Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Saline Saga Sojourns

Yesterday was not a real great day.

It was my first appointment to have my “expanders expanded” and it was all, quite frankly, a bit overwhelming and a lot unnerving. I think that since I had been off all pain meds for four or five days and was starting to feel a bit more “normal,” I was unprepared for yet more trauma, more discomfort.

The visit started off with An Important Question, first asked by the nurse and then asked again by the surgeon when he came in.

“So you had your drains taken out? Were there any problems?”

I smirked to myself and said, “Yes, they were ‘removed locally.’ (Right in my bathroom.) And there were no problems whatsoever. (Except for Steve and I sort of freaking out over yanking long pieces of tubing from my torso.)

I suppose I could have gone ahead and told them that we had removed the drains ourselves. I mean what were they going to do? Sue me? But then I decided to keep that info to myself so as to keep myself from being labeled, “the odd patient,” or even worse, “the difficult patient.” (I could just hear them all in the conference room. “Yup. She just yanked out her own drains. Kind of strange, don’t you think?”)

So at least I have the comfort of knowing that in their minds at least, I am the unstrange patient.

At any rate, after the surgeon finished asking me the initial Very Important Question he followed it up by saying, “So is there anything new going on with you?”

I thought for a moment and then replied, “Well, I just recently had a double mastectomy. That’s pretty new.”

I’m not sure if he’d ever gotten that answer to his casual query before because he seemed slightly taken aback; finally though, he laughed and said, “Well, I guess that’s about enough new stuff for right now, isn’t it?”

How right he was.

I was perched awkwardly on a chair in my little ill-formed, ill-fitting, nil-attractive gown when I was invited to hoist myself up to the examining table for Chapter One of the Saline Saga.

The surgeon patted my breasts a little and said, “Can you feel that?”

I said, “Yup.”

That response caused him to produce a rather long needle which he used to insert a local “pain deadener.” Then he and his nurse did some other sort of strange procedure that enabled them to find the tube thingy that goes into each expander. The surgeon then brought out a humongous syringe (He said, “I recommend that you don’t look”) and proceeded to pump saline into the expander under my chest muscle.

To say it felt weird and discombobulating would be an understatement. All of a sudden my chest felt achy and tight and strange and I thought, “You know what? I don’t really like this. I don’t really like anything about this. I’m already tired of this whole stinkin’ process, and we’ve barely even started.”

When the surgeon was done he left the room and his (very nice) nurse informed me that it was now time to remove the stitches from my breasts. Oh happy day.

Saline in. Stitches out. All in ten minutes.

When she was done with that delightsome procedure, she had me sit back up so she could look at my overall pectoral picture. (Wasn’t that delicate?) She blithely informed me that some women have issues where one breast (and expander) might float up toward their necks and the other one might sink down under their arms.

I stared at her in bewilderment. Really? Could that possible be true?

Turns out ‘tis true. Turns out she jesteth not.

I thought, “Oh goody. Something for me to look forward to. A tight, aching chest enhanced by rambling breast units. Maybe I’ll start a whole new fashion.”

I was feeling even more dispirited by that time, even thought she happily informed me that mine were looking good and very even. “However," she added, “As time goes by and more saline is injected, well, who knows what might happen then? It could definitely get more uncomfortable and things might shift around more.”

Have a nice day.

I was really surprised at how low I felt after leaving the office. Although the surgeon and nurse could not have been any more personable or caring, I felt teary and tremble-y and shaky and sad and traumatized.

And I just felt weary. Deep down, deep-in-the-bone weary. Sick and tired of people messing with my personal parts and sick and tired of the knowledge that nothing in that area would ever be the same again. I think that what I felt was simply grief. Another layer of grief.

On the way home, I felt quite “full” in the chest area which was a bit uncomfortable. I also felt overwhelmingly weary and finally had to stop mid way home for a brief nap. I felt like I wanted to go crawl in a hole somewhere and pull the lid down over me. I just wanted it all to go away.

When I got home, I had another nap, a long cry, and then it was dinner time. We had been given a certificate to a Honey Baked Ham store so we were feasting on one of their delectable delights. (Yum.) Everyone was cheerful and entertaining and sweet and I was enjoying their company so much but deep down, I felt myself sinking lower and lower. And it must have even started coming out in my speech because at one point, Nathan peered worriedly across the table at me and said, “Mom, are you on some kind of medication?”

