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Yesterday was quiet, more sleeping and watching movies all day long. I have several discs from CSI:Miami, Season 1 (which I never watched on TV) to keep me company. It’s a bit gory, but I like the bright sunshine and the plot lines are nicely simple. One thing: my sister arrived. She promptly cooked dinner and helped J. do some housework. We needed the help and she is a blessing.

Today I left the house! We went to see my plastic surgeon. It was very exciting getting dressed in ‘real’ clothes and making sure we had lots of time to get there and back. (I move a lot slower now that I’m hooked up to a couple of plastic tubes and bags and have a mile and a half of bandages around my chest.)

Off with the bandages and the verdict is . . . .   The plastic surgeon *loved* how good the scar looked and how well I am healing.

His MA, the hideous H removed one of my drains because it was only pulling about 5 cc/day.  As she was preparing to remove it (basically, pulling a long plastic tube from 6 inches in my body) we discovered a wonderful thing: I have sensation! A lot of sensation, as it turns out. Which is great for future enjoyment, but in the moment, most post-mastectomy procedures are predicated on a near-total loss of sensation.

Which is why she is the hideous H. I said “I can feel that” she said, “oh, it’ll be over in just a second.” I said, “um, that is REALLY uncomfortable.” She just pulled the drain out and I said, “OW!!!” and nearly passed out from the wave of pain that rolled over me. (And I was only about 45 mins from my last pain med.) Literally, I was nauseous from the pain, throbbing and unhappy.

I lost the next several minutes as the plastic surgeon examined the incisions more carefully and (apparently) admired the work in great detail. (J. tells me they did so, I was listening to the ringing in my ears.) They put steristrips across the mastectomy scar (imagine a flattened breast with a black-purple-red sharpie mark drawn across it by someone whose hand shakes. And no, I am not going to post a picture.) and gauze ‘band aids’ across the 1st drain hole and the biopsy incision.
I came to consciousness enough that I mentioned the ‘tearing’ feeling when lying down, and he recommended that I get in and out on my side and try bending my knees to further support the core muscles. We talked about pain meds and he felt that I was doing well with my current program (1mg Dilaudid every 2 hours) and told me to start adding in Tylenol, which would
definitely help with any inflammation. He is hopeful the other might come out on Friday, but defeinitely wants to see me next week, and mentioned 12/4 as the date for more saline to be inserted (making my breast larger).

Here’s an interesting thing: I could not look at my chest. Not at all. Here they were, admiring the work, even J is looking right at my breast-like-object (known going forward as BLO) and I can’t look down, nor can I look at my reflection in the mirror. I can’t face it. I don’t have any emotion about that, I just cannot make my eyes shift to see it. My denial takes on such interesting tactics.

At home, later that day, I looked at myself in the mirror, and wondered why I’d been so afraid. It’s not pretty, but it certainly isn’t grotesque. It’s just . . . weird looking. (Now you see why I don’t write fiction.) It is not, and never will be, a breast. Oh, the implant will make it more like a breast, but it will not look like MY breast. And so I come face to face with the thoughts that plagued me pre-surgery: is the reconstruction ‘worth’ it?

I still don’t know.

That night, I tried a new way of getting into bed. I put my right arm down, tighten my core muscles, stiffen my torso, and let J. help me lie on my right side while pulling my legs up and onto the bed. I straighten my legs and roll over onto my back. The tearing feeling is greatly reduced, just a slight pull. Such a relief.

Sleeping on my back is weird. Getting into and out of bed is hard, and painful. I’m glad I’m in fairly good shape, I can’t imagine doing this if I were frail, weak, or obese. To get in bed, I sit on the edge, as far back as I can. J. helps my turn my legs onto the bed, I  then tighten my core muscles, stiffen my torso, and let J. help me lie down. Just before the last inches there is a horrid ‘tearing’ feeling in my chest, on the left side of my breast-like object, right where it meets the sternum. It brings tears to my eyes, its worrying.

I slept in fits and starts through the night — had to get up four times to go to the bathroom — until a little after 8 and then got up and walked a bit. With a little help, I got fresh clothes on and sat up in bed to eat breakfast (oatmeal and an apple!). The bed isn’t all the comfy, so I moved to an armchair (which normally lives in my office, but has been drafted for bedside duty). There, I promptly fell asleep again for an hour.

