Nearing the End: Reconstructive Surgery

Last spring I began weaning myself off of caffeine. Less and less coffee, until I didn’t drink any. If you’ve ever lived with me or stayed at my house or me at yours, you know that coffee is a big part of my morning routine. My brother-in-law calls me the coffee monster in the morning. It’s true. It wasn’t fun, but it was part of the healing process because after the surgery, no caffeine for 6 weeks.

At the same time, Nathan and I started on the app “Couch to 5K” and I joined a gym that had classes you signed up to attend. I was building up my body 5-6 days a week, jogging in the morning and classes at night, with the hope that my body would heal faster after surgery. I had gained quite a bit of weight over the past year and it was exciting seeing the pounds go away.

The procedure we decided to go with is the DIEP flap that would take my belly fat and rebuild my breast tissue. This was supposed to be the surgery of surgeries. Belly fat tissue would be taken as well as a blood vessel and moved to my chest and the blood vessel would be resewn into a vein.

It was going to be a long surgery, estimated around 12 hours. For my mastectomies, I had been in the hospital about 24 hours. This time I was going to be in the hospital for 5-7 days to make sure that the transplanted tissue flaps weren’t rejected which would render the DIEP a failure. I was told I wouldn’t be able to stand up straight for a month and that I would have to use a walker. It seemed unreal. I was in perhaps the best shape of my life and the surgery was going to knock me flat to the start. It was maddening. But it did make me train harder.

The reality was that it was an incredibly difficult time. My time at the hospital is a haze of pain, medication, medical staff checking the flaps every 2 hours for the 1st 36 hours (the most likely time the body would reject the tissue), I couldn’t stand the smell of food, and time moved so slowly.

If you are ever in the hospital, let me know, if I am in town or near you, I will come visit you. PSA: Visit people in the hospital, tell them jokes, just sit and read a book, or bring them smoothies. I don’t know what I would have done without the crew of people that stopped by.

Once we were home, it was such a relief. We had had such a hard time adjusting after the 1st surgery with gross surgical drains and my amount of pain was very high. This time we had twice as many drains, but most of the fluid had drained during my 5 day hospital stay. I was getting up and around with my walker. We were more than treading water this time. It was just slow. Slow getting up, laying down, eating, sitting, standing, moving anything was just slow and sometimes painful. Soon the drains came out, we started walking in our neighborhood, going back to church, or to a restaurant. It was just slow healing, but not painful like before.

And then… 6 weeks were done and I could drink caffeine and eat chocolate and I was very happy. We drove up to North Carolina and stayed the night with Aunt Marcia in her beautiful home and neighborhood. We continued on to reunite with our conference friends at Bridges Math-Art this year in Baltimore. It was a time of celebration. On our way back down we stayed in DC with Cousin Tamsen and had an incredible time. And then we made our way back to Florida and stopped in with Adam and Casey and had good talks late into the night. Eight weeks out from surgery, I was back at pre-planning ready to start school again.