I realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew when I found myself on my back on the living room floor, unable to get up, with no-one in the house to help. I know, funny image, but I wasn’t laughing.
That was on Monday afternoon. Andy and the boys had gone out for a couple of hours; I’d said I would be fine. I was being lazy and decided to do my post mastectomy/DIEP flap reconstruction tummy exercises on the floor just where I was. The alternative was to climb two flights of stairs – which I can do fine now – to the bedroom and do the exercises lying on the bed.
What I’d failed to take into account was that getting up from the floor would be so much more difficult than getting up from the bed. Even getting out of bed is still quite painful because of the strain on the hip-to-hip incision when you roll over from your back on to your side, then again when you swing your legs over the edge of the bed and yet again when you have to get into a sitting position on the edge of the bed so you can stand up. I still can’t use the operated arm (the right one in my case) for support and my left arm isn’t the support it normally would be as it still hurts from where all the needles went in for the various “lines”. So basically all I could use to get up from the floor were my legs and abdomen… and anything that stretches the incision too much is very painful.
Anyway, I managed to manoeuvre myself, still on my back, over nearer the sofa and somehow used that as leverage to get myself up and back on my feet. Or rather back on the sofa, which is where I spent most of the rest of the day. Lots of pain involved. Lots of swearing involved.
That episode notwithstanding, I think my recovery from the major surgery I had less than two weeks ago is going well.
It’s hard to believe we’re already on Day 11 post-op. You do make considerable progress day by day, but I still tire easily and there is pain involved in doing the most mundane things, even when you’re on painkillers. I spend a lot of time on the sofa, reading, watching TV (I’m on Series 2 of House of Cards and loving it) or writing. It still hurts to sit down and to stand up. Getting into bed is relatively easy at this stage. Manoeuvring while in bed is not.
Things are generally fine when you’re sitting down and not moving although there is a constant painful numbness on the underside of my right arm from my armpit almost to my elbow. I’m hoping that will go in time. I’m following instructions and am doing next to no weight bearing or carrying with my right arm; also at this stage I’ve not to lift my elbow any higher than my shoulder.
On the upside, I can shower standing up although drying and dressing myself takes an age. I can stretch my legs out flat in bed; previously I’d needed a pillow under my knees all the time I was horizontal. I still can’t quite lie completely flat and sleep on my back propped up on two pillows with one cushion under my knees and another by my right side on which to rest my right arm.
I can more or less stand up straight, although once I’m on my feet it takes a good few minutes of loosening up to get there as everything tightens up when you’re sitting down and not moving.
Nothing hurts anywhere near as much as it did a week ago, or indeed even a few days ago. I can now laugh – a little – without doubling up in pain. It still really hurts to cough although not so much that I need to resort to the wonderfully low-tech but effective “bracing device” that you see in the photo – a rolled-up towel held together with tape. One of the nurses put one of these together for me when I was in hospital. If you press it onto your incision while you cough or laugh, it decreases the stress on your incision and you feel less pain than you otherwise would.
I can walk quite well and I make a point of going out – accompanied – for a short walk every day now. Yesterday I ventured out by myself for the first time – to the doctor’s surgery just round the corner to put in a prescription request for iron tablets (anaemia is common after major surgery and for the first time in my life I’m anaemic; I’m to take one tablet three times a day for the next three months).
I’m doing my arm and shoulder mobility exerises and abdominal exercises as directed; they’re going ok. We step them up in week 3 post-op. However well things are going, though, I think I’ll stick to doing the tummy exercises on the bed for a while yet!