Not horrible, but not great. This is a long one...settle in.
Yes, my dears, there are ups and downs in this journey. The ups are when you think you're having a good day, you feel good, you're experiencing little to no pain, you can get on with your normal daily routine and you're happy you've taken the steps towards a healthier future...getting rid of the mutated genes you inherited. It's what I call my Wonder Woman days, and I'm very thankful for them. This surgery was definitely, hands down, easier than my mastectomy.
The downs are everything else...the moments in between the ups, the moments most of our friends and family don't know about because we keep it inside or we turn to our community of like women going through the same thing because they'll understand. The downs can make you cry in an instant, can leave you foggy minded and can leave you feeling alone and asking "why?". These are the days that make me feel weak and question just how strong I am. I hate these days. I try to avoid these days, pushing them aside, gathering strength from within to get through them and put on my happy face for my husband and kiddos.
No one can write the perfect recovery book for having a mastectomy with reconstruction or a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy. We're not the same. We don't heal the same, feel the same nor even go into the surgeries with the same bodies. We're all different, and we all need to realize that what we are going through is perfectly fine, for our bodies. Stop comparing yourself to others and their glorious recoveries if you think you're not having one. There's no rhyme or reason to it. It's like labor and birth...some go to plan, some don't. Some women wear their pre-pregnancy clothes home from the hospital, some wear maternity clothes for months after. Some have postpartum depression, some don't. But each journey is unique, and again, there's no perfect book. I read through blogs, picked and chose experiences that are like mine, felt some relief that someone else out there experienced the same as me and felt somewhat normal again.
But Angelina did it. Angelina had the "perfect" mastectomy and reconstruction experience and the "perfect" oophorectomy. She was back to work quickly, looks amazing and photographed beautifully throughout. Is that what we're holding ourselves up to? The idea of perfection? It's actually been said to me, several times, by many people..."Angelina did it, so can you." What does that even mean? I rack my brain to figure out how that comparison or those words even begin to help someone like me in my position. It's fine to say, "hey, you're having the same surgery as Angelina," because people then get it due to all the media coverage. But to say I can do it because she did? That's where we begin holding ourselves up to other's standards. I'll guarantee she cried at some points. I'll guarantee she felt weak in a moment or two. I'll guarantee she probably even wished she never had to go through any of this at all.
The first two days of my recovery thus far were pretty good, they were up days. Despite some pain and discomfort from the actual surgery, I was in otherwise good spirits. I was feeling like everything was going to "plan" as I perused other blogs and stories of recoveries. I wasn't taking the full dosage of medications prescribed, which had to be a good thing, I was eating, drinking and walking just fine and I just felt good. Tired, but good. I even felt well enough to go outside and do something, but I don't walk very quickly at this point, so I wouldn't get too far. Then, somewhere during the evening last night, things started changing and I started questioning how well I really was doing, acknowledging the hugeness of the situation. There's things people don't tell you or you won't find on blogs, unless you know exactly what to ask or which key words to type. I had an idea of what recovery would be like, but these little surprises are happening, ones I wished I'd known about prior so that I would be as mentally prepared as possible.
Last night, for the first time, I woke up several times, sweating. I was so hot, uncomfortably hot, and I couldn't seem to get regulated. The sheets came off, the fan was pointed right at me and my hair went up into a ponytail. My insides were hot...if that makes any sense. It wasn't the air around me, it was me, but different than having a fever. I wanted nothing touching me or on me. I didn't know this happened. I understand that hot flashes are part of the deal now, but when you've never had one, and you don't know what to expect when you do, its kinda scary and uncomfortable.
I've touched on this a few times, but not once was I told about this prior to surgery. It is horribly painful. I'm on day 3 now, and its beginning to subside, but the gas hurts more than anything. There's a bunch of gas pumped into you and it has nowhere to escape anytime soon. It slowly gets passed or absorbed into your tissue, but the process is long and slow. Since its trapped, its pushing, causing pressure on your ribs and your shoulders. The shoulders hurt the absolute worst. You feel like you want an intense massage but that doesn't do anything as its the gas inside, not your actual muscles. I have been using Gas-X (must do) and a combination of heating pads and heat strips to at least try and ease the pain. Its getting better, but have some meds on hand for this.
