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!

Gray hairs and stripped skin

I remembered what I wanted to complain about on Friday!

My hair is growing in. It’s thick and fluffy and will be back to aggravating me in no time. Well, it’s already aggravating me because my stupid gray hairs are growing back in. Give me a freaking break!? Ugh. Anyway, that’s one of the things I wanted to mention but forgot about.

The second thing is that I am literally pulling my skin off with this stupid tape every day. I stuff my wound with gauze, then tape a gauze pad (or seven, since I’m draining there, too) on top. I try to put the tape in a different place each time so I’m not ripping it off the same skin ever time I change it. I’m running out of skin! Sometimes it even bleeds. This crap hurts. And it’s weird because I don’t have feeling on my skin above the incision line, so I can’t feel it. I can only see that my skin is super red and sometimes bleeding. Below the incision line, I feel, and I don’t like it at all!

Ohhh! And since I hate shaving my legs, I’ll add that it’s quite annoying to have my leg hair growing again.

In other news, it looks like gaping hole is getting smaller. It’s getting harder to stuff the gauze in there. It’s still totally there, though.

Tomorrow will be a better day…

Thinking positively here…

My fever has gone. I’ve spent the entire day in bed, reading and now watching The Incredible Hulk (getting closer to my Marvel goal!!).

I have eaten a bunch of junk today, with the exception of some grapes. Actually, I had a sunflower butter and strawberry jelly sandwich on whole grain bread, which was healthier than the Moonpies and chips.

I have been managing the aches with Tylenol and ibuprofen. It’s working a little, so is the rest. I’m pretty sore at the site on my right side where Dr. H stuck the drain needle yesterday. There’s a lot of squeezing involved in the draining, to manipulate the fluid to the needle. I don’t usually feel it, but since I’m slowly regaining feeling on the sides, it’s starting to get sore. It’s not terrible though. My lower abdomen is pretty sore on the surface, all around. I just hope I don’t regain full feeling any time soon because that is not going to be fun with a GH in my belly! Ouch.

Funny story: I was laying in bed and Daisy was laying on Brad’s pillow, Sam was laying by the front door. A ridiculously loud burst of thunder came out of nowhere and shook the house. Daisy jumped up and off the pillow, and Sam took off across the house. It was pretty funny.

Anyway, tomorrow will be a better day!

Fever

I fell asleep early last night. I felt very achey and exhausted, so I passed out. I checked my temperature, and I didn’t have a fever, but I had taken some Tylenol for the aches.

I woke up several times throughout the night to use the bathroom. I swear, it was like I had drank a swimming pool full of water. One of those times I checked my temp and it was 100.5. Yikes! Might not seem high, but for someone whose temperature is usually “normal” around 97, it’s kind of high. I was so hot, but so cold. Achey…traditional fever stuff.

It was kind of weird since I hadn’t had a fever before I was gutted yesterday. I took my second dose of antibiotics this morning and no Tylenol, and the fever went down. It’s around 99 now, but at least it’s going in the right direction and the antibiotic is doing its job.

I was going to take a pic this morning, but dear lord it looks nasty. It’s just very raw and red and yellow…thank goodness for antibiotics.

I’m also pretty sore around the incision area. I called out of work today, which I hate, but I knew I’d be useless with a fever and body aches. I’m trying to spend the day in bed so I’m not putting pressure on my tummy area. It just hurts to get up and down, up and down.

Oh, and the solution I use on the gauze before putting it in the hole smells like bleach. Why? Because it is bleach…I give up trying to understand some of the weird stuff I’m told to do.

Anyway, I’m just laying around and reading. I’ll probably nap again here soon, but it’s hard to get comfy on my back when I’m not completely exhausted, so we’ll see how this works.

Wish me luck for tomorrow! I hope it’s a better day.

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! 😉

Caution: Incision Photo Ahead

Yeah, so I’m just warning you, it’s a little bit gross. I’m including this adorable picture of Daisy from the Fourth of July so that it will be the preview picture, rather than my busted gut, in case anyone doesn’t want to see it. I don’t want to just toss it in your face (unless you’re my sister, Tracy, in which case I live to gross you out!). Actually, before I show my busted gut, I’ll share a modest image of my flap.

