Thursday, March 19, 2020

Grief is a Funny Thing

I went into my graduate program to help families with the tough things that happen in life: marriage, family fights, family conflicts, and among other things, death. I didn't think I'd be going through surviving one, especially during the program.

On May 6th, 2019, my father passed away. We sat with him and waited for it to happen once the doctors told us it was starting. This went on for about two weeks, one of my brothers, my sister, my siblings-in-law, and my mother and I were there at his last breath. This is the only time I've ever missed a graduate school class so far.

There will be a lot of "I" and "me" statements in this blog, and I apologize for this, it will seem really selfish. It's a blog really about myself and my experiences.

Daddy's military medals
I got emotional that day. I passed a few tears, but I didn't weep uncontrollably. But all I could think about was how to honor my father. Death is something we try to pretend doesn't happen in our society. There's such a fear surrounding it and it's controversial to speak of. But it's a part of life. If it gives you the "heebie-jeebies," as my mother says, this blog probably isn't for you.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

5 Weeks Out!

So the breast reduction saga continues...

At the three week appointment, they gave me the okay to sleep at night without a bra on. I'm doing research, and so much of it points to bras making breasts sag and droop due to impeding and damaging chest, back, and shoulder issues. They also gave me permission to sleep on my side again and to stretch and I am sleeping so much better! The promised my breasts would start to fill out from underneath more. They took out my "deep" stitches, too, which pinched a little. I have lost most of my scabs except the sites where my suture ends and stitches were sticking out. Most of them have dissolved, though. I love picking at scabs for no good reason. It has been torture not to! I can also take ibuprofen again.

It's been a challenge for me. I honestly thought at about 10 days post-op that I was disfigured and might need breast implants to look "normal" again. My breasts hadn't started to fill out underneath yet. It's starting, and I'm noticing it, but it's going slowly. They don't quite look like I hoped they would right off the bat, but I'm trying not to beat myself up. It takes time to heal. A lot of it and patience is not a virtue I am particularly good at. The Breast Reduction support group in Facebook has been very, very helpful for me as well.

I am loving being able to stretch again. My muscles were getting so stiff and sore in my back and shoulders. They're allowing me to do light exercise like walking and lift up to thirty pounds now, so I can do more household chores. All I can think about is how much upper body muscle mass I will have lost between now and when I'm fully healed. It's still weird to see myself and get used to my world without my formerly uncomfortable/large breasts getting in my way (or catching my dropped food, but whatever).

So, I've been doing alright so far, but this week threw me for a loop. I got sick on Monday (booooo!) and started losing my voice. Most people wouldn't get so upset about it, but I work in telephone customer care (one self-published book doesn't quite pay the bills). It's messed with my voice and my work, which is quite frustrating. I think the megadose of antibiotics I got at surgery protected me from bacteria infections for a while, but, 'Tis the Season! So many of my friends have gotten the flu and bad colds, and I haven't. I got my flu shot in October though, so even I do get the flu, it won't be so bad, or at worst, deadly. We have a vaccine for a reason, and it's especially important to take advantage of it if you are not immunocompromised. Please don't pelt me with anti-vax comments, I have no patience for it. I have managed to get through my work week so far, fingers crossed that Mucinex DM keeps doing the trick, too.

I got back into cross-stitch, and I'm making so much progress on my current one! I can't believe how much fun I'm having with it. I needed a break from crochet for a few minutes, anyway. The one I'm currently making is from a kit, Lavender and Lace series, Celtic Christmas by Marilyn Leavitt-Imblum. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it! I started on it back in 2017, but had to put it down several times for various reasons (mostly school-related). I'm finally getting into it! It should look like this when I'm finished:

There's also another four I have the patterns for, which I've already purchased identical Aida fabrics for all of them, which are the other four seasons. Cross-stitch is so rewarding for me, I haven't been doing it very much since I started the path to grad school, but it really is rewarding and satisfying. I wish I could afford to get my works professionally framed, though. I have two cross-stitches on an end table in my living room that don't quite fit the frames themselves are going to need some adjustment.

I hope you all finding ways to entertain yourselves in January! I usually find January the most boring and depressing month because it's cold, there's no big holidays (save for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which some nasty people don't feel like celebrating, boo on them!) and we're all in a money crunch from Christmas. February gets better, though, with Valentine's Day, African American History Month and the Super Bowl (I am tickled pink that the Patriots didn't get it)!

What are you looking forward to in February?

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

3 days post op and on

3 Days Post Op

I can’t believe it’s been three days since I had my breast reduction surgery! The first few days included my pectoral muscles and shoulder muscles pretty much burning every time I tried to use them. I didn’t realize how much I push up from the chair with my arms as I stood up until this time! Also, I didn’t realize how hard it was to take the gauze off. My gauze is blood-stained and sticking to my incisions because of the dried blood. I also never realized how independent I am and how much I care for other people without even realizing it— mainly because I was trained so well by my Southern childhood. Not picking up something someone dropped? Not holding open a door for the person behind me? It’s such second nature for me.
Things I’m thankful for: my mom! Momma has helped me so much with everything. She has fed me, kept me at her house, has supplied me with comfy PJ’s, has driven me to and from the hospital, and helped me with my drains, and made sure I took my medicines. She had a lot of practice with my daddy before he died. She also has a handicap-accessible bathroom and master bedroom suite for me to use.

