Well, I made it through my double mastectomy surgery! Tomorrow will mark one week post op and I am so proud of myself for getting through these past 6 days. I had hoped to post an update much sooner than this but the medications I’m on make me very drowsy, unmotivated and blur my vision so I’ve been dictating text messages to Matt for my friends and family.
But now that I’m past the hardest part of my journey, I am excited to provide you all with a recap of my experience so far. I blame the strong medicinal cocktail I’m on for any misspellings, grammatical errors or sentences that don’t make sense at all. And in an effort to be transparent about this journey, a lot of this post will focus on the lowest of lows because the first week just sucks and there’s really no way to sugar coat it.
THE DAY BEFORE SURGERY was super busy. I ran tons of last minute errands, packed our hospital bags, tidied the house, got my car cleaned, met with my anesthesiologist, wrote a four page instruction manual for each kid and got my nails done! I knew I was supposed to be “resting” but I preferred to stay busy to keep my mind out of freak out mode. My mom arrived early in the afternoon and I took her to daycare to introduce her to Caroline’s teachers and walk her through the morning routine. Since Caroline thrives on a routine we decided to keep her in daycare but let mom pick her up early to spoil her with fun things like playing at the toy store, sharing some nuggets at Chick-fil-a, visiting the animals at PetSmart, etc. Meanwhile, Matt took Thomas to his parents house in Winston. Even though it’s been tough splitting the kiddies up, after lots of logistical discussions we decided it would be best for our
moms to take the divide and conquer approach so neither one has to
wrestle two babies at once.
The last night before my surgery I obviously didn’t sleep a wink and neither did Matt. In addition to the anxiety surrounding my procedure, we had to be up by 3:30 am so I could shower with a special medical soap, get dressed, stare at my sleeping toddler for a few minutes and be at the hospital by 4:30 am.
SURGERY DAY felt like a blurry dream. We arrived on time at the hospital and to my surprise I wasn’t anxious at all. Honestly, I was so worried about Matt that I couldn’t even think about the surgery that was just a few moments away. The nurse peppered me with scary questions about my living will, my power of attorney, etc. while wiping me down with tons of cold antibacterial wipes and inserting my IV. Once I was fully prepped both of my surgeons came in and drew all over my chest with permanent marker. At this time I also received versed to knock me out a little bit and was warned I wouldn’t remember anything from then on but I did remember kissing Matt and telling him not to worry as they rolled me away. I also remember entering the operating room and panicking a little bit about still being awake. Surrounding me were a bunch of blurry people in blue scrubs helping me off my hospital bed and onto the operating table.
RECOVERY. The next thing I remember was waking up in a recovery area and asking for Matt over and over again. Apparently this was five hours later. My mom and Matt’s dad kept Matt company during my surgery and my doctors frequently provided them with updates along the way to keep them informed on how I was doing. The procedure could not have gone better! Praise the Lord! And even though the doctors don’t expect to find anything, they sent off my tissue to be tested for cancer just to be safe.
After awhile they finally let Matt come up to see me. My throat was so dry that I could barely even whisper and was in excruciating pain. The nurses fed me ice chips but it was never enough. My chest and lungs felt like I had been run over by a semi-truck and I was having such a hard time breathing that I was put on oxygen. During this time a team of nurses also had to move me to a new bed which was hands down the most painful experience of my entire hospital stay.
Throughout the day I tried to rest but found it nearly impossible to get comfortable. Every few minutes I was asked to rate my pain level on a scale of 1-10 and hovered around a 9.5 long enough that the nurses ordered me a bag of morphine on top of the other two pain killers, antibiotics, collace and muscle relaxers. The morphine made me hallucinate and I kept asking Matt why the hand sanitizer station was crawling around the wall. In addition to the pain, there was one other thing no one warned me about. After surgery both of my legs were wrapped up in these awful leg compression sleeves that I had to wear for 24 hours to prevent blood clots. These hard plastic sleeves made it impossible to rest and were pure torture. They constantly pumped air into the sleeve until it hurt (just like during a blood pressure check) and then quickly deflated over and over and over again. They were also incredibly loud, uncomfortable and made my legs sweat and itch. So there wasn’t a chance I was going to get any sleep that night.
