Archives for posts with tag: Stage 1/Week 3

Today was another surprisingly, fortunately nice day sans precipitation…after a few hours.  The girls went out and about (in their best princess  gear) to play, and I stayed around here being gimpy.  Well, I was gimpy for a while and then I tried my best to get myself together and do something productive.  I managed a few, small chores around the house (put some laundry away, put some more laundry in the washer, straightened up the kitchen) and headed out for my exercise.  Today I decided to get back on the hills and make sure that I’m doing my part to keep what’s healthy, healthy and to get what’s healing healthy. I gathered some inspiration from Mike, my husband, after he told me he ran up this huge hill by our house TEN TIMES this morning before work.  I managed to walk up it once today, and was pretty proud of myself for that accomplishment.

04/04/12 - Up big bad Lee Street

I took Lake Washington Boulevard around our neighborhood and through the “loop” which is a popular pedestrian and cyclist path.  It was a bit chilly out, but it was a nice temperature to be walking in, and there was sunshine to make everything better.  I made it to a lookout point on Lake Washington Boulevard and decided it was time to take a breather and rest up for the long walk home.

04/04/12 - Lookout @ Lk Wa Blvd

I decided, after much consideration, that today would be a good day to try to get back into the driver’s seat.  I successfully drove myself to and from my brow waxing appointment without incident.  Not to say (write) that it wasn’t without its challenges, but I came home collision free.  First and foremost, I embarked on this journey pain medication free to ensure my safety and that of of my road warrior companions.  Secondly, I drove for probably a total of 3 miles.  I had to complete 4 turns to get to my destination and had no crazy parallel parking challenges, which would’ve certainly done me in.  My range of motion is well enough that I can keep my hands and 9 and 3 (instead of the old school 10 and 2), but it’s not well enough that I can turn the wheel round with only one hand.  I felt like a rookie driver doing the hand-over-hand turns you learn in Driver’ Ed classes, but today old school worked well for me.  So, everything with my reintroduction to driving went well.

Today I also decided I would try to forgo my mid afternoon nap I’ve been taking since my surgery, which hasn’t worked out so well for me.  Now I feel so overly tired that I can’t sleep (it’s currently 11 p.m.).  I’m hoping that this is just a slight hiccup in my sleep schedule, but I’ve never been a really good sleeper.

I received a return phone call today from Dr. Louie’s office trying to follow up on the physical therapy scheduling debacle from yesterday.  The nurse that I spoke with couldn’t tell me whether or not I was cleared to start PT this soon, so I am waiting to hear back from the nurse after she gets in contact with Dr. Louie, which I think is going to probably be about 48 hours since he has surgery on Thursdays. To be honest, I’m not in any rush at this point to add more discomfort and fluid build up to what I already have going on here.  I think that when I first spoke with Dr. Louie at my consultation, he said that patients typically start PT around 4 to 6 weeks.  Even though that sounds like an eternity away from right now, I can manage some patience and hope that fluid absorption on my left side comes with that as well.

As far as pain today, I’m having a lot of discomfort and a little bit of pain.  I’m trying to only take my pain medication when I go to bed for the night, and am alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol during the day for pain control.  It’s not horrible, but it’s not without its drawbacks.  I still have pain in my sternum and sound a little breathy when I talk too much or too fast (because it’s still uncomfortable to take deep breaths sequentially).  My fluid build up on my left side is very uncomfortable, tender and has me very guarded on that side.  But, I’m making it through the days.

And now, your daily dose of medical magic…

04/04/12 - Frontal

04/04/12 - Flaps

04/04/12 - Abdominal incision

04/04/12 - Left side

04/04/12 - Right side

I have ZERO drains left!  This morning I went into Dr. Louie’s office and had my finally, pain in the side, JP Drain removed.  It was quick, painless, and as freeing as I dreamt it would be.  I can pull my pants up and down without worrying about catching my drain; I can walk close to the counters and not snag the tube on something; I can sit on the floor and play with our girls and not worry that they will mistake my drain for the next item of play.  In short, HOORAY!  My drain was pulled 13 hours ago but it’s still seeping Funky Cold Medina or whatever that is, so I’m currently wearing a designer gauze pad and some surgical tape.  I was told it should close up by the morning. Other than that, Dr. Louie just told me to continue to take it easy, not over do it, and heal.

