Pain is like a really mean bully. You look him in the eye and say “You’re not so tough,” and then he punches you in the face and you realize you were wrong. He is so tough.
I was recovering nicely from last Tuesday’s reconstruction surgery. So well, in fact, that I decided to go to my daughter’s volleyball game on Saturday and then out to lunch with my family. But by Saturday night, my galavanting had caught up with me. I was just getting situated in my bed when a sharp, burning wicked pain began stabbing at the side of my body. I think it has something to do with the plastic drainage tube hitting nerves that are now awakening post-anesthesia. I involuntarily screamed as tears escaped from my eyes. The last time I had felt anything like it was one year ago during my biopsy. The team couldn’t numb the area of my breast that needed to be tested, so they just had to go for it. I shook for an hour once they were done while tears leaked down my face.
The pain retreats now until I decide to do something silly like stand up and walk to the bathroom. Then it’s back and my breath catches and I pray.
Saul has given me a forced bed-rest and a steady dose of percocet. We just have to get through one more night… first thing Monday morning, I’m heading to Columbus so we can figure out what’s going on. Cause you know when you’re being bothered by a bully, you’re supposed to tell the teacher– or in this case, Nurse Holly.
Just a quick update to let you know that surgery went well on Tuesday. At least I think it went well. I’m still here, so that’s a good sign, but I haven’t peeked under the bandages, so I can’t say if the doctors actually did what they were supposed to do.
To review, I went in for a “swap” surgery on the left and a “lift” on the right. The word swap comes from the process of swapping out the expander pouch in my chest for a more permanent silicone implant. The word lift comes from the process of… well, I’m a 40 year old woman who has breast-fed several children so I think you can figure out why they use the word lift.
I’m allowed to shower and remove the bandages tonight, neither of which feels like a very good idea right now. I’m not in a ton of pain, but enough. I’ve been sleeping well thanks to the pain meds, but I know that one false move could have me doubled over for the rest of the day. Yesterday I tried to push a chair in at the kitchen table. Ouch. I won’t be doing that again for a while.
The good/bad news is that I’m alert enough to be bossy. My poor family. I can’t actually move around enough to help, but I can sit on the couch and bark out orders: Ben, quit playing with the pirate hat and go brush your teeth. Charlie, have you fed the dog? Don’t forget to feed the dog! Ben, seriously, stop with the pirate gear. You’re gonna be late for school. Jordan, pleeease finish getting ready before you work on your talent show skit. Saul, can I have some more water?
You should have seen the kids’ eyes when I walked in the door Tuesday night. I was nauseas and in intense pain, so I entered the house looking a little like Frankenstein’s monster. Green with hard, methodical footsteps. Charlie and Ben had saucer eyes and started speaking very quietly, which is not normal behavior for a 10 and 6 year old.
I’m so grateful that we shipped the kids off to see their cousins during the mastectomy last July. Best decision we ever made. They were saved from seeing the worst of my recovery and I got to rest in a very quiet household for a week. Did you know noise is actually painful? Yep, it’s true. That is a lesson I’ve learned over the past 24 hours.
When I was recovering last July, there were some very dark days. I cried over never being able to hug my children tightly again, and not being able to stand my husband seeing me naked. I stood in the darkness and assumed it would never get light again.
Have you ever been there? In that spot where it’s so bad you can’t imagine things getting better? Maybe you’re there now.
The good news is, I understand as I sit in this pain this time around, that it’s temporary. God’s not going to leave me like this. My body will heal, the medicine bottles will disappear from the bathroom counter and I’ll again be able to push in a kitchen chair. And it will no longer be painful to hear my kids running through the house.
I will get my life back, and you will too. But in the meantime, we rest.
Tomorrow’s the big day. I’m heading back to THE JAMES for reconstructive surgery. For anyone who cares about the details, Saul and I have to be in Columbus by 9:30 for an 11:30 surgery. It should take less than three hours and after another two hours in the recovery room, I’m free to come home. Then I get to lie on the couch like a princess for a few weeks.
My kids started asking questions last night. Just when I think my six year old is stuck in the land of basketballs and dinosaurs, something sweet and inquisitive and compassionate comes tumbling out of his mouth. “Soooo they’re gonna put a new boob on you?” I was trying to get in the shower and Ben was trying to grasp how all of this was going to work. “Are they going to cut off your other breast to make them match?” “Is it gonna hurt you, Mom?”
After I was fully dressed, I took some time to talk to all of the kids about the surgery and recovery and what they could expect.
That took about two minutes and then the dinner table conversation turned to Netflix.
Saul and I were having a difference of opinion about what was appropriate for our ten year old to watch.
Now, let me pause and say I had been feeling quite proud of the way I had been handling the looming surgery. Stress can make me anxious and anxiety makes me… let’s just say, crabby.
So there we were sitting around the table calmly stating our opinions when I shot off a snarky remark about Saul not backing up my parenting decision. In response, Saul rolled his eyes. Now, some of you know where this is going because you’ve been there yourselves.
Mount St. Mommy erupted. I lost it. I refused to talk to anyone in the household for the next 2 hours. I was scrubbing down kitchen counters with a vengeance, all the while knowing I was totally in the wrong. I asked God to soften my heart, but God apparently wanted me to work through this a little bit longer. So I did.
And that was when I realized that my anger had nothing to do with parenting decisions or eye rolling or Netflix. I was scared to death. Isn’t it funny how misdirected our emotions can get when we refuse to acknowledge them? Why couldn’t I just say, “I’m freaking out here, people! I am going under the knife and therefore I am totally unable to communicate like a normal human being. I appear to be holding it all together, but underneath I am a glass house of emotion!”
Finally, humbled by my outburst, I went to bed. My husband came in to give me a kiss goodnight. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I had such a good day with you. I’m so sorry I lost it.” For the record, Saul had apologized to me about four times before that, but because he loves me, he apologized again. “We totally acted like 12 year old versions of ourselves, didn’t we?” he said.
Yep. Netflix and breast cancer will do that to a person.