Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Repost: Stages

Here is another blast-from-my-past to celebrate IBC awareness week.  I wrote this post while recovering from the mastectomy.  I like this post because of the way I broke down the healing process.  It became the best way for me to cope with the dynamic interplay of pain, drainage, numbness, and fatigue.  

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.

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