Post-Exchange Surgery Milestones (as agreed with my surgeon)

goals

It’s two weeks out from my exchange surgery that swapped my rock hard expanders to squishy boobies so I thought it was a good time to let you know how I was getting on, as well as share with you the mini-milestones I am working towards in my recovery.

Healing wise I am pretty good. My wounds look good and I’m massaging the stiches and boobs with a good deal of cocoa butter. I have some nerve pain in my left arm and my left side feels more delicate than the right. Apart from that I feel fine and am mobile as a go cart. I’ve been walking every day and am now back on the cross trainer (minus the arms). Apparently I can drive when I feel comfortable, but I’ve tried twice and I don’t feel ready yet – I need two hands to move the gear stick in and out of reverse and parking is a bitch.

As well as this, I am eagerly working towards a few more milestones. Obviously if you are reading this at a similar stage in your pbm journey, here is the disclaimer….. I am not a medical expert (although my Dad is a Dr, apparently that doesn’t qualify me). This is the advice from my surgeon based on my circumstances. Please consult your surgeon on when you can do, what you want to do, following your surgery.

Right, back to me:

2 weeks post-surgery:

–          Walking

–          Cross trainer – MINUS ARMS

3 weeks post-surgery:

–          Running

–          Spin class

5 weeks post-surgery

–          Ride my bike – yey! (I did ask my surgeon why I could go to spin class at 3 weeks and not ride my bike until 5 weeks. He explained that I could fall off my bike. I didn’t tell him that in the week before surgery I’d fallen off my bike twice… and I’d only been drunk on one of those occasions).

–          Yoga

6 weeks post-surgery

–          Hoping to take off this massive, asexual surgical bra that I’m spending every waking and sleeping moment in since the op. I’m so excited I’ve already ordered this beautiful brassier from M&S, which may or may not be the right size http://www.marksandspencer.com/Rosie-Autograph-Padded-French-Designed/dp/B003ZKVKGU?_encoding=UTF8&mnSBrand=core

I do have a few more than this – like when can I ever do a press up again, or can I do a body pump class and get my muscles back – but they can wait.

How exciting!

xxxxxxx

Post-Op Follow-Up with Silver-Fox Plastic Surgeon

progress

Yesterday I had my first post-op appointment with the silver fox, plastic surgeon.

I had no expectations for today and quite frankly, just expected them to look at my baps and be done with it.

We arrive and the lovely nurse cleans my stitches. We take off the plaster on the recently butchered, artist formerly known as the total eclipse of the nipple (TEOTN) and all looks well. We give that a clean too and that was pretty much it.

However, what the appointment lacked in activity, it made up for in information. So here goes:

–          I can shower! My current washing routine involves me inserting one leg in the shower, removing it, inserting the other leg in the shower, removing it and so on. The ability to have a full on shower without the aid of ‘bath in bed’ wipes is amazing news.

–          As soon as I feel comfortable, I can drive. The nurse’s quote was “as soon as you can be sure you won’t run over a child because you’re worried your boobs hurt then you can drive.” OK, kids over boobs. Got it!

–          I have been told I can go on a stationary bike. I took this to mean that I can go to a spin class. Mr F said that I have grossly misinterpreted this sign-off and there is a big difference between a stationary bike and sweating my new tits off in a spin class. I have another appointment on Monday. I can wait that long to check.

–          Oh yes, I have another appointment on Monday. Filling station number 1 (the process in which they make the new boobs get bigger). I didn’t think they’d start so soon, especially with TEOTN, but it soon begins. I already have 100 cc of saline in there so, come next week, it will be 150 cc on each side and I will be back to my 17 year old rack, once again (I was a late developer).

  • For the inquisitive among you, here is a short and pretty straightforward video about how the plastic surgeon goes about filling your expanders with saline. I’ll explain more next time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esHztsX-uFE

So this may not seem like an exciting appointment, but for me it was ace. Oh, and silver-fox plastic surgeon has a new beard. It really suits him.

silver fox

Establishing Routine In Recovery

Routine

Those who know me, and those of you who don’t will probably have guessed, I’m not a person who finds it easy to sit still.

