Category Archives: recovery

Quick Changes

So 48 hours ago I thought I might never move again unaided. 24 hours ago I decided to stop taking my pain meds and see how it goes. I took one regular Tylenol yesterday evening and that’s been sufficient. Movement is of course still limited. I still have to be majorly careful and controlled, but ability returns in leaps and bounds. Generally I move like a weeble-wobble: when I need to get up from the bed or sofa I manage by sort of rolling onto my side and up from there in one smooth motion, hands clasped to my torso just to be sure everything feels supported. I’ve got the hang of this! Last night I tentatively slept on each side for a little while.

My charming caretaker Ed left just a while ago to return to England. He thoughtfully got down anything I might need from high kitchen shelves after he’d gone, all done even before I woke (with the aid of a lovely cup of coffee delivered to me). I told you he was good at this.

Now it’s quiet here, the way a house is when all of the souls suddenly leave, save one. It’s strange and still again in a snap, in a way that makes you the tiniest bit sad even if you’re happy enough to be alone. But a day of readjustment will shake the normal texture back into my afternoons. And in just 12 days (or so) I’ll be living in another country. I’ll be busy until then; I’ll take this little rest where I can.

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I have an update for you

And that is to say, well…come closer. A little closer. This should be right in your ear. Ready?…

OOOOOuch!

First of all, remember that little bit of nausea that took me away yesterday? Well, I have been reminded of a great trick I learned during chemo: if you’re gonna’ get sick, head for the tub, not the toilet. Having my head in the toilet only makes me want to be MORE sick. And with the tub, you’ve got a fresh supply of cold water right there. Handy!

That has passed as the anesthesia and its effects have faded away. My night was otherwise fine. I slept well, but when I woke up this morning needing a bathroom break I thought I might never manage to get out of bed again. Wow does it hurt! But I did manage and I’m making my way through the day with the help of my BIL Ed really has the knack for taking care and is good company to boot.

It feels like….imagine the worst, most painful deep bruise you’ve ever had (because I guess that’s essentially what this is!). It feels like that, being pressed, from my belly button to just below my shoulders. Front and back. When I sit still it doesn’t really hurt, but then my muscles get cold and it seems to hurt more once I move again (like regular old sore muscles after a workout).

Still, I’m happy and managing. So happy to have the movement that I didn’t after the last surgery. I think this hurts as much, but freedom makes a difference. And every day will get better.

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They’re Here!

Today was my surgery and “they” have finally been received! It’s all very exciting. I’ll jump up and down when…well, once I’m able to. Right now I can barely stand up and down. For a preview, look above. (Ha – I wish! 🙂 )

I won’t stay here long as I’m pretty sore and tired, but I just wanted to drop an update for all the wonderful people waiting to hear and following the final result.

The surgery went smoothly. In an unusual move for me, I went in pretty ignorant. I figure after my last surgery, what’s the fuss? I’d go in, go to sleep, wake up in pain, which will eventually go away. And that’s pretty much how it happened. It does hurt quite a lot, but at least I can move around, which I couldn’t do after the big surgery.

Anyhow, for the moment I really must go (a little nausea, a little fatigue, etc.) but I’ll be back when I can. Hopefully tomorrow. See you then.

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Sydney Bristow I Ain’t

When I took Del to the US last week, a trip sandwiched by one to England and one to Holland, it was one reminiscent of the kind of hyper-intense traveling I used to do on a regular basis. While pleased that my slightly-older being yet much-older feeling self held up gracefully, I did have a shock.Remember when I lamented that my days of hoisting myself up into air-conditioning shafts were over? Well, those feelings have subsided with time. Part of me has regained the sense of defiance; part of me has just learned to let it go. Since my surgeries, the range of motion in my arms is back to about 95%, but the upper ranges certainly don’t have a lot of power behind them. When I am traveling with my trusty roll-aboard suitcase, I have managed to avoid confronting the possibility of my limitations by (luckily) not having to hoist my suitcase up into any high spaces – at least when its packed full. This has been both conscious and unconscious on my part. I never thought “I don’t want to put this up there cause I might not be able to”, but it’s not like I was unaware of the fact I hadn’t done it yet. This might not be a big thing to you guys, but let’s face it, hoisting my heavy suitcase into an overhead bin was once part of my daily work experience (and will be again). It represents only one of the inherent tasks of the gig. Like Sydney Bristow changing hair color. (You know, the superspy and all around kick-ass chick from Alias.)

