Drain free!

Can you believe I was more excited to share the info about the Relay for Life than I was to share the news that I’m drain free?! Hopefully for the last time ever!

So Dr. H pulled the last drain on Monday. He also said everything looked great, and my follow up is scheduled for one month.

It’s kind of weird to not have to see a doctor next week. Whatever will I do??

Anyway, I’ve been working hard, brainstorming some fundraising ideas. I can’t wait to get started and make some things happen. I’m also in my last full week of school. Final exams are next week. My upcoming holiday break is exciting!!

Hope you’re all doing well!

Nausea, constipation, gas, and insomnia, oh my!

I almost sound like a Pepto Bismal commercial. I’m still feeling pretty good. Still some soreness at my port site and on my ribs at the entry points for the drain tubes. I don’t have pain at my belly or chest incisions.

I’m backed up from the medications, which is incredibly frustrating. And, ironically, I take more medicine for the gas and constipation. Today, nothing seems to be working in that department though. It’s different from the last time because I was in the hospital for the days following the surgery and I didn’t have any bowel movements there, so I guess I’m not doing so bad in the grand scheme of things considering I have had a few BMs since this surgery, they’re just not as frequent as I’d like them to be, so I’m uncomfortable.

Also, just a note, I’ve had very little appetite today. I had a late lunch, ate some fruit, a cupcake, and that was it. I have been eating pretty regularly, but today was a blah day for food, which perhaps is related to the constipation.

Sleep is random. I was having insomnia before, and the only thing that seemed to help the last couple days were the pain meds and the muscle relaxer. But I didn’t take any of those during the day because I really didn’t feel like I needed them…which is good. I did take a pain pill around midnight because of the rib pain. It’s very uncomfortable, and I will be glad when those are pulled. I can’t even feel the one at my waist.

So it’s 2:30 and I can’t sleep. I’m watching more Buffy the Vampire Slayer and listening to Brad snore and slowly going insane…

I’ll update after my post-op appointment with Dr H on Monday.

Final Surgery Recap

And now for a more comprehensive recap of my surgery.

I had it at the same hospital where I had my mastectomy, so I had high hopes. Nothing went wrong, but being an outpatient was a different experience. My pre-surgery nurse was nice, but had no personality and a perma-frown. I tried to get her to talk or smile, no luck. She did interact with me, but she just never smiled. She took my vitals, asked all the right questions, and hooked up my IV. Just very straight and to the point, unlike many of the other nurses and techs I’d come into contact with throughout this journey.

Next I met the anesthesiologist, surgical nurse, and Dr. H. Then the anesthesiology nurse came and gave me chill out drugs, and took me away…while I still had my glasses on and before I could say goodbye to Brad! I don’t remember much else after that. I do vaguely recall moving from one gurney to another in the OR, but that’s it.

I woke up in recovery with a very dry mouth. I was given an anti-nausea patch before the surgery and one of the side effects was dry mouth. It lasted quite some time and I drank my usual post-op cranberry juice and had some ice chips. I tried to eat some crackers so I could take the pain meds, but my mouth was too dry so I stuck with the ice chips.

The pain has been intermittent. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so it’s hard for me to judge exactly what it all feels like.

First off, no more port! So weird. It’s the smallest incision, but it’s the one I feel the most. That’s probably because I still had a lot of numbness in my chest and abdomen from the previous surgery.

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My boobs are smaller (yay!). I’ve gained weight since the previous surgery, and since abdominal fat grows faster than other fats, my boobs gained weight. Plus, my boobs were a little too big for my liking anyway, so I’m glad they are a bit smaller. And, of course, this surgery shaped them up a bit since the flaps were removed. Remember the pic of the softball looking stitches? They are gone!

My chest is a little sore, but what’s weird is the the tube from the drains is so close to the surface. It looks totally crazy.

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The incisions on my breast are just straight lines from my nipple down to my chest on each side. Pretty simple and tame looking. Right now there are steri-strips over those incisions, so once those come off, I’ll share pics. Dr. H fixed about a 10 inch stretch of my abdominal incision where the scar tissue was a little gnarly from him having to reopen it so it would heal from the inside out. That looks neat and clean, but it is also covered steri-strips.

I have three drains, one on each side of my chest and one at my waist. The ones in my chest are not producing much, but the one in my waist is. Last night was 60 ccs, this morning was 30. Each side was less than 10 this morning. I am hoping all will be pulled at my appointment on Monday, but I’ll accept whatever I can get. I certainly don’t want fountain belly again. I did not get a surgical bra or one of those tank tops that hold the drains this time, so I’ve got a sash made out of gauze that the drains are hanging from. It’s quite awkward. Last time, the drains had clips I could clip to my shirt or pants, not this time.

