Post-Surgery Breast Reduction: Day 56

As promised┬áthese new pictures are from today. Sadly they are slightly blurry but it can be kinda awkward to try and take these photos by oneself. However, what you can really see is how quickly they are healing now that the infection is gone. It’s a completely different track. As I mentioned before the nerves that are returning are also good and seem to have calmed down slightly today.

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGERY AHEAD NSFW

In order to give myself a little more room and actually have the NSFW bit be useful I’m going to chat a little about my life experience going through this. In theory if all goes well in a breast reduction you should be able to return to work after 1 week if you have a desk job (which I did). And then from there it should in theory get better each week. For me what happened was that I contracted an infection somewhere around week 3-4 and I don’t think it got caught until week 5 because the way the follow ups go is that you go weekly for the first 3 weeks and then if things look like they are going well the doctor will give you a week off before your next follow up. So for me in that interim week I ended up getting an infection which blew the healing process out of whack. And because it was a gap week the doctor didn’t catch it until it was actually a pretty full fledged infection where he needed to remove a layer of skin and put in stitches and put me on antibiotics. If I were to do this over again, I think I would’ve been more active about letting the doctor and nurse know about my pain levels even if I thought I was being excessively needy. Because it’s a lot easier to deal with something when you catch it early rather than if you let it fester. If you look at the pictures now this is where I wanted to be like 2 weeks ago and I think that should have been possible if not for the infection. And perhaps had I spoken up about how my pain really wasn’t decreasing and I had these little microtear feelings then maybe that would’ve tipped them off. That’s just a theory, who really knows? It could have turned out the same way but we’ll never really know that. This is just how I feel the process has gone for me. And I think it would have been nice if I had had a resource that actually tells you what the experience feels like. Everyone is going to be slightly different because everyone’s body is different but at least with some knowledge there is at least a baseline.

right almost totally healed

 

As you can see the right is nearly totally healed, it’s kindof amazing what a week can do for a giant open wound. Especially given how large the right one was initially.

left healing up

The left is healing up ┬ábut the bottom part is taking a little longer than I’d like. However the nice part about this one is that the infection has clearly completely cleared up and is now gone and that part is closing up pretty nicely. I’ll be really excited when all of it is done.

 

Post-Surgery Breast Reduction: Day 46

I bought my first bra since surgery. In fact, I bought two. It cost me $60. As an adult, I have never ever ever purchased a bra in my correct size for anything less than $70 for a single product. To be able to buy 2! bras for $60 is like a small miracle. Also, I am now a 38D. I haven’t been a D since I was… 13? 14? I’m not sure… I think I was past a D at 14.

At any rate that’s not the point. I’m not at my ideal size because I would like to lose some weight which would help me lose a band size (and maybe another cup size). The point is that I have 10lbs off my chest. Literally. It feels amazing to be able to go into any store and find a bra. In my size. To not have to specialty order or custom size. To be able to wear a bra without an underwire and feel secure. These are all small miracles for me for which I am forever grateful.

My doctor’s visit today was good, he thinks that things look good and that things are progressing well. He apologized it was taking so long. Apparently when things go smoothly it’s not quite as bumpy a road as it has been for me. But that is ok. I am willing to travel this road and thankfully I have a buddy. My partner is my medical advocate because apparently she thinks I am too stoic for my own good (ok, those are my words, hers are, “well I’m here because you’re apparently incapable of advocating for yourself”). I just figure if I can suck up the pain it must not be worth mentioning… this is clearly incorrect because my care is infinitely better when the doctors have more to go on. So maybe she is right. I know, you never thought I’d say that. (Neither did I).

Anyway, I’m thrilled. I have bras. They are super comfortable. Now if only I can get through these last stages of healing I’ll be on my way. And very excited to boot!

Post-Surgery Breast Reduction: Day 42

So these new pictures are from today. The prior post was showing what it looks like (albeit kinda blurry) when the wound is mildly infected but today I’m going to talk about what happens after that.

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGERY AHEAD NSFW

You know, if I didn’t know that people had this surgery all the time and that wounds like this do actually heal, I would think my doctor is a complete lunatic. That said, I have implicit faith in my doctor, he’s the best in Chicago for this type of surgery. I know he has a close relationship with the best breast cancer surgeons as well so I’m pretty confident of the care that I’m getting and boy am I thankful I am because this has been an interesting and more difficult road than I saw coming.

