Hey! Remember that time I had surgery and then didn’t get on my blog to tell you about it? Yeah, me too. Sorry about that. I’m here now and here’s all that you missed!
I went in for surgery about a week and a half ago, mom took me in early since I was the first surgery scheduled for the day. I got checked in and back to my room pretty quickly. I had great nurses although the IV was put in my least favorite spot. Apparently they call this the “intern” vein. I initially thought that was some medical term, but nope, it’s just the easiest vein to find and poke so all the interns use it.
I think I am unlike most of the population, but I like an IV in the back of my hand. For me it’s the least painful spot and it’s not always getting bent around as I move which is nice. But, no go on that one for this surgery. I had plenty of time to joke around and laugh with my nurses and anesthesiologist before we got started. I made sure everyone had gotten enough sleep the night before and had eaten their Wheaties that morning. They were a fun team. The only bummer I encountered was finding out that I would have to be intubated. For the mastectomies, we were able to use the CPAP machine which does not go down the throat but does go deep into the mouth. That was about a six hour operation and afterwards I had a lot of breathing difficulties for several days. When I told the anesthesiologist about the details, she felt that it was possible that they were at least in part due to using the CPAP for so long. That machine uses a regular, shallow breath the whole time and does not fully expand the lungs like we naturally will do from time to time by taking a deep breath. Apparently not taking those deep breaths can cause the bottom part of the lung to become paralyzed due to lack of use. It takes time for the lung to work normally again. That could be what happened to me. So, in light of my history, I would be getting fully intubated so that she could control the deep breathing and keep my lungs from having difficulties. I understood the reasons, but wasn’t looking forward to it.
My doctor came in a little after 8:00am and marked me for surgery. Lots more marking for this one than for the mastectomies. He explained again the process and told me that he would be checking the thickness of all of my skin and if I didn’t have any thin spots then I wouldn’t get the cadaver skin, but we were planning on needing it so that meant drains, etc. All in all it would be about a four hour surgery which is longer than the standard exchange just in case anyone is reading this getting ready for their own surgery.
Then I got my Versad. It is a lovely, lovely drug I must say. I wish I could remember ANYTHING once it was administered, but it’s clearly good stuff. Here is my wonderful team (my anesthesiologist is the one holding the Versad) as they were getting ready to give it to me. I have no idea what I was doing with my face in this pic, but it’s the best I’ve got. The silver hat is required wear for the patient in the OR, helps to retain body heat.
When I woke up, the nurse said the first thing I asked is if it was over. Luckily it was. Then I immediately asked if I had drains. And the answer was no. Hooray!!!!! Next I asked her if I was squishy. She let me feel and I was. I was definitely the big winner that day. I can’t even explain how good it felt to be squishy after 11 months of tissue expanders. I’m still getting used to it, but it is wonderful. In the midst of all the joy, my throat hurt worse than I have ever had it hurt in my life. My chest didn’t feel good either. I had a hard time keeping my eyes open and mostly just laid like this.
The nurse gave me pills in pudding which was a new experience for me but it worked and I got them down. Pudding was about the only thing I could get down actually so I was glad they let me know that right away. I stayed in recovery at a very low function level with mom for quite a while. A nurse came in and asked if I was ready for visitors. No matter what’s going on, I always am. Four of my friends came in which was awesome. I think I did a decent job of waking up, and apparently I did a lot of talking (shocker) although I don’t remember much at all. It was a nice break from my napping. Here we are:
As soon as they left, I went back to sleep and eventually they told me they were moving me to a room. It was never even discussed to send me home. I went to the third floor which is observation instead of the cancer floor so that was a first. I did have my own room so that was good. They had some custom novelties in the rooms here like instead of a remote to turn the light on, I got this:
Yup, that’s a string tied to the light pull. It was classy. I stayed for two nights. After surgery, my throat hurt so bad that I was unable to sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. It was pretty insane. Finally after getting Vicodin, Dilaudid, and an anti inflammatory all together I thought I got a couple hours of sleep. Nope, turned out to be 40 minutes. It’s bad when the meds that knock you out can’t even keep you down. So I decided to walk a bit. I’m looking super good and made it three doors down before turning around.
But, the mental side was great. I had so many visitors it was amazing and my mom kept saying they really improved my spirits. She said seeing my friends made so much difference in me it was amazing. So for everyone who is afraid to go see people in the hospital, just flipping go. It sucks to be stuck in a room for days at a time. So many people brought me such sweet things, but really it’s just about the people. I was there for three days and I felt very loved. That makes such a difference. Also, if you do want to bring a gift, Chloraseptic spray is a really, really, REALLY awesome thing to bring someone who just had a tube down their throat (thank you again Hallie!). I’m not sure why no one in the hospital thought to get that for me, but it was never offered.
After a couple days, I got to take the compression bra off. When I had the mastectomies I never had anything over the wounds so the anticipation of seeing what had been done was new for me. I was very happy. I was actually amazed at how much improvement there had been in this one operation. He smoothed the underside of all the skin, which I can only imagine involved a good deal of scraping. But the results are so much better. I am not all lumpy bumpy anymore and have very smooth skin. I thought there would be some improvement, but I never imagined that would be gone. The incisions had to be made larger since he took extra skin but they will heal nicely and I’m not too concerned about that. The implants were smaller than I expected them to be, but I think in a good way. The expanders just stuck out so far and these are shaped more naturally. He brought three sizes of implants in to see what would fit the best and I still don’t know what size I ended up getting.
I had my follow up with the surgeon this past Friday and he seemed very happy with everything. I’m feeling good and even went back to a very modified boot camp on Thursday. I am on restriction for 4 weeks with no impact and no lifting over 10 pounds (preferably 5 pounds per hand). He said that I can tear the chest muscle easily and since I have no feeling in my chest it is extra important to be careful.
My next surgery will be to shape the area with fat grafting so I need to focus on losing all this chemo weight and get to a good size. I’m not wasting lipo on areas that I can lose myself. We have to wait at least three months for the incisions to completely heal because those are the areas that will be most affected. So, time to buckle down!