Monday, May 9, 2011

Physical Therapy

Wow! I cant believe how time has flown since my surgery! It has almost been 4 months now. I came back and read some of my posts and its funny how much of what I wrote is a blur. I was so drugged that the pain and everything to go with it is just a distant memory...thank goodness! Currently I am in physical therapy 3 times a week. I have the most awesome physical therapist and she is working with me to get my strength and range of motion back in my arms and also the strength back in my stomach. I do stretching and she massages out some scar tissue spots under my left arm and nodules throughout my stomach scar. Then I do exercises to build up muscle again. I can really tell the difference in everyday activities especially with my arms while doing housework. Annoyingly I still have pain in my chest. Not constant pain but if the kids bump me or if Joey is too rough. I will take that minor pain compared to what it was though!
I had a scare this past week with a red spot on my left breast. For about a month I had been keeping an eye on a spot about the size of a quarter that varied between looking bruised and red. Just this past week or so the skin on the spot started to peel and a small spot within the colored area felt very thin, like my skin had thinned out and you could feel a hole. I called both the breast surgeon and the plastic surgeon and they seemed quite concerned and got me in right away. Dr. Fusi took one look at the spot, touched it, and said he had never seen anything like it...fantastic. He wanted to put me on antibiotics in case it was an infection, but I just finished a round of antibiotics for a sinus infection. So he determined that it might have been an infection or a cyst of some sort. I was NOT comforted when he said to just keep him updated if it opens and drains or oozes! He also said if it becomes a further issue they can just close the spot up. Right now, it almost seems to be getting smaller, but continues to peel. Im really hoping that it was just a minor infection and that the antibiotics took care of it!
Our family right now is getting ready for a crazy summer. Joey is going to be out to sea for a majority of the summer and the kids and I will be going back home for several weeks. I have to get special arm sleeves to wear on the flight because of the pressure change and the fact that they took some of my lymph nodes. I guess the pressure can cause fluid build up and a condition called lymphedema. We are really looking forward to seeing family and friends whom we havnt seen for quite some time! Its funny, but im excited to show off my scars. I am proud of all that I have gone through and hope to be able to help other family members brave the surgery as well!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


So ive been home from the hospital for about 3 weeks already! I cant believe how fast time has flown and how quickly ive healed. My incisions are looking great and ive started putting a combination of vitamin E oil and Mederma on them a couple times a day. My husband is back to work and its been a difficult transition for me taking care of the kids by myself. My back is sore often and I get exhausted easily. While he was home I was able to pretty much eat and nap most of the time. Now I cant just sleep in, I have to wake up and feed the kids breakfast. We had me a nice setup when I first got home. Our bed is about 3 feet off of the ground so I had to use a stool and Joey would help me boost into bed. Im sure it looked amusing. I constantly felt like a beached whale because I could barely move myself thanks to my sore chest and pretty much non existent stomach muscle usage. He bought me a lap table and would feed me meals in bed. He would bring me my drinks and keep up with my meds. I honestly dont know what I wouldve done without that man! My first experience with a shower was NOT fun. A visiting nurse came and had me sit in a chair in the shower and she was just REALLY rough. My skin is SUPER sensitive so while it was nice to get clean, it was an experience I couldve gone without. After that, Joey would get in and help me wash my hair since it was difficult to reach. After getting my drains out, it was alot easier to shower. Slowly I transitioned to where I would spend more and more time with the family downstairs. We have a couch that has recliners, that was and still IS useful to laying down and getting back up. We have gone to the mall a couple of times and walked around. It has taken me a while to be able to walk standing completely straight up since my stomach is still so sore and tight. Pain has gotten SO much more manageable. We had a scare where I was weaned off of the Percocet onto Tylenol and it did NOTHING for me so I was in so much pain I had to have Joey call in and get an immediate faxed prescription for some vicoden. Ive started to only take that at night to help with pain management while I sleep and 800 mg Ibuprofen during the day. My appetite has been up and down. Sometimes im ravenous and other times NOTHING sounds good. Ive kept myself on Miralaxx so that I can poo regularly. Yep, too much information im sure, but not being able to use your stomach muscles makes it quite an annoyance! Ive had two more post op appointments, one with each of my surgeons. They are both extremely happy with the outcome and say it will only get better with time. Im quite pleasantly surprised at how large they were able to get my chest. I went into surgery about a B cup and am now a full D just using the tissue, no implants. Im not used to filling out bras without padding! Its been a fun experience. Valentines was my first time getting dressed up, wearing a regular bra, and going out with my husband without the kids. I felt SO good. I hadnt put on makeup and dressed up for him in a while. He told me I looked "hot" lol. I could feel the stares at the restaurant as well. I guess thats what it feels like to have big boobies and wear a low cut dress ;) Today is my first day caring for the kids entirely by myself, as my husband has duty (working overnight). I know that I will most likely end up going to bed early from exhaustion, but am beginning to have more and more faith in myself. Im still not pushing myself too hard as I dont have clearance to exercise or do too much lifting yet. All in all the healing process seems to have flown by. I find myself forgetting to take my pain meds because I feel fine. Thinking back to those awful first days in the hospital I have come SUCH a long way. Im so happy with my decision to take control of my life and am so relieved that this is just one more bump in the road that I have overcome!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Oh Drains, how I loathe thee!

