Day Four. Post-Surgery.

I haven’t updated as much as I thought I might simply there’s not much in the way to update. I’m feeling pretty OK. OK enough to walk around the block with the kids. OK enough to not take any pain meds except for those couple of times right before bed. I have to sleep on my back. I’m usually a side sleeper. And the irony is, my back hurts now because I can’t sleep the way I normally do. So, sleeping is when I feel more pain. And so I have taken one pill every night. (Incidentally, the dose is four per day, which is INSANE. I can’t fathom taking that many of these things. I’d be zombie, a constipated zombie.) But I also don’t want to come to rely on any pain medication to go to sleep. So, I plan on stopping that tonight.

So, yeah. I feel OK. I won’t be running any time soon and the idea of a single sit-up sounds like pure torture, but I am doing OK.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t feel comfortable lifting anything over five pounds, and was told not to anyway. I walk very slowly. When going up and down the stairs I hold the railing and I take it easy. I have showered daily and that’s been… interesting. I don’t have much in the way of feeling on my torso right now, except for right underneath each breast which itches like crazy. I think it’s from the tape they put down to protect the stitches, which will eventually dissolve.

But holy Jesus. I’m itchy. And I have to refrain from scratching myself, like a dog or cat. I need a cone of shame.

I can’t wash my hair because I can’t lift my arms over my head in any meaningful way. (I am able to put my hair in a ponytail, so that’s my look these days; I rock the greasy ponytail full-time.) I can’t put on any over-the-head t-shirts, so I’m currently switching between a single zipper down sweatshirt and a button down pajama top. Toby runs the laundry every morning so I don’t end up smelling. Greasy head and dirty clothing? I have to draw the line somewhere.

There’s still substantial nerve damage from the work they did on my torso. I was warned about that. It also happened during the last two of my pregnancies, actually, though I had forgotten as much until the sensation returned. The right and left side of my tummy became numb when I was hugely pregnant. At the time, I hadn’t given it much thought, but now that I know it’s from nerves being temporarily severed, it makes sense.

I’m also SUPER black and blue. If I could move some of the color technique from my belly to my eyelids, I’d have a beautiful shaded look, one I’ve never been good enough to pull of. It almost looks fake, as though someone working makeup on a blockbuster about a boxer got a hold of me.

Also, sadly, for my boys, the leaking never really took place, nor did the skin farts. Instead, I peed nonstop, like every 15 minutes for two days. So Toby and I guessed the the fluid came out that way and not via the holes in my skin. (Which also happened post-pregnancy.)  So, no humiliation there. And at one point I felt like a failure. Why couldn’t I do that part of the recovery right? The fun part for everyone else.

“Come quick! Mom’s skin is farting!”

Nope.

A LOT of this recovery has reminded me of being pregnant, come to think of it, both during each pregnancy and those few months postpartum. My boobs hurt. My stomach feels numb and beat-up. I’m itchy. I have trouble finding a comfortable way in which to sleep, and I often wake up with parts of my body hurting or numb. There’s a constant threat of leaking. I smell strange. I stopped washing my hair, because who gives a shit. I walk slowly and as though I might fall over at any moment. I get tired easily. And I feel like nesting all the time, sitting in front of the TV and bingeing on junk food.

So, I guess I sorta prepared for this in some way. It doesn’t feel like my first merry-go-round. The difference is, this time there be no (baby sized) diapers or a string of long nights having to wake up next to a screaming baby.

So, I’m doing OK.

My Boobs, a Confession and WAY TMI.

It’s Tuesday. Day two, post-op. I am sore, but overall I feel pretty OK. Granted, there are probably still some narcotics left in my system and I know the lidocaine is still working because I’m numb all over. Or maybe that’s just nerve damage, which is supposed to happen. But I think yesterday went pretty well. So, prepare yourself for WAY WAY TMI.

