Archives for posts with tag: Stage 1/Week 5

Don’t get the wrong idea!  Today was my first day of physical therapy, where I learned about the “Self-Administered Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage Technique” (herein after “SAMLDMT”).  I will return to this later and tie up my reason for my post title and why I thought of the Divinyls during PT.

First off, I am still unable to add any new progress photos to my blog.  I have been trying to add my progress photos from yesterday and pictures of my post surgery swag, and all I’ve been getting is this screen where it shows my new media is uploaded but “Crunching” followed by “Internal Error Message” then a sea of nothingness and frustration.  I will keep trying, though.

My physical therapy is at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  My breast oncologist and surgeon, Dr. Javid, and I thought it would be best to have PT there since they deal with post-mastectomy and reconstruction patients all the time.  As I wrote in my post last night, I made my physical therapy appointment for first thing in the morning today.  This was mostly because I was worried that PT was going to be physically taxing, I would have pain and/or more swelling in the time after, and I would want to call or get in to see someone at the UWMC.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, which is nice. My physical therapist, Rachel, had me lie on the table and go through several arm movements so that she could measure my range of motion and limitations.  She also had me push and pull against her arms to test my strength on both sides.  She then slowly took me through a series of stretches and motions that I should do at home over the next few weeks to increase my range of motion.  She also showed me how to do “Scar Tissue Release” massage for areas where my abdominal scar is very restricted.   And then we went over the lymphatic system and the SAMLDMT.  I will focus my massages on the axillary lymph nodes, but at times when my swelling is increased (or I just want to move more of my fluid around), I should include the Inguinal lymph nodes.  Here is a reference image:

I didn’t hear the Divinyls until this point.  I remembered when my sister, Alyssa, was talking to me about her troubles with her seemingly incessant lymphedema and how she’s supposed to do these massages to decrease her swelling.  (NOTE:  I don’t have lymphedema; my lymph nodes were not involved in my surgery.  I simply have excess fluid in the area surrounding my lymph nodes on my left side.)  She told me that she was at home doing her Inguinal massage in bed one night and her husband walked into their bedroom and gave her a sideways glance.  If you’re lying down, in bed and doing this massage, the Divinyls will start playing in your head.  Not because you’re doing anything other than Inguinal massage, but because to anyone other than you that is exactly what it looks like you’re doing.  Don’t believe me?  You try it out and let me know how it goes.  I digress…

Rachel finished up giving me my instructions and reviewing the movements, massages, and techniques with me.  We decided that I would come back in two weeks for a progress check and to see how my ROM improves.  If it is much improved, I get to add strength building to my next appointment.  If that goes well, I get to go back to the gym (with limitations), but still have to go to physical therapy for 2 more sessions after that appointment.  If I don’t show much improvement after 3 PT sessions, then I will continue going to PT and not go back to the gym.

While this all seems like a long and drawn out schedule, it really isn’t long after my currently-scheduled-final PT appointment that I’m probably going to have Stages 2 and 3 of my surgery process done, which takes me back out of the gym and physical activity for a few weeks.  Time flies.

I wanted to announce that today I learned of my first non-family member or friend blog reader and follower!  She is just beginning this process and has a blog herself.  It is so strange that, to me, my recovery has gone so fast these past few weeks.  But when I was in her position (trying not to lose my mind and start planning), it seemed like this day (5 weeks post-op) was an entire lifetime away.  In some ways, it was another lifetime away.  I am now breast cancer risk reduced, through the initial hurdles of recovery, and on my way to semi-normalcy before the end stages of my reconstruction.  Then again, 35 days is a flash in the pan.  I can clearly recall and even feel the anxiety and heaviness in my heart in the last few days before my surgery.  The morning of my surgery I even got up earlier than I needed to just so I could cry before my husband was awake.  I felt alone in a lot of those moments despite knowing full well that my family and friends were here for me.  I was so worried about what life would be like in this reconstructed body (pretty good!, BTW).  I was also so worried about the impact all of this was going to have on our family as a whole and not just myself.  But here we are, making it through the recovery process and getting back to our day-to-day.  And it feels SO phenomenal.  So, maybe read along with her as well and pass the word on in case there are more of us out there scouring the Internet for information late at night, losing our minds, and planning for the rough days to come…

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller, wise young/old man.

