Surgery + 3 Weeks = Chemo – 5 Days

Reading back on previous posts, it looks like I spent so much time chronicling my hospital stay that I’ve fallen behind on updating how I’ve done since the 1st week after surgery.  Allow me to remedy that.

Week 2

Life improved within the first couple of days of attempting to resume an upright posture. The ability to be fully erect did not follow as quickly, however.  My abdominal skin had been sutured together after a large portion of it was removed in the transplant.  Standing upright required the remaining skin to vertically stretch an additional few inches.  As my plastic surgeon reminded me, skin has an amazing capacity to expand as required, for example when women’s bodies adapt to accommodate full-term babies.  My own body has certainly achieved that feat, but all three times it did so over the course of nine months.  This time, I was expecting results in a few days.

It was tight in the beginning, very tight.  Each time I stood up, I felt a widespread tug just below my rib cage like a rubber band snapping back after being pulled.  Sleep improved because I could stretch more, and I could stretch out more because I was sleeping.  While I was awake, the pulling sensation was a bit uncomfortable so I stretched upward carefully and slowly.  While I was asleep, however, my body naturally sought out a flat position, and my legs lowered until eventually they were coplanar with my back.  Since I could lie flat, the back aches disappeared and I was finally able to sleep through the night.

I visited Dr. Orman at the end of week 2 for a routine check-up and to have another long list of questions answered.  He snipped off remaining bits of sutures here and there and removed the glue protecting the outside of my long abdominal incision.  The glue had adhered to the fine hairs on my stomach, and its extraction felt a bit like I was being unzipped, in a decidedly odd but not painful manner.  He said that he typically see patients again 6 weeks after surgery, but recommended that we skip that appointment and reconvene at 3 months instead since I was already doing as well as patients at the 6 week mark.

Week 3

I may now drive (but not a stick shift).  And bike (but only on the stationary trainer).  Fold laundry (but not load or carry it).  And wash dishes (but only the light ones).

Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

Here’s another good one:  I can now eat chocolate (but only if it’s medicinal).  I resumed taking some of my vitamin supplements in the hospital (Vitamin E being the notable exception since I think it interferes with healing).  Once at home I started back on my calcium supplement as well, and just a few days ago while chewing one, it occurred to me that the reason I enjoy eating it so much is that it’s pleasantly chocolaty.  Oops.  Fortunately, a quick email to Dr. Orman explaining my unintentional transgression didn’t end in a call to the caffeine police, and he granted me an exception to continue consumption of my Tootsie Roll-like calcium chews.

Swelling in the abdominal and chest areas has subsided.  My belly is now flat and oddly hard.  I’m not sure if I like the way it feels yet, but surely I’ll get used to it.  Clothes are fitting normally again, despite my still having to wear the bulky abdominal binder for another week.  The fake breast, meanwhile, is looking more like its real counterpart, thanks to gravity.  The noob (compared to foob = fake boob, noob = new boob) started out hamburger bun shaped.  As swelling has decreased, it has developed a more sloped profile and pendulous nature.

Between the abdominal binder which externally restricts the amount of food I feel comfortable eating, regular exercise to help healing and keep me happy, and a continued ban on chocolate, I have unintentionally managed to lose 4 pounds since the surgery.  Not to worry, though, since I’ll soon be regaining that weight and more when I start taking steroids every week to help prevent allergic reactions to the chemo.  Perhaps that tummy tuck was a good idea after all.


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