I arrived at 9:45 AM. I checked in, and was shuffled back to a pre-op room where I was told to strip down, put on a blue gown, a blue hairnet, some booties and a pair of ill-fitting panties. (Yes, I’m opting to call them “panties” as much as I loathe that word because they were indeed very panty-like. I think I would have rather been given some granny-briefs, but I reckon the less material the better. Also, they need access to as much skin as possible. So, panties it is!)

I was given more paperwork. The COVID sheet was slightly terrifying. Basically, I had to sign away my everything, letting them know that I’m choosing to have an elective surgery done during a pandemic. And this is why Toby and I postponed the surgery twice before. It’s been the subject of many intense conversations, about the risks and likelihood of my possibly being exposed to the coronavirus while trying to heal from surgery. I don’t think either one of us were particularly worried about the possibility of exposure during the actual surgery; the team is tested regularly and they have their own surgical center and full-time medical staff (ie. it wasn’t done at a hospital). Plus, PPE seems to work well against the spread. It was the days following the surgery that we worried about. So we chose to postpone the surgery until cases here in Maryland dropped to an all-time low, while tests were being administered at an all-time high. The positivity rate is what we spent a lot of time focusing on. I was also dancing between hoping to get it done BEFORE Montgomery County opens up more (we are behind the rest of Maryland by two weeks due to having experienced higher rates of the virus) but after positivity rates had dropped.

So, I signed and I’m staying inside for the foreseeable future.

Confession time! I went back and forth on whether or not to share this part publicly. It’s deeply personal and I know I’m likely to get some judgement, whether silently or not so silently. But I also think that people are curious about wanting work done. And it’s been, what, 20 years of my oversharing on the internet? Why stop now? Judge away!

Here’s the skinny. Four months ago, when I went in for the consult, the doctor and I discussed the reduction and what my goals were. I wanted a B cup, but would settle for a small C. He felt this was doable. But then I questioned him about what my belly would look like once my boobs were smaller. And that’s when he brought up liposuction. I know. That’s what these cosmetic surgeons are trained to do—up-sell! And the thought of getting liposuction never, ever crossed my mind. In fact, I’d always been adamantly against the idea. I used to be a hippy chick. (I do still wear my patchouli and Birkenstocks with great pride!) I would learn to love my body no matter what became of it. I would be happy with aging and gravity and all that fun stuff. But things change. And people have babies. So people change. And I guess I’ve changed.

The doctor and I talked about post-pregnancy bodies and how often times, no matter how hard a person works at losing weight, stubborn belly flab never goes away. Skin loses its elasticity over time, and, well, then that’s what you’re stuck with. He told me that if I wanted to, since I’d already be under for the reduction, they’d give me a discount on the liposuction should I choose to add that to my order, like it was a side of fries. I told him I would consider it. I asked for two quotes, one with the Lipo and one without, and that I’d get back to him.

Weeks passed. I researched the ever-loving shit out of liposuction, combed through before and after pictures. I even googled “Celebrities and Liposuction” (haha! Dork. But it seems like us common folk don’t share this stuff as much?) I also googled something called J-Plasma aka skin-tightening. It’s incredibly safe and seems to yield satisfying results. And after 3 full-term pregnancies, my belly skin looks like an enormous, fully extended elbow.

The cost difference was nominal, solely because the same anesthesiologist would be utilized and I’d already be undergoing surgery for the reduction. I figured since I’d already be in pain for the reduction, might as well double down. So, after discussing it with Toby and getting over my prejudice, I said, “What the hell? Why not?”

I opted for the reduction, Lipo and J-Plasma. So, recovery is a bit more intense than I had originally planned.

Now that I got that bombshell out of the way, and hopefully not TOO many of you are shaking your heads in judgement of me, I’ll continue.

So, yeah. Yesterday.

The OR nurse walked me through everything I’d experience after the surgery. There would likely be a lot of leaking due to the Lipo. This is incredibly common. And the J-Plasma might cause some bubbling of the belly. She actually called it skin flatulence.

“Wait, like it makes noise? Actual fart sounds?” I asked.

“Yes.” She answered. “Two weeks ago my husband had Lipo done with the J-Plasma and his stomach made sounds.”