I know in my previous posts ive detailed a bit of what my body looks and feels like after surgery. Well just close your eyes for a second and imagine with me. Imagine 6 drains in various spots coming out of your body. These drains are tubing that is about half an inch wide and about a foot or so long with a bulb at the end of each one. I had two in one spot coming out from underneath my right breast close to my armpit, two coming out from one spot under my left breast near the armpit and two coming out about 3 inches apart right above where my pubic hair starts. The tubes are held in your skin with stitches obviously so when/if they are pulled they do not come out. PULLING did happen, and quite often. I had the suckers in for a week and 1 day to be exact. I had to sleep with them, shower with them and hold them up when I walked so they didnt hang down and pull. The nurses would pin them to my hospital gown or when I was spongebathed/showered we pinned them all to a lanyard around my neck. They are nasty. Luckily they dont have a smell but they just LOOK nasty. They are litterally draining excess fluid from the wounds inside of my breasts and stomach. The liquid suctioned out by them was mostly a light bloody color, some was yellowy. Joey would have to "strip" the tubing often because there would be clogs in them and they wouldnt be suctioning right. Clogs of bloody clumpy nastinesss. By stripping I mean he would hold tightly close to where the tube came out of me and squeeze the tubing toward the bulb to clear the tube. They had to be changed more often in the hospital, but at home we only had to do it once a day. Each one had a number and we had six little containers that were numbered. He would undo the plug and turn it over and squeeze out the liquid into each numbered container and then squeeze the bulb and recap it to create the suction. I was able to get them out after there was no more than 30 cc of liquid coming out per 24 hour period. THANK GOD they were only producing less than 10 cc for a couple days leading up to my appointment with Dr. Fusi my plastic surgeon on the 28th. I was pretty nervous to go in for that onc bc I had heard some horror stories about "getting the drains out!". I had to wait a bit to be seen by the doctor and talked to this lady in his office who looked like her face had been hit by a truck. She explained that she had some form of disease that ate at her ear and she had to have it removed and it affected her nerves in her face and eye. It was so sad and strange, I felt horrible for her. My name was finally called and Dr. Fusi came in and I opened up my top and slowly got up onto the table. He was pleased with how everything looked and how quickly I was healing. He took a look at the chart for the drains Joey had been keeping and told me that I would be getting them all out that day (woo hoo!....EEEK!). I layed back and made Joey hold my hand. Dr. Fusi cut all the stiches on all six drains that were holding them in and told me "here goes".....and OUUUUUUUCCCCCCHHHHH! It hurt like helll! It burned pretty badly and I felt him pull the first one out and Joey was actually laughing! He wasnt laughing at me he was simply amazed at the size of the part that was inside of me. It had to at least be 6 inches long and wider than the hole or tube itself. He pulled them out one by one and it was AWFUL. They burned and hurt for about 30 seconds and before I could recover he was onto another one. OMG it hurt! The last two he did at the same time and I barely felt those ones thank goodness. But man that sucked. He took gauze and tape and stuck it over the holes and that was that. He said the holes would heal up on their own and not to worry about them. I would have another appointment in two weeks (he was leaving for vacation in Italy the following week) to have the stitches in my belly button removed. Oh man did I feel a huge sense of relief getting those drains out. No more pulling and tugging everytime I moved and no more waking up to adjust them. I felt free!
The white part is what was inside of me, my husband put his hand next to it so you can see the size of the sucker!

