Happy New Year (and New Boobs)!

And here’s to posting more… or at least attempting to. It seems that this blog is starting to become my post-surgery blog. This isn’t intentional but I do feel like it’s a good place for me to talk about it.

So the end of last year was a little rough on me it went something: migraine, 1 day break, food-poisoning, 2 day break, breast reduction surgery, 4 day break, happy new year! I’m a relatively ambitious person so my partner and I made reservations at our favorite restaurant for a lovely but quiet new year’s eve celebration. Thankfully, the love of my life very sensibly made me stay in bed to celebrate the new year by cursing the people who were screaming, “woo!” as we were trying to sleep and hadn’t noticed that it had struck 12 while we were chatting with each other. Alas, the joys of being in a committed relationship where having surgery 5 days before the new year is ok because no one is upset you missed the big NYE celebration. In fact, not only is no one upset it’s actually a relief because you forgot to plan something until our server had mentioned they were doing a special menu. So the fact that we had to cancel was really not the end of the world. As a person who loves food, I was a little bummed we were missing an awesome menu but I’ll even publicly admit, she was right, I should have stayed in bed inside and I was much happier for it.

Anyway so I think I owe the people of the internets the courtesy to understand my rationale behind getting a breast reduction. I say this because I only wish I had found something like this for myself years ago. I was a horribly early bloomer in the physical sense, I got boobs at 10 and started my period somewhere between 11-12. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I had no idea how to put those two things together. I was a pretty shy and innocent tom-boy that just wanted to play with the boys or by myself.

Unfortunately for me, my first bra was a 32D and my guess is it should’ve been more appropriately a 28F but they don’t really make those sizes and trying to get me into any bra was a challenge so the thought of going to a specialty store might have made me want to crawl into a hole and die. Actually it would have made me want to crawl into a hole and die. By the time I exited high school I was wearing a DD probably more like an I/G if I had gone to a specialty store. And by the time I was old enough to actually go to a store that could size me properly I was a 32H.

I’ve hated my breasts my whole entire life. Not because they look bad, I’ve gotten plenty of comments. But because they’ve brought attention I don’t want and quite frankly big boobs get in the way of a lot of shit! My shirt eats with me all the time, am I a messy person? Not really but I also have a shelf in front of me! Which can sometimes make it difficult for food to find my mouth without also finding something else to land on or brush against. I hated trying to find sports bras, they never fit right. In fact, they fit so poorly that I just sucked it up and they have left a scar under my breasts that all my doctors ask me about.

Needless to say I have been contemplating a breast reduction for YEARS! But having major surgery, especially elective surgery, is a big deal. That said I still found having a breast reduction to be an intimidating prospect. I have to thank one of my closest college friends, who told me that it was super sucky and really painful and has a long recover but if I asked her if she would do it all again, she would. That really helped me think of just how much this surgery can change your life.¬†Having torn my ACL and needed to have that reconstructed, I can say without a doubt that surgery is not something to be taken lightly. I did a lot of research and I found a surgeon that I could trust, he’s one of the best plastic surgeons in Chicago with a focus in breast reductions and I would recommend him to anyone who is thinking about having this surgery, Dr. Robert Galliano. He’s extremely helpful and he doesn’t seem overconfident but does explain all the details about your surgery to you, which I found to be extremely comforting and helpful.

I would also say any surgery where they cut through bone, tendon and muscle is way more painful than a breast reduction. However a breast reduction is not a cake walk. Like at all. Ever. Don’t read my saying that it is less painful as “you’ll be fine in a week” because that’s totally not true. What I am saying is that when I was out of surgery from having my ACL reconstructed I felt like I was going to go blind with pain until they gave me morphine and if I didn’t take my vicodin I felt like I was going to die. So that is blindingly bad pain. With the breast reduction, I could handle being off vicodin, it was not fun and I would not recommend missing your doses your first two days but it’s not blinding pain. I mean even my vicodin doses this time are half the dose that I got for my ACL so clearly it’s just a different level.

