So around this time last week (March 13th) I was waking up from my prophylactic double mastectomy in the recovery room at Ronald Reagan Hospital at UCLA. Later posts will describe that day and the next few days, but for now I thought I’d take the time to reflect on how I’m feeling one week after the procedure.
My pain level is doable.
I really, really thought I would be in excruciating, I-can-barely-take-it-anymore-just-kill-me-now kind of pain. Reading other people’s accounts online and having witnessed my mom’s own recovery from her mastectomy made me think that pain would be a big part of my life for the next month or so. In reality, this isn’t the case. Yes, it hurts. But it’s more of an uncomfortable feeling. Right now I am sitting in bed with a wedge pillow behind me, laptop on my lap (as it should be!) and I don’t feel any pain.
In the morning I usually feel the most pain when waking up, but I just take some pain meds (in the beginning it was oxycodone; now I’ve weaned myself onto Tylenol). The pain I have is best described as a heavy tightness. Sometimes moving in a certain direction triggers this “tightness” because it seems to put a strain on my chest muscles. I feel pain more, interestingly, when I have tighter clothes on; sometimes I can’t deal with the tightness of the mastectomy bra and have to switch into something loose.
The drains are much more than I bargained for.
If you read my post from earlier this morning, you’ll know that I am not on good terms with my drains. They’ve done nothing particularly rude to me: I have no infections and they don’t hurt. But they are just annoying and tedious to deal with, factors I did not bank on before I went in for the surgery.
I never considered how limiting they would be for my wardrobe. Yes, I knew I would have to stock up on button-up or zip-up tops, but it doesn’t stop there. I need to consider my drains, these two oafish looking things hanging from my body. Tonight, for example, my parents, boyfriend and I are going to a nice restaurant, a possible venue for my grad party. No one wants to see my drains while they eat. And I also want to look nice (for once). Boy, it’s going to be fun to dress for that!
I’m not stuck in bed.
I was pretty sure this would be the case, but I didn’t want to take any chances so I stocked up on movies and reading material in case I was too weak to get out of bed. While I was mostly in my bed for the two days at the hospital, by the time I got home, my pain level had subsided enough that I could move myself out of bed without much help. The key was to almost rock my body upwards, using my abs. You gain enough momentum and suddenly you’re standing!
I putz around the house often and I’m self-sufficient. Sure, if I am in bed and I’ve dropped something on the ground and a parent happens to walk by, I’m not above asking him/her to pick the item up. But I’ve done pretty much everything on my own. Today, for example, I watched my hair by myself.
That being said, however, I am getting really restless.
While I’m by no means an athletic person, I am normally very active. I love to walk for exercise, and lately I’ve been going to spin classes at a few local studios. Not exercising–or being active at all–is driving me crazy. Yesterday I actually went on a 2-mile walk with my mom. I am going to go on another one after I finish up this post. My drain output hasn’t changed because I’ve been more active, and I’m not using my upper body, so what harm is there in it?
I’m surprisingly OK with not showering.
Normally I shower once a day. In the last few months, I’ve taken to trying to wash my hair less, so sometimes I don’t shower every day. In the last week, I haven’t showered once. And I’m not feeling too awful about it.
The Monday night before my surgery I took a really long shower. My mom braided my hair after. Definitely a wise choice, as it kept my hair cleaner and made it easier to deal with when I was in the hospital.
On Friday afternoon I went to a salon and had my hair washed and put into two french braids.
This morning I finally decided I’d wash my hair on my own. Aside from the fact that I looked like the MGM lion after I brushed it out before washing, it was relatively clean.
To keep my body fresh and clean, I’ve been using disposable pre-soaped wash clothes. Super easy and mess-free.
I’ve accepted how I look right now.
I really thought I’d be depressed by my appearance at this time. But I’m not…which is great. I think I’m still a bit surprised by the fact that I’m not completely flat. During surgery, my plastic surgeon filled my tissue expanders up to 300 ccs each so I’m about a large A-cup right now. That’s still a big difference from the C I was before, but I don’t mind it terribly. It’s kind of fun, the idea that I can “try out” different body shapes. Right now I am truly a bottom curvy, pear-shaped girl.
Perhaps part of my anxiety about my appearance that I experienced before the surgery was associated with the waiting. But once it was done…well, it was done! Things can only get–and more importantly, can only look–better from here.
You are doing great! I hated the drains too! What a major relief and sense of freedom when they pull them. Keep it up. Your wonderful attitude is inspirational, your blog is informational, and you my dear, are SENSATIONAL!!
Rachel, You are an inspiration to all. I am so impressed and read your blog every day. I had a scare in January and had to have a biopsy. I was scared and really didn’t know what it would be like or what the outcome would be. I sure would have been nice to read a blog like yours so I would really know how it felt. Keep writing! I am sure this is a huge help to anyone facing the same choice to be made. You are a ROCK STAR!!