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Under Construction

Updated: May 17, 2022

If you don't want to read the novel - here are the cliff notes: Surgery went as expected, I am home humbly recovering now - still with around the clock help and my pathology came back clear. And I have boobs again!

The Long Details: By the two week mark from my double mastectomy, I was feeling pretty mobile and a bit like myself again. My biggest complaints were my nerve pain in my arm and the drains still having to remain in. They were being used as spacers for my next surgery, so I understand, but it did not make them any more comfortable. Mother's day was the day before my next operation and what a wonderful day it was. We went to a local nursery to pick out my garden veggies for the season and beautiful flowers for me to enjoy when I got home from the next one. I was able to get ready and hide my drains. It is a surreal feeling, however, walking around in public knowing that you have open wounds, drains and in between surgeries. It's a secret that nobody knows. It's another lesson of never ever make any assumptions about anyone you come in contact with. You never know what they are hiding or dealing with mentally.

Back to Day 1: The timer reset on May 9th. Surgery day, again. We arrived at the hospital at 5:15AM for a 7:15AM surgery. This time I packed a bag as if I was staying the week. The anticipated stay was 3-5 days. See my separate blog for a helpful packing list! Surgery was 8 1/2 hours long. I had two microsurgeons - Dr. Shaum at Swedish American (originally from UW Madison) and Dr. Michelotti (who drove down from Madison to help) Remember - the procedure was a DIEP Flap Reconstruction - using my own "donor" abdominal tissue - to reconstruct breasts. (

8 1/2 hours. Poor Jake. He and my aunt Anne got to know the inside of the hospital quite well! My recovery time waking up was another 2 hours. No panic attack this time, just massive discomfort that had to be managed. After over 10 hours, I was wheeled up to the 5th floor where I was greeted with Jake and Anne's smiling faces. I was given the choice to try to get up and pivot to my new bed or for them to pick me up. I chose the pivot....and it.was.terrifying. Terrifying but I did it. Back in the hospital bed.

The first night was NOT fun. The nurses had to check on my "flaps" or "foobs" or new boobs every hour, with a doppler. They would listen for the whoosh of the blood flowing through the vessel to make sure the tissue was still attached to a blood supply. It is a one time shot - if the flaps fail you are back to step 1 - trying to figure out what you want (or don't want) for reconstruction. There is also a small risk of blood clots. I had heparin shots several times a day to thin my blood to reduce the risk (the back of my "good" arm is bruised to hell since they can't use the arm they removed all my lymph nodes from). Pain meds were provided every 3 hours. On top of all of that, my catheter was not draining on its own, so I had to call the nurse all the time to empty it. The nurses were in the room ALL the time! There was zero rest.

The pain was more of an all over discomfort. I had to keep asking what I was feeling. My skin and abs were so tight. It felt like I had done a million sit ups. I couldn't figure out if it was pain, if it was my abs, my skin, gas, hunger, the urge to pee, the incisions. I didn't know if I could hurt myself more. I was very uncomfortable in my own body. I didn't feel any discomfort in my chest. AND THE DRAINS. MORE DRAINS! 8 total.

Day 2: Dr. Shaum checked on me early in the AM and seemed pleased with how I was heeling. All I was I was capable of on my own was laying there. I needed nurse help to scootch, to move, to do everything. I pleaded to get the catheter removed, but had to agree to get up to walk to the bathroom. Yet again, another terrifying idea. The first time getting up was the most humbling experience ever. It took all of me to simply move my legs to hang off the side of the bed. I could not lift my torso off the bed even in the full upright position. The nurse had to push me up from behind. I literally had to sit there to catch my breath before I was even ready to stand up. In the standing position, I was totally hunched over. I granny walked my way over to the bathroom, gripped on to the handrail and did the slowest air squat ever. It took ALL of me. If felt good to be "upright" and breathe in that position, but I knew I had to get back into the bed. It was far harder to get back into the bed. Excruciating. The IV fluids were rocking and I began dreading every bathroom break. I knew it was good for me to get up and move, but it took ALL of me to simply go to the bathroom. Throughout the day, I reluctantly agreed to the stronger pain meds - to get relief from the pressure, the tightness, the drains, and the back pain from not being able to move in the bed. Not to mention, I hadn't slept yet. I know my body needed rest to heal and I had not had any of that yet. Dr. Shaum came back in in the evening to tell me that my job the following day was to take a shower. In that moment, I thought she was crazy.