Saturday, October 15, 2011

The deliciousness of being horizontal, and other developments

Another week down. Another hash mark on the wall of my mastectomy prison. All in all, a good week - few(er) complaints. I feel like last week was a meaningful turning point for me. I'm celebrating my 4 week surger-versary. My energy has been more consistently up, I'm feeling physically and mentally better. The strange feelings in my foobs come less frequently, although moving a little more is bringing new sensations. I off Tylenol; down to only antibiotics. And although last Wednesday's revision has set me back mobility-wise, it's healing up nicely. My swelling's way down on the right, and although Lefty is still swollen, it's much better. In sum, all baby steps forward, which is the only direction I want to travel.

So much has happened since last week! Where to start?

Saturday morning, I tried something new, and it was terrific. After breakfast I was beat and needed to go back to bed. How many times have you wanted to take a nap after breakfast? Well, having a bilateral mastectomy gives you just the excuse to indulge . . . as I scooted up the stairs Dave muttered "jealous" under his breath. (I need to find a way to treat that man to something nice, but I digress.) The sleeping at 45 degrees thing was good for the foobs but bad for the back: The upper back had been killing me the past few mornings. This naptime, I decided to try something radical. I stacked two of our king-sized bed pillows one in front of the other and lay down. I still used two smaller pillows on either side of me to support my arms (yes, people, since home from the hospital it's taken no fewer than 5 pillows to comfort me in bed), but I was NEARLY HORIZONTAL, and it felt DIVINE. I dozed and slept for more than an hour like that. Lying on my back, wondering at the feeling. Supported. Cozy. Less like a victim. More like myself again.

Saturday evening marked my first non-essential outing in a month: an early dinner at Super 88 with Dave and Lilah. I did fine, I was out! I was tired by the end (nighttime is still not the right time for me), but it didn't waste me and it was nice to be back eating at our favorite Vietnamese place, even if it was at an early-bird special hour.

Then maybe it was precipitated by that delicious Saturday nap, but Sunday morning I got up and felt noticeably more energetic. I had a little spark that I hadn't had since 9/19. Saw our neighbor for the first time since the surgery and he asked, "so when did you feel like yourself again after surgery?" and I answered, "today!" That feeling has continued and has brought so much hope. I can honestly say that I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. It's still a longish tunnel, but there's a pinpoint of light down there.

Also Sunday, I made Dave accompany me for my first driving experience. He authorized me to go "around the neighborhood," which as some of you know, is a very, very limited distance. Backing out of the driveway proved to be the most difficult - it's long and skinny and twisting around to look behind me (no, I don't trust that gimmicky back-up cam) was tough. Driving itself and turning corners was easy - this car is power-everything. I think with time and physical therapy, I'll grow more flexible and comfortable, but for now, I'm not driving much . . . although tomorrow I'm going to make a break for it to get waxed (3 minutes away). It's been almost 6 weeks and I'm usually on a every-three-week schedule. 'Nuf said on that one. It's time to take action.

Monday, I saw an old friend, a physical therapist who specializes in women who've had breast surgeries. Her job is to help us regain range of motion, strength, and to ward off or treat nasty side effects like lymphedema (the swelling of limbs or even the trunk after lymph nodes have been removed). Nancy is such a sweetheart - one of those caregivers that causes you to exhale as you leave the office. She's on your case, she's measuring and monitoring and not pushing too much, but just enough. She is your cheerleader. I now have some very very simple range of motion exercises and another set of eyes on the swelling - she is not alarmed by the swelling and will help me with some massage in the coming weeks that will help take it down further. It truly sucks to be reunited with her under these circumstances, but here again, Cancer Round I has served me well - she fixed me up right after those three lumpectomies and sentinel node biopsy messed with my left arm, and she's going to bring me back from t-rex-dom now.

Today I followed up with my plastic surgeon. Lefty looks great to her - I'm going to continue with antibiotics for another week, but all systems are go. She showed me the simple massage I need to do now to prevent too much scar tissue from forming around my implants. Twice a day I need to squeeze and push the heck out of these puppies so I can feel them move. It's a bizarre feeling - for now, indescribable. It doesn't hurt, it's just friggin' weird. Any woman w/implant reconstruction will understand. For the rest of you, just take my word for it.

But the best news, the most exciting news from today's visit with PS is that I AM CLEARED FOR CARDIO. Yes people, I can get the ol' heart pumpin' again (and not just from fear of someone coming at me w/a scalpel or a needle). I can break a sweat. That is the great news. The bad news is: no arms. No arms for 3 more weeks 'til I follow up with her again. So no refrigerator, no cooking, no lifting, no pushing, no pulling, no swinging of those arms during exercise . . . so still quite limited, but I can stationary bike (recumbent), do the elliptical or the ARC trainer (no arms), power walk (no pumping of arms), etc. Been very jacked up about this all day, but just had a thought that tempers my glee: I still cannot put my hair in a ponytail. Sigh. That alone will probably limit my activity a little. Who wants to get really sweaty with long hair?? Thankfully, this is my biggest problem today.

So about half-way there, I'm struck by how the mundane gets elevated to the sublime after an experience like this. First it was just getting out of bed and standing, then shuffling across the floor at MGH, then brushing my own teeth and washing my own face. Then the DIY sponge bath and leg-shaving . . . moving into a real shower (albeit still with t-rex arms and hair hanging over my face to wash). I've walked alone through my neighborhood, popped popcorn, gotten my daughter ready for school, spent entire days alone, moved to a horizontal position, gotten down on the floor and back up again (no arms - those UFCs (a la Jackie Warner) I did during my pre-surg. workouts paid off, peeps!). Every time I make a stride forward, I'm rediscovering some tiny, long-lost joy.

My world was made very small by breast cancer, but this past week, I feel like each day it's widening a wee bit. Although I will confess that I can't wait 'til driving, walking, erranding, exercising and tasking are all mundane again, I want to remember and appreciate this deliciousness, 'cause it's been hard-fought and I'm better for the experience.




  1. glad you are feeling the joy of progress. Every little victory is really a huge victory! So glad you are seeing Nancy. I saw her too after the DIEP and she helped enormously. Give her my best wishes when you see her next.

  2. Having visited with the Weeble this afternoon, I can attest that she is spunky and much more like herself. Made my day!!! Onward and upward!

  3. Very happy for you and this fabulous progress! Go You!

    Take care, I'll be checking up on our blog for continued great wonderful progress to normalcy ;)

  4. Terrific to hear all your accomplishments!! Happy and proud of your determination and spunk!! Enjoy each new experience and reward yourself with more "after breakfast" naps!! :-) Way to go, Sarah!!