a surgery.

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Welp.  Here I am. I cannot believe I am actually writing my first post following my exchange surgery.  My expanders are officially a distant memory and I am spending my spring break recovering and getting used to my new, expander-free life.  I had looked forward to this surgery for so long… and now its over…it seems bizarre that I don’t have to worry about it anymore.

Although everything turned out ok, the road leading up to my exchange surgery wasn’t quite as smooth as I had anticipated.  I spent all week last week preparing because I was originally scheduled to have surgery last Friday, March 28th.  However, the stomach flu had different plans for me.  I became extremely sick last Thursday and, when I called his office, Dr. Noel recommended that we postpone surgery until I felt better.  Obviously, that was the right thing to do, but at the time I was super disappointed.  I cried. Silly, I know…. but I was SOOOO ready to get rid of those expanders!!!.  So, I spent 4 days in bed and drank more water and Gatorade than any one person should in a lifetime. THANKFULLY I was better just in time to have surgery Monday morning.

So, with even more anticipation that normal, I woke up early Monday and got all ready for my operation.  Just like before my first surgery, I showered and washed with this special anti-bacterial soap that tingled like crazy.  Then, I curled my hair and put on mascara and lip gloss, even though they said not to wear makeup. =)   What can I say… I like to bend the rules a little bit.  Finally, it was 10:30am and my friend Sarah and Super Husband drove me over to the hospital.

Even though I was excited to have this surgery, I was a little more nervous going into this surgery than my last.  I know the first surgery was a much bigger deal and had a much longer recovery… but this surgery was different for me.  It marked the first major medical event in my life that I would go through without any family.  As most of you know, I am an only child and my mom passed away a couple of years ago.  Until about a year ago, my dad was my only family within about 500 miles.  Now,  my dad… well… he isn’t around anymore.  So, going into surgery alone made things feel pretty different for me this time around.

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I know I am 30 years old.  I know I have an amazingly sweet and capable husband.  I know God has blessed me with the most amazing friends on the planet.  However, there just isn’t anything that can take the place of knowing that a parent… someone who loves you more than anything… is waiting on YOU to come out of surgery.  For reasons I am still trying to figure out, this just wasn’t in the cards for me this time and knowing that made me much more anxious than I normally would have been as I headed over to the hospital.

Fortunately, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think about things once I got to the hospital. As soon as I checked into the surgery waiting area, the nurses called me back to get ready.  I tell ya, that hospital always runs on time!  It’s so nice.  Once I changed into a hospital gown and verified my name and date of birth about a gazillion times, they finally let me have some company.

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Here I am with Super Husband.  He is so good.

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And, here I am with my friend Sarah…. Laura and her sweet mom were also there with me.    They were such good company and did a great job distracting me while I waited.  I am super bummed I didn’t get a picture with all of them.

Finally, Dr. Noel came to check in with me and do all his final markings.

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After we’d had a chance to talk (and Dr. Noel ASSURED me that I will someday be able to do push ups again), they gave me all kinds of medication, put me in a hair net, and I said goodbye to my people.

Before I knew it, I was back in what seemed like the same stark, white operating room thinking about the same beach that brought me peace during my last surgery.  The next thing I remember is waking up in recovery.

As I prepared for this surgery, I was told by lots of other women that this surgery was “a BREEZE” and “so much easier on your body” compared to the first surgery.  Well, let me tell you… if you are getting ready to have your exchange surgery and this is what you’ve heard… YOU HAVE HEARD CORRECTLY!!!  There is just no comparison to how you feel post mastectomy and post exchange.  When I woke up in recovery, I was in very little pain and was even able to walk and get myself dressed.  Even though it sounds weird, my chest actually felt better after surgery than it had before.  My poor chest muscles had been so sore and strained over those crazy expanders and I felt like I woke up to instant relief.  I stayed in recovery an hour or so and before I knew it, they were sending me home.  My surgery had started at 12:30pm and I was home by 5pm.  CRAZY.

The last few days since surgery have been a blur of company, percocet, naps, and Sex and the City reruns.   I don’t think I’ve ever been so busy doing absolutely nothing. Ha. Thank goodness my sweet friends have come over to see me so I don’t Pinterest myself to death.

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At this point, I am three days post exchange and the only medication I am taking is an antibiotic to prevent infection.  I am not hurting AT ALL from the surgery and haven’t needed to take any pain meds since yesterday morning.  I can’t drive and I’ve only taken a couple small trips outside the house, but for now that’s ok with me… especially since I have these back…

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THE DREADED, HORRIBLE DRAINS.

I am hoping that these beauties will be removed tomorrow during my follow-up appointment with Dr. Noel.  I know they are important for a healthy recovery… but I need them out for many reasons.  First, they are driving me crazy.  Second, the dang things hurt…. those tubes are sewn into your skin!!!! Last… and MOST important… I need to get rid of these things so I can cheer on my UK Wildcats when they play in the Final Four on Saturday!!!!!!  It’s hard to cheer when you have all these crazy bulbs hanging around and holding you down.  Say a little prayer for me…  TAKE. THEM. OUT.

I’ll keep you posted.

GO BIG BLUE!!!!!!!

Jayne

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a nuisance.

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Holy moly is right. Before I get to the point of this post, I want to take a minute and thank everyone for the support you have shown me.  I mean… I am shocked. I just had no idea that I would get such an amazing response from people after sharing this blog.  So many of you have sent me messages, commented, texted, and emailed me about the blog I want you to know that I ABSOLUTELY appreciated every single one.  As I mentioned,  I was super nervous about putting all my business out in the open and now I am so glad I did.  Thank you for supporting me.  Thank you for embracing my story.  Thank you for helping me use my experience to reach others.  My heart is so full.

