Monday, March 14, 2011


Okay, this healing-from-a-mastectomy-and-axillary-lymph-node-removal business is going to take a lot longer than I realized.

I have resumed taking the Tylenol 3.  On Friday my pain took a turn for the worse and steadily increased all weekend.  Today is the first day that my pain is as low as it was last Thursday.  The only explanations that I've come up with are that 1) perhaps it took several days for the excellent surgery drugs to totally wear off, and 2) I have lots of numbness in the affected area that is reducing with time, allowing me to feel what's really going on in there.  Regardless, Tylenol 3 is only half of the solution.  The other half is to sit on my tush and prop my left arm on a pillow.  This latter half is tricky because it is surprisingly difficult to actually do nothing.  My legs aren't broken and I'm not chemo-fatigued.  However, it turns out that healing from such a major surgery takes a lot of energy, and doing things with parts of my body seemingly independent of my upper left quadrant actually require efforts from that department.  Even standing still increases my pain and fatigue.  Getting back to normal is just going to take more time than I imagined.

To resolve the disconnect between my actual and expected healing rates, I have started to think about my healing in terms of stages.  By breaking this massive healing process down into achievable bits I am hoping to increase my patience with the process.  I don't yet know what all of the stages are, but here's a brief sketch of the stages that I have experienced:  1) surgery, 2) surgery detox, 3) TLC of the wound and drains (I have two long tubes running from the inside of my wound to two bulbs that I pin to my shirt or pants.  The purpose of these drains is to collect fluid that would otherwise cause swelling in my wound.  The drains have to be emptied twice a day, and the point of entry into my body has to be protected to prevent infection.  They are annoying and disgusting, to say the least).  Here are the upcoming stages that I am anxiously awaiting:  4) drain removal, 5) steri-strip removal (we've controlled the blistering with Benadryl but the queue of strips is still quite itchy), 6) physical therapy, 7) radiation.  Part of my impatience with the healing process is due to my lack of knowledge about it.  I wish I had a mastectomy manual.  The other part of my impatience probably results from spending all winter in chemotherapy.  I am so sick of being laid up.

In happier news, you should see my hair.  It is growing almost as fast as the cucumbers we started from seed indoors.  Its varying lengths make it oh so soft.  Just a few baldish spots to go.

Also happy news is that my brother won't need surgery on his shoulder.  He will wear his left arm in a sling for 6-8 weeks until the clavicle heals, but the shoulder itself is fine.

The sun is shining and I'm still smiling.


  1. I misread the part about your hair and thought you said it looked like a cucumber plant, which gave me an image of you with Medusa-like vines on your head. So now I'm smiling too. However we will all be smiling a lot more when you have progressed further through the 7 stages and are in less discomfort. Think of it this way, at least now if you have sit still, at least you can do it outside, in the sun, right? Right??

  2. Heather,

    I'm glad it's getting better, but sorry it's not faster! How's that for covering all the bases. I remember how mom was on such a high for the first little while after surgery, then it was always uphill, but it just took a lot of time. I'm an impatient person, so I know I would struggle with just sitting when you actually don't feel so bad. If you were to sit outside at my house right now to heal, you would have to do it in mud and 4 foot snow drifts. Here's hoping that Ames is a bit better in the climate department. Give the girls a kiss for me.

  3. My shoulder is definitely not worthy of a cameo in this epic saga, although when Oliver Stone picks up the screenplay I will gladly play the role of myself, and Emilio Estevez can do my stunts (so good in Mighty Ducks).

    I'm probably the only one who will say this, but I think I miss chemotherapy for entirely selfish reasons. More specifically, I miss the toughest decision of the day being whether or not to go to Douglas or Banshell. And can I please make you some double noodle soup? Or would you prefer peanut butter and crackers today? Lay's you say? Sorry, we finished them last night after you went to bed...let me make take a leisurely 6-minute stroll to Fareway (or 6-minutes if pedestrian traffic is bad).

    Well, maybe it's not the chemo that I miss...must be the Lay's :)

  4. I must say that every time I get the pleasure of spending time with you it amazes me. You are so strong and so positive. I am not so sure I would want a toddler zoo at my house... Bravo darling.

  5. Ah how many mommys get to bathe their babies at 30? Well not something we hope for but a blessing non the less. Your inner beauty and strength are astounding. Ah.. Yah you are an amazement. Keep on course roll with the set backs( what. the tubes aren't coming out today!!!!!) we all love you.

  6. Dear Heather - since you missed all the evening excitement here, let me share stages of bedtime for Miss E tonight: Stage 1 - Baby M crawls into her space causing sorrow - Gma to the rescue; Stage 2 - Aunt M prepares the tub, Miss E chants as she is carried up the steps, "Tinka. Bell. Tinka. Bell. Tinka. Bell. Gma instead carries her to the tubby. Stage 3 - tears through the tinka bell chants. Gma sets record for quickest. tubby. ever. Stage 4 - lying on the floor of the TV room wrapped in a towel, Gma struggles to que up Tinka. Bell. Stage 5 - Movie begins, Miss E dried and lotioned, zipped into chubbies - all is well. A new record is set in that Stage 1- Stage 5 took 4.89 minutes. Cousins and sister joined the movie in progress one by one. Popcorn, goldfish, and craisins followed. All is quiet and well at Gma's house }-o

  7. Quite impressed at Gma's land-tub-speed record. Our own little Miss E has somehow along the way gone from LOVING baths to full-on screaming, stamping feet, and trying to claw her way out of the tub. No idea what has changed, but the sight of one of the whale tub toys (past favorite and highly requested bath toy) puts her into a frenzy. Gma can come to my house and help me with bath night anytime!

    Anxious to see you and your soft fuzzy head here at work as soon as you are REALLY up for it (not just mentally, but physically too).

  8. I think Ryan needs to come back so that you guys can join forces and have two working arms between the two of you :) Sitting in the sun, sipping tea, eating Lays, wearing St. Patty's Day Shamrock glasses.... I can picture it now and it makes me want to be there too!

  9. Ah the now famous tinker bell chant that strikes fear in the hearts of both grandmas! At least GL knows how to run the remotes!