“OH MY GOD. I have three little boys. If my belly makes fart sounds, I’m doomed.”

I was scheduled to have two drainage tubes, coming out of each breast, which Toby would have to empty for me. (I did not end up needing either one.) I would not be allowed to lift a damned thing. I was told how to clean myself and to use a specific soap. (Uncented Dove.) She told me to put down a protective sheet on the bed due to the likelihood of leaking and all the belly farting. Thank goodness we hadn’t tossed out the king-sized protective sheet we’d purchased when the boys were little and would often crawl into our bed at night and then inevitably pee all over it. I texted Toby letting him know where to find it and could he please put it on before I got home.

She inserted my IV and left.

Next up, my surgeon popped by and proceeded to draw all over my chest and stomach with a black marker. Measurements were taken in painstaking detail. He drew a circle where my nipples would end up, if all went according to plan. He drew a dress-like pattern all over my chest. Dashed lines here, solid lines there. X marks from my sternum out toward each breast. I was reminded of the guy in Silence of the Lambs with the female body suit. (I know. WTF.) I watched him work his magic and made a mental note about how you can find art in everything. I felt like I was in very capable hands. (I chose him because of his work and stellar reviews. He has done many breast reductions and had the portfolio to back it up. His colleagues, equally as talented, seemed to have more augmentations.)

And then in walked the anesthesiologist.

Now, I am not sure if it’s just been MY experience with anesthesiologists, or if there is indeed something about the people who choose that branch of medicine, but every single anesthesiologist I have ever met seems to be a little bit cuckoo. I mean this in the best possible way. I really do. They have all been slightly off, but in a good way. They almost always had a wicked sense of humor. They often seem to be the most cherished among their fellow staff members. And this doctor did not stray from this generalization. I’d guess she was in late 60s, and unique in every possible way. She had the best laugh. She was clinical when it came to the details of exactly what she would be doing, but when it came to personality and just shootin’ the shit, she was positively goofy. Maybe it’s that an anesthesiologist, above everybody else, literally has a patient’s life in their hands, balancing a delicate chemistry between awake, asleep and, well, death. Perhaps that type of power requires a certain amount of humor? I don’t know. But I appreciate it. And I have yet to meet one I haven’t liked.

We chatted about mundane stuff for a while. (Due to COVID, each OR has to recycle the air several times over, on top of excessive cleaning between every surgery, so we had some time to kill.) She asked me about my life, my kids, my husband. She even asked to see my cake portfolio, which was awesome. And she LOVED my roach cake. And when someone “gets” the roach cake, I know I’m in good company.

And then, just like that, she segued into all the drugs I’d be given. Versed. Dilauded. And eventually Propofol, “The Michael Jackson” drug. A cocktail of drugs that would completely erase hours from my life.

And that was it. I was ready. I walked into the OR, laid down on the table and the next thing I know it’s 4:45 PM and I’m waking up while being informed that they are unable to reach my husband. I tried Toby from my phone. Nothing. It wouldn’t even ring, just dead air. (Later, we’d learn that T-Mobile had a nationwide outage. Go figure. Great timing.) I called my brother and I called my parents. I don’t remember what I said to them, but I apparently called them. Someone finally suggested I text Toby. And somehow that worked.

Next thing I know, I’m being wheeled out to the car and I’m on my way home.

So, yesterday wasn’t terrible pain-wise. But I was so unbelievable nauseated from the anesthesia. That was awful. I had no appetite and could barely stomach water. I probably would have thrown up had I had anything in my system at all. But alas: I had properly fasted. Thankfully, Toby found some Zofran left over from the time down in Disney when we all got sick with the Norovirus. And Zofran made everything better.

I’m still mighty numb and the bruising has already begun. There has been some leakage from the Lipo, but noting too gross or obscene. I was even able to shower. I do believe I am now a proper B-cup, but I’ll know more once the swelling goes down. And it’s going to take 3 to six months for things to really make sense. But my nipples are in the right place, and much, much smaller in diameter. (Long story and if you thought this was already TMI, that’s a whole new ballpark, my friend. Let’s just say this was something I have hated about my breasts since I was old enough to notice how different they were.)