04/03/12 - Drain site

I had the chance to ask Dr. Louie about my left side still being swollen and his comments were in line with what Dr. Liu told me.  The veins on my left side are significantly smaller than those on my right (common for everyone to have larger veins on the side on which they are dominant), so my left side is just processing any excess fluid slower than my right.  He said it could take a few months for the swelling to resolve, but if my left flap continued to be larger than my right then he could liposuction some of the fatty tissue out of my left flap to make it even with my right.  While I understand that this is an option if I want my flaps to be concordant, I don’t feel strong enough about how similar (or dissimilar) they are to undergo liposuction.  I’m so focused on getting back to our everyday lives, that liposuction of the flap sounds 210% unthinkable.  I can live with asymmetry.  And, yet again, I failed to remember to ask Dr. Louie about my rash.  It hasn’t gotten any worse, but parts of it have gone from rash to molting reptile.

04/03/12 - Rash/peeling

This afternoon I received a phone call from Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to schedule my first physical therapy appointment.  This I was excited about, until the scheduler asked me if I could come in tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.  I was taken aback by this because starting physical therapy at 2.5 weeks post surgery doesn’t seem in line with my reconstructive surgeons’ instructions.  I asked the scheduler if I was cleared by both Drs. Javid and Louie to start PT, and she didn’t know.  She said she was following Dr. Javid’s referral slip to schedule PT “sooner versus later” and called.  So the scheduler and I hung up, and I called Dr. Louie’s office to find out if it was ok for me to go to PT tomorrow.  I haven’t heard back yet (because I called at the end of the work day) but am interested to hear if it is ok for me to start PT tomorrow.

As far as accomplishments and pain today, my left side is still throbbing, stiff and sore.  My range of motion on the left side is still significantly limited compared to the right.  But last night I slept with my left arm propped up on a pillow like it was in the hospital, and when I had my usual 2 a.m. wake up my arm felt better than it had after the past couple weeks of sleeping without it supported.  So tonight I will sleep with a pillow under my arm again and see if the support overnight makes any impact tomorrow.  At this point, though, I just feel like throwing my left arm in a sling and letting it set there for a week. I didn’t hit any significant “back to me achievements” today that come to mind.  Me, our nanny, and the girls hit the mall for some retail therapy and indoor walking since Seattle weather is back to raining, pouring, boring.  Surviving taking twin toddler girls who are in the midst of a princess obsession to The Disney Store is quite an accomplishment, so I’ll post it here.

So that’s it for today!  Here’s your daily dose…

04/03/12 - Frontal

04/03/12 - Flaps

04/03/12 - Right side

04/03/12 - Left side

We FINALLY had a peek of some Spring weather today and it was amazing!  I took the wonderful day in full strides, many of them.  The girls headed off to music class this morning and I headed out for a walk to make up for my lack of walking on other days.

I walked to Denny Blaine Park and back towards our neighborhood.  I then went from near back around our house into the Madison Park village, down to the beach front, around a few blocks on the other side of Madison Street, and then back home.  All in all, I think I walked close to 4.5 miles today, which isn’t quite 5 miles but there isn’t a song about 4.5 miles.  There wasn’t a song about 5 miles, but I made it work.  I also decided to take more of a challenging route than the flattish routes I’ve been sticking to since coming home.  On my way to/from Denny Blaine, I went down through this street that Mike and I fondly refer to as “the Dip”. It’s a pretty steep valley (that down in the middle has a nice little bit of hidden beach front) that is a challenge for me when I’m well, but I managed to get through it today without too much trouble.  I did get a little bit winded, and then light headed, when coming back up the hill and stopped for a little break, but it otherwise felt good to get outside, enjoy the weather, and get some actual exercise.

04/02/12 "Dip" entry

04/02/12 "Dip" exit


Unfortunately it seems like everything that I do ends up with more swelling of my left flap.  So right now I feel like it is going to explode.  It is a lot like my underarm is being subjected to a hostile take over by my flap.


04/02/12 Left side, even more swollen

Tomorrow will be a glorious day, as I’m going in to have my final JP Drain removed.  I won’t see either Dr. Louie or Liu, but hope that whomever I get to see can provide me with some medical magic and/or words of advice as to what, if anything, I can do about this growing problem.  It’s really uncomfortable (painful after sleeping through the night or taking a nap) and not showing any sign of slowing down.  So, hopefully there is some sort of medical intervention/solution.

