Surgery was 4 1/2 weeks ago, November 14. My DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery was a complete success. This is the first time I’ve felt like sitting down and writing. I’ve written things in my head almost daily since Thanksgiving, but this is the first time I’ve actually sat down to put pen to paper. Another phrase and process lost subsumed by technology.
I was very frightened the day of surgery, not for the surgery (although 11 hours of surgery was a scary prospect), but what unfolded in the prep area gave me pause…the IV. During chemo I rarely had problems with the IV, every three weeks for a year left hand or right. We are all told to stop eating and drinking by midnight the night before surgery, and I being the totally compliant patient did as I was told. I probably stopped by 7:30 after dinner. The next morning I was thirsty and it turns out slightly dehydrated. My usually wonderful veins were nowhere to be found. The first attempt at the IV instantly popped a lovely black and blue on my hand and it was all downhill from there. Attempts in the next 48 hours for blood tests resulted in 9 unsuccessful sticks by four different individuals, my initial IV failing and 36 hours after that my final IV failing. Luckily I was going home the next morning and it was decided I could go without an IV for 12 hours–a huge breach in hospital protocol. One must always have an IV just in case of an emergency just in case you need to go back to surgery. Luckily I did not.
The first 48 hours after surgery, I must admit I had my regrets, what did I do? In bed lying in a V shape, head up, knees up to preserve the stomach stitches I had my first viewing of the incision. The Doc came in and ripped the velcro band from around my mid section and I looked down into a void, a V-shaped gouge as if they’d scooped out my midsection with a backhoe, or the space after you cut out the first wedge of a lemon. I mentally freaked. The Doc said it looked great, and all I saw was a black and red cut from hip to hip. What would it look like if it didn’t look great? In a post anesthesia whirl and pain med daze I questioned repeatedly, why did I do this, how could I do this, I am so stupid why didn’t I just go flat. My first foray out of bed and that capped it, I’d made a mistake.
Bent over at 90 degrees I could not straighten up, and the pain in my lower back felt like the muscles and skin were shredding with each step I took. That sealed it, I’d made a huge mistake doing this. But as with everything, the anesthesia left my system, my head cleared, pain meds still made me loopy, I came home and family took care of me and I came to peace with my decision. I now have two breasts made of my own tissue, a tummy tuck and am very lucky to be recovering nicely. I am standing mostly upright and slowly getting back to normal. The scar is still slightly appalling, but that will fade. The pain is manageable and I am getting around. I cooked dinner two days in a row and made some cookies, I can’t complain. And yet again, I am blessed.