I am three weeks post-op today, and unfortunately, I’m still somewhat miserable. My pain management doctor – one in the medical group I had not seen before – switched medications on me about two weeks ago and it has been a really rough time. The extended release medication he put me on simply did not work. All of the bone aches I had left over from chemo returned with a vengeance, coupled with my reconstruction-related pain. I returned yesterday for a follow-up and saw a doctor who was familiar with my condition/history. Thanks to him, I can report that things have improved in the last 24 hours.
Like most mornings, today I woke very early from a dead sleep feeling like an elephant was sitting on my chest with a fire lit under its ass. My sides below my armpits alternate from burning to numbing to stabbing pain. I had a lot of bruising in this area, so I’m not really surprised that this area is hurting so bad. I did see my surgeon three days ago and he told me that everything looks good, so what I’m experiencing doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong. This is just part of the healing process…a process I wish I could press the fast-forward button on.
When it comes to pain management, there is something to said about expectations. The expectation is that your pain should be manageable, not completely absent. With all the surgeries I have had, never have I had zero pain, even on narcotics. During my hospital stay, the nurse made her rounds every few hours to provide me with something to make me comfortable. I still had a lot of pain, but my pain was manageable. When my pain is manageable, I’m able to at least get up and move around instead of sobbing and feeling sorry for myself.
After I came home from the hospital, I tried everything I could to either take my mind off the pain or position myself to lessen it. The recliner has become my friend: it is easy to get in and out of, and it puts me at a horizontal angle that makes it seem like my chest isn’t going to explode. I still have my stitches covered with gauze so the steri-strips don’t stick to my surgical bra. Peeling off the gauze feels like peeling my skin off, so I’m careful to work slowly and gently remove it. The incisions at my belly button, and the two below it, are still very sore; however, they are secondary to the generalized pain in my stomach and side where they harvested the tissue to rebuild my chest.
I don’t want to be all doom and gloom. I did have one “little victory”. A few days ago, I was able to put on one of my pre-mastectomy bras and wear it for a few hours. It is not advised for anyone to wear a bra with an underwire so soon after reconstruction, but I just had to see for myself. It looked great. It gave me hope, and it almost fit.