It kind of looks like a baseball from this angle, which is sort of appropriate considering baseball is on nearly 24/7 in my house.

Ok, so the flap (my belly skin) is the part in the middle, inside the circle of stitches. The far left and far right (other sides of the stitch scars) is my actual breast skin. The next surgery I have, the one in September-ish, will take that flap out and re-join the breast skin. There will be a cleaner scar line there once that is complete, right down the middle.

Just to reiterate, that flap is there because it’s connected to the fat tissue they transplanted from my belly. When they transplant the fat and flap, they connect blood vessels and hope it takes. If it doesn’t, the tissue will not survive. It’s done that way so that, through the flap, they can monitor whether the fat tissue underneath is still alive. If the flap begins to show signs of necrosis, then it’s likely the fat tissue inside is dying as well.

Enough about that! On to the nasty…

So here it goes…keep in mind that even though it looks nasty, it is healing well and actually looks “good” in the eyes of the surgeons, and my live-in nurse, aka Mom. Often these types of incisions can’t handle the pressure of being pulled so tightly together, so they pop open, hence the gaping holes. Then they’ll heal from the inside out. So inside the holes, they are healing, and the yellowish stuff that’s there is sort of like a scab, it’s just moist because it’s inside and not drying out like a scab would do on the outside.

Also, pardon the irritation above and below. My skin is super sensitive as it is, and me swapping out bandaids every so often isn’t helping it one bit. I’m actually supposed to leave it uncovered, or covered with Vaseline on it, but Vaseline gets on everything and leaving it uncovered just feels like I’m asking for an infection.

So that’s what I’ve been dealing with for the last two months. Ignore the blood on the left side…I thought I was pulling off a piece of dead skin and clearly I was not. I’m such a picker, and I can’t leave well enough alone.

Anyway, it’s not as bad as it looks. Truly. It’s healing quite well, and hopefully will be completely closed very soon! I’m kind of glad the scab fell off because, believe it or not, it looked worse with the scab! Yuck.

And, for the record, it does not hurt. It looks like it should, but it doesn’t. Not one bit. The nerves in that area were knocked out of commission during the surgery and have yet to fully heal back. I am slowly regaining feelings around the surgical areas (breast and tummy), but it’ll probably be a while before it’s 100%. Which is fine by me, because I don’t want to know what that feels like!

Draining, draining, draining…

Dr H took out about 90 CCs on Monday (took me long enough to post, sorry!). It was less than before, which is good, and not as uncomfortable, which is great! He is probably going to have to keep draining me, but we’ll just take it one week at a time. I asked it there was anything I could do aside from thinking dry thoughts (I need to stop making jokes there, they don’t know what to do with me), and he said there was nothing, he just should have left a drain in, but he knew I was going on vacation…ehh, I would have kept it if I had to, but this (needle draining) is getting easier.

Everything else is looking good. My tummy incision is moving right along. Two parts are slightly gaping open, so I hold them together with butterfly bandaids. It is healing from the inside out, which is weird, but whatever. The scab finally came off, which is actually kind of nice because the incision site looks cleaner, despite the fact it’s an open hole. My right nipple is scabbed and slowly healing (aka preparing to fall off), but it’s doing what it’s supposed to do as well.

I asked about my next surgery (removal of the flaps and nipple reconstruction) and Dr H is thinking roughly September. I lost some skin around the right nipple area, so he wants to make sure it’s fully healed first. So it’ll be a little longer than the original three month wait. This is a good thing though, because I should be able to have the port removed at the same time, since my infusions will definitely be done by September. That’ll knock one surgery off my list! Yay. It’s hard to believe I’ve had three surgeries in the past year. It’s hard to believe a lot of the past year!!

Non-medical update…Brad and I had a nice Fourth of July with his family and some friends. I had too many Lime-A-Ritas, but I think their effects finally wore off after I had McDonalds for lunch. I needed the grease! Well, I probably needed water more…but whatever. Lime-A-Ritas! Yum.

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.

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!