What is really different though is your mobility. Knee surgery is annoying because you know it’s hard to walk around and move. But you can use crutches, eventually you learn to put weight on your knee and you’re still mobile. You can shower. Keeping a leg out of the shower is annoying and challenging but not rocket science. The good news with a breast reduction is that they encourage you to shower. The bad news is that you can’t lift your hands. So it’s like ok… I can shower… But HOW?!?!!??!?! Yeah, I totally asked myself that the first 4 days.

I thank my lucky stars every day for my partner because without her I have no idea how I would have made it through my first week. She helped me eat, sleep, take pills on time, take showers, everything. She helped me with literally everything. Oh and the other thing to note is that if you’re lucky you don’t have drains (most doctors try really hard not to have to give you drains). But if you’re unlucky (like me, though my doc had said that I was so big that there was a high chance that I might need them) and you have to have drains it’s awful. They look like weird alien pipes coming out of your skin (they are not as big as this is making them sound). It’s pretty gross: it’s blood and fluid that are draining from the side of your breasts where they perform the liposuction. Until your drains collect less than 30cc of fluid for 2 consecutive 24 hour periods, you have to keep them in. Mine didn’t last terribly long, I got them out on day 4 but still it was a rough weekend to have them in. Showering is terrible, it makes it difficult for your arms to go down to your sides. Fun fact about drains if you get a tummy tuck you also get drains except they are placed just above your pubic hair. Gross! (At least now I know why I never want to have liposuction done anywhere else ever again)

Anyway I am currently on day 9 out of surgery and I feel pretty good. I need painkillers to make it through the night but otherwise Advil does just fine. I can lift my arms mostly over my head. I can’t really carry any weight on them if they’re that high up and even when they aren’t lifted that high I can’t put too much weight on them or try to pull too forcefully. But I can do most things I need to do by myself. So that’s nice. I’ve been showering without help for the past 5 days… there are a few places that I need help drying off, like my feet because they are too far (and my arms are not very long they are well proportioned to my body but if they were only a half inch longer I could reach… and some people have longer arms than legs so who knows maybe you’ll be lucky).

So all that said and done, my surgery took 10!!!!!¬†lbs of tissue off my breasts and who knows how much fat. My breasts are still very large, I’m not sure what size yet it’ll still be a while before I know that — probably 4 or so months. But I feel a thousand times better. I can stand up straight, my back no longer hurts. It looks like I lost 40lbs but I didn’t. My knees don’t hurt anymore. There are just so many benefits to this that I am kicking myself a little bit for not having done it sooner. And here’s the thing, you don’t know until you do it how you’re going to feel about it.

So I’m not at my ideal weight. I want to lose a lot more but having done the surgery I feel better equipped to try and tackle that than I did before. I feel like I’m ready to take on my fitness challenges and not have this weight hanging over me (literally!!) anymore. I am very lucky. I have a partner who supports me and is actively helping me get through this and it makes it infinitely easier. I have a job where I can take the time I needed off and now that I’m ready I can go back. It’s definitely not the thing to do for everyone. But for me, I think this was the right choice and I really wish I had better information before. Even if I still only came around to it now. So I’m going to continue blogging about this so there’s at least a good amount of information about one person’s experience.

One of the ways that I think this surgery helps greatly is not only with just physically being able to do things but also with body image. The size of my boobs have always made me feel fat. And I think perhaps that was wrong. I’m not thin by any means, not even close. But I am also not obese and having boobs that were that big made it seem like my entire upper body was taken up by them and so it made me feel fatter than I was. Working on my body image has been a life long challenge for me but I’m hoping that I can continue to work on it and that this will help me reconcile my body with my own self image and hopefully something beautiful can come from there.

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 28

I’m off the brace. Finally! Though I almost cried yesterday when my PT said that even though she also hates my brace but I have to wear it while it’s snowing outside. (Yes, it was totally snowing in Chicago yesterday. Evil, I swear). BUT, now it’s gone!