Last night Sasha was introduced to me again. J brought her in on her leash (to keep her from jumping), but she was great. She smelled me, wagged, smelled the room and then sat down. That was it. So we took her off the leash and she went to sleep while we watched TV. Such a good dog.

My mom left at 11am, it was great that she was here and helping. J. and I are quiet people, so it was sort of nice to have just us again for a bit.

The day was quiet, punctuated by meds every 2 hours.

I take a lot of meds, btw. Kalafex (antibiotic) every 4 hours, Dilaudid every 2, Sentocet (laxative) every 12 hours, and my vitamins. Here’s a picture of my daily meds:

DSCN3695

(Note: this was taken a week later, when I am taking less meds than on 11/15)

I’m so glad to be home. To be in my space, on my bed, surrounded by my things. The smells are right here, as are the sounds. Even the light is what I am used to. It’s comforting.

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A classic view. View from behind the clock in the Musee d’Orsay, January 2009.

Another dozy night . . . although I feel like I slept for longer periods, like an hour or 90 minutes. At 7am, my IV alarm went off. This happened yesterday, and its disconcerting at first. But the alarm just tells us that there is about 20 minutes left of drip. So, it was annoying, and it woke me up, but I didn’t worry. After a few minutes I called in and was told someone would be by in a few minutes to take care of it. That woke my bladder up, so  I decided to go ahead and get up and start my day. The leg-massagers (more about them in a moment) were annoying, but I managed to get them unhooked and swung around so I was sitting on the side of my bed. Minutes passed. I stood up (yay! NO dizziness!!!!) and verified that yes, the only thing preventing me from going to the bathroom was the IV monitors’ electrical plug into the wall. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bend over to pull it out. So I had to wait, listening to the alarm, which was still low on the annoying scale, but growing higher. At 7:20, I called again — apologies, we’ll be right there! And at 7:35 someone came. Just in time, I was getting desperate.

Ah! relief. And I had a bit of a sponge bath and wiped my face (that felt really good) and got a new gown. Vitals still good. Had some more meds (yum). By this time, I realized I had come to a decisions: I was done with being in the hospital. I’m not resting, I’m moderately comfortable, but it’s really boring and I’m not sleeping, so I’m not truly healing. Time to go home.

So I order breakfast and call home at 8am. J is happily surprised at my news, tells me a few things need to be taken care of, but they’ll be by asap. No worries, say I, see you when you’re here. I went for a walk around the floor.

Then I tidied up. Yes. Well, hey! there were odds n ends all over the room, some of my things were in the nightstand thingie, some on a shelf, some by the sink.  So I got them all together, tossed the unneeded things, and got dressed in socks and pants. Decided to wear the hospital gown home because it was easier. Packed up everything else. Went for a walk around the floor.

Right then, breakfast came: a bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich on an english muffin. Pure indulgence. Pretty good, too. (Too much cheese, actually.) With it I had applesauce and lots of water. I was just finishing it when J and mom came in — they were completely shocked to see me, hair combed, face washed, eating an egg sandwich. I just looked at them and said
“I’ve decided to go home.” and we all started laughing. I mean, it’s such a ME moment, you know?

My plastic surgeon came by and we talked meds and recovery. Seems that my other surgeon had already given the go ahead for me to leave when I want, subject to working out the pain med/nausea thing. The nurse stopped by to make sure I knew what to do with my drains, and she emptied them with J watching — he feels very confident he can deal with it, and I’m grateful. We do paperwork and I get a handful of prescriptions to be filled, dilaudid (pill form), keflaux (anti-biotic), lunesta (to sleep) and three kinds of anti-nausea meds. Then its into the wheelchair (so strange!) and through the hospital and outside.

Ok. So, stop for a moment and imagine you have a 10-lb bowling ball stitched to your left chest. You can’t raise your left arm really at all, and you can’t use it. Now, get into a mid-size sedan. The front seat was out — I was NOT going to wear a seatbelt. Our back seat has bucket seats, which was a bit awkward, and of course choosing which side to be on needs to be based on how easy will it be for me to get OUT? tricky tricky . . .

We managed it and made it home, driving very slowly (J even put on the flashers and went 5 mil/hr over the train tracks) and carefully. It was hard to remain relaxed and just breathe rather than tense up in anticipation of a bump.

Sahsa was left in the back room as we maneuvered me upstairs (tiring!) and into bed. It’s good to be home. Really good. So I went to sleep for a few hours.