Another question I wanted to ask my doctor(s) is about phantom nipple pain.  I keep having this sharp pain shooting through the area where my nipple used to be but is no longer.  I don’t have any sensation in about 95% of my flaps and am just curious as to whether or not other patients experience this and how long it will last.  I do have a tiny bit of sensation on the interior side of my left flap.  I can run my hand across that area and my skin is hypersensitive to it.  It is very uncomfortable but I didn’t expect to have any sensation on my flaps whatsoever.  Other than that, I only have to report that the pain and stiffness in my left upper body is still present.  It runs underneath my collar bone, over the top of my shoulder and by the outside of my shoulder blade.  Hopefully this resolves sooner than my swelling is estimated to, but who knows how long it takes a body to workout all the kinks and fully recovery from all of this.

Daily dose of scary follows…

04/02/12 Frontal

04/02/12 Left side

04/02/12 Right side

Today wasn’t a very eventful day.  We had one hell of a windstorm last night, so I was up late waiting for our house to blow apart in a million pieces.  I was awoken by the wind at about 2 a.m. and up for almost a full two hours.  After finally falling back asleep, I slept a little past 7:30 a.m. this morning.  I am not certain if I did something in my sleep or if my recovering body is suffering setbacks, but I awoke this morning completely stiff and sore in my upper left body.  From clavicle to scapula and down to my fingers, I feel like the Tin Man after a month out in the rain – but only on my left side.  I got up and inspected myself to see if my left flap was more swollen, bruised, or had to turn to stone (like I felt), but nothing changed over night.  I think I am not cleared for physical therapy until I am 4 weeks post-op, but I feel that with all of this stiffness, soreness, and extending immobility setting in I’m going to need much more than physical therapy to fix me.

I didn’t do much physically today because of this weather.  It is probably fortunate that I didn’t embark on my neighborhood walk today since I forgot, for the entire day, to put on my abdominal binder.  I failed to realize that I hadn’t worn it all day until I was getting up from our couch tonight and was trying to figure out why I was having pain in my abdomen.  My plastic surgeon, Dr. Louie, and the PS resident in Dr. Louie’s absence (Dr. Liu), both told me to wear my binder to support my incision.  I didn’t think that it would make such a difference, but now I know.

These past few nights, I’ve had some shooting pains on the underside of my “flaps”.  I’m not sure, but I think it’s because they’re healing where my doppler wires were recently removed.  The doppler wires are implanted during the DIEP flap reconstruction surgery.  While in ICU, my nurses (and surgeons) would come in every couple of hours and press on the underside of my reconstructed flaps where the doppler wires were.  The wires were hooked up to a speaker, and when pressed on you could hear the “whoosh whoosh whoosh” of blood flow into and out of the flaps.  This is done to ensure that the transplanted blood vessels are not failing and that the blood is successfully flowing.  The doppler wires are left in, even after being discharged, in case there are any complications (like necrosis) during recovery.  When I went in to the plastic surgeon’s office for my follow up, the wires were removed because I was complication and necrosis free.  On the underside of my flaps, I have these little holes that are slowly closing from where they entered the flaps.  I think this is where my discomfort is coming from, but what do I know.  I can’t even see under there.  I have to get a hand mirror or rely on my phone to see what’s going on in that underworld.

Today was also our last day of having immediate, on hand help from family.  My sister, Angie, returned home to Las Vegas today leaving us here to swim with the little fishes.  Before she left, Angie made about 200 lbs of chicken, meatballs, stew, and a lot of other things sitting in our freezer for when we run out of friends that are willing to feed us.  I really appreciate that my sisters took time out of their always busy lives to come here and care for me and my family.  It isn’t easy work to come into someone’s house and play by their rules, do things their way, and be humble about it.  But my sisters did just this , and more, for me, Mike and the girls; and, they did it well.  I am thankful for their love, time, help, food, and nurturing of my little family. I am also thankful for my friends that continue to take care of us, bringing us food, well wishes, and happy visits.

This week is going to bring new challenges since my sisters are gone, but hopefully they are injury free challenges.  We’ll see.  Hope for the best!

And now for the daily dose of forward progress…

04/01/2012 JP Drain puckered

04/01/2012 Left Doppler site

04/01/2012 Right Doppler site

04/01/2012 Bruise improving?

04/01/2012 Abdomen and new belly button

04/01/2012 Frontal