7.11.2015

One Month Post Op

Yes, I'm going to be like a new mom again, one who posts updates of her babies daily for the first week, then weekly up to "four weeks old", then does the monthly photos and updates until "24 months old" (not 2 years), then yearly.  Why?  Because when I search the internet, these are the things I look for.  How was someone doing each week immediately following surgery?  What is it like and what changes happen as the months go by?  If I want to know, surely someone out there wants to know too.  Think of me as your What to Expect When You're Expecting Healing mama. So here you go, here's what life is like for me one month post op.

Sleeping


I put this one first because its my biggest pet peeve right now.  I mean its 3:30 am and here I am, wide awake and writing.  I WANT TO SLEEP NORMALLY AGAIN.  There, its out there into the universe.  Lets hope the universe responds kindly.  Seriously though, here we are, four weeks out, and I'm still having to sleep on my back.  I'm not a back sleeper, at all.  I find myself tossing and turning all night because I just can't get comfortable.  Even with pillows...they just make me hot.  I've been given permission to slightly lean to the side, propping my breast with a soft pillow so that nothing firm will press on the Alloderm and in turn weaken it, but that's not doing it for me either.  In the beginning I was sleeping just fine due to the medications.  But now, medicine free, I sleep for maybe five hours and then I'm wide awake.  Luckily, there's a whole other side of the world awake on Twitter.

By Andr.V.S. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)],
via Wikimedia Commons

Breasts


You would think this would have been number one on my list, but seriously, if you knew how much I loved sleep, you'd understand. At one month post op, everyone pretty much assumes I'm back to normal activity, living life as before and beyond the pain.  Clearing all that up for you now, I'm not.  Am I happy?  Yes!  Am I healing?  Yes!  Am I grateful?  Yes!  But reality is, there's still a lot I'm going through with my new breasts.  Yes, they are pretty flawless, they are damaged breast tissue free and they look darn good in my summer dresses, but we are still having a love-hate relationship.


  • Nipples- They feel like the painful nipples of a newly breast feeding mother.  If anything or anyone touches them...  Even my bra gliding against them the wrong way sends hair raising sensations down my spine.  Yes, yes, I'm told by my nurse and surgeon that this is a good thing, as it means sensation is coming back, but WOW!

  • Implants- At this stage, they are so much softer than they were the first couple weeks.  I can grab them and gently squeeze them...molding them to my grip.  I say that because I imagined having these stiff mounds on my chest that wouldn't move.  However, there are two scenarios that are strange to feel and I'm still getting used to.  1) putting my arms at my sides.  While my breasts are by no means huge, it feels strange to feel the edges of my breasts when I put my arms at my sides...and they don't move out of the way.  2) when I've been lying down for a while and then get up, the weight of everything shifts with gravity which causes me to grab my breasts and hold them for a minute...letting everything settle.  The good news is that my surgeon told me they'll never "pop out" of place if I bend over or reach for something quickly.  He knows me well...me and my irrational thoughts.

  • Muscles- I'm not what you would call a fitness buff.  I don't really like working out.  I go in cycles, getting really into some exercise routine and then...nothing.  Let's just say the 'nothing' phase has lasted longer than it should.  That being said, my muscles at the top and sides of my breasts feel like someone just made me do 50 push-ups and then told me not to stretch.  Feel it?  They are pretty sore and tight.  Because they are tight, my range of motion is not great, so when I suddenly reach for something or try to go back to my normal daily routines, OUCH!  You can still forget those repetitive motions at this point, which, by the way, includes shaving my legs.  That causes pain for me.  

  • Cording- Ok, so this is new to me.  I'm not sure if I have it yet, but in speaking with my nurse, we're keeping an eye on the possibility.  Cording is, in the lovely words of nurse Denise, "scar tissue or bands that form after a mastectomy. You are usually able to see and feel the rope-like band starting from the axillary area or right near it. It can extend to the elbow along the inner arm and cause pain or discomfort when trying to stretch the arm. Typically physical therapy is required to “break” the bands up. You might look into a physical therapist that specializes in or is familiar with post-mastectomy patients."  Let's hope this is not what I'm experiencing, and I'll bypass it, but I think its important for others to know its a possibility.  Here's a video demonstrating what cording looks like.

  • Scars- There is a light at the end of this tunnel.  My surgical tape finally came off today in the shower.   My incisions look amazing, thanks to the precision of my microsurgeon Dr. Chrysopoulo!  They are clean, they are light pink and they are doing beautifully.  I also got permission to start applying InviCible cream to them to start the scar healing process.  I'm supposed to be massaging the scar so that it will hopefully soften up as well as lay nicely in the skin, not protrude out.  There is zero pain where my scars are, but I think that's due to being mostly numb on the underside of my breasts.

  • Sensation- at this point, not a lot has changed from when I described them in How Do They Feel? 


By J.C. Stadler and Piercy Roberts After Adam Buck (Scanned by H. Churchyard)
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Exercises


About two to three weeks post mastectomy, depending on your surgery and healing, you'll be asked to do exercises to stretch your muscles and prevent the stiffening and scar tissue build up.  These are standard stretching exercises recommended to women post mastectomy, and are relatively easy to do.  That being said, my surgeon was not kidding when he said to approach every exercise as if its my first time.  Don't think you're going to hop back into yoga, pilates or even these simple to do stretches.  Your range of motion is different, your muscles are healing and you will need to take your time.  Be kind to yourself.

Medicine


One month out, I'm still on some Advil during the day, but cautious of not irritating my stomach by taking too much, and I still occasionally take 1/2  a muscle relaxer at night as my muscles are tight by the end of the day, and quite achy.  Other than that, the anxiety meds and pain killers are shelved.  


Emotions (updated 12 hrs after original post)


I thought I was past the highs and lows of recovery.  I'm a month out, I've been off the meds and I was getting back to life just fine.  But today, for whatever reason why, the emotions came flooding back.  My breasts are sore, I woke up at 3:30am to write this blog post and haven't slept since and at 7:30pm tonight, bam!  The tears started flowing.  I had been experiencing a lot of muscle pain throughout the day and was getting frustrated.  I put high expectations on myself, no secret, and I think I feel that I should be doing better than I am.  As I was getting ready for bed tonight and rubbing my scars with treatment cream, I began to cry.  I hated feeling the thickness of the scar under the skin...how it rippled under my fingers.  I'm not good with blood, surgical photos and creepy sensations in my body.  This was one of them.  It was all just too much and I broke down.  At this point, I don't know if its considered normal to be so emotional.  Just this morning I was so thrilled to get dressed with confidence and assurance, that I turned to my husband and told him I didn't have to hate my breasts anymore, that I could love them.  My fears were taken away.  And then an emotional swing the other way tonight...tears.  All I can say is let is all out when it happens, talk to someone and acknowledge it.


So, there you have it.  This is what its like one month post op.  Not terrible, but by no means back to normal.  It really is a process.  I wish writing this put me back into a state of sleeping bliss.  Lets go see who's on Twitter.  Night!

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