Mastectomy Recovery

Okay, okay, I'll take a break from binge watching TV shows and give an update.  I'm fine, really.  Never been better!  I mean, I'm bruised and sore and I have occasional stabbing pain when I move the wrong way, but mostly I'm fine.  Jeff gave me a judgmental look every time I asked for a pain pill, so I got off those in no time at all.  Now I'm just taking Tylenol once in awhile.  I have one incision on my breast, and it blows my mind that it's not bigger.  My surgeon did point out how tiny her hands are.  Hooray for petite female surgeons!  I have another incision in my armpit from the lymph node dissection.  I'm not supposed to lift my arm above my head, but I don't think I could even if I tried.  Limited range of motion and nerve pain are common side effects.  I start Pink Pilates in a few weeks, so that should help.

I've heard that tissue expanders are always uncomfortable, but I'm hoping mine feels better after it's completely filled with saline.  I miss sleeping on my stomach or on my side.  In a fit of worry, my dad brought his recliner over and put it in my bedroom, so I've been sleeping in his chair every night.

The worst part of recovery is the surgical drains -- plastic tubes running underneath my skin with bulbs at the ends to collect fluid.  Twice a day, I strip the tubes and empty the drainage.  Of course Jeff has a spreadsheet to record the totals.  At first I wore a robe with pockets to hold the drains, but I've found that a waist apron feels more secure.  I'm afraid of accidentally pulling one out.  My waist apron is covered in blood stains, so I look like I'm a waitress at a really frightening restaurant.  When I shower, I have to hold the drains in my bad hand and try to keep all of the incision sites dry.  Needless to say, showering has lost all joy.  I am counting the minutes until all of the drains are gone.  I started with three, and my plastic surgeon removed one last Friday.  Imagine someone pulling a giant spaghetti noodle out of your chest.  Slurp!  Jeff said you could actually see it wiggling down under my skin.  Hopefully I get the other two out in the next couple days.

I now understand why everyone chooses a bilateral mastectomy even when there's no medical reason to do so.  I have one perky expander and one not-so-perky breast.  My surgeon kept throwing around the word "ptosis," but you don't realize how desperately you need a breast lift until you have only one side lifted.  I won't get out the tape measurer, but let's just say it's dramatic.  My body may be busted and lopsided, but at least my eyebrows and eyelashes are back.  I put mascara on for the first time a couple days ago.  God I missed having eyelashes!      

I could wax poetic about my eyelashes for another paragraph, but you're probably wondering about pathology.  I have a copy of the report but haven't discussed it with my oncologist yet.  Negative margins by a whopping 0.1mm!  Sixteen lymph nodes were removed and 9 of those were cancerous.   My surgeon read me the report, but I'm still not sure whether to celebrate or cry hysterically.  

Luckily a friend came to stay with me and provided a nice distraction.  She was supposed to arrive two weeks after my surgery, but then I delayed my surgery by almost two weeks.  Normally when I'm hosting a friend, I welcome them with a two-page itinerary featuring Austin hot spots and hard-to-get dinner reservations.  This time, I scribbled down two lists: TV we should watch and restaurants we should order take-out from.  We did leave the house once to go to a stationery store.  I stood in the Get Well aisle with bloody drains hanging off my waist, reading all of the funny cancer cards. 

I also bought a romantic card for myself from Jeff and hid it in his closet for the next time he's freaking out about having to buy me a card.  My therapist says I spend too much time taking care of everyone else.  Maybe she has a point?