Bilateral Mastectomy + Sentinel Node Removal + Reconstruction + Tummy Tuck: First Thoughts, Post-Op.
Despite the tag-teaming of breast surgeons and plastic surgeons, and despite the fact that there were no surgical complications, my surgery took 12 hours - 12 hours of anesthesia and lying on the table and keeping my family and friends waiting to hear it was over and that I was fine. Of course, when you're the patient you have no idea how long you've been out, so when I woke up in the recovery room and looked up at the big black and white school-room style clock and saw that it was after 10 p.m., all I knew was that I had slept through a huge portion of the day.
There was one other thing I knew: I knew that I felt like I'd been hit by a truck and then the truck sat on me.
I know I said that in an earlier post - used those exact words, in fact, about getting hit by a truck and having the truck sit on me - and I'm repeating them again in this post because, in truth, there are simply no other words to describe what it felt like at that exact moment and almost every other moment immediately following the surgery. Later that evening when I was wheeled into a teeny tiny room and faded in and out of morphine-induced twilight sleep, I thought that. All through that night and well into the next day I thought that. For the next four days in the hospital I thought that, and I thought that even after I'd gone home. Those were the first words that came into my head and those are the words that have stayed with me a whole year later when people ask me what it felt like to have the kind of surgery I had.
It's always impossible to remember overwhelming physical pain or discomfort clearly - it's as if the mind has a way of erasing the hard lines of those memories and replacing them with fuzzy shapes and snapshot images. It's especially true after surgery, since pain medication compromises memory anyway - so now, over a year later, when I try to remember exactly what it felt like - exactly what getting hit by a truck and having the truck sit on me felt like - my memory is hazy.
I remember lying in the bed in my tiny room sometime after being wheeled in there and at different points the next morning, feeling like my entire body - from right below the neck almost down to my knees - had been slammed (by a truck) and then immobilized (by the truck sitting on me). Which really isn't that surprising given the geography of the surgery - the vast area of "surgical involvement" - from chest (bilateral mastectomy) and underarm (sentinel node removal) to midriff and lower abdomen area (fat and muscle removal and relocation and "tummy tuck").
With the morphine drip that I controlled - by a little button I held in my right hand that I had just enough energy to press -- there was no sharp, piercing, exacting pain. Just a dull, heavy, all-consuming sense that I'd just had the tummy tuck from hell. And that it was going to take a long long time to recover from it.