Monday, November 24, 2008

Four Weeks Post-Surgery

Written 3 weeks ago on the FDMB:

It's been 3 weeks since my bilateral breast reconstruction surgery. I saw the surgeon last week in Baltimore.

The cosmetic outcome of the rearrangement of skin and fat from my belly to my chest is "above average." I will likely need only a little work when I get the "stage 2" outpatient revision surgery in late April. Just a few nips and tucks to make everything even up top and maybe a little lipo to take out the "handles" at the ends of my hip to hip incision.

The incisions still have a few weeks of healing before I am allowed to submerge in water (bathing, swimming). I am good to go with range of motion physical therapy (PT) on my chest and abdomen, but no core strengthening exercises until after another check-up in 6 weeks.

There is some damage in the intercostobrachial nerve (upper underneath part) of my right arm that may or may not resolve with PT or just on its own. I am having numbness and pulling in my belly in the waistline area. This is above the abdominal incision. That is from swelling where the surgeon cut through muscle to remove the blood vessels feeding the donor tissue. The discomfort in that area may take up to 3 months to resolve.

Some of the donor tissue is starting to "harden" in my left breast. Again the result of the surgical trauma, and I was instructed to frequently massage that area to break up the edema and soften the tissue.

All in all, my recovery is progressing "normally."

Week 4 Update:

I do feel better than I did a week ago. The numbness and pulling at my waistline is starting to resolve. The healing on my abdominal incision continues to be slow; there are large areas of scabs that pull out when moistened and the the whole incisional line is red and puffy. The quick oatmeal bath I took yesterday for dry skin set that incision's healing back about a week.

The incisions on my breast flaps only have small scab areas left, mostly at the corners of the flaps.The hard spot in the upper left breast has not changed in size and I am palpating it (as well as the other breast) a couple times a day. From what I read on the discussion board, the hardness might likely be fat necrosis, which the surgeon will have to remove during the revision surgery.

I want to recognize the tremendous help I received from Donna, my sister-in-law, and Linda Lee, a friend from FDMB. They each stayed with me for 10 days during my recovery. I can't imagine having gotten through this without their help in caring for me. Donna certainly had the harder "duty" because she got me straight out of the hospital, when I was my most feeble. Linda Lee had different challenges; she had to try to keep me in bed to rest as I kept trying to do too much.

Linda Lee and I did have a few outings while she was here. I am able to drive as long as I'm not on narcotic pain meds. We took her cat Josephine to the holistic vet twice for acupuncture and reiki. We added some other stops to those trips.

Jim now has me full-time, and I wasn't happy the first time he left me alone in the house. It was only for a few hours, and there was no reason for me to be fearful, but I was. I dealt with it by taking a nap. We are living on sandwiches, soup, and ice cream because I don't have the desire to make evening meals, but hopefully I will get over that soon. Thanksgiving is this week. Can I roust the energy to cook a turkey breast and all the trimmings? Hummm.

Ennis has been by my side almost every minute of my recovery. Or perhaps I should say I've been by his side, as he sleeps on my bed all day anyway.

The oddest thing is I am getting my stress rash on my hands. This is something I dealt with years ago, and it always threatens to flair up from time to time, but it hasn't shown itself through this entire cancer journey. Why it would start to flair up now is beyond me.

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