My appetite is fine and I have a good level of energy. I am a bit constipated from all the drugs, so I’ve been taking some kind of fiber pill to help me use the bathroom. I can’t take a shower until the drains are removed, so that’s fun. It’s a good thing I have a shower sprayer with a hose so I can clean from the waist down and wash my hair. I’ll have to use a wash cloth everywhere else. (Insert eye roll here.) I guess there has been an increase in infection related to showering with drains, so Dr. H changed his aftercare instructions. I just want to be healthy, so I’ll do whatever they say!

Not much else to report at the moment, at least nothing I can think of. I’m off work until after Thanksgiving, at which point I hope to be feeling at or close to 100%. It’s hard working with kiddos when you’re not well or don’t have full range of motion. Tomorrow, I’m going to try to go out with Brad for a little bit and do some food shopping. I’m ready to dive back into our healthy eating plan, and I figured I’d use my week off next week to get readjusted to that, even though it is the week of Thanksgiving and it seems dumb to talk about healthy eating and Thanksgiving in the same sentence. But that’s the thing about the plan he and I are following. It’s OK to take a day off or to make mistakes. It’s not going to throw us into a downward spiral of shame. It’s just one day.

So yeah, I think I’ve included everything and if you want to know more, just ask! It’s quite possible that I’ve omitted something or glazed over something else in my medicated stupor over here. You all know I’m not shy, so ask away!

Surgery is over!

All my major cancer-related crap is over! Can I get a “hell yeah?!”

Hell yeah!

My surgery was this morning, everything went well. We went a little smaller on my chest since they were a little too big before. I’m happy with the way that turned out.

Dr. H recreated a nipple on the right side, so that’s both amazing and cool. He also did the wound closure at my abdominal incision, so that looks nice and neat.

I am a bit sore and still running off the hospital anesthesia. I took a Zofran for nausea. I can’t wait to eat real food. I had a Shakeology when I woke up from my nap, it was good and full of nutrition! I think it was just what I needed at the time, chocolate with berries.

Anyway, I’m binging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and patiently awaiting some pizza. I’ll post more about this experience when I’m less loopy.

Coming at you live from my LAST treatment!

I can’t believe it’s been a year already and I’m done!

All is well on the doctor front. I saw all three of my docs today and everything is great. One more month to see the plastic surgeon before we schedule surgery. Also, it looks like I’ll have drains for the flap removal. Boo! And he’ll be straightening things up around the mid-section, so I’ll probably have a drain there, too. So it’ll be a slightly bigger recovery than originally planned, but it’s all good because it’s almost over!!

I’ll have more surgical info after that appointment, and I’ll share it then. Dr JB will also be there for that appointment so she’ll translate whatever Dr H says. Haha.

So good stuff here!! I’m healing and I don’t have to see my oncologist for three months. I asked him what I’m supposed to do now, and he said “live your life.” Haha, what does that even mean anymore?!?

I guess we’ll find out!!

One month

Quick update because life is crazy.

Saw Dr H on Monday. GH is getting smaller, he said everything is looking good and wants to see me again in a month. So I’m slowly graduating to longer and longer gaps between visits, which is nice. It’s likely that at my next appointment, we’ll schedule the surgery. He didn’t say that, but I’m guessing that. He did say again that he wants to wait for the right nipple area to heal, and the skin is still working itself out over there. So hopefully in a month, that’ll be done and we can get moving.

I also saw Dr YB on Monday. All is good there as well. I got my infusion and my shot. Only one more infusion to go! Woohoo! So things are lining up nicely for me to have the port taken out when I have the flaps removed.

I’ve got a backlogged post that I need to put up. It’s something I wrote this past weekend on my whirlwind trip to NY. I didn’t pay for the WiFi on the plane, so I couldn’t post it then. I’ll get it up in the next couple days.

Overall, I feel good! Still having problems with my feet, but that’s the only place I’m sore. Incision and breast don’t hurt, still pretty numb in those places because of the nerves. I feel pretty “normal” though! So nothing to complain about here.

I’ve got a fighter friend who is having her flap DIEP mastectomy tomorrow! Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers over the next few weeks! Best of luck to you, L!

Moving right along…

Yay! So I’m doing well enough that I’m finally graduating to seeing Dr. H every two weeks. It only took three months!

I had my follow up appointment yesterday, I did not need to be drained as I’m still slowly draining out the GH. I really want to share a photo, but it’s so gross looking, so I’m really holding back here. I’ll probably post one eventually.

Anyway, Dr. H said everything still looked good and sent me on my way. Brad came with me to the appointment, as he does whenever he’s off on Mondays, which is how my appointment filled Mondays came to be.

What else is new?? Not much.

I looked at a diagram of the layers of skin, fat, and stuff in the abdomen. I’m kind of wondering if what I see as the back wall of my GH is my stomach muscle, aka my abs, or flabs, as I affectionately call them. It’s kind of fascinating, to be honest. I can actually see layers, I’m just not entirely certain what they all are and I feel like an idiot asking Dr. H.