Anyhow, when I came back from America last week, I strolled onto the plane and found no casual way out. I refused to give it pause, so even though I had my doubts about succeeding I just plowed forward. (I often find that’s the best way to get things done.) I look up at the bin so high. I first lift the case onto the armrest in a baby-step strategy and then hoooi……uh….aahh… (*ahem*).

I would never ask a flight attendant to help me, as this is a prickly issue in our job. (You might think we’re mean to begrudge, but if we get hurt lifting your bag we are not covered by worker’s comp.) Thankfully, the nice F/A came over and she did help me. She didn’t have to do that, and I was grateful.

I was surprised by my gross failure, and – ok, sorta not too. I do now have to admit openly to myself that I am no super-spy. Damn.

Am I terribly concerned? Anh, no. Whatever. Might it indicate an issue for work? Yeah. But I’m sure once I’m back to lifting things on a regular basis, that arm muscle will come right back. And if I’m wrong, just don’t tell me, or I’ll be forced to prove you wrong.

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The Loose Ends of Healing (literally)

(Hi friends – a quick one here as I am in the US with my family for the holidays and on borrowed computer time.)  

I had an appointment with Dr. Fabulous a couple of weeks ago. He’s pleased with everything, but he did ask again if I had been able to start swimming. I was guilty of not having done so, though I’ve started to pick it up a bit now. He stresses that it will help everything “heal smoothly, so that it’s more supple.” Hey, sounds good to me. I am so pleased with the results, but I can admit that everything is very firm. In particular I wouldn’t mind a softening of the ligaments of my armpits. The left one was mostly back to normal (from the mastectomy) before the recontruction and it has now tightened up a bit again. On the right side the ligament is actually a tough knot…I know from last year that swimming is the best thing by far for recovering range-of-motion.

Indeed, the first time I went the other week, all the movements felt a little awkward. Nothing hurt but I could feel things pulling everywhere, making my strokes a bit tentative and choppy. Just 3 days later I went again and presto! Already about 90% improvement. Just thought I’d share for others doing this. Swimming is key! You will thank yourself later.

Dr. Fabulous also gave me some stuff to make my scars better. It’s a sticky silicone bandage type thing called Scarban. In Brussels style the entire city (apparently) only has one pharmaceutical stockist, who had a “rupture of stock”, so I got sent to 4 different stores looking for the stuff before this was explained to me. In the end my awesome pharmacy tracked some down one box.

It’s pricey stuff, but I’ve only heard rave reviews of it. You cut it into strips and wear it on your scars everyday (for about 6 weeks). When the sticky is gone you hand wash it with special soap and rinse, and when it dries the sticky is magically back. It’s pretty crazy stuff.

It is a little bit high maintenance for my lazy self, but it’s not so bad and I hear the difference will be worth it. Have any of you guys used this stuff? (I’m curious as it seems hard to find and I can’t imagine why given how popular I should think it would be – even Google doesn’t have anything useful on it – and also I might need to track down more). 

I will keep you up to date on any results. Until then, Hope you guys are gearing up for happy holidays! I’m off to make the Christmas bread (from scratch, impressive for such a lazy girl huh?).  

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What Now?

In the grand scheme of things, to some extent, we’ll see. I am one who doesn’t like to overly plan, but I do have the outline drafted: for starters, I go back to work on 1 January. I feel ready to go back. I miss my trips from one continent to the other. Meeting friends in different countries for dinners, whom I would otherwise probably lose touch with over time.

