If there are typos- blame the percocet…

In Uncategorized on July 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

So first, thank you to all of you who sent me such loving words of encouragement and light as I went into surgery.  Both my family and I were overwhelmed by love, support and positivity making a daunting day a bit less so.  The night before my surgery as some real fear set in, my facebook page was covered in the quote that is to be my post surgical tattoo:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

that’s how the light gets in

So thank you Kristina Leach, because I know a literary idea when I see one 🙂

On the morning of the surgery, June 26th, my mom and step dad picked me up at 4:00am to have me in pre-op by 5:00.  While I thought it would be a lot of hurry up and wait, it was in fact a very busy morning with all three surgeons crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s.  I knew that most of my family wasn’t arriving at the hospital until after I had gone in for surgery, but my mom, my dad and my step dad were all there very early on.  Then, much to my surprise, my older brother showed up having decided to stop in before heading to work to which I announced, “oh shit, this must be really serious.”  Now, it’s not that my brother doesn’t show up, he’s just not one of the family members who really does hospitals, so I was both nervous and very touched that he was there to see me off.

The surgeons had anticipated an 8 hour procedure.  The sequence of events was for Dr. Foster (the oncologic breast surgeon) to remove my breasts, Dr. Tseng (the plastic surgeon aka the boob wizard as he shall hence forth be known) to do the first stage of reconstruction with breast expanders, and then Dr. Karam (the gynecologic oncologist and most gorgeous surgeon on earth) to finish off with the laparoscopic hysterectomy complete with ovaries, uterus, tubes and cervix.  Pretty cut and dry…okay, not really.

While each part of the surgery went as planned, the breast reconstruction was a far more intensive process than anticipated and the surgery took 13 1/2 hours to complete.  Now, whenever I consider this number, it is not the sore throat I suffered for weeks after based on the tube down my throat, nor the contortionist positions they had to put me into to execute part of these processes.  It is, in fact, my mother and sister waiting for word, waiting for completion, waiting for some sign that all would be well.  They diligently called our loved ones to deliver updates and while I slept through the trauma being exerted on my body, my family and friends had to sit, wide awake, awaiting word of my arrival in the recovery room.  This, when thought about too much, breaks my heart.  But here’s the good news- make it into the recovery room I did and man, was I a mess- but a mess who had come through the 13 hour procedure with flying colors.

For the first two days post-op I remember almost nothing.  My mom tells me I was basically comatose and she was concerned that I was being over medicated but the truth was, the doctors wanted my body to have time to recover from the 13 hour marathon I had just run- as they put it.  I do know that every morning when I woke up my dad was there having stopped by on his way to work to check in on me and had to help me eat apple sauce and drink juice as my arms were totally useless at that point.  Also, my multiple sclerosis was in full swing causing massive vertigo so moving wasn’t really on the agenda.

Now, I had witnessed every step of my sister’s double mastectomy so I expected certain things to be similar.  She found, although she had typical post pain surgery especially where lymph nodes had been biopsied, she didn’t really have pain from incisions or in the chest area.  Expanders are a whole other ball of wax- or rather a ball of something akin to a roman breast plate.  Because the expanders are placed beneath the muscles in the chest, the muscles are then stretched to grow accustomed to that new shape.  Normally, as explained in a previous post, the expanders are only filled partially, but in this case there was enough skin (read fat) and muscle to fill the expanders to capacity.  The great part of this is that it means far fewer post op visits to the plastic surgeon.  The tough part was, there was quite a bit of muscle expansion going on and it has made for a pretty significant amount of pain.  But percocet and valium have aided in that problem, at least to some extent.  On the other hand, my hysterectomy has caused me almost no pain at all, I walk a little more carefully, but the tiny scars are almost unnoticeable and the surgeon is very pleased with my progress.  I did start having hot flashes, which for some reason I find sort of funny, but basically I get hot and sweaty, I strip down, I cool off, I redress.  In the realm of what I’ve been through this month, they aren’t that big a bother.