BY THE NEXT MORNING my pain was finally under control and my doctors were happy enough with my progress that they released me that afternoon (a day early) to recover at home. I was so happy to get home to my own bed, hug Caroline and rest without constant interruptions. Matt and mom have been taking the best care of me too. It’s been difficult not having the ability to be self-sufficient. Right now my arms are useless and I cannot lift anything over 3 pounds so I have to depend on Matt to do everything for me like put my hair in a pony tail, bathe me, get me in and out of bed, drive me places, flush the toilet after me, turn lights on and off, dress me, open and close doors, hand me things on my nightstand and many other things not in our wedding agreement. I am also on five medications right now. Some of which have to be taken together and some must be taken at opposite times so Matt has been diligently logging all my drugs every two hours. The pain medications makes me feel nauseous, extremely itchy (!!!!) and blur my vision
but they really help alleviate the pain so I suck up the side effects. To minimize the amount of times I have to wake Matt up I’ve been keeping a long plastic serving fork nearby to scratch my itches that I can reach. Oh, and Benadryl. Lots and lots of Benadryl!
THE DRAINS ARE JUST AS TERRIBLE AS I EXPECTED. I have 4 tubes stitched into the sides of my breasts that drain nasty stuff all day and require me to sleep sitting up. They constantly pull on my skin and are in the way. At the hospital I received the sexiest surgical bra which provides clips for the drains to keep them out of the way when I’m sleeping. The hospital volunteers also made me the sweetest little apron for storing my drains when I want to walk around. And to shower I use a lanyard to clip the drains onto. So far I prefer to use the apron because the surgical bra is so itchy and puts pressure on my chest and the lanyard is just awkward.
Every few hours Matt empties, measures and cleans my drains for me. He’s the best. After about two weeks I should be cleared to have two of the four drains removed. And then a week or two later have the last set removed. I cannot wait. I’ve heard this is the worst part of the entire journey and so far that rings true! I hate them!
I SNUCK A PEEK DOWN MY SURGICAL BRA on day two after the procedure and…I don’t plan to do that again for awhile. I knew things would look a lot different after the surgery but I wasn’t as prepared as I thought for the emotional aspect of getting my breasts removed. The expanders were placed under my skin during surgery but left empty to avoid any further stress to my nipples. I won’t get my first fill until all of the drains have been removed so until then my breasts look disfigured, bruised, swollen and the incision marks are ginormous. The expanders are also super hard, unnaturally shaped and my skin ripples on top of them. On top of that I cannot feel my chest AT ALL. I was warned I would have “phantom itches” and those are the worst because even though I try to satisfy the itch my skin is numb so I can’t get to it!
As I complete my first week post op I can honestly say that as each day passes I feel a million times better than the day before. My first post op check up with both of my surgeons is tomorrow. I am hoping for a good progress report and maybe a surprise drain removal.
Since coming home from the hospital we have been showered with love, flowers, cards, meals, edible arrangements and more! I am also so thankful for our moms who have been taking care of the littles while Matt takes care of me. It’s been really sad not having Thomas home with us and also not being able to hold Caroline especially when she’s sitting at my feet sobbing for me to pick her up. We’ve tried to let her sit next to me a few times but she’s so wiggly that it usually turns into her accidentally knocking into my chest or pulling a drain cord. My mom is staying one more week with us and Thomas will continue to stay in Winston until his next eye appointment at the end of this week. It’s been hard being away from him and I miss him terribly.
Thank you all for the continued prayers! We are blessed to have such wonderful friends and family and I am so thankful to be past the hardest part!