The tough thing about surgery and pain meds is that the whole process really does horrid things to your body. I’m not a doctor, but how I’ve come to think of it is that when they do major surgery, they have to shut your whole system down to be able to work freely. So, recovering from surgery means restarting all of your systems. Its one reason they are so concerned with your bodily wastes — its an easy way to see that many systems are functioning again.

So here I am, 1st thing in the morning, and I haven’t eaten in . . . lets see . . . about 36 hours. I am (to put it daintily) effing STARVING. But I know my body won’t tolerate much, so I order yogurt and whole wheat toast, dry. Well, I had forgotten that hospital food may not be horrid anymore, but it ain’t what I eat at home. So I have strawberry yoplait and whole wheat, but not whole grain toast. Ick.

Oh, and my body hates it, too. Really hates it. Had three small bites of yogurt and a bite of toast then spent 5 minutes holding a bag (conveniently taped to my serving tray) at ready. I did not need it, but that was unpleasant. So, the engine is not ready to restart, but the hunger is making me ill. It’s like my stomach is eating itself. (Ok, change the direction of *that* thought, that’s a little too horror movie for right now.)

J and Mom arrive, full of good cheer and I have to tell them to tone it down. I’m not especially emotionally sensitive, but their energy is *beating* at me, like a Metallica concert right next to the main speakers. They get my meaning and relax and tone down to a more bearable level. We talk about this and that, the well-wishes expressed by so many is unexpected.

My surgeon comes in and gives me the thumbs up for being a good patient. She also recommends that I stay away from sweet things (like the yogurt) and try salty things. After she leaves, we decide to try plain chicken broth and saltines. And yes! I can actually imbibe this  . . . well. . .  not food . . . but sustenance, yes.

Saltines, btw, are a magickal food for me. They were forbidden as a child, so getting any meant it was a special occasion. They are a ‘when sick only’ treat.  Also, having my mother feed me soup was weird, disheartening, and frustrating.  I’m sad to say that it goes down as one of those moments when she felt it was important and I let it happen. Not great. It was easier for me to just pick up the soup container and drink it. (Which I did later, after she was gone.)

I feel so much better for the 2 ounces of salty broth (probably from a bullion cube no less) and a couple of saltines. Its a little shameful. And it took me hours to dink the whole cup. I’d drink a bit, then doze, chat a bit, then doze . . . rinse, repeat. Time dilates oddly, slower at times, then longer. Can time truly be a constant?

Amusingly, I’m supposed to do three laps around the floor today. Not all at once, but at some point. This is in theory a good idea. It’ll get the circulation going, help me feel more alert, etc. But I’m so weak from meds I literally can’t get out of bed. I do not leave my bed, except to pee, at all today.

J and Mom went home for a bit in the late morning . I talked about the meds situation with the nurse and we decided to try halving the dosage and giving it to me twice as often (basically 2mg of dilaudid every 2 hrs instead of 4 mg every 4 hours). So far, its working better. I’m more uncomfortable, but not in actual pain. Its sort of like having a small 10-lb bowling ball attached to my left chest — its so heavy, my muscles are being stretched to hold it up.

I dozed in and out of consciousness. As a note: my vitals are all looking very good: pulse in the low 60s, BP around 120/80, temp around 98*. I’m a healthy gal!

J. came back in the early afternoon just him. He spent several hours with me and I could tell he was whitelighting me like crazy. While he was with me, oh heaven!, I slept. REALLY slept, for a few hours. That was a true gift, and I feel it was J’s presence that did it. I felt protected and bathed in good vibes.

J and Mom came back in the evening. Mom smuggled in her evening drink, it made me laugh to see her sitting with a water bottle in one hand and a bowl of pretzels, chatting away as if we were home. They are much more used to my dozing now. While they were here I had a real dinner — grilled salmon and broccoli. Damn, it felt good to do that. No nausea at all. I ate slowly and enjoyed the flavor (not that the local restaurants have to worry about competition!). J now calls me his brown bear d’amour. 🙂

So, today I accomplished? A real meal, and I worked with my people to find a pain mgmt plan, and we succeeded. Small things take on large importance right now. Its a topsy-turvy world.