I’ve had many friends reach out and offer to come over to visit, which keeps my spirits up. Thanks, everybody! The first day was the toughest, I was dizzy and a bit spacey from the anesthesia and pain medications. I’m getting my drains out on Monday, and having a follow-up with my surgeon. I hope I am healing to her expectations. Also, I am so thankful for FMLA and my short-term disability insurance I get through my job!
In the recovery room after the surgery, my chest was burning at first, that’s what woke me up and what I first remember. And then, I realized how my breast were repaired and I couldn’t stop smiling. I was a happy camper when Dr. Wagstrom came in to advise me that she was able to save my nipples and didn’t have to do a nipple graft that would have made them for decoration only. I am so thankful! I haven’t showered yet, my gauze is still sticking to my incisions, but I will be taking my first shower shortly. I have unzipped my support vest go see what my breasts look like.
So far, my breast look like implants and are kind of hard and square. I held one of my old bra cups up to my current breast, and there was no question my breasts are smaller! This is exciting for me. For a while, I worried I went too small at first, or that the shape of my breast wasn’t right. My surgeon advised me that the shape they initially showed up as would not be the shape they’d always be and not to freak out. My friend Rachael assured me that they would change shapes. A huge number of women have come out of the woodwork to me and my mother about having breast reductions, which was a surprise for both of us! I’m sad I waited so long to do this.
Momma has helped me with emptying my drains and recording the amount that has come out. The drains are coming out tomorrow (hopefully) and I’ll have to wear a special support bra/vest in the meantime. I made the mistake of taking a Hydrocodone instead of a Tylenol. Ugh, it knocked me out!
I decided after this to only use Tylenol, not the prescription pain pills. Hydrocodone is so addictive, this is why we have opioid addiction.

4 Days Post Op

Mom and I went for my post-op appointment. They looked at my breasts and the drains, and my breasts weren't producing so much fluid to drain out. One was producing a little less than the other, though. I was terrified of the pan of removing the drains, because I had had severe stinging around them on Sunday, so bad I almost vomited. But when they were removed, it was a relief. Afterward, they gave me a new white front-closure bra to wear. We visited my cousin Helyn who doesn't live far from my surgeon's office. We went home to prepare for Christmas and did the recipes my sister emailed me. I tried to assist my mother with slicing the potatoes, but my chest and biceps hurt so badly. I managed to finish the task, but it was difficult to do. 

7 Days Post Op

I've spent two afternoons at home to hang out with my cat, but my mother expected me to stay with her for the first week. My cousin Claire is staying with my mother while in mourning from her mother's death this month. Claire is an only child, so this has taken a lot of her time and attention to not only do her own mourning but meet her mother's friends and family in theirs as well. I'm glad she's here, though, but I don't want to speak too much for her.
Chrismas was low-key. I wore my emerald sequined dress from Eloquii and I did not expect how different it would look on my body since the reduction. My white sports bra showed up if I wasn't careful. I went to the Christmas Eve Mass with my Aunt Madge and my mother on Tylenol. On Christmas Day, my brother came over with two of his friends, and a whole trunk full of food from Picadilly Cafe. I had a glass of wine, but it made me sleepy. I couldn't do much to assist with heating up the food, though.
When I was able to come home to my house, it was relief. My cat does not like being separated from me for so long, and he's been sitting in my lap and just becoming a dead weight and sleeping there. He never used to.

10 Days Post Op

I got admitted to a facebook group for Breast Reduction support, and I started looking at other women's post-op breast pictures. I saw so many of them looking round and breast-like and they had fewer days post-op than me. It was upsetting: I felt like I had been disfigured. After I took my cousins to church, I tried to post my first bewb selfie (No I am still not posting here, this is family-friendly blog and page!). True story: I never taken a nude picture. This was technically my first. My first attempt at posting them in this private group went wrong and Facebook flagged it, but my second attempt worked. The people I was talking to tried to soothe me. I showed my mother, and cried, and she told me not to compare myself and my progress in healing, all bodies healed differently. I didn't think I'd heal this way. I weighed myself and I was 9 pounds down! OMG! I'm stunned-- I haven't asked how much weight they took off my breasts, but was it really 9 pounds? Or did the anesthesia do a number on my appetite, too? I had been nibbling and eating during Christmas all week. Insane. I lost 10 pounds before surgery, too.

13 Days Post Op

Stupidly, I never realized this, but there are different techniques of reducing the breasts. My surgeon probably did some internal stitching and incisions and then made the lollipop incision on my skin, because that's probably why they look square. I was warned they'd look square, but not to this degree. But when I asked about it in BR Support Group on Facebook, a lot of members told me this was normal and they were going through it, too. I really like this BR Support Group, the people here are so positive and supportive. I realize how silly it was to get upset on the 10 Day PO, and they are still healing-- mainly because I'm getting a lot of cramps and tingling inside my breasts. I worry that I'm lifting my arms over my head and pulling sutures internally, now. I thought it would only be the stitches on the outside, but I realized it can be the stitches on the inside, too. I gained 4 pounds the last three days but part of that is probably the post-anesthesia effects.
Tomorrow is my first day back at work. I work in a call center, so it shouldn't be so bad to return. I'm also trying to take down my Christmas tree, since today is New Year's Day. I didn't do much for New Year's Eve, I am still suffering some of the effects of the anesthesia, but they're more annoying than dangerous. I'm going to start exercising and eating intentionally to ascribe to some more healthy standards, now that my surgery's leave is up from work.

I'll keep you all abreast (haha, pun intended) on my updates.