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I made it!! I’m on the other side. I’m 3 days post-op but unfortunately, I’m sick.  I had a fever of 102, chills, wheezing, and coughing so I visited the doctor yesterday. He took a chest xray and so far has ruled out pneumonia but they’re waiting for bloodwork results to check for flu. I was a wreck when I developed the fever as I got nervous about post-op infection. Cellulitus is one word that I’m terrified of!  So far, things look good. I’m sore and although I don’t have drains, I’m leaking from my incisions in the inter-mammary fold. Dr. M said it’s ok though and is nothing to worry about.

I’m wearing a sports bra 24/7 for now to keep things towards the front and it’s a bit irritating on the incisions but it’s do-able. Right now, I’m just soooo thankful to have marshmallows on my chest instead of coconut shells!!  Below are some initial pictures. I’m still swollen and don’t have any cleavage because of the swelling but it looks good. More importantly for me though, is that it FEELS good!  I’ve been dying for this relief for months!

Immediately after surgery 12/21/10

post op 12/21

Showing Implant exchange scar across chest with revision in inter-mammary fold to remove excess mastectomy skin. (Yes, I had very large breasts!) Also, slight revisions in front to remove puckers from prior necrosis surgery.

I’m in my final weekend with expanders!!!  Tomorrow, I have errands to run and last minute Christmas prep things to do, then… Tuesday morning, I report to the hospital for 6:00 AM.  I’m so anxious to put this phase behind me!  I’ve honestly not been really thinking much about it though for the past week because my dad took a fall, has some broken bones and has been staying with me so that I can care for him. I’m a bit worried about what will happen after my surgery because I won’t be able to help him get up for awhile. Once again… one day at a time! I’m just so thankful that the date that has been circled on my calendar for months is finally here!!

One day post-op for right expander (unfilled)

I’m home after having my right expander placed back in and I’m happy to say that it was a breeze (so far anyway!)  I went in yesterday morning for 6:45AM surgery and came home late this morning. I could have stayed in another day but totally didn’t need to so I was very happy to come home today.

I’m sore and tired but definitely not in agony which is wonderful!!  I think the major difference is that he placed the expander in but didn’t fill it at all this time. When I had the mastectomies and immediate reconstruction, I was filled to 300cc at the time of surgery. So, not only was I healing from the loss of breast tissue but I was having lots of muscle spasms and pain due to the expanders.

Since I’m planning on taking the fills really slowly and putting them on the back burner come late August so that I can return to school, there’s no reason to rush with fills at this point. I’m likely getting my drain removed on Monday then will probably start fills the following week. It will be nice to be healing from the surgery before starting the painful fills. I’ll still have to wear that sports bra and stuff it for a little while longer until both sides are even but it’s a good trade off in my book!

On another note, I went for a vaginal ultrasound on Monday to address the vaginal bleeding that I’ve been having. I have a small fibroid in my uterus but nothing to be concerned about and nothing to do with the periods that I’ve been experiencing.  The lining is almost nothing right now since I just finished the period so the Gyn switched me to a different HRT. This one is a spray that I apply to my forearm and should administer a uniform dose (lower) than I was able to get by applying a weekly patch.  He felt that I was getting a lot when I first put it on and it was causing the lining to build up. I’ll be starting the new HRT tomorrow and hopefully this type works for me.   There’s also a pill that I’ll be taking for 10 days in addition to the spray but I haven’t filled the prescriptions yet so I don’t really have the exact details. (He explained it all to me but I don’t remember all of the specifics.)  I’ll start the sample spray and will be on that for a few weeks before I even need to worry about the pills.  As long as it controls my hot flashes without giving me a period, I’ll be good.

Time to take a little nap… it’s so nice to have one more surgery in the rear view mirror!

I went to the PS yesterday morning and he removed the drain but didn’t deflate the left side. I thought it was going to happen and was looking forward to it but he doesn’t want to touch it at all until I finish this course of antibiotics. I can see his point and am actually glad that he’s being cautious about the situation. So, I’m still uncomfortable on that side and actually feel like it’s pulling more with only one side expanded than with two.  I do see him next Monday, 5/3,  to remove the saline.