Upon reflection that was silly of me because I have a very good friend from college who did not mince words and told me about her experience, yet somehow I thought that in the last 10 years science and technology would have magically made the experience like I don’t know a 10th of what she experienced. Not true. I think the scars and the heal time have reduced but like by a week maybe 2. Not quite what I had expected. Perhaps because I am an optimist and I just assume that everything will always go along the happy path… which is sortof ironic considering nothing in my life has gone that way. I digress. What I was going to say is that when recovery from surgery gets difficult and you are very stressed out I think what really makes the biggest difference is love. I had been on/off considering getting this surgery for the last 10 years, to the point where I was still on the fence about going through with it until a week before. So the only people that knew about the surgery before I had it were: my partner, my mother, my partner’s mother and 2 friends. Typically that’s not what I would do because that is a lot of pressure on not very many people. Particularly because both of those friends not only do not live in the same city as I do but they don’t even live in the same state! Oh and I told my best friend who lives in the Netherlands after I had it done… because I just forgot to call her — time zones make it challenging to coordinate, you know? Yet for some reason I just didn’t consider needing a support group.

Part of me wonders if this is because I have a very independent personality. Ever since I was small I’ve always wanted to do things on my own and to be responsible for myself and to be completely and entirely self-reliant. I don’t think that’s a bad thing but I think it undervalues the importance of love. So recently I posted on facebook to let the rest of my friends and family know what is going on in my life. The outpouring of love that I have received has been a very happy and helpful surprise. My partner, thank whatever you pray to in the universe for her, has been a rock for me to stand on and yell at and generally be quite unpleasant to and still loves me and puts up with me and is kind to me. These are the things that I think people forget to plan on. And it’s so easy to forget that people love you when you have bigger things on your mind, like having silver dollar size open wounds on your body and small infections that have shooting pains that go from inside your breast all the way to your nipple. But what I think you can forget is that even if it’s just a skype date once a week with a different friend, knowing that someone cares and loves you is a powerful healing tool. My partner is amazing and I know she loves me dearly but it’s a lot of pressure to have her be captain step and fetch it and also provider of all the love in the universe. It’s also a little unfair. So I’m thankful for little things. Like my friends that have started to reach out… now that my genius self let them know I underwent this procedure.

On to picture time!

left breast after removal of skin with infection and addition of sutures

If you’ll notice in this picture you’ll see that from the last post the skin was red and somewhat yellow and angry. So what the doctor actually did is literally cut away the infection (which does cause some bleeding). And then after injecting me with some lidocaine he put some sutures in to ensure that the wound will close instead of continuing to spread apart. Part of the issue with the skin spreading apart is that sometimes with women who have particularly dense breast tissue it can make the skin want to spread apart (gravity) instead of close together. I’m hoping these precautions can help. And now that I’m on the antibiotics the pain is far far less severe. There’s definitely a base level of pain that I’ve simply gotten used to by having this procedure done but it no longer *hurts* all day, which I think is great progress.

right breast awesome healing!

Now on the right side you’ll notice that from that huge scary as fuck (pardon my language) hole that was there it’s closing up beautifully. The scars are already starting to fade and everything is going really well. So I did want to make sure to show what it looks like when things go well because this side has really been doing a good job. And I have no pain on this side, I just have to make sure to put the cream on it every day after I shower so that it continues to heal up nicely but overall there are no problems.

Post-Surgery Breast Reduction: Day 36

More backdating to explain what’s going on and some more pictures so you can try to discern for yourself if you are going through something like this if you have reasons to be concerned or not.

WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGERY AHEAD NSFW

So now we are at about week 4-5, I don’t know I’m losing track here because it’s been a while that I’ve been dealing with this. And I’m starting to get concerned. My right breast is healing like a champ — yes I know, ironically the one that I was like WTF you are going to leave a silver dollar size hole in my body and call it good, have you lost your mind people. Yes that one is fine. The one that is not fine is the other side. It feels like it is widening and the top and bottom holes are starting to move together. This is terrifying. Well not only terrifying it is also excruciatingly painful. So the pain had gotten to a steady point where I could manage it previously but then in the last week or so it was starting to increase. And then I started being able to feel my skin actually start to separate from the top down. Granted I started to notice that it was getting bigger on Wednesday and thankfully my partner is very on top of things so she sent an email the very next day to the nurse who is very responsive and actually didn’t get the comparison pictures so I had to send the second picture (she only got the old one from the previous post if you are following this). So I sent her an updated picture and she said yes, she thinks it might be widening but to continue using the cream they had given me to help the healing process and she thinks it still looks ok but is going to run it by the doctor. So at this point it is Friday afternoon and I already have an appointment scheduled for Monday so I don’t think it makes any sense to do anything drastic because I already have an appointment.

left breast widening

As you can see below there was widening and subsequently there were a few things that happened that I think will be more appropriate for the next post. All I can say is that I’m thankful that my partner cares enough to be concerned and to share her concern with my doctors when she doesn’t think I’m speaking up enough because quite frankly in this case she was right. (And probably in others I’m not willing to admit that I’m wrong on quite yet).