Although I told him no, “medicated” was actually about how I felt. I felt like I had taken some immensely powerful downers which were turning me into a mass of oozing weariness right there at the table.

Sarah and I read together before bed time (we do that four or five times a week) and then I just got into bed and sobbed. Steve came and found me, prayed with me, brought me Kleenex and by 9 pm, I was ready to doze off, hoping against hope that sleep, The Great Healer, would do its thing and restore me to a semblance of joy in the morning.

And today, I do feel a whole lot better. I slept a solid nine hours and woke up feeling fairly refreshed.

Next Monday, I get to repeat the happy little trip to the surgeon’s office where even more saline will be injected into The Units. There will be two or three more Saline Saga Sojourns after that and then (I just learned this yesterday) I will have to wait at least three months before I can have the surgery to replace the expanders with permanent implants.

I’m sure that in the Fall I will be able to write a very fascinating piece called, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

You won’t want to miss it.


In other news, Sarah and I are headed out in an hour or two for an overnight trip to Durham. I’ll be posting a little bit about that on her her page in a little while.

9 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Anonymous said...

Becky its okay to have bad days. Remember though you have gotten through so much this past year between Steve searching for a new job, the house selling, moving and of course this latest surgery. You will get through this phase too and I pray after this phase life will be just normal for you. Your family deserves normal and comfortable and fun. I'm so glad you have such a strong support system and I know they will help you along this journey. Remember you are beautiful inside and out no matter what scars you carry.

North Dakota

Anonymous said...

Becky, another heartfelt post, it makes perfect sense to be up and down with everything you have been through. I'm sure you have been checking out blogs of others who have been thru similar experiences, hopefully you will have foobies you are happy with eventually, I ran across one blogger who is -

"I've got A-sized mounds and it's amazing what a difference that makes. Now I look down at my tube top and I think my little foobies look so cute and feminine and – dare I say? – even a little sexy! Yeah okay, the drains and the greasy hair from not being allowed to shower yet kinda ruins the sexiness but you get what I mean. I feel girly again! And for whatever reason it's so much different than wearing a prosthesis. Maybe because even with my prosthesis I always knew the ugly skin folds (and diaper cream – ugh) were under there. But now those folds are gone and I've got humble little mounds in their place. I love them already and we're not even done. Yay foobies!"

Glad you enjoyed the Honeybaked Ham!

Jean C.

Margie said...

Becky I hope you & Sarah enjoy your trip today. Hopefully it will make you feel a lot better. Sending you lots of hugs & prayers.

Saffyres said...


I invite you (again) to re-read my blog about the expansion and waiting and exchange process.

Your blog posts about your journey through this part of your life make it sound as though you have NO idea what to expect; I was thinking, based on your comment on my blog, that you had read my blog and might have taken some knowledge from it:


Yes, the expanders will move around - mine were under my armpits at the end of the process. :/ And they should have given you a muscle relaxers to take during the expansion process!!! AND - if it's too tight, ask them to "go slower" on the fills, and only get 50ccs at a time instead of 100ccs (or half of whatever amount they give you). I started at 50 ccs and went up from there because I have a fairly high pain threshold.

Feel free to email me, too, if you have specific questions that you're not comfortable posting on your blog (or mine!). :)

Stitches and Thyme said...

Becky, the healing process is just that, a process. Sometimes it's two steps forward and five back, but eventually it will be complete.

Four weeks after my hysterectomy, I had a lumpectomy on my left breast. It was a nightmare and even though it was a simple procedure and should have been easy to deal with, I sobbed all the way to and from the surgical center and felt like it took longer to recover from than the earlier procedure.

Be of good cheer. Always, my thoughts and prayers are with you.


Melanie said...

I'll not even attempt to say that I know what you're going through, Becky, but please know that I'm still praying for you. :)

LizW said...

Bummer of a day! I am sorry you went through all that on your own. Being your own driver after an experience like that is not fun. Hope someone can go with you next time. You are doing wonderfully well!
Have a good time with Sarah.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Becky, what a process! Keeping you in prayer,

Sue G said...

So, you learn something new every day. Today I learned that boobs move around with a mind of their own. (And here I thought it was gravity that was the culprit). And all I can picture is you buying two little cowboy hats, one for each boob, and waiting to hear one of both of them strike up, "On the Road Again...."

You always say I bring a smile to your darkest days. So here's hoping this one worked. Otherwise, I sit her looking like the least empathetic jerk in the universe.

Love you.