As for the rash it’s finally stopped “getting worse” and leveled off yesterday. This morning it’s not as screaming, angry-red like it was. It’s still itchy as all getout though and I’m on the Benedryl every 4 hours to take the edge off. Physically, I’m feeling stronger each day and my appetite has returned. I don’t stray too far from the bathroom though as I think the meds are still upsetting my system and everything goes right through me. All in all, one week ago tonight, I was in the hospital, hooked up to IV antibiotics and awaiting surgery the next morning looking like this:

Now I look like this which is quite scary but hopefully, temporary.  (Plan is to deflate left expander, let Cellulitis side heal then go back in to have right expander reinserted and re-expand both together.)

It’s Sunday night, April 25th,  and I’m home from the hospital. WHAT?!  Looks like I need to back waaaay up here a bit and recount the events of the past 10 days or so.

I’ve never been “comfortable” with the expanders in and have had lots of actual “pain” after fills but it usually lets up somewhat as the week goes on. Beginning last Friday, 4/16, I began having vice gripping pins and needles pain across my chest that wouldn’t let up. It continued in on Saturday and I spent most of the day on the couch in tears. By evening I had chills and started with a fever.I hadn’t had much of an appetite all weekend and was feeling lethargic.

Sunday: 4/18:  I woke up still feeling feverish but I literally could not move any part of my trunk or arms without tons of pain. It felt like all of my muscles were pulled and and torn. I couldn’t get up from the couch without help and even with that, it was agony. It’s really humbling when you can’t even wipe your own butt. I had a fever and noticed that my right breast was hot and red so I called the PS on his cell phone. He called me back, prescribed Keflex (antibiotic) and some Vicodin for pain and told me he would see me first thing in the morning. I retired to the couch and felt lousy.

Monday 4/19: I had no appetite whatsoever and the muscle pain was getting worse as was the breast redness and heat. I forced down some saltines in order to take the antibiotic and went to the doctor. He asked me if I was feeling better and I told him no, not yet. He examined me and took out 60cc of saline to give me some relief from the pressure and told me to continue on the antibiotic for Cellulitis, to take Tylenol every 4 hrs for fever and I should start to feel better by Wednesday.

Tuesday 4/20: More of the same, nausea,vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, redness and swelling…. absolutely no appetite but forced down a few saltines to take meds.  I was also  starting to have hallucinations when I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. Whatever thoughts I had in my head, I would see them in comic book visions all night. I literally woke up at 2:54 when DH came home from work and didn’t fall asleep until 7:15AM. It was a night of terror for me.

Wednesday 4/21 I woke up from my 1 hour of sleep at 8:15 and immediately called the doctor’s office. I told them what was up and they told me that he was in surgery and would give him the message. Ten minutes later, I got a call back and was told to meet him at the hospital. I jumped in the shower with the help of DH and we took off for the emergency room. They took me right in to triage, had me  put a johnny on and took my information. They attempted to start an IV and take blood but it was difficult to do either because I was dehydrated. After some blood spilling, bruising, and clean-up I was hooked up and Dr. M. came in. He ordered IV antibiotics and admitted me. He scheduled a sonogram of the breast so they could sample some fluid to culture without piercing the expander.

Dr. M told me that if the culture was negative we would continue on the IV antibiotics but if it was positive, the Expander would have to be removed and we would put it back in again in a couple of months.  A single tear rolled down my cheek….( one fill away, one fill away…)   The technician and doctor saw a small pocket of fluid and started to excise it and no sooner did it come out, more rushed in to takes its spot. They expected about 25cc but took out 150cc. It was sent to the lab for culture and  I was brought up to my room and settled in.  I spent the day on a combination of 2 antibiotics and rested.

