POST-OP: The first week

It’s officially been one week since my prophylactic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy. In other words, I had both of my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in order to surgically reduce my risk of ovarian cancer due to the BRCA gene. In 2010, I had a mastectomy to reduce my risk of breast cancer but waited a few years before having this surgery. It took about 3 years (post mastectomy) to be “ready” (I mean, really, who is ever ready to do this?).

I wanted to write this entry because, well, I had high hopes of a fast recovery. I read dozens of blog posts from other BRCA women and they overwhelmingly remarked that “surgery was easy” and “I was back on my feet the next day.” One woman, bless her heart, even wrote that she was out shopping the next day. My older sister, who is not known for her high pain tolerance, was even up and going 3-days post op.

So, naturally I thought this would be a breeze.

Yeah, no.

This is why my entry is important. I want to provide a different experience with the surgery.

It’s officially Day 7 and, well, I want to curl up in a ball and … wait. Scratch that. The thought of moving my body INTO a ball is painful enough to make me stop that thought.

Friends, I’m in pain. The kind of “I stupidly did 1500 abdominal crunches on one side” type of pain. Now, it’s not the kind of pain that has me running to the phone to call my doctor. In fact, I think this is normal. It just hurts. Sore. Stiff. Ouch.

Day 1-3: I have no idea what occurred on days 1-3, honestly.  I don’t remember those days at all. Anesthesia fog, sleeping, eating. I do remember showering so, you know, that’s good. I walked to the bathroom by myself, but I spent most of the walk hunched over and clutching my sides. It helped to keep a box of crackers near the bed so that I could eat something before taking my medication. I was able to stop taking the hard core pain meds by the end of Day 3. I’ve also found that a light heating pad works great on my back pain — which is probably a result of overcompensating for my sore abdominal area.

Day 4: I had a bit more mobility, which for me means I made it from the bedroom to the kitchen. Oooooh. I also spent more time sitting up, though much of my  time is spent elevated on my back. No side sleeping, no side bending. It takes me about 2 minutes just to get myself out of bed because I rely on my abdominal muscles to get up, and my mid section is just so sore and bruised. Sleeplessness has also set it — I’m awake until 2am without any urge to nod off, and I’m wide awake at 7:30am.

Day 5: The first of three steri-strips fell off and the incisions look pretty good. However, I also developed a bad case of contact dermatitis. I had this once before when a pre-cancerous mole was removed, and I thought it was just a result of some cheap gauze. But, I’m realizing that it’s more likely a combination of a lowered immune system + an allergy. So, right now, my mid section is red and patchy. I am not a happy camper on Day 5. And, by golly, I’ve already watched all of the episodes of Downton Abbey from the pilot to the current episode.

Day 6: The sleeplessness is pretty bad. I spend most of the time watching all the tv shows that I never have time to watch in my ‘regular’ life. The soreness is still pretty bad. I had sneezed unexpectedly and then was hit with sharp pain in my side and uttered something entirely made up.

To celebrate Day 7, I asked my husband, Jorge, to take me out of the house. Okay, okay. I asked him to take me to get my eyebrows done. There. I admit it. But, about 10 steps out the door, I wanted to turn back around. The only thing stopping me was the impending threat of my unibrow crawling across my forehead like a lost caterpillar. (Photos not included)

The icy walk and 15 minute round trip car ride was enough. I came home, slowly made it back up the stairs, and lowered myself into bed again. Ice packs. Heat packs. Breathing in and out.

I’m sure that recovery is a-w-e-s-o-m-e for some people. It wasn’t (isn’t) for me right now. It does get better every day, I tell myself, and I’m sure this will all be a distant memory. But, for now, I’m hanging on to what keeps me happy. I’m happy that I won’t have ovarian cancer. I’m happy I get to see my kids each day. I’m happy my husband is by my side taking care of me, baking cakes, making dinner, doing laundry, sending in a glass of wine at night, and well, being beside me in sickness and health.

I’m also thankful that I spent the week leading up to surgery filming moments that made me happy: family, friends, coworkers, students, turning in my doctoral candidacy paper. I focused on the positive parts of my week and surrounded myself with people who help me feel good. I am thankful for all of you.

So, each day is a new day. Each day is a day without cancer. Each day is a day I will not have cancer.

Now, isn’t that reason enough to be happy? (cue the music video)

Peace, love, and bringing you with me,

Liza

PS: bonus photo. This is Jorge and SassyJ sleeping on the floor next to me on the couch. If that doesn’t make you happy, then I don’t know what does….

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