*preapologies for spelling/grammar errors…I’ve proofread, but I know I missed things.*
I came home from the hospital today. I’m so glad to be home with A and the kids and the cats. I’m so glad I have reconstruction in the rear view mirror.
DIEP reconstruction is no joke. I thought I knew what to expect, but it’s been like everything else-until it happens, you can’t really know what to expect. I was not prepared for the grogginess, the nausea, and the differing types of pain from my abdominal incision (sharp to burning to gnawing to shocking), even though I thought I was.
The incisions completely live up to my expectations. They’re bad right now. They’re gnarly. They’re going to be amazing scars, but really, they are no worse than I expected.
Recovering has been hard. I had a pretty bad ICU experience Wednesday night (post surgery). I woke up around 2 am very uncomfortable because I was twisted in the covers and with the mattress pad sticking to my skin. My mom tried to help me get untwisted and unstuck, but I could barely move. Enter the night tech. In his defense, I was having a hard time communicating what was wrong. I was so groggy from the anesthesia and uncomfortable from the surgery. So, the tech got a nurse. She told us I was uncomfortable due to surgery and was anxious. She told my mom I needed a Xanax. My anxiety was the problem. We argued with her for ten minutes. It took me getting myself together, communication wise, and yelling, “No! I am not anxious! I’m sticking to the bed. You need to listen to me!” to make them understand what I needed to do. She was so brusque. And, hey, you know what happened when the three of them helped me sit up and move from side to side to get rid of the mattress pad? I became comfortable again, even with the pull sheet, because everything on the bed was fixed. My mom insisted they help me out of bed briefly and remake the bed. That’s what I needed. The morning team was great. It was the exact opposite experience. By noon, I had gotten out of bed on my own and into a chair. By three, my doctor did rounds and pronounced me ready to leave ICU for the surgical recovery floor. I didn’t expect to have as hard of a time verbalizing my needs that first night, and this was the first time on this cancer coaster where I dealt with a medical professional who really wasn’t listening to my needs. I know what anxiety feels like for me. I know when I need help with it. That was not my problem at that moment. I didn’t like how she made me feel…I felt like a nuisance. I know that wasn’t her intention, but it was my perception.
Thursday evening, Thursday night, Friday morning, and Friday night were very, very hard. I had a great team of nurses who worked to find a way to get my pain and nausea under control. It took some trial and error, some sobbing in pain on my part, throwing up a few times (indescribably awful with an abdominal incision running from hip to hip), and getting out of bed to slowly walk the floor to get everything under control. Moving helped get rid of the nausea, helped straighten my skin, helped everything. We had a new, unexpected, problem come up, though. I ended up needing two units of blood on Friday. My blood pressure crashed pretty much out of the blue, or so it seemed to me. My blood counts were bad (my hemoglobin was right at a 6), so, I needed a blood transfusion. It did its job…just a bump in the surgery road.
Saturday was ok-ish, but I really didn’t start feeling better, more like myself, until Sunday. I was able to walk around, standing up straight, which surprised me, my appetite came back some, and I wasn’t groggy. Grogginess was a huge problem from Thursday through Saturday.
Today, I came home early afternoon. I still have three drains, all associated with my hip incisions, but considering I had seven drains until this morning, dealing with three is a picnic. I still tire quickly. I told A that I’m going to need a lot of help not overdoing and not feeling guilty for being a sloth over the next two weeks.
All of this would be so much more difficult without our family and friends helping us. My mom and A traded nights at the hospital. A’s parents kept S and AJ. My dad kept my mom’s schedule straight so she didn’t miss any appointments (she had her six month oncology visit, a physical, and other things). My childhood, longtime BFF kept me in Sonic iced tea and laughter with a listening ear.
There were no surprises, nothing unexpected, during the surgery or afterwards, so far, with the exception of the blood transfusion. I’m so damned glad to have this hurdle behind me. I’m glad to feel as well as I do. My focus now is healing and my scheduled treatments. I scheduled my last three Herceptin appointments. I still feel like I should be waiting for something unexpected and horrible to happen.
I hope, with everything I am, this ending is a new beginning with many more tomorrow, with physical, emotional, and spiritual healing, with a stronger sense of who I want to be for whatever time I have, with peace. Not too long ago, I made peace with my breast cancer. Then, I lost it. As the anniversary of my diagnosis creeps closer, it’s time I find peace again.