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!