I am thankful that as I restarted my endeavor on this site, I made the decision not to hold myself up to unrealistic standards when it came to the frequency of posts. I also recognized that this is a journey for me and one that has to go at my pace to truly be authentic and helpful. That said, I’ve been eager to write again since my last post, but hesitant as I have not wanted all my writing to be consumed by my surgery. After much contemplation, I realized that even though I want to write about other topics, the surgery is consuming my life right now. This site is a reflection of my attempt to find balance in my life and how can I be authentic and talk about other things when I have this huge hurdle that I am working to overcome?
Today I am 6 weeks post op. The journey of recovery has proven to be a very rocky road, full of highs and lows. During my last entry (click here to read), I was 16 days post op. I explored the challenges thus far and was optimistic that I was on the right path to recovery after having been slowed down by a hematoma that I had developed. At the time, I still had my original drain in and was hoping the hematoma would drain on its own. Unfortunately, 4 weeks had passed since the date of the surgery and the drainage was still relatively high. I was draining an average of 60 cc within a 24 hour period. My doctor had wanted it to be below 25 cc before removing the drain. After Thanksgiving weekend we decided it would be best to come in for an office visit. At that point I expressed that I was still in a good amount of discomfort and had remained on the prescription Ibuprofen, but I was mobile and overall able to function relatively well. The hardest part at that point was sleeping – which caused a lot of discomfort, so more than anything I was simply exhausted. He said that although the drainage was not where he would have liked, that it was time to pull the drain so that it did not cause more pressing issues. We scheduled a follow up appointment for one week to check the breast for fluid build-up. I was hopeful that with the drain out I would heal and be able to catch up on some sleep. Boy was I wrong.
The appointment was scheduled for Monday, but by Sunday night I was in great pain. My husband had been out of town that week for work and so all the parenting and dog duties had fallen on me. I felt good enough to do them, but with the pain I experienced on Sunday I was concerned that I had overdone it and perhaps ended up with a fluid build-up. I was grateful to have an appointment scheduled for the next day. I also had a trying weekend, as that Saturday my sweet 14 year old Golden Retriever had some sort of episode in the middle of the night causing her to urinate, defecate and vomit all over the apartment at around 2 am and she also lost her mobility. She could not stand, walk, or even move her legs on her own. As I noted, my husband had been out of town for travel that week and was flying home that afternoon, so as soon as he was walked through the door we took her to the emergency animal hospital. Long story short, she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, otherwise known as Old Dog Syndrome, which is essentially doggy vertigo. The dog is basically so dizzy that it makes them ill and lose control of their faculties. They then continue to spin so much that they are almost paralyzed as they do not know which way is up or down. After a very expensive trip to the vet, we opted to take her home and care for her ourselves. After a week, I can say that she is doing much better. She is not 100%, but she can make it outside to use the restroom with very little assistance and her falling down due to imbalance is minimal. Overall, good news, but extremely sad and stressful.
Okay, back to the recovery. On Sunday night the pain became intense. I felt like I had an elephant on my chest and it hurt to take a deep breath. The pain increased as soon as I laid down – which made sleeping even more of a challenge than it had already been. Additionally, I started to run a fever of 99.2. The next day at my appointment, my doctor tried to aspirate what we thought was fluid in the breast, but no fluid was present. The doctor concluded that the pain was likely due to muscular contraction and provided a few tips regarding stretches that I could do to help minimize the discomfort. I went home and began stretching. Within an hour I began to run a fever again. This time it was a bit higher at 101.3. I emailed my doctor to notify him of the fever – which I had forgotten to do during the appointment – and ask about possible infection. My doctor indicated that I had shown no signs of infection and I was likely coming down with something and to treat it the fever with Tylenol.
The pain continued to get worse and the fever was lingering. I called my father, who is an MD, for his thoughts. My dad was greatly concerned and told me to get to the ER to have blood work done immediately as he was concerned that I did have an infection. I called my husband who was on his way home from the office and gave him the heads up that we should head to the ER upon his arrival home. I got the kids and myself ready and we met him downstairs in the garage and headed straight for the hospital. The ER was quick to get me back to a room and ran various tests. The blood work came back normal, but the CT scan showed a buildup of fluid under my muscle which would require a special procedure with the Interventional Radiation Department in order to aspirate. This is why my doctor had not been able to retrieve any liquid despite there in fact being a fluid buildup. At first the decision was to admit me to the hospital overnight and administer IV antibiotics while working to get the procedure scheduled the following day or so. Luckily, the ER doctor was awesome and was able to coordinate a plan B, which meant going home with a prescription for a double course of antibiotics and working with another doctor (who had been working at the ER that evening) to schedule the procedure at a different hospital the next day.
At first switching hospitals was chaotic and we questioned our decision to do so, but in the end when all was sorted out, it really turned out to be a great suggestion on the part of the ER doctor. I was well taken care of and the procedure was done that afternoon. There was a series of sonograms and CT scans to help guide the aspiration process and the doctor was able to drain all visible fluid. He then flushed the cavity and inserted a catheter into the cavity to enable draining and also provide the ability to flush the cavity in the future if needed. The doctor was extremely patient and thorough and I felt at ease. Since the procedure last week, the doctor who performed the aspiration has stayed in contact with me, checking in regarding my progress. I still have to wait a little longer to have the drain removed as the fluid level is just slightly above where he would like it, but the pain has decreased significantly. Although I still have pain and discomfort, the doctor has reassured me that a large piece of the pain is due to the fact that the catheter is placed under the muscle and so close to my chest wall. I can take a deeper breath now without feeling like I am being stabbed or that I may pass out from pain. My sleep is still erratic because it is painful to lay down and the drain is extremely irritating, but I know this is temporary.
My healing process is certainly not the norm and I hope it doesn’t dissuade anyone from getting the explantation surgery, but on the other hand I do hope that it works as an eye opener for those contemplating cosmetic surgery. In the end, you may still decide that it is right for you – and that is okay – but it is important to realize the implications. I got implants so that I would feel more balanced in my body. I had larger hips, broader shoulders, but an extremely small bust. I always felt like I was not proportional. I thought augmentation was the solution, but in the end, the implants brought me more grief than they were worth and now I am anything but symmetrical. There are women that will never have an issue a day in their lives with surgery or cosmetic procedures, and they are lucky. For me, it has been a different story.
In regards to finding or keeping balance, the reality is that it is very hard to do when life keeps trying to knock you over. I cannot work out right now or for several more weeks and my sleep is erratic and limited. I try to stay positive, but I definitely have found myself in an emotional rut from time to time during this healing process. As for nutrition, I’d say I am proud of myself for trying extremely hard to stick with a whole foods, plant based lifestyle, but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t made concessions. We have had nights of frozen pizza & mac and cheese, albeit I try to get the grass-fed, organic kinds for the family and of course gluten free for me, but it is a challenge to change food lifestyles without the obstacle of surgery, so this has been exponentially more challenging.
Luckily, even though my recovery has been long and drawn out, I have had periods of reprieve in which I have been able to enjoy time with my family, cooking, and even some travel. It has definitely helped to have these experiences even if they are short lived.
I am hoping that this will be the last of these long winded posts about my recovery, but I make no promises. I remain optimistic about the healing process, but have also conceded in the realization that I will likely not be able to change the adhesion of my left breast to my chest wall and that of course, the healing has taken more out of me than expected. My focus now is on the New Year. I am working on visualizing what I would like to achieve in 2017 and health is definitely at the forefront of these goals.
As the year comes to a close, what are you focused on in your own life?