometime this week.

What else?

Taking a shower was nice, and the warm water on my sore back felt heavenly. I almost want to take another shower just for that yummy feeling. I do have a heating pad though. My back is sore around the bra line, and it’s definitely from hunching/slouching, which is to be expected considering my tummy skin has been pulled super tight.

Other nuisances include gas, my belly is so full of gas. It has been dissipating, but I’d love for it to just all together disappear.

The drains aren’t really annoying or gross since they’re mostly out of sight inside this camisole from the hospital. It has inside pockets that hold the bulbs. However, where the upper one on my left side goes into my chest hurts more often than any other part of me. It feels totally weird, too, because there’s a tube below my skin. It’s a decent size, too. Bizarre. Can’t wait for them to be taken out, which will probably be at my follow-up appointment with Dr H.

My chest is very bruised, but I still can’t really feel anything on the surface. It’s also got some phantom itches going on.

I’m currently chilling out in the recliner, and getting up every so often so I don’t get stiff and I keep my blood flowing. I’m also occasionally pumping my legs. Daisy sat on my lap for a few minutes, and stayed away from my incision. She missed me for sure.

That’s pretty much all I have for now. In another post, I’ll share some of the things I think may be helping me along the way, during post-op and with overall recovery.