Yesterday evening, the nurse called Toby with some interesting news. Apparently, they found a tumor while performing the reduction. It was removed and sent to the lab for further testing. They are pretty sure it’s benign, but it can’t hurt to test. I’m just glad it’s gone now. Who knows, maybe this reduction had another hidden benefit.

I regret nothing. I’d do the reduction again in a heartbeat. Scars or no scars, this was a great decision. I only wish I’d done it sooner. The Lipo? No clue how I’ll feel about that. But I’m sure to update as time goes on.

(Go easy on me, Internet. Go easy.)

The Last Two Weeks.

For the last two weeks, I have had to give up things I have come to rely on. Things I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed until the the surgical nurse told me I had to abstain. Things like Advil, which I have been known to pop like Skittles. No Pepto. No Melatonin, (which I tried years ago and never touched again because it gave me horrific nightmares). No flax seeds or oil. No Vitamin E. No chia seeds. No alcohol. But when the nurse got to “no tea” I pushed back a bit.

“I can’t drink tea?”

I love tea. I drink it ALL the time. That was the difficult one. But there are so many herbs in tea, it was best to avoid it.

I was told to stop taking my vitamins since she couldn’t be sure what was in them. I realized later this was likely a ploy to get me to purchase their vitamins for $100, but I am a sucker. And Toby told me it was a scam. And I felt a little stupid for falling for it, but alas. Here we are. So, I have been taking their vitamins, three in the morning, three in the evening, for two weeks. And, I gotta say: my hair and nails look better than they have in years! My vitamins never did that.

So maybe that 100 bucks wasn’t such a bad splurge after all.

I’m so nervous. My surgery is scheduled for 10:45 AM tomorrow. I am to arrive by 9:45. I can’t have anything to eat or drink after midnight tonight. But I was told to drink “as much water as humanly possible” up until that point. (Apparently it makes for seeing one’s veins easier.) I usually go to bed at 10 PM and I’m usually up by 5 AM. So, I’m going to have to push through and stay up as late as possible so I can sleep in as late as possible. I don’t want arrive tomorrow hangry, nervous and faint. Also: how does a middle-aged, perimenopausal woman “drink as much water as humanly possible” until midnight and not then spend all night having to pee? Maybe that’s how I’ll end up sleeping in? I’ll spend all night running to and from the bathroom.

COVID Test: Complete.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I had a COVID test scheduled for noon. This is something every surgery requires at the moment. My surgeon scheduled the appointment a couple of weeks ago.

It was pretty simple. My drive thru appointment was at Suburban Hospital here in Bethesda, Maryland, right outside of D.C. In typical Michele fashion, I showed up early. I was the only one in line. So I drove right up. First, I was stopped by a security guard who asked for my name. He checked his daily list to make sure I was indeed on it. At that point, the cones were moved and I was told to pull ahead where an incredibly sweet nurse asked for my photo ID. She then instructed me to pull up to the next station where three more nurses/medical professionals waited. They all waved at me as she pointed in their direction. Everyone was so damn pleasant. I’m not sure why I was so surprised and grateful for that. I half expected it to me more militant in nature. Not, like, mean, but very impersonal, Kafkaesque. But it wasn’t. Not even remotely.

When I pulled up to the three women who would be taking the actual swab, they reconfirmed my name and made sure the vial and bag they held actually matched up with me. At that point, she handed me a pamphlet of information about COVID and ways to stay healthy. (Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep your distance. Basically everything we’ve been told since mid-March.) She then explained exactly how the test would go. I liked that. As someone who wants all the information, this was calming. Basically, she’d go in one nostril, then the other, swirl it for 10 seconds and then it would be over. No problem.

The first swab entered my left nostril and wasn’t a big deal at all. In fact, for a split second I thought, “That’s it? That was nothing!” I readied myself for the right nostril. THAT was a bit more intense. With that swab, she went in there and then in there some more. It just kept going! I shut my eyes and she began to swirl it around and counted to ten, slowly.