Post-Surgery Breast Reduction: Day 18

Ok, I am officially changing my stance. So having your ACL reconstructed blows big monkey chunks, yes. And the pain is wildly excruciating the first I dunno 3-4 days. But after that things settle down and you get back to life as normal and take some prescription ibuprofen and you’re fine. I mean ok, you are not *fine* but you’re mobile, things kinda hurt but you are in rehab and you can do most things. For example going to work is awkward because you know you have a giant brace, but not because it is hard to sit up or you are in crazy amounts of pain.

Breast Reduction, not so much. Like for real not so much. I have not had this much consistent pain… well, ever, in my life. I mean I’m on day 18 and I really honestly need to take vicodin to be able to sleep. I’m also taking valium but I feel like that’s more for comfort than the fact that it works on me. Because really if I take the valium nothing happens… maybe I’m just too relaxed a person but I’m kinda ticked off because I would like it to do something. At least vicodin is pretty good at knocking me out. Going to work is exhausting. Sitting up can be exhausting. I don’t have much of an appetite which could be partially due to the cocktail of drugs I’m taking, though it is getting better every day.

One of the things I didn’t think about when I got this surgery is how limiting it is. I mean it’s difficult to move your arms. Today is the first day I could shower and actually lift my arms enough to reach the back of my head so I could shampoo my hair normally without twisting in weird positions. And I can finally put my arms down at my sides. I just got my sutures out, which was definitely painful when my doctor was digging around in my wounds, however since my boss was nice enough to let me work from home lying down has helped a lot. (I thank whatever powers that be every day that I have a job where I can lie down and use a computer to do because if I didn’t get breaks like this every few weeks with this kinda surgery, I don’t know how I would be able to keep my job.)

Also one of the more horrifying things about this recovery is that I’ve been oozing into my bandages which I have wear in lieu of a bra for the past 2 or so weeks, which is gross. Then again my doctor was also you know digging around in my wounds to get to the sutures so that was also not a very fun experience. And while getting the sutures out I was basically gushing blood, which my doctor called oozing. I kinda want to be like, actually you just went through 8 pads being soaked in blood. I’m not sure I would call that oozing, I would call that bleeding, thank you. Granted my boobs, reduced as they may be, are still large so I can’t actually see where or why I’m bleeding unless I have a mirror and I’m still too much of a chicken to look at that. Though I’m very surprised that the nipples are healing quite well, they don’t even look like anything happened. The downside to the nipples though is that they feel everything, particularly the left. I get shooting pains periodically through the day. It is validating however that the nurse said that either you feel nothing (which can be permanent) or they are overly sensitive and feel everything but that will tamp down in time.

All that said, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The recovery is seriously one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in my life. But I can straighten my shoulders back consistently, which I haven’t been able to do since I was 16 years old. My knees don’t hurt because of the extra weight on the front end of my body. I feel lighter. I don’t have back pain. And clothes actually fit me. I need to lose some weight but I also feel much more prepared to do so without massive boobs that make me tired all the time. So overall, while I am in a pretty bad mood almost all the time because this recovery is no joke, I am eternally grateful that I had this surgery.

Also as much as I am complaining about this recovery I have to say, I am so so so grateful for my partner. I could not do this without her. And she puts up with a lot of crap from me right now. Because I am somewhat permanently in a bad mood and shouty which I think is somewhat understandable because of the pain. But also really really not fun to be around. And she’s been pretty great. She’s even done things that normally make her pass out like hold my hand while I got my sutures out. So I am grateful for many things. Smaller boobs and a wonderful person to help me through a tough time.

As a side note though, you’d think they’d have come up with some sort of technology to make this easier. Sigh. Maybe some day.

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 7

So yesterday I went to my second PT session and I have been relieved of my crutches. Hell yeah b*!$#es! Ok so I normally don’t swear but I think this qualifies for being really happy. I seriously hate those crutches. Now I’m still carrying them around with me because i haven’t quite figured out how to get on/off a curb without them but I don’t need them for normal walking or for stairs. They’re more of a comfort right now in case I get really tired or find something really difficult to do.

So my mom has been taking care of me, which is really really nice of her. Sadly she went home today. Though while she was here she made a lot of fun of me because a few days ago the pain really stopped being all that bad and I started walking around again. But then yesterday I almost started crying because of this bruise that I have.