Today was great!  Since all of my incisions are completely healed I was able to go with the girls and Cate back to our parent & tot swimming lessons.  The girls hadn’t been in weeks because the class requires 1 adult for every child in the water, and we simply couldn’t find anyone free on Tuesday mornings to take the girls with Cate.  It was phenomenal in so many ways.

Everyone knows about the joys of buoyancy.  I didn’t know that being back in a pool with my kids would buoy my spirits so much.  It felt great (emotionally) doing another “normal” again together with the girls; it felt awkward (physically) trying to get used to the feeling of so much movement from me and our munchkins.  I felt the pool was a safe re-entry into physicality with the kids because I didn’t have to rely on my own physical strength 100% because we were in the water.  I swam with Olivia; she typically refuses to swim with anyone else.  She always wrestles me a little bit when she is bored with the swimming practice drills and wants only to play with the pool toys; today was no different in that regard.  It was different to try and manage her (physically) while still not having my full range of motion in my arms.  We do a drill where we (the parent) prop one leg up on top of the knee of the other under water.  We make a table top this way to lay the child upon.  They rest their belly on the parent’s thigh, so they’re partially immersed in position like they’re swimming but your leg is just below them to support them in the water.  It sounds easy enough, but trying to get a toddler that is learning to swim used to this posture and relaxed is a challenge.  Limbs are flailing, water is splashing everywhere, and you’re trying to control midget chaos while keeping your kid afloat.  It’s a workout, usually, and today even more so.  I still cannot raise my arms straight up, move them behind me, or too far out from my sides.  So trying to control Olivia’s cyclone was super difficult but we all survived.  I also took several body blows, punches to the noobs, and am happy to report that I’m not in any more discomfort that I have been since my recovery got easier.  The middle of my back hurts constantly these days, but I think that has a lot to do with how my posture has changed since surgery.

All morning I was entirely grateful for how strong my legs are.  Paul and I worked really hard on building leg strength before my surgery since we figured they’d be working overtime while my arms were out of commission.  I can’t tell you how well this has served me.  You probably don’t think about how much you use your arms to get up from the bed, a chair, the floor, out of the car, etc.  I have either been using my arms on a very limited basis to do these things or not at all.  I’ve also been using my legs to complete the motion of opening a heavy door (by way of the inner thigh against the door frame), to close heavy doors (kung fu style), and I use my simian toes to pick things up off of the floor and kick them up to my hands.  (Handy trick you can also learn in Vegas between the rush hours of 10 p.m. – 4 a.m. in some places ;).)  Since I’ve been trying to pick up or carry the girls as of yesterday, I ask them to put their arms around my neck and hold on tight to me while I’m in a squat position.  I then make sure I have a good grip on them, and vice versa, and use my legs to propel our weight up instead of lifting with my back.  It makes a huge difference in how my arms and chest feel when I do this correctly.  In short, if you’re getting ready to go through this process, work on your leg strength prior to the big day.  You’ll need it and be glad that you did.

Tomorrow is my first day of physical therapy.  I’m excited to learn why I’m having pain in different areas, the muscle groups involved and implicated in my surgery/recovery, improving my ROM and strength, and how soon I can get back to my usual self (and working out!).  I am terribly nervous about how much pain and/or discomfort is going to come with PT.  I have my appointment in the early morning, which I planned just in case I need to call my doctor’s office about pain issues later in the day.

I keep trying to upload my daily photos but am getting an “internal error” message during the upload process.  I have been at this for 41 minutes now and am giving up in the name of sleep!  If I can resolve it tomorrow morning, I’ll update this post with tonight’s photos.  Wish me luck in PT!!!!

04/17/12 - Frontal

04/17/12 - Flaps

04/17/12 - Abdomen

04/17/12 - Nipple site

04/17/12 - Left Side

04/17/12 - Right Side


Today was my follow up appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Louie (and Dr. Liu), where I was able to pose my billion plus one questions and actually have them answered.  I am lucky to have patient and understanding physicians.  As it turns out, I’m nothing special; just another patient with the same concerns that come up after these surgeries.  In this situation, I will take ordinary.

