Thursday, 2 April 2009

52. Recovery time

I have been home for 11 days now and it's been 17 days since my surgery and all is going very well.

When I came home I was a bit of a mental mess. I had become used to no TV, no concentrating on anything, no real company. I found coming home very hard but I was very glad to be back all the same. During my couple of days I wondered how the hell I was supposed to cope at home with my husband in such pain of his own with his knees. He was so tired running in and out of hospital visiting me, not sleeping properly, worrying about me. When I got home his schedule got a whole lot busier and I hated to ask him for anything but initially I needed as much attention as I did in hospital - I could barely do anything for myself except get to the loo, eat and drink. I felt extreme guilt at asking him to do anything and so forced myself to become more independent than I should so early after surgery. My requests for drugs and things upstairs just caused him more problems and eventually we fell out with each other a little. I found being an invalid at home really hard as there were jobs I would just do without ever asking them to be done for me. I had to shut off. I couldn't do things I wanted to do, just what I needed to do.

Day 1 and 2 at home
were the most difficult. I hurt, I couldn't get comfy anywhere. I got the post-op blues and cried quite a lot. Its all the drugs wearing off and the emotional relief to be out of hospital and realising you are incapacitated. I just had to let it out. Then nature thought it would be really funny to just launch my period on me. Nice one! I just wanted to curl up and disappear at moments. Day 2 at home I had to wash my hair - it was grimmer than grim. It hadn't been washed for 9 days and it felt like it was crawling on my scalp. Euwwww! Trying to lean over the bath to the shower head was a physical challenge. Both my husband and I were in agony after but we did it and I felt very refreshed.

Day 3 (Wednesday) at home I managed to wash my hair on my own in the bathroom sink with a jug and I was chuffed. I also had my stepson visit with my in-laws. He was a little freaked but wanted to see my operation results and so I happily showed him. It helped him understand why he couldn't hug me or be rough or play fight (this is a big no no and sorely missed :( ). I was knackered by the time they left.

Day 4 (Thursday)
I managed to straighten my hair (don't even ask how..I must have been crazy) but I did it. I wanted to look half decent to go back into hospital to have my dressings taken off. I walked so slowly into the hospital, it was taxing. I felt so weak. I made it though. As we made our way through the people I realised I was with a man on crutches and people were dodging him and had no idea how fragile I was too. I was paranoid about being nudged, bumped or knocked. My back started to hurt a lot as I held myself upright for a long time and walked practically a marathon compared to my recent walkabout efforts in hospital and the house. Jenny my breast care nurse (BCN) was pleased to see that things had healed really well but one area on the right nipple patch was still bleeding slightly so she put a couple of big plasters on and told me to keep the scars dry until Saturday. Flannel washing is not effective enough. My armpits felt so sore and nerve damaged that I could barely have them touched and couldn't reach them to clean them myself. My skin is gross, my pores are clogged, my skin is flaking..I cannot wait for the day I can immerse myself in a bath again. I am stinky I'm sure.

Day 6 (Saturday)
A bath! I sat in the bath up to my hips - it was lovely for a short time but my back started to ache a lot. It was painful but worth it. My husband washed my back down with a moist cotton cloth I brought back from hospital. It was weird to feel pressure but no sensation of touch on my back. He wiped my armpits which hurt like mad, like flu-skin all the time. I have no idea what is going on there. The surgeon told me later in the week that it was probably referred pain. That means that my arms are not damaged but the nerves have been cut under my arms where the muscles have been pulled through to the breast area and that my brain has panicked. My brain thinks my arms hurt because the nerves have been severed. I may never regain the feeling in the backs of my arms or my armpits but only time will tell. The sensation is horrible but I am trying to convince my brain that it is not painful. I hope this will help it get over the trauma. Me talking to my brain..It's okay brain, my arm is okay and so is the other one now stop sending me pain signals because its rather uncomfortable and weird and I am not enjoying the experience. Ta! I do hope my brain is listening to me.

Day 8 (Monday)
I stopped day napping. Although I feel tired I can't seem to nap anymore. I know sleeping is the best therapy but I can't. I just rest instead. I wish I could just sleep but sleeping at night is hard enough without ruining my sleep pattern with day napping too. I gave up trying and just spent the following days just taking it very very easy.