I did have one set back.  I was in the hospital for four days post op, then home for three and then developed a blood clot in my arm.  I was readmitted for four more days to get the clot under control, and they are still adjusting the clotting meds to get them right but I am lucky enough to have home nursing so I don’t have to get across town every time my blood has to be drawn.  But, the bigger part of this complication is that there has always been a big debate about my going back on Estriol after my surgeries.  This was the trial drug that I was on for two years that helped my MS in such a significant way.  Well, it turns out that women who are prone to blood clots cannot take hormone replacement therapy drugs, the category under which Estriol falls, so even though I know there is a wonderful solution out there for my daily struggles with MS, it is no longer available to me.  Now, this is bad news, undoubtedly, but I am not letting it override the good news that was delivered at the same time.  Of the hundreds of biopsies that they did from my top and bottoms 🙂  there wasn’t a single malignant cell.  In fact, there were not even signs of pre-cancerous cells so if ever I needed reassurance that I was doing the right thing, it was handed to me, right there, on a silver platter.  So I take the good with the bad, it seems to have become my nature and at some point I will have a big cry over the estriol, but for the time being I’m too fucking grateful to have made it through 13 hours of surgery with no malignancies.

So once I was home and settled, my mom moved in to take care of me and as always, she was extraordinary.  She’s a nurse so she’s strict and capable of handling just about anything, but she’s also my mom- the only person who can fix my pillow so it feels exactly right, and she slept on a chaise lounge in my living room so she could be right next to me for my first few post surgery nights.  How I would have made it through all of this without her is impossible to imagine.  Then, in order to give her a bit of a break, my three best friends from college planned trips to each take care of me for anywhere from 4 to 7 days, sometimes overlapping, sometimes taking care of me on their own.  The most succinct thing I can say about this is that post surgery recovery should not be this much fun.  Not only did they pass the baton, learn to empty my drains, change my dressings, bathe me, figure out foods I could tolerate and give me laughter and love every second of every day- they also reminded me that this is just a new chapter.  My life hasn’t ended here- it has instead been prolonged and maybe, just maybe, I will allow something wonderful to happen now- even more wonderful than merely surviving being dealt a crappy genetic hand.

My sis comes over most evenings with dinner and works on the puzzles with which we have become obsessed so I am rarely alone in the evening and although sleep isn’t coming as easily, it does arrive eventually.

Heading into week four of recovery, I’m hopeful that my son will start spending the night again next week depending on how well my T-Rex arms cooperate.  My ex husband has been wonderful about getting him over here at least four times a week and he’s incredibly gentle and solicitous about my condition.  An 8 year old shouldn’t have to see his mom like this, but he’s been a trooper and my hope is it will make him less likely to fear illness- he’ll be a pragmatist just like the rest of his clan.

On a final note, did I mention how ridiculously good my rack looks???  For someone who was always put off by plastic surgery, I am telling you now- I understand why women do this.  They stand up, on their own!!  And they aren’t even finished yet.  I still have three more parts of reconstruction to undergo and another complication with the blood clot is that I have to wait until I am off the blood thinner to undergo more surgery- so I figure everything, including the tattooing should be complete by the holidays.  I’ll just put big red bows on my boobs and dance around.  The height of maturity, I know.  They also look incredibly natural, the part that amazes me most of all.  Dr. Tseng, UCLA.  Tuck that name away for safe keeping.

As this is a monster post it will be awhile before I do another, but I just wanted to assure everyone I am on the mend, I am as optimistic as ever about my healing and future health and I can safely say I will never live long enough to thank everyone who has helped me though this trial.  No one would think it to look at me, but I’m a very lucky girl…

I will be posting pics sometime in the next week- pre and post surgery pics and the heading will read graphic so if those types of things creep you out, please feel free to skip them.  Their sole purpose is to help other women who are facing this surgery so they have a sense of what happens along the way.



  1. You are a Warrior Queen! Xox. Complete with Roman Breastplate. Xox

  2. You rule

  3. No more yanky my wanky. The Donger need food.

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