Thursday, September 8, 2011

My cups underfloweth...

Maybe it's the mostly uneventful days in bed (well, save the hurricane), or the fact that I still have drains in, a surgical vest on, and still can't pick stuff up, but it seems like only yesterday that I was leaving the hospital. As I threw out the last of the floral arrangements (save the single sunflower my friend, Sara gave me), I realized it's been 2 weeks since the mastectomies. It just seems like such a long time and I haven't seem to have done much.

My house is still a mess. I haven't gone in to work, save a couple of hours 2 days. I haven't done anything with my bikes, save move the mountain bike over so I could clean up a kitty litter spill. I feel like I've lost time. So much time.

My doctors assure me that I'm coming along well. We got the pathology - all lymphnodes were clear, so no radiation - yay! It was Stage 1, and the "tumor," if you can call it that, was less than 0.8 cm. Turns out the left breast tissue was 100% clear, but no regrets given the odds of recurrence. Dr. Nordberg, my plastic surgeon, and Ana, my visiting nurse, are ecstatic about "how well I'm healing." Except Dr. Nordberg did spank me for doing too much - we were hoping to remove the final 2 drains this week, but we'll have to wait another week. Apparently, moving too much and doing too much causes more fluid and swelling.

And I got more saline put into the expanders. Now, that's an experience. I'm not sure if I explained what expanders are or how they work. Contrary to what most people thing "reconstruction" is, you do not leave the operating room after the mastectomy with new boobs. It's a long process, explained pretty well on, which includes inserting temporary, underfilled saline implants called "expanders" underneath the pectoral muscle to stretch the muscle to accommodate the final implants. They initially have a modest amount of saline, and, as the doctor assesses progress, more and more saline is injected into them. The expanders themselves look like sunny-side up eggs with silver yolks. Those silver yolks are the valves into which the doctor injects more saline. And now comes the fun part...

Then the fun begins...

A week or so after the surgery, you go in to see the plastic surgeon. That silver valve is magnetic. The surgeon uses a metal device to locate exactly where the valve is. The surgeon then marks that spot. And then the really disturbingly amusing part...

The first time, Dr. Nordberg told me to turn away. I made the mistake of looking.

Because the skin above the expander is so thing, and nerves are damaged, you don't feel much of what the doctors does. Which isn't a bad thing considering the doctor thrusts an enormously long needle with an even bigger plunger filled with saline into your breast.

That's right. All of a sudden, I went from mastectomy patient to Uma Thurman. But not the tall, glamorous, red carpet walker, but the drug addict, needing adrenaline shot into her heart Uma Thurman (sans the nosebleed and overdose, of course). I was looking down at a large needle sticking out of my chest (and the needle is EXACTLY the same size/proportion as depicted in "Pulp Fiction," with liquid being shot into the right, but feeling it on the left. Yes, another fun factoid: Since the nerves have been messed with, sometimes, as they try and reconnect and rebuild their bridges, sometimes wires get crossed.

And, lest folks think that the last injection of saline that brought me to a b-cup is exciting, yes, it's nice that I have larger breasts than a pre-teen girl again, but the expansion process hardly leaves a round, smooth bosom. You can see the ripple of muscle underneath the skin, and not in a hot athletic manner. It's not evenly spread, and the post-operative swelling makes it look like I have fat pouches bulging just below the armpit. Knots form in the pectoral muscles that I can't do much about, while kneading the knots in my shoulders actually seems to aggravate my chest aches.

Coughing and sneezing is exceedingly difficult, as there is already pressure across my chest. Every once in a while, as my allergies flared up and then settled in my lungs, when I cough, it feels like the expanders are trying to push their way through the muscle tissue. It's like an internal noogie.

Walking up and down the stairs and the street leaves me absolutely winded. I hate having to answer the phone after I've come in from my daily stroll to the mailbox around the corner and back, having to apologize for the fact that I sound like a horny prank caller instead of the lady of the house.

I'm getting sick of not being able to do the laundry. And I'd like to cook my own dinner. I want to weed whack. I want to mow the lawn. I want to pull weeds. I'm tired of feeling like a jelly-fish with these drains flapping about under what few tops I can wear that don't pull on the tubes projecting from my rib cage.

And I want to ride my bike.

It looks like I won't get the remaining drains removed this week. Which means another week of these things which have to be milked and emptied, that prevent me from showering like a normal person, that I accidentally yank whenever I have to take off my pants, or roll over in my bed. I've already pulled one almost half an inch out, and now it seeps.

I have way too much to do than to worry about what my drainage is for the day, or what angle at which my arm's rotation causes a sharp cramp in my chest that freezes my arm temporarily. I have fundraisers to plan and run. I have almost $9,000 to raise by September 23rd so we can reach our Ride for the Roses goal for the LIVESTRONG Challenge.

Cancer has already robbed me of most of the month of July and the entire month of August. Cancer's now eating into the month of September, the way it invaded my breast.

I deserve some time back.

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