Thursday 4/22: I hung out all day with my red, swollen football of a breast under my right armpit and got the word that I would be having surgery the following morning at 7:30.  I was uncomfortable and could see that the redness was not getting any better despite the IV infusions. By evening I developed a prickly heat type of rash on the right side and on my back.

Friday 4/23: Surgery was quick and went well. I was back in my room by mid morning and continued on antibiotics. Naturally, that day and night was full of the usual post-op vitals and bloodwork. They still had difficulty drawing blood despite being on IV for 48+ hours.  By Friday night, my rash was worse  and they took me off one of the antibiotics and kept up the Benedryl.

Saturday 4/24:  Dr. M. came by first thing in the morning and was very happy with the incision and Cellulitis  site which was clearing up. He told me that barring a turn for the worse, I would likely go home on Sunday.  Another day and evening in the hospital recovering and sucking up antibiotics. The rash was getting worse so the second one was discontinued and replaced with a third one but at night, I had a scare when I had difficulty swallowing. They adjusted the dosage speed and continued with the Benedryl and I made it through the night fine.

Sunday 4/25:  Home. Sweet. Home!  I was dying to get home to my family, my dogs, and my own house. I’m here with oral antibiotics, pain killers, stool softener to help with the effects of the narcotics, one surgical drain, a chest that is expanded to 710cc on one side and actually concave on the other, and a bright red sunburned looking back and prickly heat spotted front.  The right side is very angry looking and is scary… I don’t know why I pictured some baggy skin once the expander was out but that’s not what it’s like at all. It would be that way if the foreign being was between the muscle and the skin but it wasn’t. Since the expander was between the muscle and chest wall and the skin is right against the muscle, when the muscle snapped back into place it’s like it sucked the skin in with it. So, my right side is actually sunken in and under the armpit, it looks like it’s been through a meat grinder.  It’s very tight feeling and I have to keep stretching. In the PS’s trained eye though, it looks “beautiful.”

I’m considering adding pictures to the site to accompany the entries but it will be a matter of me getting everything together and posting.

As of right now, I’m so looking forward to a good night’s sleep in my little nest….. zzzzzzzzz

OMG… no, make that OMFG!  I went in yesterday for my second fill and I’m sore as hell. I was hoping that the PS would drain some of the fluid that’s built up on the sides under my armpits but he said that there really wasn’t that much and there was a chance that he could puncture the expander so he didn’t do it. He did say that my body is absorbing the fluid like it should and it would definitely go away on its own.

He added 120cc to each side so I am now at 520cc.  I told him that I don’t need or want to be as large as I was before surgery so we’ll keep checking as time goes on. Regardless, he is going to overfill so that there’s plenty of space and skin.  I asked him what the time frame is for exchange and he said about 8 weeks out.  He told me that he likes to wait 4-6 weeks after the final fill so that everything will be sufficiently stretched and loose to insure a nice soft implant.

This now means that I need to rethink my time frame for returning to work. I initially planned on going back May 1st because I assumed that the exchange surgery would be in July or August. (I didn’t think that I would be expanding at such a quick rate.) Then, when he mentioned May when I asked him last week, I decided that I was going to ask him to do it at the beginning of the month and I would go back right after until the end of the school year. That was before I learned of the 4-6 weeks to settle in.

Now…. UGH!  The 4-6 weeks after the final fill brings me to the end of May which is not convenient at all for me because we have plans to go away on Memorial Day weekend.  So, I’ll probably have to live with the expanders until the end of June when school lets out. (I am a teacher and have a long term sub in for me. I don’t want to go back to school only to leave again which wouldn’t be good for the kids.)

So, we’ll see what April brings.  It would be nice to finish the fills mid-month because I know one thing for sure. Judging by the pain that I’m in right now from this expansion, and the fact that I’m taking pain killers and a muscle relaxer, I could not possibly work in this condition. If the rest are like this, I definitely need to stay out until the actual fills are finished.