I’m also excited that I’ve been writing again. Over the weekend, I reviewed something I was working on last year and boom! It was like the floodgates opened and all the words came out. It was quite exciting–it is quite exciting. It’s touches on a tough topic, one that me and many other people I know (and don’t know) struggled with, infertility. I’m eager to get it finished and put it out there!

Umm…ok so non-sterile gauze pads are super hard to find. I need the woven kind, not the sponges. There are random medical supply places that sell them online, but trying to find somewhere local has not been easy. There’s a place in Mt. Pleasant, but that’s sooooo far away. Not really, but traffic sure makes it feel that way. I finally ordered from Amazon, but it’s not Prime shipping eligible, so I’ll see it never. Kidding, maybe Friday, but definitely not tomorrow. Gah, I’m so spoiled by Prime shipping! Brad was able to grab some from me from some criminals operating a medical supply store. I say criminals because they charge like $8 for 50 2×2 gauze pads. I will go through those in less than 3 days. I got 200 at the place in Mt. Pleasant a couple weeks ago for about $4. It’s a shame, really. The cost of medical supplies. I don’t know how people with chronic illnesses do it. Thank goodness for Amazon.

We won first place at trivia Friday night…I missed music trivia the week before, whoops!

Nothing else new to report. Had a cancellation at work today, so I’m hanging out at home, reading and writing, planning world domination. I really want a beach vacation. I had an awesome time at the Outer Banks a few years ago. I’d love to go back. Lots of AirBnB options there.

I’m going to sign off now, I’ll update more when I’ve got more to share. 😊

So that’s what we’re doing now…

I got up yesterday morning and felt pretty good about my appointment. I wasn’t feeling very sloshy in the mid-section, so I thought maybe I wouldn’t need to be drained, that maybe things were working in my favor.

The Dakins solution I’ve been using (the bleach stuff) has been soaking through the bandages and my clothes a little bit. Nothing I haven’t been used to over the last week of me having to pack this wound. So when I got out of the car at the doctor’s office and the waist of my pants was a little wetter than normal, I just shrugged it off, knowing he was going to end up re-dressing it anyway.

So I’m sitting on the bed/chair/bench thing in the office and he comes in, asks how it’s going. I say great. He goes to look at the wound and the gauze is tinged pink, I lamely say that maybe it’s the dye from my dark maroon underwear since the Dakins has been bleaching my clothes. He says he thinks I’m draining.

Nothing really surprises me anymore, so whatever.

I lay back and he peels the stuff off, unpacks the wound and there it is. Like an overflowing manhole during a Charleston flood…the gaping hole on my belly has sprung a leak and is spewing out lymph and whatever the heck else all over the place. I feel a gush of warmth over my belly and legs, lift my head up, see my belly fountain, and just lay my head back down.

There’s nothing in the universe to better describe that moment. Convenient that I found this meme the same day Mount Jennifer erupted.

Needless to say, I didn’t need to be drained. Both sides of my body were draining out of my gaping hole (GH). Fantastic, if you ask me.

Aside from that, things looked good. Dr. H was very apologetic about the fact that I was completely drenched, like it was his fault, which it wasn’t. I mean who the heck knew that was going to happen? I told him it hadn’t been draining like that, because I most certainly would have called, that this was brand new.

So now I’m draining a little bit here and there, which is totally fine by me because that crap needs an exit point! If it drains out my GH, then I won’t need to be needled.

Oncologist was uneventful. I only have two more infusions before I’m done with that. I can’t wait to lose this port. I swear it’s getting closer to the surface, like it’s working itself out. My nurse even commented on it looking close to the surface. Oh well, it won’t be too much longer and then I’ll be having it removed. Ta-ta port who remained unnamed. I can’t believe I never named it…I guess I always thought of it as Pete the Port because that’s what Judie’s port’s name is…

So I’m walking around, packing a washcloth in my pants to sop up any extra drainage so I can continue living my life. I do get a little sore in the mid-section here and there, but it’s tolerable. The washcloth doesn’t get completely saturated, so that’s nice, but at least my clothes are protected. But…awkward…

In other news, Brad and I watched Avengers Infinity War tonight, and now I’m officially caught up on the MCU. Now I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with my life. No idea. I mean, I’ve been living off my Marvel to-do list, now what? WHAT?!

I’m kidding. It’s not like I don’t have work, school, more work, Daisy, A gaping hole in my abdomen, Brad, food…I’ll be ok.

The ugly…

Seems like there’s been quite a bit of that lately. I had my weekly appointment with Dr. H today. He drained ten from my left and seventy from my right. It also hurt! I think I’m getting back some feeling on the sides now. And it was low on the left because…the fluid has been draining out my incision hole! Hooray for that. I mean, I can’t make this stuff up if I tried. But at least I know why there was more than usual discharge this weekend.