Seriously, look at this sucker, it’s the most annoying thing on the planet.

However since it has been gone, I have some observations. Clearly it’s only been one day, I’m sure I’ll have more in the weeks to follow. So far the scar is weird and I have sympathy sensations on the left side… like if I scratch the right side of my scar I feel the nerves twitch on the left side. It’s kinda creepy but kinda awesome. I don’t really understand it but it works.

Beyond that I’ve noticed that I’m extraordinarily tired because I’m using my left a lot more today than I have been when I’m restricted in my brace. And my left glute is killing me. Clearly my quad is not engaging enough and I’m compensating for it in odd ways. I’m totally working on that. However it’s not an instantaneous process. Le sigh. But every day it gets a little better. And every day I see how much closer I am to being whole again. I can’t wait until I can start biking and running again!

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 20

So I got my stitches out. I am pretty sure no one except for me wants to see this but apparently my blog has now become my “after surgery journal” where I’m documenting everything. Getting the stitches out was *way* less exciting than I thought it would be and everyone whose had it done told me it would feel weird and there’s no better way to describe it. I didn’t believe them… but they’re right. It just feels weird. It doesn’t hurt, it just feels weird – for lack of a better word.

Anyway, before the stitches came out… see the awesome little blue bits. I know so attractive.

And then after.

And now 5 days later when it doesn’t look quite as bad.

What bugs me most about this whole process is that I typically get waxed pretty frequently and I dislike shaving intensely BUT I’m a little nervous about getting my legs waxed at the moment, like I just don’t know if I can do it. And to be perfectly honest, I’m actually a little freaked out about shaving my legs as well because I don’t want to mess with the stupid wound until it’s completely healed. Also I had to buy flats today because I only own one pair and I don’t think I’ll be able to wear heels for a long time. It’s really tragic.

ACL Reconstruction Post-Op: Day 14

So we finally made it to two weeks out. I’m officially relieved of my crutches – even with public transportation. And I’m out of the brace indoors just not outdoors because you never know what might happen. I’ve been told I need to walk “normally” because I’ve gotten used to limping around, so it’s now become a habit.

What is less exciting… the bruising. What they don’t tell you is that after you start walking around you have these ridiculous bruises all over your leg. Most predominantly around my ankles and lower shins. I swear this looks worse than when I came out of surgery. It’s ridiculous.

And I definitely didn’t have any on this side before:

And it’s true they do warn you that you can’t shower completely until your stitches are out but let me tell you, 2 weeks of not being able to wash your leg is like torture. I have to put my leg in a bag and then duck tape it to my leg so my wound doesn’t get wet and infected. It is so frustrating. The stitches come out tomorrow and I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to be able to shower in my life.

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.

Seriously, 2011?!

For the first time in my life I can truly say that I am a little bit terrified. And I’m not really sure if there’s anything that’s going to make me feel better. Normally I’m not scared of anything. Pretty much at all. But I am a little scared of having to have surgery and 6 months of rehab. In fact, I’m not really afraid of surgery at all. That part I’m ok with, what I’m scared of is that I won’t be responsible enough to do the rehab part correctly. I’m scared of being alone. I’m scared of trying to push myself too hard too fast because I do that a lot. I’m scared that somehow I will make this worse before I can make it better.

Thankfully as afraid as I am of being alone, I have a posse of truly amazing friends that I know are here for me. I always feel silly whenever I talk to one of them because they remind me that I’m not as alone as I feel. It’s just that I don’t need them right this minute so they’re not right here. But they will be when I do actually need them to help out. It is comforting to know that someone will be there to catch me when I fall.