With that it mind…  I wanted to share the next part of what my recovery was like during the last three weeks.  I can pretty much sum it up in three words: JACKSON. PRATT. DRAINS.

Contrary to what I had anticipated, I really wasn’t in a ton of pain after my surgery.  I had limited movement in my arms and I was really tired, but the pain medication I was prescribed was more than enough to help me feel pretty good.  The biggest challenge I faced following surgery was dealing with these crazy drains that had been put in during my operation.  The jackson pratt drains looked like this:

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I tried to find a real photograph, but I couldn’t find one that showed them very well…  I think this is a pretty good illustration though. When the drains are used post surgery, the long skinny end is actually inserted underneath your skin and it is stitched into place.  As your body heals,  the fluids around the surgical area get sucked into the tube and collect in the bulb.  Every few hours after surgery, the bulbs have to be emptied and the amount of fluid has to be recorded.

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Before my surgery, I had read a lot about the drains.  They seemed fairly manageable.  However, I never realized I would wake up from surgery with 6 of them!! I had thought I might have two… maybe even four, but I never anticipated having six.  SIX! I ended up having two drains on each side close to my armpit and one underneath each breast.

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Picture this… on both sides… with two more underneath.

Six drains were a lot to coordinate.  First of all, I couldn’t use my arms after surgery which made it super challenging to maintain and empty the drains so frequently.  Thank goodness for Super Husband and Super Sister-in-Law, both of who totally stepped up and helped me take care of the crazy things.  If you haven’t seen a surgery drain before, consider yourself lucky.  THEY ARE SO NASTY.  I still can’t believe I had people willingly help me. Here’s a picture that shows what the drains looked like…

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The second thing that made the drains so difficult was the pain.  The drains themselves didn’t cause the pain… it was the stitches that the doctor used to hold the drains to my skin.  If I moved the wrong way, or if someone accidentally tugged too hard when emptying them, it felt like the drains were going to rip off a giant chunk of skin.  What also made the drains so horrible was my super sensitive skin.  I had been instructed by my surgeon to cover each drain site with neosporin  after every shower.  So, as I have always been good at following directions, I smothered each site completely with triple antibiotic ointment.  I actually really liked doing this because it made the sites feel so much better.  However, it wasn’t long until I broke out in a terrible, painful, itchy rash around each site.

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Eeew. Just looking at this picture makes me scrunch up my nose and cringe.  Anyway… the rash continued to get worse and finally my surgeon told me…I AM ALLERGIC TO NEOSPORIN.  Go figure.  I had been making it worse the whole time by putting so much of the ointment on each time.  Obviously, I didn’t use the neosporin much after that!

The last thing that made the drains such a pain (pun totally intended) was simply coordinating the daggone things as I tried to do things around the house. Once I was able to get up and move around a bit, I felt like a Christmas tree with ornaments hanging off of me in every direction.  Originally, the hospital had sent me home with a lanyard and I safety pinned the drains to the lanyard as I moved around.  However, after a while, the weight of the drains started hurting my neck…. SO, I looked around my house and I stumbled across this beauty…

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This jacket actually belonged to my grandmother.  Even though it was too big, I kept it after my aunt and I cleaned out her house in 2009.  I’m not sure why… but sure am glad I did!  Not only was it super comfortable and loose, but it was perfect for my drains because of a hidden secret…

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Inside the jacket, there were large hidden pockets on each side.  These pockets were perfect for my drains.  I just put on a tank top, pulled my drains through the arm holes and then tucked them into these pockets!  By doing that, the drains couldn’t be seen on the outside and it took the pressure off of my neck.

In addition to using this jacket, I ABSOLUTELY LIVED in tank tops.  Before surgery, I went to Forever 21 and bought a ton of cute, cheap tank tops with big arm holes.  The tanks ended up working perfectly.  They were soft cotton and felt good.  They were also super cheap (I think around $3) which meant I didn’t have to worry about ruining them in the event of an accident. This actually came in handy during an “accident” that happened last week… but I will save that for another post! =)  Additionally, the tanks had super big arm holes which made it easier to put them on and take them off.

After 14 LONG days of feeling like a Christmas tree, my plastic surgeon finally removed my drains.  I was a little nervous about having them removed, but I was way more excited about having my freedom back!!  Too my surprise, having them removed really didn’t hurt.  When my surgeon pulled them out it stung a little. However, the pain was short lived and I was quickly distracted with relief and freedom (and scratching because that rash was crazy itchy!).

Eight days have passed since I had my drains removed.  The holes have closed, but you can still see the point of entry.  My rashes are fading and they don’t itch anymore.  I’ve been wondering if the drain holes are going to leave a scar.

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Hope that picture doesn’t gross you out too much.  You can see that the drain hole is still pretty visible.  All six sites still look like that.  You can also see the left over adhesive from the bandages that I used.  I keep trying to scrub it off, but the skin around that area is still super sensitive and it hurts when I scrub really hard.  I’ve been thinking of getting something like Goo Gone to see if it would remove the adhesive more easily.  We’ll see.  I’ll figure something out and report back!

All to say… the drains are a complete nuisance.  However, considering everything else that could have gone wrong, I am more than satisfied knowing that this was my biggest challenge.  I consider myself blessed that nothing more serious happened and it totally worth it to know that I NEVER HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT BREAST CANCER AGAIN.

So, now that I’ve written a novel about JP drains, I’m going to try to go to bed.  I need to get some rest because I’m heading back to the doctor tomorrow for a reconstruction expansion! Yipee.  More on that tomorrow.

Good night.

Jayne

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