Midway through, I guess I made a weird face or a strange sound or something because she calmly told me to breeeaaath. I did and regained my composure.

Then, it was over.

I spent about 30 minutes afterwards that with a slight tickle in an area of my head that has never (and hopefully never will) see the light of day. It felt sorta like when you inhale a little bit of pool water.

The whole experience was easy and quick. No big deal at all.

Results will be sent directly to my surgeon for Monday morning’s 9:45 AM start time.

Still incredibly nervous. I will be updating here daily about recovery, pain, outcome—the works. It makes me feel better, writing. Like a therapy session. :]

I’m Getting a COVID Test Today.

I am getting a coronavirus test at noon. Not because I feel sick; not because I have been in contact with someone who tested positive. I’m getting tested because on Monday I’m having breast reduction surgery, something I have wanted for decades.

I’m nervous as hell, but I think I’m ready.

The surgery has been postponed twice due to the coronavirus. The first time, was because all elective surgeries had been put on hold. The second time was because I didn’t feel comfortable with how things were going here in Montgomery County, Maryland. I could not, in good conscience, potentially take a bed away from a critical patient at a local hospital. Although, I should add that the place I’m having this done has its own surgical center and private team of anesthesiologists. But I worried that should something go wrong, and I needed an ICU, I might take a very much needed bed away from another person.

I was also worried that since my immune system would be compromised by the healing process, and cases were still pretty high here, should I potentially end up getting sick while also recovering, it would be very taxing. So, after discussing this with Toby, we decided to put it on hold.

But things are looking up here in Maryland. So, it’s go time. (Did I mention I’m super nervous?)

I’m not sure why I’m writing about this online. I think it’s because I’m so damn nervous. I’m excited, too! I look forward to the day where I can run three miles and not end up with bloody, burn marks from my running bra. (True story. I even took pictures this past Sunday after taking part in a three mile virtual race.) I look forward to getting this weight off my chest.

I’m currently a D Cup, probably a slight bit larger, actually. I have asked to go down to a large B or a small C. But a B would be ideal. I know that’s a pretty huge leap, but I have always coveted smaller chests. I’m just tired of these things. I want to know what it feels like to run without this constant, heavy annoyance. I dream of that day, frankly.

I will likely update here, even if no one reads blogs anymore. (Ha!) I think it’ll be an interesting way to keep track of how things progress for me on a personal level. How painful will it be? What will the scars look like? Will I regret it? Will I think it’s the best decision I ever made? Will I wish I had done it sooner? I don’t know. But I’m ready to find out.

Conversations With Expiration Dates

I am now having conversations with expiration dates. Several times each week, as I check to see when an item expires, I have thoughts like the following:

“06.15.2020. Maybe we can consume you at a playground, string cheese.”

“07.27.2020. As you meet your demise, aged parmesan, I bet the outdoor pool will be open.”

“10.27.2020. I bet there’s a vaccine by the time you expire, vegetable broth.

“01.21.2021. By the time you’ve met your sell by date, can of black beans, I’ll be eating somewhere surrounded by strangers.”

“08.30.2020. We’ll have booked that vacation to Japan.”

I have no clue if any of these assumptions are true, but they are real thoughts and are taking place more and more frequently. And I’d like to consider this a positive coping mechanism instead of delusional one.

In Quarantine: A Video

A couple of weeks ago, the kids and I decided that this song would be our “Quarantine Song”. We listen to it every night before bed. It’s also included in my running setlist and every time it pops on, I think to myself, “I’m going to pull images from this strange time and put them to this song.”

So, I finally did.

The Weight Of Missing Someone

HI! I have been writing lately! I wrote something very personal on AlphaMom and I’d love it if you stopped by.

I hope everyone is staying warm and healthy. Things on our end have been tough lately. I won’t lie. It seems everyone in my immediate family is having issues with something. But we’re working on it together. (School, health, emotional health, stress, anxiety. The usual!)

More soon. I promise. I promise. I promise. But please stop by AlphaMom and read my recent essay. I’d love that very much.