Friday, December 2, 2011

Two Weeks Post Surgery

Two weeks ago right now I was beginning to emerge from the fog of anesthesia.

I haven't felt inclined to write about the details of my procedures; they are readily available elsewhere and probably no one is interested unless they are about to undergo the same things.  I will say that I am grateful to the courageous women who have documented their experiences in blogs and on youtube, especially to those who've posted photos and videos, and to the surgeons who have done the same where their specialties are concerned.  Most women probably wouldn't want to watch a mastectomy before undergoing one, but I did, and I was starving for reconstruction information from those who've been there/here.

Today, though, I thought I'd write a little about what a good recovery is like.  Many women have had very rough post-op experiences and, as they often comment, they are the ones online, seeking advice and help.  I think my experience has been pretty unremarkable, so if anyone wants to know, for their own or a friend's encouragment:

Overall most significant thing at this point:  I'm very, very tired.  After that two-mile walk yesterday, today's appointment, errand, and two visitors = too much.  Manageable, though.  A week ago, impossible.  I am going to lead worship and preach (a recyled sermon) on Sunday, but only because I can take Saturday and Monday as days of complete rest.

Pain: Very little.  There are a couple of tender spots, interior stitches, I think, but that's about it.  I'm not comfortable, but I wouldn't say that I'm in pain.

Sleep:  Still a problem.  I am sick and tired of the recliner in the living room, but I can't lie down in comfort.  I'm experimenting with different OTCs to try to find a way to stay asleep for 3-4 consecutive hours.  

Vision:  I think the anesthesia did a number on me, and I am going to have to go in for a new Rx.  

Mental clarity:  I can read now, a little at a time.  Unfortunately, my main project involves wading through 31 freshmen papers analyzing the Documentary Hypothesis, myth, and symbol in the Torah.  One of the papers is outstanding.  The rest ?  Sigh . . . . . . . .

Appearance:  I actually wrote to Peace Bang, she of Beauty Tips for Ministers, asking for suggestions.  She sent back a sympathetic note, but that was it.  However ~ it doesn't matter!  It's really not that difficult, especially if you frequently wear jackets and/or scarves  (the latter being The Lovely Daughter's idea).  I have some fake, uh, accessories, and some  new undergarments which, while not my choice for comfort or support, do the job.  No one who encounters me in public will ever know, even when my top has a normal v-neckline.  (At home, I wear PJs with tank tops.  We all do know.)

Driving: First time out today on my own!  My kids are taking me to my church for the first couple of times; I think that drives of 1.5 hours would be way too tiring.  And I'm scared of being out in the country.  Around here, there are lots of houses and friends ~ help if I suddenly came to a complete stop.  Out there, I feel more like I'm on Laura Ingalls' South Dakota prairie.  Also, I look at that airbag sign with great trepidation, imaging the work of the past two weeks being completely undone.  Hence my willingness to be very careful.

Emotional:  I'm not sure how much what I have to say applies to anyone else.  I think that for all of us, this is the most personal and most unpredictable aspect of recovery.  My cancer was stage 0; I wasn't going to die from it.  The surgery and subsequent procedures are a big deal, physically and emotionally, but compared to the loss of our Josh, they are barely entitled to a mark on the scale.  I am seeing a therapist for awhile; I am quite willing to admit that the combination of growing up without a mother + dead child + mastectomy, all of them losses involving mothering, coalesce into a set of experiences for which I would counsel anyone to seek help, especially during the ever-difficult holiday season.  It's a surprising thing, though; you think that your heart cannot possibly expand to absorb one more big loss, and yet it does.

So that's it, two weeks out.  A big improvement over the blinking and beeping PACU!


  1. Slow and steady progress sounds just great.
    I recall doing too much one day when I was post-surgery (hysterectomy through my existing c-section scar) and feeling very set back. But a day or so of taking it easy, and I was back to slow and steady progress. It sounds boring, and to someone who is used to accomplishing as much as you are, it might be boring, but the body needs what it needs - not to mention the spiritual and emotional needs around this surgery, and this time of year. I hope you will continue to be very, very gentle with yourself.

  2. It's funny how diverse and amazing experiences can be from one person to another.... and even within our own lives. Pain, loss, grief, joy ... they seem comparable, but often they're not. They are what they are.

    I'm grateful you can articulate so much of your journey, and shine a light on the path so many women find themselves walking. I have a number of friends lurking your blog.

    Then we talk about it. Like a book club.

    We're all pulling for you.

  3. Cindy, I hope YOU are feeling better!

    And you're right. I mentioned to a friend yesterday how very difficult December is for me. She has had breast surgery and chemo; her last treatment was yesterday. She said how excited she gets when she hears Christmas music, because it anticipates a day at the end of the month when she expects to feel much better. She, too, commented on how differently we each experience things.

  4. PS: I wish your friends would comment. I would love to hear how others navigate these experiences.