Progress … slow and steady

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I remember in those special times of my life when I was engaged to be married, and later pregnant with each of our children, that I’d wake up each morning with a happy feeling that something GOOD was happening for me. And as I slowly came to my senses, I’d think, “Something good… oh yeah, we’re getting married/ having a baby!” I always started those days with a smile.

Nowadays I wake up with a feeling of  ”What is this again? Oh yeah.. the operation”. This is NOT a feeling of joy! Usually I just lie there thinking “WHY did I inflict this on myself??! It is SO uncomfortable and I am SO tired and I REALLY do not like taking all of these drugs and I REALLY don’t like having to be so reliant on everyone to look after me….” and generally have a bit of a pity party for myself. Then I slowly become awake enough to open my journal, and vent all of that sadness on to the pages.

I always end up reassuring myself that it IS all for the good, and it WILL pass, and I am so lucky to have had the early warning of cancer looming and to be surrounded by so much love and support.

THEN I smile and slowly slowly ease myself out of bed, with the painkillers now having kicked in for the morning. I take a gentle shower (with my back to the stream of water, as I can’t get my front and bandages wet yet) and take a loooong time getting dressed. (Yes I know I have always been a slow dresser! But this is REALLY slow!) That’s exhausting. Then I wander downstairs, have breakfast (well into late morning by this stage), sit around in a bit of a daze, take the next round of drugs and think “maybe I’ll just have a nap”. The moment my head hits the pillow I am like in a coma for two or three hours. Such heavy sleeps! On waking, it takes me about an hour (truly!) to actually get out of bed, and have a late afternoon “lunch”.

Then I am actually awake for the few hours until dinner and sometime in the evening I take myself off to bed again. This is life for me almost 3 weeks post surgery! I feel like a one hundred year old woman. Too tired for visitors. Even phone conversations are draining. I am just amazed at how little energy I have, but I am assured by my doctor and the regular community nurses that this is all totally normal after such a long surgery. My brain is having a hard time coming to terms with it! I’m sure that slowly slowly I am getting a bit stronger every day. Even the thought of going for a walk makes me feel like well, having a nap! It is quite bizarre! But I will get there. I am too tired even to paint yet, which is ALL I thought I’d be doing!

In myself, my body is not exactly in pain. More like “uncomfortable” and a bit achy. No sudden movements are possible! It’s worse in the mornings when I wake up, and then gradually improves during the day. My body just kind of feels heavy, like I have a sack of rice sitting on my torso. And a bit stiff, and numb.

So that’s me. Pretty much a zombie for a good part of the day (and comatose for most of the night!) Just thought I’d share for anyone else having a similar surgery or for those of you wondering why I haven’t really resurfaced yet. Don’t worry, I’m told it is all normal! And the strength will slowly return. Slowly, gently …. I will get there. Apparently I should expect to be taking afternoon naps for the first three months – so that’s yet another confirmation of the long recovery period ahead.

Other than my early morning confusion, I AM glad I have done the surgery. Sometimes I think maybe I should have had the reconstruction with implants, which would have been less taxing as I would not have had the abdominal surgery too. But I do think that I will be happy with the longer term outcome of having the transplant. Having implants never felt like the right option for me (although I can well see why many other women choose this option for their reconstructions).

I had a follow up appointment with James (my lovely plastic surgeon) this morning and learned that I didn’t have the DIEP reconstruction (using abdominal tissue only). I actually had a “muscle sparing TRAM reconstruction”, which means he used both abdominal tissue and some abdominal muscles as well, because he needed the extra blood supply from my muscles in order to make the transplant a success (the actual explanation is much more complicated than that, but anyway, that is the gist of it!)

And the very good news is that he is really happy with my progress. So even though it feels like wading through concrete from my perspective, from his it is all headed in the right direction. So hooray for that – and bring on rising energy levels! I am lucky. All is well!

8 responses to “Progress … slow and steady

  1. Annie King

    I have just read about your progress and laughed out loud. PK used to say to us when we were kids if you complain about being sick, your bored or tired it told him you were on the mend. i could hear dad saying that and it made me laugh.
    Slow progress sounds great to me after what you have had done. While your in the peace and rest of your home remember their are people cheering loudly for the little steps you are making to feel well.

    You are so brave to have chosen this journey and one day soon you will see it as a huge life victory. We are all going to celebrate your new bits and the bits you left behind.

    Lots of Love


    • Anne King, we so love you! Bec is on holidays and texted me to say she keeps dreaming of happy days when we were kids with Martha and Lou, including one that featured YOU and the King’s VW station wagon in our driveway. You are always with us!

      Love that your dad is in your ear. Bet that he’s very pleased to have Lou and Martha with him to relive Mount Martha, camping and Golf Ave days together! Thanks for all of your words of encouragement. You are a special person! Looking forward to that celebration with you



  2. Hi Sarah,

    Oh, I am so happy to have found your blog address!! I am sorry to have missed the days leading up to your surgery and immediately following. You are sounding very good. Each day you gain a little bit, then all of a sudden you realize that you have traveled so far toward recovery and are almost back to normal. From all my ‘breast’ friends, who have had the DIEP here in the USA, it takes about 6 weeks to feel almost normal and 8 weeks to feel normal again. You are well on your way.

    You are brave! It takes a lot of courage to do what you did. I am very proud of you. Thanks for reaching out and I am so happy that you are on this side of the surgery.

    I am 3.5 years out from my surgery and I believe it was a gift. Now I don’t have to worry about breast cancer. I feel great and know that I did everything I could to be here for my family.

    Your blog is awesome and makes me feel very happy!!!

    Sending my love and prayers for your continued recovery.


    • Hey Joanie

      So lovely of you to post and it feels good to know I have you as one of my “breast friends”, all the way over there in Maine. Thank you so much for your encouragement. There have been lots of times in this past three weeks where I have thought “WHAT THE HELL have I done??!” but knowing that you came through feeling so pleased with the outcome really helped me to know that I was on the same path, and would eventually end up in the same happy place! And your blog inspired mine, so I am really glad you have made contact, and that you have enjoyed reading it too.

      I mentioned your blog on my first post here:
      I’m thinking I should work out how to set up a tab with helpful resources, and will certainly include your blog on it when I get round to that!

      Lots of love to you



  3. Megan

    I’m counting down the days – 3 weeks yesterday since your op and six weeks is Oct 9 (to feel almost normal according to Joanie) then 8 weeks (to feel normal) is Oct 23 – and the 12 weeks mark is Nov 20. (I guess it must be like when the doctor told me that Tilly’s colic would ‘only’ last 12 weeks…ONLY!! a few hours sleep a day for 12 weeks and no likelihood of 4 hours in a row?) Wishing I could push the clocks forward for you xxx


  4. Kate King

    Your in the home straight. I have been following your progress, saying my prays and buying daffidols each week. Small steps,each day, moving forward sounds like the way to go.
    thinking of you often.
    xx kate


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