Ok, I just had my ovaries removed and completed my last period, so why in the heck am I spotting? Yep, another thing I wasn't told about and didn't know would happen. In the hospital, I was spot free. Days 1 and 2 after...spot free. So why, on day 3, am I spotting? Where in the heck is it coming from? This is a little scary if you aren't prepared for it or even know it can happen after the surgery. But yes, you might spot and its ok. If its more than that, consult your physician to find out what's going on. Better yet, ask your physician about the possibilities before your surgery so that you're prepared.
So, this morning, all I had to do was wake up from sleep and the tears started flowing. No one had said anything, I hadn't read anything, heck, I wasn't even having bad dreams! It was simply the act of waking up that sent me into tears. I felt a bit foggy in the head and just let it all out. I think this caught my husband off guard, but man he's good when it comes to jumping right in and just being there. He knew there were no answers he could give me, it was just me and my body trying to make sense of that hour of waking. Ladies, you have just lost a part of you, a major part of you. For some, this will be an emotional journey, one no one else can understand until they go through it. For younger women like us, we've had to do this out of necessity, and in that, we've given up our ability to reproduce, whether we wanted to or not.
Let me tell you, it hit me very hard having my surgery and recovery in the same wing of the hospital as the maternity ward. Newborns were crying all around me, babies being wheeled in and out of rooms and pregnant bellies being cradled by anxious mommies. It hit me. It was surreal. This was it for me. I was ending my chances as they were beginning theirs, not that I had any plans of getting pregnant again. Anyway, who knows why the tears flowed this morning. Was it hormones already making changes? Was it the bad night sleep with night sweats freaking me out? Was it the fear of what I would experience next in the form of side effects? The crying only lasted a mere ten minutes, but it was definitely something trying to get out. Acknowledge your feelings. Let them happen. You've been through a lot.
I had a pretty bad headache throughout yesterday. Not sure if it was due to the medicines, the surgery, my anxiety or just being tired, but it ached a lot. I finally asked my physician if I could take something for it since I was already taking the pain killers. She suggested some caffeine. Here I was, trying to be a very good girl, caffeine free, and its exactly what I needed. A little caffeine and my headache was gone. Again, ask your physician if its ok, but I've heard headaches are common during this stage after surgery.
With my mastectomy, I was prescribed Xanax as a precautionary since dealing with major events like these can cause a lot of anxiety and/or depression. I was glad I had it. I experienced moments of fear...fear of pain, fear of recovery, fear of everything...I didn't want to move. The Xanax allowed me to relax, let my body relax, and just heal. I noticed yesterday, during a nap I tried taking, that my mind was racing. I could't settle down, I couldn't just breath my way into dreamland. I then started psyching myself out, thinking of all the things I had just been through and all the things that could still happen via side-effects of the surgery. It was time to pull the Xanax out. I have learned, in talking to some friends in the same position, that Xanax or Zoloft has actually been prescribed to them as part of dealing with menopause symptoms beyond anxiety, such as the hot flashes. Don't be afraid to ask for a little help to get through this.
I'm good to go. I can stand up for long periods of time, I can walk, albeit slowly, around the house just fine and I can sit on the couch and watch a show with the family. Again, the pain in centered in the belly button, but only when strained or touched. Otherwise, I really wouldn't know I had had surgery. Keep your energy up and allow yourself these walks and being upright. They will help your recovery and overall spirits. Vitamin B is a good one to take in the morning to keep your energy up if needed.
|Thank you, Facebook, for my word of 2016. I believe this one.|
Sometimes I fear I ask too many questions of my physician, but then I remember, its my first time, not hers. She's the expert, the one with the answers. This morning, she sent the most wonderful message to me that helped put me on the right foot for today. And yes, it made me cry, because yes, I'm now learning to exhale.
"Try to get yourself out of the house and to a park or somewhere open aired with fresh sunlight. You are so not the cooped up in darkness kinda girl, so being up and about will do you wonders. Big stuff has happened and passed, the new year will bring so much awesomeness you won't know what to do with it. You are great, family's great, everybody is healthy and its time to exhale...finally."