I admit though, I am a little nervous about the fatigue factor so I am hoping not to fly full-time anymore. The commuting across the ocean and the continual jetlag now seems a daunting readjustment. I’d like to continue spending more time on my writing or other things. Generally this is within my power as I can give away my trips to others; I am only required to cover them. That is one of the things that drew me into staying in the job. (After initially doing it “for a few years”, as most of us start out. More senior flight attendants laugh right out loud when the young girls say this. How right they were…)

However, on occasion I am obligated to fly a schedule completely at the company’s whim, filling in for last minute flights that need more crew. Perhaps someone has not made it to work for whatever reason; perhaps a flight ends up with enough passengers to require additional crew; perhaps it is delayed and the original crew is “illegal” to work the extended hours. Whatever the reason, these schedules of “reserve” flying are unpredictable and always strenuous, as we are worked to the limits of what is “legal”. (Say, 14 hour days with only 8-10 hrs. off-duty in between, for days at a time.) In the best of times I am unwell by the end of the month. When I return in January I will have to do this for 2 months in a row. Maybe I’m being a wuss about it, but I sincerely fear how my body will take this abuse after so long without and cancer treatment inbetween. So…we’ll see if I can arrange my first few months to be PT (only possible for medical reasons I believe, and taking some arranging). I’d like to ease back into the job a bit.

The process of reconstruction is also not complete, for those that forget. I keep getting comments of surprise that it’s not all finished. But this was just the first (and only major) surgery. In March (I calculate) will come the surgery for any adjustments that need to be made, including that “upgrade”. So the worst is definitely over (knock on wood), but they’re some things to tie up still.

And then there’s the blog. I really enjoy it, but perhaps my time on this topic will be done. Do I continue here but talk about whatever, or is that cheating what I started here? I could continue all posts on my other one, though Killer Boob has more habitual readers. I am leaning towards the latter option, but I have some time to decide.

As for the rest? We’ll see. The bf is in the midst of changing jobs and we don’t know yet where that will take us. He wants to live in America. I adore Europe, but I would welcome not having to commute so far, between so many time zones. I wouldn’t mind being closer to the family. I wouldn’t mind having my money be worth something! (The dollar is $2.06 to the pound and $1.45 to the Euro. Ouch!) But hey, at this point I will be grateful not to have any needles near me, no matter where that is.

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Is that a Social Life I See?!

OK so I’m being dramatic there. But I am nevertheless pleased to report that I went out to a party on Halloween night! It’s my first social-scene participation since the surgery (and one of few in more than a year) and it was welcome. The house that I used to live in in Leuven was having one of their color-themed parties. This one was “pink”. Belgians really dig theme parties. (These is the same house full of friends that have mentioned on here various times for their various heroic favors.)

I find it interesting that so many people still do not get what I had done to me. Many say things like, “Now tell me, why couldn’t you stand up for so long? It was bad on your back for some reason, is that it?” Now I don’t blame them. There are much more pleasant and interesting things for people to keep up with than someone else’s surgery. (Hmm…could that be because it’s creepy? Or boring?) It’s more a comment on the fact that it’s quite hard for people to grasp the extent of the surgery, and how amazing it is. When I respond, “Er, no. It’s because they cut away 4 or 5 inches of my stomach skin and then sewed it together,” (awk-ward! [*sung in a high voice*]) they seem quite perplexed at how they could have missed that. But refreshingly the party was for talking about so many other things as well, as I get to do more and more often now, which is something I will never take for granted again.

Luckily I had two other friends from Brussels going, so we went on the train together. I’m moving quite easily now and catching the bus to the train station did well to remind me I still need to be cautious. One slam of the brakes or punch of the gas and I felt it as I braced to make sure I was not tossed around as well. These friends are also no longer keen on “crashing” anywhere but our own beds (even though the house is super accommodating and comfy) so I was grateful to cab it back to my place for bed.

The only other strain was on the dance floor, when I did so for more than a few minutes at a time. Oh yes. I danced too. Granted, I looked like I was emulating an octogenarian, but technically it was dancing! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As a side note, I just realized that I could now throw away the “patient card” I had to carry around in my wallent to inform medical personal that I had a Port-A-Cath in the event of an emergency. Actually, I think I’ll go fish it out of the trash can and put a match to it, just because I can!

And my award for favorite party dress o the evening goes to…

PJ pink

(and his partner who dressed in mirror-image.)

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