My continued swelling on my left side is still normal, expected, and just needs time.  My peeling skin is common; a lot of post surgical patients swell, then their skin stretches, shrinks back down, and the excess peels.  My rash is somewhat common in that it is probably related to taking pain medication.  The indentation above my abdominal scar just needs some time for the skin surrounding the scar to loosen up and settle.  My phantom nipple pain, shoulder pain, limited range of motion…all of these things I’ve been fretting about are common.  And for once, it’s good to be common.  I’ll stand among the masses and take a big, fat goose egg on the freaky, one-in-a-million medical complications side.  I also told Dr. Louie about catching Olivia at the playground yesterday, my pain afterwards and how it carried over into the evening; also common!

Since I’m in my fifth week of recovery, I am able to begin physical therapy and also trying to build my strength back up (SLOWLY) to where I can carry more than 5 lbs.  I’ve been instructed, politely, not to try and go full bore all at once but let it be a work in progress for some time.  So, of course, I got home and picked up Olivia, gave her a big squeeze, and then did the same with Juniper.  I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel fantastic (emotionally) and uncomfortable (physically).  I’m a bit sore still from the park-grab yesterday and then probably added some more soreness to myself with the raise and twirl shenanigans this afternoon.  Totally worth it!  The other good news I received today is that I start physical therapy on Wednesday, and I can probably go back to the gym after a few weeks of PT.  Woot woot! So, all in all, very good news received today.  I go back to see Dr. Louie in 6 weeks when we will talk more about Stage 2 and, maybe, combining Stages 2 & 3 (liposculpting/evening out the noobs, nipple reconstruction).

Now here’s the daily dose, now with less Dermabond!


04/17/12 - Flaps


04/17/12 - Abdomen


04/17/12 - Right side


04/17/12 - Left side

Sorry for being a horrible (even for a newbie) blogger.  This has been an oddly busy, but not super busy, weekend.  My husband has a case going to trial on Monday and I’m still hobbled.  So I’ve been trying to do more “solo parenting” this weekend, except for heavy lifting, while still recovering.  It is hard and exhausting trying to do things with T-rex arms.

Mike was able to sneak away from his preparation responsibilities today to go to the park with the girls and me this morning.  I still cannot push (or pull) anything that’s heavy, and our enormous double stroller with the girls is probably over 70 lbs, so Mike has to go with us everywhere if the stroller is involved.  This (no pushing/pulling) is a specifically stated restriction on my discharge paper work, but I admit I have attempted a lot of the things I was told not to do just because I’m foolish and a horrible patient like that.  I haven’t tried to push the stroller with the girls in it, but I did use it in an attempt to move some stuff from my car to the front door one day, and just having a few little things plus the weight of the stroller was too much.  I ended up putting everything back in my car and asking someone else to get it for me later.  So I haven’t tried using the stroller again since then.  I also cannot vacuum because I am not strong enough to pull the vacuum back and break its suction with the carpet.  It isn’t pain that I feel (because I don’t push myself that hard during these experiments), but it’s a definite, strong, discouraging sensation outside of and below my noobs, as well as in my chest in the area between my clavicle and the beginning arc of my bust line.

I did have an “OH NO!” moment at the park today.  Our daughter, Olivia, was climbing up this wall that she mastered long ago on the jungle gym.  I was standing behind her in case she fell but not really thinking she would fall; but she did fall.  Instinctively, I reached down, grabbed her and picked her up before she hit the ground.  The good news is that I was able to grab her before she hurt herself.  The bad news is that I think I injured myself in the process.  She is at least 30 lbs; I am not supposed to be lifting anything over 5 lbs.  When I caught her, I felt a pain just below my left flap near that incision sight and also in my under arm area.  With the weight of her in my arms, I felt my lats move quickly and engage, and it hurt.  To be honest, it still hurts.  I walked over and told Mike what happened.  We were both relieved that neither Olivia nor I were hurt, but I’m definitely not feeling as well as I did this morning.  Over the course of the day, my discomfort got worse and turned into full fledged pain.  I was going to take some pain medication today and nap while the girls took their nap, but I had stuff to do around the house and didn’t have an opportunity to lie down and rest.  I will take my pain medication before bed tonight and talk to my surgeon about this incident and my pain tomorrow morning during my follow up.  That being said, nothing hurts like that first week; not even close.  This is just a bit of pain that I shall certainly survive.