So mom thinks this is hilarious because I didn’t really complain at all about the pain right after surgery. I muscled through all of that just fine. And I even thought it was cool the progress I was making. Until these bruises showed up. I mean I guess I can admit that it is a little funny that the surface wounds make me cry but, you know, surgery doesn’t. I’m a weirdo, what can I say?

That said I think I’m actually healing up nicely. If you’ll believe it the bruises are way smaller. And I feel good about it.

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 4

So it’s Saturday morning after having had surgery on Tuesday. Overall I feel pretty good. The worst part I think is not being able to sleep consistently. I stopped taking pain killers yesterday and I don’t feel any worse for it so I think that’s a good decision. I am finally able to go up stairs by myself with just crutches. It’s nice that my roommates will still walk me up and down to make sure I don’t injure myself but I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to know that I can actually do at least part of it by myself.

They say that my knee looks really good for after surgery and that I can take the bandage off myself. Personally I think it looks way better with the bandage on than off.

Though they say the scars are healing well and the bandage still looks good on the wound itself so I guess that’s a good thing. I think it looks all gross and black and blue but it could be worse, I suppose.

The hardest part about surgery is not having your independence. To rely on people for a glass of water or food or pretty much anything is a major bummer. It’s been a real adjustment for me because I will get up fully intending on getting a glass of water just to sit back down again because I realize even though I am perfectly capable of walking to the kitchen and filling up a glass of water once I’m there, I can’t actually carry it back because I’m using crutches.

There is also this thing that I have to wear a billion times a day (no joke) that compresses and pumps ice water around my leg. It’s actually pretty cool (no pun intended). It’s called a “Game Ready” and it’s really useful to have around, I’m sufficiently impressed with how high tech and awesome it is. It’s the red thing in the corner of the picture below.

I’m really lucky that my mom came up to take care of me. Even though she isn’t the strongest person around it really really helps to have someone keep track of how much I have to ice and to make sure I eat food. She also helps keep track of how much pain medication I need and to make sure I do my exercises. I’d probably do them anyway but it’s nice to have someone around so that I don’t forget. And I have the best roommates ever who helped me up and down the stairs when I couldn’t manage on my own. They’re pretty much the best guys ever. I thank my lucky stars every day for letting me find them. To be honest it’s kindof nice to have my mom around and my roommates and all of us being able to eat meals and hang out together.

More Than Just Running

I know I sound like a deranged lunatic with all my running updates and sometimes am less than coherent about it. But it’s because for me it’s more than just running. I’m not doing this just because I want to run a marathon. In fact, I totally made fun of both of my group-mates in my econ class just a year ago because they were training for the marathon and were clearly on their way to injury but still running anyway. I just didn’t get it at the time, I do not have that desire to run. And while I like running. It keeps me in great physical shape and I’m happier and healthier having it in my life, it is not my passion. By a long shot.

Let’s be honest, I’m happiest curled up in bed with a good book doing absolutely nothing. I love sports, I enjoy running and I enjoy being physical but they are certainly not the first things that I think of when I think of things that make me happy. I am one of those people where it requires some amount of effort to do those things. So this whole fitness regimen has been a challenge for me. Mentally and physically. Actually I think more mentally than anything else.

So the real reason I’m running… because cancer has touched my life by affecting several people that I love dearly. And when I say family it’s not just about being related by blood there are so many people that have touched my life that aren’t related by blood. It’s my friends, exes, people I’ve known forever and those I haven’t known for very long. It’s the people who touch your life regardless of whether they stay for a long time or are a brief glimmer of light; it’s those people who change you, who will forever be a part of you, that I consider to be part of my “family” too. So I run for Team in Training as a part of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society because in some small way I feel like I’m doing my part to help. And at the end of the day there is so little I can actually do that this is my way to try and advocate for a cause I believe in desperately. So I babble about my shoes and my injuries and how much all of it irritates me. And how I got a tattoo in the middle of my training because that was a brilliantly well thought out plan. (I know, sometimes I’m an idiot). Because I have to keep running. I simply do.

Sometimes I am S-M-R-T

No, that is not a mis-spelling. That is pretty much how I feel right now. As I mentioned before I’ve been training for a marathon and it’s pretty near and dear to my heart as one of my cousins was just diagnosed with cancer, again. It’s a different kind than when she first was diagnosed and won her fight about 20 years ago but it’s just really jarring to have a diagnosis that it may be back in a new location and in a different form. Especially when it isn’t really something that’s been an issue for nearly 20 years. That’s a long time for it to be gone. I mean I guess it’s different I was just a child when she was fighting against it, so it just feels so much more real this time around. Though this time they caught it in the early stages, which is good. And they are treating her aggressively. Also, I will be allowed to see her this time because I will not be some germy little kid. It always sucks as a kid that you can’t see anyone who is sick because children are like a depot of diseases.

