Thursday, December 8, 2011

Getting Prepared

Surgery date for the bilateral mastectomy is set for December 21st and I have been using this time to get myself prepared.
- Copies of health care proxies and power-of-attorney documents. ( I will never be caught in a "you have no right to visit your partner" crisis again)

- Zip up hoodies and button up shirts. I have been told it will be a long time before I can put something on over my head.

- Cut my hair much shorter for easier care

- Strength conditioning. Lots of ab work to help me sit up from bed without use of my arms and lots of chest opening yoga stretches. I am hoping this helps.

- Loaded the iPod with upbeat songs.

- Got a pile of books to read and a friend bought me a Kindle in case even turning pages was a problem.

- Stocked up on Nutella and put it at waist level (must always be within reach)

- Got a pillow wedge for the bed but will probably be in a recliner for a while.

- Scheduled my massage (hot stone) and facial.

- My sister is coming up to help since Martha cannot get off work (except day of surgery), friends have already committed to bringing dinners, and my daughters will both be home from school.

If you know anyone who has been through this and have other helpful hints, I would be happy to hear them.

And then there’s the weird stuff -

- Someone told me how you can’t raise your arms to shave your armpits for quite a while (gross) and she suggested having my pits waxed.  Okay, even the thought of that has me cringing. But I honestly don’t know what’s worse.  Has anyone done this?  I am very fair and have never had anything waxed in my life.

And the fear -

- I have always had a difficult time coming out of anesthesia.  Not only from the nauseousness but mostly because, for some reason, it triggers me into horrific flashbacks, which are then made worse by the not being able to rouse myself from under the sedation, which brings on more anxiety, which triggers more flashbacks, and so on. And this will be my hardest surgery and the longest time under sedation.  So while I think I’ve prepared myself for the physical and emotional impact of the surgery,  I know that when I hit the recovery room, I will be reliving the worst terror in my life, over and over, with no way to make it stop.

And how do I prepare myself for that?
 Well, there is this
which both my daughters put on their Facebook page with a message that says "stay strong mom"
Yep. I’m trying.


  1. I will think of you on that day and after.

    Is it possible to discuss the effects of coming out of anesthesia with your doc and the anesthesiologist? I wonder if they could have someone at your side during that time who could recognize the signals and provide something to calm the flashbacks. I'm totally making this up out of my head here, so do with it what you will.

    More Nutella is always good.

    Sending thoughts your way.

  2. Yay for hot stone massages and short hair! (I'm just too lazy to have hair I have to fix--but I hope you like your new "do.")

    I don't have any advice about the waxing--but would encourage you to talk with the anesthesiologist (or be sure your surgeon does) about the issue and be sure the recovery room staff know that this is an issue for you. I doubt you are the first person they will have dealt with who has the challenge.

    I love your daughters. Do you have a badge that says "I wear pink for my hero, 8th day"? I'll put it up if you can get it to me. :-)

    Praying, praying, praying.....

  3. Ah....cross-posted with MakingSpace. Great minds and all that... ;-)

  4. I had a friend who rented a hospital bed so she had better control over positioning. I'm not sure how much of an issue that was.

    How long will it be before you can shave? You could go totally old school dyke. Maybe you'd like the look.

    Your daughters rock. But you already knew that.

  5. I'm not sure this helps -- but my Mom had the same procedure about 3 weeks ago and today she is driving herself 7 hours to visit *her* Mom. She was numb for several days following, but no pain. She had drains (2) in for a couple weeks (would have gotten them out sooner, but Thanksgiving interfered). She had a prescription for Percocet, but never had to take it. The numbness gave way after a few days to something she described as a "pulling" sensation when she tried to raise her arms. But no "pain."

    She is not having reconstruction; The breast center affiliated with her hospital gave her a camisole type garment with pockets for the surgical drains and a cottony insert for where the breast used to be. Mom felt comfortable enough in that to go to church a few days post-surgery.

    Her recovery has been remarkably simple. I don't know if she was just blessed or what, but I hope your experience will be easy and relatively painless as hers has been.

  6. To add to your gross factor - I asked L's mom who suggested dry shampoo since it will be a while before you can shower. She described her post surgery feeling as being shrink wrapped - uncomfortable but not painful. But just think, in two weeks the worse will be over and you'll still have great abs.

  7. When my sweetie had surgery she had issues coming out of anesthisia and the doc's & recovery nurses knew that even half under, my voice could cut through the fears and get her to a centered place. They knew to come and get me from the waiting area and bring me into recovery. Talk with your docs and hospital to see if they can bring Martha in to talk you through it (coming to consciousness safely).
    Best of luck to you on the 21st

    ps my wordpress id will not be accepted... I am not anonymous....I am Cris!

  8. Perhaps the hospital would allow Martha to be with you in the recovery room?

    I have had my eyebrows and lip waxed. The pain only lasts a second but the under arms are a more sensitive area. I don't know what to tell you there.

    You have an army of people who love you, waiting to help in any way. Make sure you take advantage of that.

  9. I hope it all goes very well for you. I had a frozen shoulder and could not move my arm more than a few inches from my side. I managed to apply deodorant and shave. Place that concern aside and for the love of God...OUCH don't wax your pits.

  10. I wish I could call myself an 'old school dyke' but really I'm more of a hippie dyke, sort of. Or, someone who doesn't have a lot of body hair and almost never bothers to shave it off. Seriously, 8, if your armpits are your biggest concern, you'll be fine! It's not like you'll be wearing tank tops in mid-winter, right? :-)

    I know that your armpits are NOT your biggest concern, though. Coming out of anesthesia is a real issue for you. I agree with all of these other posters: talk to your surgeon and the anesthesiologist ahead of time. Tell them that you will need to have your partner with you in recovery. Or whomever. If they know in advance they can preauthorize just about anything.

    One other thing: with the limited arm raising ~ sometimes you might try setting your elbow down on a counter or table and bringing your face down to your hand. I'm thinking about things like brushing your teeth. So, you might want a chair or a stool in the bathroom.

    I have set an intention for the best possible outcome, easy release from anesthesia, quickest recuperation, and actual good times with your family during this period. I'll be holding you in my thoughts...

    Big love, tender hugs, tea, chocolate, and freedom from worry.

  11. There is lots of good advice here. I will add to keep a pillow in the car. Putting a seat belt across your chest will be both a physical and mental challenge for a while.

    You are being held in my heart and lifted up in my prayers.

  12. I have had multiple surgeries and i too have a terrible time coming out of anesthesia. I have done what others here are saying - i talked to my anesthesiologist about it ahead of time the last several surgeries. I told them i have PTSD and panic attacks and that it makes it all worse for me when it comes to anesthesia.

    It was a VERY good thing to do so too! Each time they gave special attention to me in making it easier - being there to watch and giving me whatever extra med i needed to ease me back to reality without it being too bad.

    So, yes, talk to your anesthesiologist and the assistant one too if needed. Let them know your difficulties so they can help you!
    You deserve it!