Yesterday, Day One, was kind of a breeze.
I felt good, moved around a lot, got better at emptying the drains. Just basically happy that I was not in a ton of pain and the pain pills weren’t making my stomach ill or me too loopy. In a good place.
Today, or at least this morning, was a different story.
First, I decided that, even though I physically felt fine, I probably did too much yesterday. I spent most of the day seated in the big blue-grey arm chair and reached over to the table next to me for my laptop, my water bottle, my knitting several dozen times with my right arm. My right side is the side that had the lymph nodes taken out, the side I should be extra careful with. Today I decided to do less of that stuff.
So I settled on the couch where I wouldn’t have to do much reaching. Then I got paranoid that I already done fucked it up. Then I started thinking about the pathologist report, and the fear of bad results that I thought I had pushed into the darkest corner of the furthest closet of my brain came crawling back front and center. Then I got paranoid that the ring I put on my right hand was getting tight (swelling in the arm and hand is a warning sign of lymphedema, something I am legit terrified of). So I stood up and tried to do some deep breathing, my first line of defense when feeling agitated, but my chest was too tight because of the swelling around the incisions. I couldn’t really even straighten up all the way, much less take cleansing breaths. So, logically, I got paranoid that the swelling was a seroma (oh the terms you learn while perusing breast cancer fora!), which I totally deserved because of all the reaching I had done yesterday.
So there is the map of my trip down anxiety lane. It wasn’t a full-blown panic attack, just a constant drip of industrial-strength unease that I couldn’t quite shake myself free from. I turned to Dr Google to see if anxiety was a side-effect of the pain pills, and sure enough, there it was on the list in between drowsiness and dizziness. NO MORE PAIN PILLS I can live with some pain. Anxiety, no thank you.
I was alone for a couple hours (Stuart at the Y and Scout at work), and maybe that had something to do with my little angst spiral. I also had at the back of my mind that I would have to take a shower today (doctor’s orders–I have to disinfect the incisions with hibiclens daily, starting today). I hadn’t been topless since surgery day. I hadn’t yet been confronted with the reality of my new look. The word dread was not too far off the mark to describe the level of anticipation.
Well, Stuart came home and things quickly improved. Once I had someone to listen to the litany of things with which my brain was torturing me, I felt a lot better. The adage “you’ll feel better if you talk about it” could be my catchphrase, despite having grown up in the midwest, where the bar on what is considered oversharing is rather low. Stuart had lunch, then we emptied the drains and it was shower time.
To say Shit’s Fucked Up does not do justice to the horrorshow that is my torso.
The incision wounds are long, stretching from a couple inches below each armpit to almost touch at the middle. Like a thin, ridged red rope attached to my skin, the graceful arcs at odds with the violent smallness of my now-flat chest. And the bruising! I know that having surgery is no walk in the park, that removing body parts is not a gentle endeavor. But damn. Still shocking.
And then there are the drains. One on each side, the tubing starts at the wounds and runs visibly under the skin, to exit my body several inches below. It is absolutely one of the wildest, most gruesome things I’ve ever encountered outside science fiction movies, and strangely, I got a lot of comfort from seeing it. The drains are probably the most painful part of my post-surgery world, and seeing them, doing their job of removing fluids from my healing body, gave me a way to make a bit of peace with the whole thing. I was also relieved to see that the swelling was nowhere near what I was imagining and apart from the bruises, my skin was normal, non-fevered skin color.
Stuart used the word “badass” to describe my chest. Not feeling the badassery yet, I haven’t settled on a word. I’m rejecting maimed, broken, mangled. I am none of those. Maybe altered, adapted, transformed. Those could work.
After the shower, which, given my lack of range of motion, was rather unsatisfying (Stuart had to shampoo my stupidlong hair with me kneeling in the tub I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN A HAIRCUT), we ran a couple errands together. It was nice to get out of the house.
The first stop was to get my piercing jewelry put back in (I fixed my five lobe earrings shortly after we got back from the hospital). I have a double eyebrow, triple industrial, and triple forward helix, none of which I would even attempt to do on my own. The parts are way too small for my old lady eyes. Once those were back where they belonged, I continued to feel better. My face had looked vulnerable, almost naked without my piercing jewelry. Having it back in, well maybe still not a badass, I do feel more like myself.
So the day that started as a shit sundae, ended up being pretty good. We finally tried a Mediterranean restaurant that’s a recent addition to the neighborhood. The food was great and now we’ve got a new place to grab carry-out on those dinner-ain’t-happening days. I’ve got a couple friends coming for a visit soon. Also, it’s been fourteen hours since I took anything for the pain, and not only am I not in agony, I feel fine (fine being relative of course). Hopefully this means that my ride on the Anxiety Express this morning was a one-off. Or least until I can take deep breaths and go for a nice long walk with the dogs, the best medicine I know.