Anyway that is not why I started this. So running right now is pretty important to me. I try really hard to keep up with the long runs even if I’m not completely on schedule. So anyway this past weekend I finally decided I think my running shoes suck. Honestly, my knees have been hurting and I have crazy blisters on the insides of my feet. Thankfully one of the coaches from TNT recommended a place where I can go and said I should make sure to look for shoes that work better for people who pronate because that’s why I’m getting blisters (and possibly a black toe). So anyway, I was all set to go to the running store later that day. But as I was leaving practice my knee really started to act up. By the time I got home I couldn’t really bend it without significant pain. And forget about trying to walk up the stairs to my 3 story walk-up. That was the best time ever.

Now here’s the part where I really show my brilliance. I decide to stay in and ice my knee and give myself a break for the rest of the day, which was great and probably something I have needed for a long time. But the very next morning I got up early and headed out to my soccer game even though the knee wasn’t totally feeling better. It was definitely smarting at the beginning of the game – you would think this is a warning sign. No siree, not for me. I continued to play on it until the last 15mins of the second half when I literally couldn’t walk without limping. Because that, my friends, is S-M-R-T.

These Boots Were Made For Walkin’

So I was just asked the question: “What do you think about dating a married man?” I know that the normal gut reaction answer is NEVER, it only ends in heartbreak!. But humor me because I’m going to actually look at it from a less traditional perspective. Then again, I’m not exactly a traditional girl so what else would you expect.

So firstly, I’d like to mention that my perspective on marriage is a little skewed being part of the queer community because I know more than a few people who are in “Marriages of Convenience”. And quite frankly if I don’t have the right to get married regardless of how valid my relationship with my partner is I simply don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in something that isn’t a reality for me or for a good number of people that I love.

That being said, I don’t think dating a married man (or woman for that matter) is necessarily the greatest idea. I’m not one to judge, I clearly lead a life of chaos and mayhem, I just think there’s enough heartbreak in this world that getting involved with someone who is already attached (especially in a legal way) is just asking for trouble, especially in the straight world. Yes, love makes us do crazy things and no I don’t believe that one can have absolute control over your emotions. You fall for who you fall for and it sucks/is awesome all the same, but you do have control over getting into something that could be complicated and messy. What it really comes down to is whether you think it’s a good idea for you. I generally believe all is fair in love and war and have acted as such most of my life. I mean I really can’t judge since I met one of my exes while she was on a date with a boy. That being said thus far I haven’t dated anyone that I knew was actually attached (legally or otherwise) at the time. Part of it for me (especially in a heterosexual context) is that if the person I want to date made a commitment to someone else and is stepping out on them, then what makes it so different that I think they won’t step out on me? I mean I’d like to think that I’m fabulous and unforgettable and no one could ever bear to step out on me but at the same time, isn’t that what the other woman (or man) thought?

Certainly I’ll give pause for the situation that I was recently introduced to where a friend of mine was dating this man who was married to a woman because of his family but he was in reality quite gay. This complicates matters because the way he lived with his “wife” was essentially as roommates. So my friend ended up dating him. In essence, I guess what I’m getting at is that it isn’t a black and white issue. None of these things are. Whenever emotions are involved things get messy and weird. And when social norms get mixed up with civil rights and morals and whatnot it gets even more confusing. I’ve even encountered the well what if they’re only married for the visa question before. And you know what, it really comes down to what you are ok with. You have to consider what it will do to you and if you’re ok with the consequences. I think most of it comes from being really honest with yourself and knowing what you want and what you can or can’t live with.

Thing is I’m a little out of my element talking about any of this because I’ve never been in a relationship where I’ve had a lover outside of my relationship or to my knowledge where one of my partners has done so to me. So I don’t really know what it entails. Nor have I been in a situation where I am with someone out of convenience or necessity. I’ve always been very much infatuated if not actually in love with my partner at the time so that’s the standpoint where I’m coming from. And when I’m in love with someone, I don’t step out on them. No matter how angry I am or how much I would like to prove a point and be a bitch because I’m mad. (Yes, I’ve thought about it and had opportunity to act. But No, I’ve never been able to or even wanted to follow through.)

So the short answer is I think there’s also a lot of grey areas when your emotions are involved. I don’t think it’s an ideal situation and I would be fairly hesitant and quite cautious. However, I think what is right is on an individual basis and you have to figure that out for yourself.