Hi my name is Gina, and im a control freak

Ive come to terms over the past year or so that I am a control freak. I think it comes with the territory when you are a stay at home mom and are pretty much given the reigns to run the entire household. I control what we eat, how we spend our money, what we all wear, and the list goes on. So when this control is taken away, guess what happens, the control freak in me freaks out. Now that Ive had surgery, I feel like Ive lost control of EVERYTHING. Its more of a humbling experience than I expected. I lost control of my body, the ability to do simple things like shower and dress myself and get in and out of bed. I cant even FART when I want to because Ive lost the control of my stomach muscles! Joey thinks that one is hilarious, and would fart loudly in the hospital and laugh as I would glare at him in jealousy, YEP, pure jealousy. The pain of the anesthesia gas is no walk in the park. Another part of control I have lost is over my children and household. Im pretty anal when it comes to them. How I dress and clean them and do Kora's hair. Its all pretty stupid, but its my day to day job and its been taken over by a man who's job has pretty much been to go to work, come home, eat sleep and play with the kids for years. Im not saying he hasn't done an amazing job, but it drove me nutty at first. I realized today, for the first time since I was a teenager that I do not have any acne. Not on my face, or on my back or anywhere. I usually stress out and get all hormonal and it causes it to flare up. I realized that  my kids are bathed and well taken care of, they are happy and fed and dressed. I FINALLY for once in a really long time gave in. I gave in to letting him do things the way he wants to do them. Feed the kids how he wants to,punish them how he wants to, dress them how he wants to. Giving in has given me the most immense sense of relief I have had in a long time. My stress has been lifted off of my shoulders and I have let other people take care of me and not WORRY constantly about my clean house or what others will think. The reason I am writing about this is I think a lot of us moms are like this. We take on the weight of as much as we can handle plus some. We don't let our guards down and let others just take care of us once in a while. I really needed to do this since my body needs to be stress free as I heal. I feel free because I was finally able to let go and enjoy my "vacation" and my healing time emotionally and physically so that when I am back to myself, I can get back on my broomstick and work my magic of keeping it all together again :)

Going HOME

Getting that news that I was ready to be discharged made me SO happy. I was so annoyed at the fact that all the stool softeners and prune juice had NOT worked so I finally made them give me a sapository..yep I was despereate! I have to admit that not being able  to go POOP was one of the most uncomfortable parts of the whole thing. I hadnt gone for 5 days thanks to all of the meds!!! When I FINALLY got relief from the dang sapository I felt so much better! I ordered and actually ate a decent lunch. Joey laughed as he watched me shovel the food in my mouth, knowing I didnt have an appetite but wanted to leave!  He gathered all of our things, I had help putting on my camisole, my purple sweats, SEXY hot pink granny panties and button up shirt I had worn to the hospital. ALL of my drains had to be tucked and hidden beneath my clothing. The nurse came and gave us all of the discharge paperwork, went over how to take care of the drains and my wounds. She gave us about 5 different prescriptions and Joey started freakin out because they would only give me some before we left, none to tide me over until he was able to get to the base pharmacy. Luckily, we had a neighbor he called who also needed some prescriptions so he set up to have her come watch me when we got home so he could get hers and mine filled on base. For those of you who are unfamiliar with military base pharmacys, they fill prescriptions for free. At this point I was feeling pretty good. I was sitting up in a chair, dressed for the first time in 5 days and feeling good thanks to my recent dose of valium and percocet. They ordered for someone to come and get me with a wheel chair and wheeled me down to the car. Joey was really worried because he hadnt been able to warm up the car and I believe it was somewhere around 13 degrees outside. They got me in the car and my whole body started to tense up and my teeth were chattering. It was SO painful. Obviously with all of the messing around they had done with my chest and stomach muscles, having them tense up like that was NOT fun. We have heated seats and once we were on the road the car started to warm up. Joey took his jacket and hat off and put them on me as well as my coat and I slept in a foggy haze the entire ride home. It was probably a good thing because the jarring from all the bumps was killer. We got home and he helped me out of the car and slowly walked me into the house. The first thing I remember is the smell. My house smelled AMAZING! You know how everyones house has its own smell? Well home never smelled so good. I walked really slowly step by step up the stairs and Joey created a little nest for me with pillows and since our bed is 3 feet off the ground I had to use one of Hayden's little chairs to step up backwards and Joey had to lay me back in bed. It was the most comfortable I had been since the entire ordeal. The smell of home combined with the softeness of my pillows and flannel sheets were like heaven! I finally felt like my road to recovery could begin.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Angel