So it was an eventful appointment, and I’ll get to the real fun part in a minute. First, he prescribed me an antibiotic. I don’t have an infection that he saw, but he did take cultures to check. I guess it’s a proactive/preventative measure.

Because…

I am now the proud owner of a gaping hole on my belly. Yay!

Yeah, so he cut me open. Thankfully, I still don’t have any feeling in that area so I didn’t feel a thing, except a slight tenderness on the far left side.

The gaping hole, or GH, is about the size of a Kennedy half dollar. Yes, it is basically round. It’s also deep; at least an inch, maybe more. I can’t even describe what it looks like, except that it looks like guts inside. He made me look since I’ll have to pack it twice a day.

So I have this solution stuff that I need to use to wet gauze, wring out the gauze, and stuff it in the GH, one or two pieces. Then I cover it with another piece (and like 12 more on top of that if I don’t want it to leak onto my clothes) and tape it down.

I want to roll my eyes because I am so over this. And there’s nothing I can do at this point, except heal, and it’s taking forever. I wish for magic! Lots and lots of magic. Healing magic.

<<sigh>>

So the GH should heal from the inside out. I guess my incision was healing on the outside, but not on the inside, which is why he cut it open.

Seriously gross stuff. It was almost like being at the dentist, under Novocain, and being able to feel the movement and pressure, and hear stuff, but not feel it. When I saw the scissors come out, I checked out. True story. Not sure I’ll be able to unhear the snipping of my skin, but at least I didn’t feel it.

Anyway, in other news, the scab formerly known as my right nipple has fallen off, so at least my upper half is doing what it’s supposed to do. There’s a little bit of raw skin that’s still healing, but it’s doing pretty well. Nothing to complain about there.

I feel like such a whiner in recent days, but I can’t help it. I feel like this should be the good part of all this, but it’s not. I feel like I should be at least getting to the good part, but I’m not. I’d almost rather be back in the chemo phase because at least then I knew I’d have crap days. And what’s really mind-blowing is that I have a GH in my belly and I feel no pain. It’s just weird. This has all been so weird.

Incision Issues

I posted that pic recently of my lovely incision (sorry) and how well it was healing, blah blah blah. Well, it’s being an a-hole now.

The smaller hole on my left side has been oozing. Sorry, I know that’s gross, but it’s real. My mom says it appears to be normal ooze, but obviously my doctor can make an official determination. It’s yellow in color, and plentiful. I’m going through gauze like it’s nobody’s business.

The hole on my right side, the bigger one that looks the most gnarly, is acting like a perfect gentleman. No issues whatsoever.

So yesterday, I noticed that to the left of the evil hole, there was a bit of a soft spot. You see, the tissue beneath the scar from hip to hip is pretty tough scar tissue. So for there to be a softer spot caught my interest. It had some give, and it felt like the skin was very thin and soft, almost like when you run your finger over a blister. It was also very sore and tender, like how an ingrown hair or pimple feels when you touch it. I just planned to not mess with it since my appointment with Dr. H is on Monday.

Well, this morning I did my usual ointment and gauze routine, and after a little while, I noticed that the soft spot had opened and turned into another hole. Dr. H had told me way back in the beginning that it was likely spots would open back up. So, I don’t know if that’s what this is or what. The other two holes never closed, they just stayed open. Anyway, this new hole is oozing, and the ooze appears the same as the one next to it, except it’s slightly tinged with pink, probably from where the skin tore when it opened.

Anyway, I’m glad I have an appointment tomorrow with Dr. H so I can see for sure if this is normal. It doesn’t appear to be infected, it doesn’t hurt or smell, and I don’t think it’s hot to the touch or anything. It is a little red around the new hole, but is that to be expected? Who knows?

All I can say is that this is so frustrating. It’s times like these when I wish I hadn’t chosen this operation. I want to be 100% already, and it’s so incredibly frustrating that I’m not. I’m not sure what I could have done differently — what I could do differently — to make it better. Every time I ask, I’m told there’s really nothing else I can do, that this stuff just happens.

My body is cancer-free, yet I’m not entirely free because I’m stuck dealing with all these after effects. So close, and yet so far away.

On a happier note, Brad and I are looking into a weekend getaway. Not sure where, just one of our many “someday” list places. We talked about it while we were out wandering today, and decided that we don’t necessarily need to plan a week-long vacation somewhere, we can just plan a weekend. Like San Francisco for example, we can fly out and spend a couple days doing things and be done with it. So we’re keeping our eyes peeled for either someplace nearby, or cheap airfare.

I’m also happy to report that I only have four more Marvel movies to watch until I’m all caught up! 😉