2011, I have now started a list. I’m pretty sure I hate you. And it’s only the first week of March, which by the way is a few days shy of my birthday. Possibly worst year of all time: 1. MIA laptop. 2. stolen bike. 3. dead car. 4. torn ACL that requires surgery. (I’m not counting the crazy month of work crap because it’s too vague and hard to define). And let’s be honest we haven’t even made it a quarter of the way through the year. Clearly this is awesome. You know, generally I believe that life works out the way it’s supposed to. And sometimes bad things happen to good people so better things can come along. Right now, I’m *really* starting to question that.

I keep flipping from feeling really alone and really scared about having to even have surgery to being really angry at the world for all of this happening at once. Every time I keep thinking that this year is going to get better something happens that just makes it worse. I want to believe that that’s not true and that it will get better but for the first time in a very long time I’m having trouble hanging on to hope. I like to view the world through rose colored glasses. It is so much harsher through the cold clear view of reality.

Kids, Don’t Try This At Home

So I’ve decided experiments on your own body are a horrible idea. So if you recall I started the pill about 3 months ago and I thought I was getting better somewhere around the beginning of month 2. I take that all back. I have been horribly depressed and crying pretty much all the time. For no reason whatsoever. Clearly I should be better at observing this but I’m pretty convinced that this is just not working out for me. I’ve given it 4 months and if going through a little stress called moving is enough to have me have an all out nervous breakdown it’s not ok. And I just started crying because I can’t turn off the fan. No, I’m not joking. I really did start crying because I couldn’t turn off the fan and I’m cold. Not that you know, I couldn’t just get a blanket or put on a sweater. But no, crying because I couldn’t turn off the fan. Clearly the world is ending. I really understand what D was talking about now because I feel miserable. And I have felt like this for way too long in a really unhealthy way. There has to be a better solution. I just wish that not every solution takes 3 months to figure out. I mean seriously?

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.

Running Travails

So I keep semi-hurting myself. I don’t want to say injuring because technically I am not injured, which is really the only thing I am clinging on to right now. But I’m hurting. Pretty badly. And I’ve at least narrowed it down some. I seem to hurt only after extremely long runs. Or after I’ve done sprints (or soccer, which is essentially the same thing). Now I actually managed to figure this out after I did a 5k this weekend where I had been mentoring these kids to teach them how to run. So my running buddy for the race is this absolutely adorable 5yr old with crazy amounts of energy. But my little buddy is not so good at listening to advice about pacing so he took off at breakneck speed as soon as the race started. And continued to do pretty freakin’ fast sprints for the first mile, even a bit of the next half mile. We finally slowed down to a more normal run/walk for the last half of the race. But let me tell you by the end of that set of sprints my knee was *killing* me. On the bright side at least I know the causes and how to avoid it or at least try to avoid it.

Anyway so I’ve been in physical therapy for a few weeks and I have this giant bruise on my leg. My PTs have been doing “deep tissue massage” on my IT band because apparently that’s what’s been causing all my knee problems. You’d think this is great… not so much it’s more like Chinese water torture. And now it just hurts to touch or lie on my thigh, which is *awesome*. (not).

Though on the not so sucky side my PTs also have me doing some pretty awesome yet somewhat difficult exercises and routines. The best part is they totally make comments while I’m trying to go through the exercises/stretches they give me. Today one of the guys was like, you know I think y’all gave her every single thing that everyone hates to do. And I’m thinking to myself, “Gee thanks guys, I appreciate being the guinea pig of torture treatment”. On the bright side I’m getting some really awesome core workouts that I don’t think I would ever inflict on myself. And I’ve learned some pretty good stretches. And I actually feel like I’m getting stronger and I feel like I can actually see the effects of all of it on my body, which is great. Like my upper abs look amazing, now if my lower abs didn’t look like jello we’d be all set. So all of these things are definitely good, it just comes with a lot of pain and hard work. I can’t decide if it’s great or if I hate it. Either way I’ve got another 2 weeks left and I am going to try to make the best of it. (I’m almost tempted to ask for more. Yes, I am a bit of a masochist, always have been a lil’ bit).