I have not been a very spiritual person ever since my mom died when I was 12. Up until then my family would go to church on Sundays and my sister and I to youth group on Wednesdays. I even went to church camp every summer through high school. Losing my mom was very hard on my family and we sort of all just “lost faith”. I do still believe and try to live my life in a way a Christian should, but its difficult. Through all of this, no matter how I have failed him, I believe God has had angels enter my life spiratically to let me know that he still has faith in ME.
 When I was leaving the hospital on Monday I met an elderly women. She was a volunteer from the boutique in the cancer hospital and had come to my room to fit me for a special camisole. She walked in my room with a huge smile on her face and greeted me as if I were her own grandchild. She asked me my name and why I had this surgery at such a young age. I felt she TRULY was interested in me and my story. I explained my loss of my mom and my family history. She went on to ask who my medical team was. I told her Grube and Fusi and she had a HUGE smile on her face. She laughed and said I was SO lucky. She had been working in the boutique and been seeing women for over 10 years and the best surgical team by far were the two that I had work on me. She got really close to me and told me she believed that I had a very special angel watching over me, my mother, and that she bet my mom was so proud of me for being so strong and courageous and proactive. I started to cry at the mention of my mother. It did make a lot of sense. Everything had fallen into place so smoothly and I had been so lucky to be stationed up here near Yale to have such a great surgical team. She hugged me and cried with me and told me what an amazing women she thought I was. How much courage it takes to go through something like this and how unselfish I was to put myself through so much physical and emotional pain, to be there for my family and see my children grow. This women made this intense sense of relief wash over me. I honestly believe SHE was my angel when I REALLY needed that boost of faith.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Few days of hell for a lifetime of being worry free

The second my husband walked into the room after I woke up I began to cry. He hugged my head and gave me kisses and said I looked great, he was really surprised. He put all of our stuff down and just held my hand for a long time. I had a “magic button” for morphine that I could push every 6 minutes if I needed to for pain, and push that sucker I did. Most of my time in the ICU is hazy thanks to the morphine. I remember Joey having to leave close to midnight. I remember being SO thirsty but not able to drink anything just in case I had to for some reason go back to the OR. My nurse snuck me ice chips because she said I was doing amazing and would not have issues. I was in and out of sleep throughout that first night, waking up to push my magic button and fall back to sleep. I was so worried in the morning because throughout the night there had been a snow storm so I was worried Joey wouldn’t be able to make it back to me safely. The new nurse had come onto shift and ensured me the roads were perfectly fine and he shouldn't have any problems. I kept in contact with Joey through texting and he let me know he was going to see the kids and Hershey then head my way with stuff to stay with me the next couple of nights. I tried watching TV but kept falling back to sleep, which was good because my whole body hurt and I was exhausted. Joey got to me around lunch time and we were a bit peeved because they still didn’t have a recovery suite available so we had to camp out in the ICU. I remember at one point I was so itchy and my hair was driving me nuts so I had Joey attempt to put it in a pony tail. EPIC FAIL. He couldn’t do it right and was pulling my hair so I started heavily crying. I thought I was going to pass out from the pain in my stomach and started hyperventilating to counteract  the crying hiccups. Somehow Joey got me calmed down enough and put my hair up. The nurses would periodically come in and check on me and jokingly tell me I didn’t belong in the ICU. FINALLY after dinner time we were told there was an open room on the 15th floor, the highest floor in the new hospital. They had to disconnect me from my morphine drip and move me to my new bed and that wasn’t as painful as I thought. All of the nurses that helped move me were so comical, they had me laughing, which hurt my stomach, but was much needed. I was wheeled to my new room, which was pretty nice. I had to wait FOREVER for my nurse come in because it was shift change time. I was in so much pain and quite pissed off.

