Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recovery strides, and gross what IS that?

I am making great strides down all sorts of recovery roads today.  For starters, no more loose button-up tops for this hot mamma!  An important step in not feeling sick is dressing in a way that's suitable for public consumption, so I ditched the baggy manclothes.  I wrestled myself into a snug little tank top and completed the outfit with leggings, skirt, shrug, and earrings.  Also, I pried away the last of the steri-strips from my incision and got an entirely unveiled look at the mastectomy remains.  Interestingly, the drainage tubes left snake bite-like holes in my armpit.  This is in contrast to how I imagined them; I didn't have the courage to closely examine things while the tubes were in, and I always imagined the tubes coming out of the same hole or out the end of the incision.  But no, two bonus holes were made for the drainage tubes.  Again, no wonder they were causing so much of my pain.

Another recovery stride is a device to control what I'd estimate is 40% of my nerve pain.  Have I described the nerve pain in the blog yet?  Did I tell you that normal pain relievers do nothing for nerve pain?  It feels like someone heated up a sewing machine needle and started sewing up and down my underarm from the armpit to the elbow.  I think it might also be along my back/ribs a bit.  Yea.  If I don't move, it goes away.  However, anything that causes rubbing, vibrations, or (heaven forbid) goosebumps renews the hot sewing.  This crazy nerve pain inhibits my recovery by encouraging me not to move my arm.  Therefore, at the top of my agenda today was to devise a way to control at least some of the pain so that I could exercise the muscles.  I probably should have done this sooner, but only in the absence of tubes and gauze do I have the clarity necessary for engineering and execution.

What I did was cut off the leg of some running tights and dissected it a bit to fashion some slippage-preventing straps.  I slid this up over the affected area, tied it around my shoulder, and sha-zam!  The result is considerable relief because it protects from immediate friction.  Goosebumps, however, remain the ultimate enemy.  

The penultimate recovery stride of today is that I intended to do a bit of work from home.  I set up a work station in the West Wing (aka our guest room) and successfully passed the first three security levels on the government laptop.  I failed the fourth and final security thing, however, and so I am patiently waiting for my work's IT department to call me back.  If my recovery stays on this trajectory my plan is to dig through work emails from home this week and weekend, then show up at the lab on Monday ready for real science.  If I get to science while at home, that's all the better.      

I'm sure you've been waiting for it and here it is:  the gross thing that I am calling a recovery stride.  I'm taking it as evidence of recovery from chemotherapy, evidence of a renewing immune system.  Fact 1:  During chemotherapy, I had at least two and probably three sinus infections, the first one perhaps in December but certainly in January.  Fact 2:  Eleanor has had a runny nose and spiked a fever this weekend (poor dear), and I am currently rocking her cold but with milder symptoms.  It does not feel like a sinus infection.  Fact 3:  All morning long I had this sensation that I needed to blow my nose, but nothing would come out.  Finally, around noonish, something fell into my mouth from the sinus sky and choked me.  I spit it out and gagged in disgust.  I ran to the garbage disposal and slapped it in.  Fortunately I ran no water and activated no switches, for 30 minutes later I was ready to confront the unidentified falling object.  I reached in bare-handed to locate the object, but I immediately recoiled from its squish and slime and suffered a fair amount of painful goosebumps.  I extracted the object with a kebob stick and a spoon and placed it in tupperware for proper documentation and preservation.  Without further ado, alongside a penny for size reference, my sinus UFO:
Whaaaaat!?!?!  Super nasty!  How is that possible?  Is that of human or bacterial origin?  In case there is any doubt, it is laying exactly as it exists in its spongy form and is shaped exactly like my sinuses; it is not a random blob of mucus.  I desperately want Dr. Oncologist's input on my sinus UFO, so I submerged it in rubbing alcohol until my next appointment.  Perhaps you will think that keeping such a thing is the grossest part of my story, but I assure you, it's not.

And with a breath deeper than I've taken in months, I continue sauntering down my recovery roads.    


  1. I just dry-heaved like Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber. S-I-C-K!!! But, I am sooo glad you feel better and your arm band rocks! I LOVE U! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

  2. Glad to hear you were able to remove the drainage tubes! Since I'm a big nerd, I must say that I am fascinated by your sinus UFO and I'm pretty curious about what your doctor says. It reminds me of my postdoc advisor because he had something benign removed from his sinuses and he called it "Al" which was short for "alien". We had a big, green inflatable alien in the lab in honor of his sinus alien. Funny that both of you guys used extraterrestrial-related terms to describe your sinus invaders. Keep on healing! You are awesome!

  3. Drop them in some formalin and order some FISH probes. If they could get funding to study the whale fall community, this should be in the bag.

    Or maybe Azalea just shoved some croutons up your nose when you were on pain meds and passed out?

  4. OMG! I can't wait to see what kind of science projects you're going to be subjecting your children to in the future . . . sign me up for the art projects instead :-) Seriously, I'm surprised that you were able to breathe at all! The body truly is amazing and gross. I'm glad you are feeling so. much. better.

  5. P.S. No need to return any of my tupperware containers that you may have :-)

  6. That sinus alien is simultaneously disgusting and fascinating - when I was first scanning this entry (before I read the whole thing) I thought the picture was of your tumor and I was all set to be appropriately impressed. Now I'm gagging in sympathy instead.

    Your arm-sleeve is genius. Way to engineer!

  7. I don't even know what to comment...but feel the overwhelming need to grace this post with something!

    I have posted pics of runner's toenails and shaving accidents (I pretty much skinned myself a while back), but I have never some close to that cringe-fest that you posted. Amazingly gross and awesome.

    I think it helps that you paid the goose bump price in the name of science. Go team.

  8. Nice work! I am pleased that the alien released it's self. Grandma K had to have her sinuses scraped after her chemo!!!! Way to rock the arm sleeve. Better get a patent claim on that ASAP.

  9. Formalin would certainly preserve any protein and RNA/DNA content, but I worry that the alcohol is just going to shrivel it up and not allow the doctor to appreciate its true size and spongy form. Maybe a saline solution would be more appropriate?

    Seriously gross and utterly amazing at the same time.

    You need to market the arm band. You would make a killing and could retire early, put the kids (and hubby) through all their schooling, and get to do science just for fun. How nice would that be? You could go to the beach whenever you wanted!

  10. I agree that from a scientific standpoint contact lens solution would have been a more appropriate household liquid for the sinus UFO, but from an infectious disease standpoint alcohol was my only choice, especially with kids in the house. Sinus UFO is holding up well enough.

    Glad you all agree that is it cool in spite of its grossness.

  11. That's the sickest/most fascinating mucus I've ever seen.


  12. I agree with...

    p.s., how do I say I agree with someone if their name is "..."? i couldn't put a period at the end of that sentence.:)