I have several good friends coming over in a few hours, each bringing an item for our potluck Thanksgiving. J. is cooking his first turkey, and attempting a wilted spinach salad, I’m making my signature smashed potatoes (1/2 sweet, 1/2 regular, easy on the butter), and cranberry sauce. My pumpkin butter canning plan went awry (no jars!), so I also have a pumpkin bundt cake to offer.

Throughout the day I’ll be calling and talking with family. We all have a great deal to be thankful for, this year more so than others.

I am profoundly grateful for the man I love and share my life with, for my true friends far away and near, for my exasperating, glorious family, and for the Lord and Lady who give me challenges I must stretch to achieve.

Blessed Be.

Friday the 13th! Today is very weird, not only because I woke up in a hospital, but because I have large gap in my memory of yesterday. I rely on my memory a great deal, having gaps is fairly distressing, even if I know why. In a way, it gives me a glimpse into why people with amnesia freak out so badly, it must be incredibly disorienting, frightening.

I have a private room, barely big enough for a typical hospital bed, IV line, chair for visitors, and sink/cabinet. A TV hangs high on the wall, and I have access to movies (fairly new: A Quantum of Solace is one of the choices), TV, and even the Internet. Without a keyboard, however, I will not be checking of sending emails. That’s probably just as well.

I don’t sleep, I nap for 30-45 mins at a time. With my door closed my room is actually pretty quiet, and I have enough morphine-equivalent in me to make sleeping easy . . . but I don’t actually sleep. I didn’t last night, and I’m not today. When I have company (my mom and J.) I occasionally just lose track and drift away. I can still hear them talking, but I don’t pay much attention, its soothing to know they are there, but I don’t feel like I need to participate.

Yesterday when they moved me into this bed was the first serious pain I’ve had — I was fairly well jostled as they ‘slid’ me from bed to bed, and the pain spike drove right through me. I wanted to curl up, and only force of will kept me at full length (I knew it would hurt worse if I didn’t lie straight). I tried desperately to breathe to relax, but (ironically) the pain meds interfered. So, it hurt a LOT.

I just looked at J’s twitter feed and I can tell you this: I remember essentially nothing from 1:30pm 11/12 until being wheeled into my room around 8pm. What do I remember? Getting out of a wheelchair and onto a surgical table, being helped to lie down. (ed. note: and this is NOT a true memory. I was wheeled from pre-op in the same bed I’d been lying in all day.) There was music playing. A woman was laying out surgical instruments on a table on the back wall. The room was chilly. A Woman and a man helped me onto the table. The man talked to me. The next thing? I was in recovery with a woman checking in on me and going in and out of consciousness.

In its own way, that is fairly frightening. I’m sure its a good thing. But I hate that I can’t remember.

The big thing for me right now is that I have two drains. They need to be emptied 3x/day, and the contents measured. The med staff here keep trying to show me how to do it, and I refuse. J will do it for me. It’s silly, but I just can’t cope with the reality of the drains right now. I also can’t really look down at my chest, I have no curiosity to peek under my gown. None.

I can tell you this: When I got a glimpse of J. through the doorway (they weren’t ready for him to come in yet) it made me very happy. I knew it was all going to be all right when I saw him. That was my first smile.

Now that my pain meds are greatly reduced, I’m feeling more able to write again. So I’ll be posting a series of ‘time machine’ posts starting from 11/13 and going forward. I may repeat myself, but they are the posts I would have written at the time, but couldn’t. The posts will be put up in real time, but dated in the past.

As an update for today (11/25): I still have a drain in, so I am still quite limited in my mobility/abilities. I am quite stir-crazy and bored. I am doing some work which is at least challenging. I am slightly grumpy. Hopefully the drain will come out Friday.

I’m a bit late with my November update at Facing North — I have about 20 reviews in various states of progress and another 1/2 dozen or so from other people.

I may end up doing two updates in December. But I’m trying for at least a small update this weekend.

In other news, Jason Pitzl-Waters of The Wild Hunt has made Facing North an affiliate which is great news. I’m darn proud of my review site, and all of the hard work my reviewers put into the 100s of reviews we’ve written. Hopefully the affiliation will draw more attention to the site and get us into an even busier place.

No, really. As a comment to an earlier post, I received this:

Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.

This is a worthwhile sentiment, and inspiring at this time in my life. But it came from a spammer (the supposed sender is a rugby player; I just went to the site again to check specifics and it was flagged as ‘Warning Unsafe content’ and had been taken down).

Weirdness of the day.

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