As always… one day at a time…

Today was a very rough day….. I’ve been in pain all day but the worst thing for me right now are the hot flashes. I’m at the end of my rope with that.  I’m so sick of the prickly feeling inside, the heat that permeates my entire body, the sweat that soaks my skin and scalp then the freezing chills that inevitably follow, forcing me to cover up to try to get warm. Over, and over, and over again. By afternoon, I couldn’t hold the tears in any more. I’ve had it. I long to just be comfortable again. I honestly don’t remembers what it feels like to not be in pain and to be completely comfortable.  I’m hoping to return to that feeling soon.

DH picked up my prescription for the muscle relaxers and I took one late this afternoon. I’m still taking the Vicodin as needed too.  Unfortunately, I’m retaining more fluid as each day goes by so I’m feeling more and more pressure.  I’m developing the saddle bags under my armpits again and I’m sure the doctor will have to lance it again when I see him on Monday.

So yes, there were tears today, but there also were friends who were there to give me virtual hugs and even a phone call in response to my tweet about my rough day. Tomorrow is a new one and hopefully, an easier one than today.

I had my post-op plastics appointment yesterday and he was pleased with the way the skin is healing this time around. He also left the drains in  until I see him on Friday which was good news to me. I don’t mind the “fashion accessories” hanging by my side as much as I mind pain from fluid retention.  He also gave me a reprieve on expansion until I see him at the end of the week.  I’m glad because I’m very uncomfortable and the skin is very taut since he cut away a section on each breast mound.

I also had my yearly physical with my primary care doctor in the afternoon. It had been scheduled for a year and since my husband was home from work I kept it so he could bring me. It was TOO MUCH to do both in the same day. I’m totally exhausted today and I ended up with a lot of pain and discomfort from overdoing it. I’m thankful that I don’t have any plans today so I can just nod off as often as I need to.

Sleep continues to be a problem for me as I end up waking with the chills from getting soaked from the night sweats.  I had a rough night last night and awoke shaking and shivering. I long to have a comfortable night of sleep for a change.  At least, sleeping on the couch in the family room has provided me with a cushiony area and allows me to sleep propped up which is good. If I could just get the temperature thing under control it will be much more bearable.

Physically, my skin is very tight in the breast area and the nerves must be starting to “wake up”.  I feel like I have a sunburn on my entire torso, front and back.  I remain… one day at a time….

I had my plastics appointment yesterday afternoon and was anxious for it because of the incredible pain I was having due to my “saddlebags” of fluid. He lanced the breasts to give me some relief and was not happy with the look of the skin on both breasts (the right one was much worse).  It was not healing and was dying so he scheduled surgery for this morning!  What a whirlwind…. I left the doctor’s office at 5:00, needed to head over to the hospital for bloodwork then pick up my prescriptions and some dinner before heading home.

Thankfully, my son was the one that took me, since it turned into a 3 1/2 hour affair.  Since the doctor squeezed me in, I was lucky to be done before his planned caseload so I reported to the hospital at 6:00 and was home by 11:00.  I’ve been nodding off but just had some soup and I didn’t have any issues with post-op nausea.  That’s a relief!

I’ve got two drains and need to go back to see him on Monday. I don’t mind the drains at all.. they sure beat the pain from the pressure of having a waterbed full of fluid in each breast and under each arm.  Hopefully, I rest well today and can catch some of the sleep that I lost last night.

Once again… one day at a time.. I took a couple of steps back but in the long journey and scheme of things, two weeks mean nothing.

I’m in lots and lots of pain today and have spent much of the day with tears rolling down my cheeks. My chest feels like there are two bricks in it pushing in on my lungs and pushing out on my muscles and skin. I can barely breathe and the spots where the drainage tubes are attached under my armpits are sore.  I have Percocet and Motrin but they clearly aren’t lasting the prescribed hours to alleviate the pain. I may be able to have the tubes removed on Friday which will help with the discomfort but will not do anything for the incredible pressure that I’m constantly feeling. I’m praying that I can nod off and nap so I can get some relief….