As for the small indentation that developed underneath my abdominal scar yesterday, it has come and gone throughout the day.  I  think it’s probably related to me being bloated but will ask tomorrow.  It is interesting to see what my abdomen would look like around my scar if I put on extra weight; bad news. There aren’t any new developments as far as my healing progress is concerned.  My noobs are still peeling and I’m itchy from it; my left side has still gone Dolly Parton rogue on me; and my abdominal scar is almost 100% Dermabond free.  So, if you’re interested, take a peek.  If not, take leave now!




04/15/12 - Frontal

04/15/12 - Flaps

04/15/12 - Abdomen

04/15/12 - Left swelling ct'd (a/k/a - Mt St Helens pre-eruption)

04/15/12 - Right side

04/15/12 - Left side






My apologies at the outset for the truncated, tardy update. It was one of my BFFs birthday celebration this evening, so I had to go directly from mama-time to social time, which cut out blog time.

I didn’t do much too different today but noticed this morning that I have an indentation developing around my abdominal scar. It’s between my belly button and the scar itself; I think you can tell by the photo.

I’m not sure if this is just how it’s going to be, if it’s because I’m mid-cycle and bloated like I belong in the Macy’s parade, or if I’ve finally eaten enough peanut butter to put fat around my newly trimmed mid section, but I’ll hopefully find out on Monday.

This is the only photo I’m posting tonight. I’ll be back to my endless babbling at its fullest tomorrow with regular photos. Until then, twinkle, twinkle little stars.

And Happy Birthday Drew!


What can I say?  More unseasonably warm weather, sunshine, pleasantness…and swelling.

We had a cold morning turn into a really gorgeous day today.  Cate and the girls took an early trip to the park this morning while I took care of some household stuff and got myself ready for the day.  We decided to do something different and fun, and we took the girls to an indoor trampoline place today so they could jump around.  I was a little bit anxious about doing this with them, knowing that Cate and I would each have to manage 1 child if the place was really busy with other kids.  When we got inside, there was a specific area for little ones, so it made our jobs a little easier.  That being said, the girls still wanted me to be involved.  I kind of decided to go for it these next few days, with my follow up appointment on Monday.  So while I was a little worried about my abilities at the trampoline place, I wanted to test a few things out.

I was able to hold hands with the girls while they jumped, and I could lift a little bit of their weight pain free, but I am in no way ready to lift them up.  I tried picking up our daughter Olivia to help her sit on my lap when we were leaving but quickly realized that my body wasn’t ready for it.  There wasn’t screaming pain, but I could full my muscles pull along side my ribs, underneath my flaps and also at my sternum – and it didn’t feel great.  So I went from a lifting motion to more of a sliding her uphill on my legs.  That I could manage with a little discomfort, which I think is going to be more of my new reality if I’m released to go to physical therapy on Monday.  I was kidding myself two weeks ago when I thought that my start of physical therapy would be the end of my pain.  I think it’s more likely that the start of PT will be the start of a different kind of pain!  We’ll see how it goes.

This evening I’m still moving around pretty well but my upper back and lats hurt, which isn’t really new.  I think that my lats hurt from trying to bear a little more weight when playing with the girls today.  My left noob hasn’t swollen any more today, but it still hurts.  The strange pulsating sensation continued while I was on my walk today.  I was telling Cate yesterday that I think that sensation may be more of a sign that I may be getting some sensation back in that area (and the area surrounding it).  Maybe I’m being too hopeful about that.

The only other item I thought I’d add to today’s post is that my skin is peeling like I’ve suffered the world’s worst sunburn.  I have no idea why having these surgical procedures would cause me to peel like I am.  I’ve included photos of the skin peeling on my noobs and some of my sides, but it has truly been over my entire upper body, including my arms.  This is something else that I will ask my surgeon about on Monday.  I apologize for not having the photos of my surgery swag today.  I need to not procrastinate on my around-the-house projects so I can actually take these photos and get them posted for anyone else’s reference.


Tune in Tokyo…or tune out.



04/13/12 - Frontal

04/13/12 - Flaps

04/13/12 - Abdominal incision

04/13/12 - Right side

04/13/12 - Left side

04/13/12 - Right side peeling

04/13/12 - Left side peeling

04/13/12 - Walk stats