Before I left London I had a pretty full on job, with a decent commute, a busy social life, I taught seven fitness classes a week and trained for a marathon. I left the country to try to chill-out, which relatively, I think I’ve achieved. Even so, I still have a decent social life, I exercise 5-6 times a week and I have a pretty full-on job, in PR.

For those of you who are not familiar with PR, it is a job that has no completion. Your to do list will never be done, many outcomes you desire are out of your control and it was recently voted one of the most stressful jobs in the world.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2256652/Want-easy-life-Dont-firefighter-PR-exec-enlist-military-reveals-new-ranking-stressful-jobs.html

I do urge some caution as this story was probably developed by people who work in PR. However, with this reputation it successfully attracts stress junkies like me, who may moan about being busy, but don’t know what to do if they’re not.

It is in this context I present myself to you as a patient in recovery. It’s probably obvious that I don’t like to sit still and left to my own devices and my mind will run riot. This is why, now I’m home, it’s important for me to set some sort of loose routine. Each day I have committed to do 3 things to help focus my mind, give my day some sort of purpose, and to help track my progress; Meditate, walk, and stretch / exercise.

Meditate

meditate

I talk about meditation a lot on here, but I’m not a person who finds it easy – and generally I will cry it off if I can. I know lots of people say ‘I physically can’t meditate’. This is essentially bollocks. I find it difficult, but I taught myself how to do it and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I first started mediating during my testing  for the cancer gene: BRCA. Combined with being made redundant, looking for a new job, moving house and temporarily breaking up with the love of my life, I thought I might have a nervous breakdown. I swear meditation saved me from this and I emerged from this period stronger and more cantered than I think I’d ever been.

So now, it’s more about keeping me balanced. I have a lot of time to think, so softening that for a bit helps me keep focus. And by that I mean, not looking at my boobs and imagining loads of stuff is going wrong with them, or convincing myself that my nipple is still going to fall off, or that a sneeze = infection.

I am using these meditations from Oprah and Deepak at the moment – because for a short time they are free, but they are pretty good, and not too long!

Walk

Walk

As a self-confessed exercise junkie, I have been surprisingly OK with not going to the gym. Being perpetually tired and stuck in hospital helps. However, since I have been home I have committed to going for a walk each day. There’s a park round the corner and if I go first thing I can reward my return with a cup of coffee.

The commitment helps my day have some kind of purpose, and going just a little further every couple of days gives me the feeling of progress.

What’s more, early autumn in Sydney is my FAVOURITE time of the year. It’s sunny but not too hot and, touch wood, it doesn’t rain as much as it does in Jan and Feb.

Stretching / Exercise

I call this stretching  / exercise as it’s really not exercise, but ‘exercises’ to help me get the strength and range of movement back in my arms.

My prophylactic, nipple sparing mastectomy with expanders involved the surgeon inserting the expanders underneath my pectoral or chest muscle, which protects the expanders, and in turn, will need to stretch as they expand, ready for the implants.

If you can imagine, the pain feels as though you have done 100,000 press ups, morning and night. This then means you use your arms less and so your range of movement invariably becomes a little more limited.

So doing the exercises each day is important. Again, it provides purpose, but they also stretch out my very bruised and tight Foobs and as the exercises become a little easier each day, I have another way of measuring my progress. The hospital gave me some exercises while I was there as well as a DVD called‘Strengthen Your Recovery: Pilates program following breast cancer surgery’. It’s really very good. And whilst I can’t wait to get back to the spin studio, it is a great resource for aiding my recovery.

 

Crash: Day 3 and Day 4 Morning

kind

They warned me that day 2 would be crash day. The day when all the drugs wear off and you realise the enormity of what you’ve done? Well for me that was day 3. Although depending on how you look at it, if you count surgery day as just being surgery day, yesterday could well have been day 2.

On paper yesterday was good. I got up in the morning and did my exercises – congratulated myself on being so strong and threw in some squats. My friend, Kiwi A, came in the morning and we had coffee and breakfast outside on the grass. My two friends, D and S, came straight after at the same time as my boyfriend, with another coffee (this may have been too much), and stayed til 1pm. As they left I saw them out with a walk round the car park with Mr F.

I returned to my room, had a peek at my chest, fell asleep and was woken by two new friends, M and L, who brought me nice pants from Peter Alexander in an egg carton – ingenious. I went for another walk round the car park before greeting my lovely friend, E, who brought a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. E and Mr F stayed until about 7pm. When they left I repeated my exercises, watched the Real Housewives of Miami and went to sleep.