Finally one really nice nurse came in and got me situated, explained a couple different things to us and fixed my catheter. She said her shift was up and they were extremely shorthanded so sorry for the wait. My new nurse came in shortly after. I remember her the most because she was this short cute Asian lady who was pregnant. I could hear anytime she would come to my room by how she walked and shuffled her feet. They switched me from morphine ( I was sad to see my magic button go) but the pills lasted a lot longer and didn’t make me quite as groggy. Joey brought stuff from the car including his 3000 piece puzzle and his Xbox. He got himself all set up and we were good to go. They had finally given the go ahead to eat, but all I really wanted was something to drink, so I had cranberry juice and lots of it. I was told this ahead of time to help in preventing a UTI from the catheter. I attempted to eat a veggie burger, but eating just made me feel sick so I couldn’t get more than a few bites down. After eating I was in and out of sleep thanks to all of the meds and I was PISSED when my nurse came in and announced they wanted to take my catheter out at midnight. I had barely slept the night before because of the pain so now they wanted me to have to GET UP in the middle of the night when I had to pee? NOT cool. I was so angry. She explained that most people wont be able to go to the bathroom for several hours after the catheter is taken out, so I wasn’t to worry. Well EFF them. I had been pumped full of fluids and had drank all of that cranberry juice so low and behold, about an hour after the catheter was taken out I had to pee. Getting out of bed was excruciating. I had immense pressure and pain in my chest which in turn effects use of your arms/pectorals. I had incisions in my abdomen and my muscles had been messed with so there was no use of my stomach/core. Also anytime I moved the tubing from the drains would pull and hurt SO bad. Joey and another nurse had to literally lift me out of bed and I had to walk hunched like an old lady and crying out in pain, and sat down on the toilet. I couldn’t stand up straight because they had closed my stomach up so tight. THANK goodness I have a very big bladder because I would hold it as long as possible before repeating that process. The good thing was the bed was easily moved up and down and I was able to find a comfortable position. I had one pillow under my legs, one behind my head and one under each arm on my sides. The next two days run into each other. They are a blur of pain, meds, shots, IVs, nurses and lots of sleep. They had me up and sitting in the chair on the second day post op. Sitting up made me sick to my stomach and sweaty all over, but I knew it would help make me stronger. I even got up and walked around the halls several times. The nausea seemed to be the most frustrating at times. They would give me so many meds in the morning. An antibiotic in my IV which I could actually smell and taste when they put it in. A VERY painful heparin shot in my leg three times a day to prevent blood clots going to my lungs. Aspirin to keep my blood thin and flowing easily to my tissue flaps. Of course a stool softener thanks to the stoppage effect from all of the pain meds. I believe they had me on pepcid and milk of magnesia as well. I had two different IVs, one coming out of my right hand and the other coming out of my left arm. Good thing I had two because whenever they would put me on a vitamin bag IV it hurt SO bad going in the one in my hand. I was SO miserable at some points I regretted ever getting the surgery done. Yes, it sounds awful, but I really did. I had to keep reminding myself why I did it all and that the pain would pass…..the pain would pass…
One afternoon I was sleeping quite heavily and I woke up and felt like my entire chest was on fire. I started screaming and pushed the button for the nurse. I couldn’t stop screaming and crying that my chest was on fire. I have never had an anxiety attack, but the nurse believes that’s what it was. She checked my dopplers and my temp and felt my breasts. I couldn’t for the life of me calm down. I had this absolutely overwhelming feeling of dread and pressure and burning in my chest that felt like it would never go away and things would never feel normal again. I think it was one of the most awful moments of the entire experience.
After a few more times of getting up and sitting, getting used to getting up to go to the bathroom and walk the halls I began to stand up a bit straighter. It was really hard to focus on anything like TV or the computer. Whenever I tried reading Facebook I would just cry, which hurt my stomach, because of all of the love and support and amazing comments from friends and family. I started to eat a little more. I was even able to skype with my children and best friend Sara, that brightened my spirits immensely! I had posted a picture of myself pre and post op and couldn’t get over how everyone thought I looked beautiful. You sure do NOT feel beautiful hooked up to all those IVs, without a shower for several days and sans makeup! At the time in the hospital I thought it would never end, I thought the pain would never go away and I would NEVER get out of that place. Well the time passed and Monday came and during their morning runs, the plastics team came in and said it was time for me to go home as long as I could eat a decent lunch THANK GOD! Joey couldn’t stop laughing at me because at the mention of going home I became myself again and no longer focused on any pain, but started yelling at him for paperwork and things I needed that I KNEW I packed but he couldn’t find.