Day 9 (Tuesday) I resigned myself to a day in bed. I needed comfy rest. I spent almost 5 hours in bed watching TV and just shutting my eyes. It was worth it.

Day 10 (Wednesday) Fluid draining and post op check up!! I managed to survive a ride to hospital to meet Mr Cant (seeing me in Me Drabble's absence) for a post op check up. All is fine. I haven't heard about my breast tissue exam yet and I assume all is well but I forgot to ask about it so, in the absence of news, I will assume good news and there was no cancer found or they would be on me about chemo or radiation or something I'm sure. A real 'no we didn't find any cancer' is what I wanted but I still don't know. We discussed numbness and weird sensations and he kept reminding me that it is early days (impatient me again) and that the lump in the left breast does feel like muscle and might not ever go down but should do with time. I hope so. Mr Cant felt very clinical and as I questioned the feelings in my body I almost felt like he was telling me tough, you chose this surgery. I know that's probably completely irrational but that's how I felt. Mr Drabble is much more personable and reassuring in manner. I thought Mr Cant was very clinical but very factual in our discussion. I felt a little sad though, I would have like both my breasts to be the same now, my right one is so much better than the left. I had matching boobs before and now I don't I am not sure I believe they ever will be. I know time will tell but I have to face maybe never having symmetry again. I have to focus on being alive not perfect!

Whilst I was there I showed him the fluid on my back that had been building since the drains had been removed. I managed to lay on my side (just) and didn't feel the local anaesthetic injection in my lower right back. Then a pushing sensation and then a liquid noise. 100ml of fluid removed from the right where the muscle used to be in my back. The left was less comfortable. I felt the needle go in, stinging me then burning like mad under my skin. I sucked air through my teeth in pain and squeezed the nurses fingers hard (sorry!). She told me to breathe deeply through it. Finally it subsided and then the pushing. He pressed my back and air came out as well as 150ml of liquid. My husband said it looked like I was having a wee out of my back. Nice! I asked what colour it was and if I could see it. 250ml of frothy topped lucozade orange cloudy liquid. Cool but also yuk! I felt a whole lot lighter and smaller! My back was squelchy again on the left as I moved but I prayed the fluid wouldn't come back again in such quantity. Hurry body, heal!

We then went into my husband's work to drop off some paperwork. He is a secondary school teacher and it was great to see inside his work and a school again. It was a fleeting visit and then we popped into Tescos to get some shopping and I felt utterly exposed and vulnerable. Everyone was potentially going to hurt my fragile body. I must have looked so paranoid AND lazy as my husband pushed the trolley with one hand and one in a wrist crutch. I couldn't reach anything much and I just looked totally pathetic. I felt useless. My back was killing me by now. I had already done way too much. We returned home and had lunch then I managed to sit in the car for 40 minutes travelling to see my stepson. I held up all afternoon, out in the garden, sitting in the conservatory, ate dinner at my mum-in-laws and then made it home again in the car for another 40 minute ride. I couldn't have made it without my soft pillow to lean on. Travelling right now is still very very uncomfortable and leaves me tense with no means of relaxing my muscles in my back. Oh for a massage!!

Day 11 (Thursday - today) A take it easy day. I woke twice in the night but went back to sleep without any painkillers. I think this was due to the fluid drain. I was so much more comfortable. I felt so tired when I woke up though. I decided to just hang out in the garden. Poked around in the pond and sat in the sun, not a lot else. I was totally knackered after yesterday and it was just a ridiculous amount of stuff to do so soon after my operation. I am a fool. I feel okay though, just very tired. I must slow down now, I know I am doing to much and I do not want any repercussions from my stupidity so for the next week I will try to nap at least 30 minutes a day and take it easy. Which is something I find hard to do.

I so need a trip to the beach! I could sit for hours watching people surf, fish, build sand castles, dig trenches, dams and fly kites. I have to go soon. I know I can survive the bumpy wiggly country lanes from here to the beach. It's 20ish minutes..I am going to schedule it in for next week. I have to get there. In the meantime some river sitting action wouldn't go amiss. I have started with pond sitting for now and will build up to the big stuff by next week. I need to get out! I am missing my car and I will start walking alone next week too. I need to before I go mad (or more mad).