However, extract things from paper and this was not the entire day.

Boob Watch:

I did look at my boobs. They are not as bad as you’d think. My left nipple looks OK and my scars are really tiny. However my right nipple looks bruised and sore and my overall impression was that I looked like action man.

I called Mr F and cried. Bless him, everyone else sees good Trisha, he on the other hand has the one that can only cry with him. Besides, what can you say when your girlfriend calls you up and says she looks like action man?

Bowel Watch:

Despite drinking 2 glasses of prune juice, walking around A LOT and having A LOT of wind… (sorry – oversharing) I still haven’t been to the toilet since Wednesday evening! I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t feel so very, very full and swollen.  Bearing in mind I’m only eating 2 meals a day and avoiding the 3 servings of white bread they are giving me in here. By the time I went to sleep last night I was struggling to breathe I was so expanded.

So of course I called Mr F-Therapist and cried, again (man going out with me is ridiculously rubbish), and he told me to ask for some laxatives.  I didn’t and went to sleep – until I was woken up to change my drains at 12pm and the nurse offered me some.

Midnight Caller:

I was then awake (as I have been at this time for the last 3 nights) and got a txt from AF to see if I was a) asleep and b) OK.  This time I blame him as I txted I was fine and he insisted on Skyping. It was at this point I cried, again!  Long story short he cheered me up and I managed to go back to sleep.

Morning has broken…

Got woken up to take pain killers this morning. If only pain killer could make me sleep and go to the toilet. Saw that my drain incision in my left armpit had leaked… cried… you realise this is again, right?

So look, I know, I’m shattered. I haven’t slept for 3 nights, some people took my boobs away and I still haven’t been to the toilet. I just feel a bit bad as I have been this positive poster girl for how to react when you wake up flat chested and my current emotional state makes me feel like I’ve duped you all.

Game plan

Today the game plan is to sleep as much as possible. I have been for one walk already and I’m determined the next one will push me to the toilet. Finally I’m going to give myself a break.  All this positivity is really hard work and despite what my many self-help books and Pinterest mantras may say, it’s alright to feel like crap from time to time and I’m allowing myself that indulgence for day 4.

kindess

2 Aims For Day 3

GoalI have 2 aims for today, my third day after the mastectomy. One is to look at my new boobs – or lack thereof. The other is to move my bowels for the first time in three days.

Boob Watch:

I have had little peeks of my deflated breasts over the last few days.  Drs come and want to look and my support bandage keeps slipping down. However, I have not been brave enough yet to go full frontal and look at what my chest is currently doing. I’m not going to lie, I’m not hugely looking forward to this moment, but I have to look because a) they are part of me, b) I need to be familiar with what’s happening so I can tell if anything is going wrong and c) they won’t look like this forever so I should just suck it up.

I have no real game plan for this, I just need to do it.

Bowel Watch:

I promise I won’t gross you out with this. It’s bad enough I’m broadcasting about my deflated breasts, let alone my bowel movements. However, I have not been in 3 days and as a healthy, coffee drinking girl, this is not like me. I haven’t done anything wrong, it’s the wonderful painkillers I’ve been on, plugging me up to numb the pain.

So this is my game plan on operation, get things moving down south:

  • I have done my exercises for this morning (I’ll share these in a separate blog post). I have progressed onto the exercises for patients 7 days after their surgery as days 2 – 7 were too easy.  Don’t tell Mr F! I also threw in a few squats and lunges.
  • I have drunk my first glass of prune juice for the day. Look it’s not gross, but it’s full on.  Read here for why prune juice is amazing. Essentially it makes you go to the toilet and helps fight cancer. GO PRUNE JUICE! http://www.wisegeek.org/what-are-the-health-benefits-of-prune-juice.htm
  • I am going for a coffee in the sunshine. I have been told to move more today and move I will. Sod that regular sized coffee I had yesterday. Today it’s large, skimmed latte to have here, but in a take-away cup, followed by a walk round the car park.

Wish me luck. I’ll report back on my missions. Hopefully I won’t be crying / full of prune juice by this evening but I’ll let you know. x

Prune