On our way to Medalie’s office this morning I was feeling a bit low–my stomach wasn’t in order, I was sore from the night’s sleep (after this surgery, waking up stiff and sore is common, and it takes the morning to loosen up that stiffness, but with the vest and drains, it never really goes away), and I was just generally a bit out of sorts from not sleeping a whole night through for the past five nights. So this was me in the backseat, holding onto a pillow for chest support over the bumps in the road, on the way to get my drains out:
The ride was uneventful, and being out in the world on a beautiful morning, even if I was just traveling along on a highway, did make me feel better–my stomach calmed, and I was really looking forward to getting the miserable drains out, if for no other reason than to stop bitching about them on my blog.
Oh, and there was the chest reveal.
Well, lemme give you the lead-up story:
Things were running a bit late, fifteen minutes of so, when we got to Medalie’s office. He is usually spot-on time in my experience, so it was really no big deal to wait around a little. However, there were, forgive the obvious nature of this statement, lots of ailing people in the waiting room. It made me feel a bit queasy about the tubes draining blood coming out of my armpits. All their unadulterated misery enhanced my own miserable state.
This one woman, in particular, made us all quiet aware and unwilling participants in her discomfort. Lots of loud breathing and moaning and “I just can’t get comfortable, UUGHNNN,” or “I think I really did SOMETHING this time, OOOOHHHUUUGGHHH,” with that one. Which only made the rest of us reflect more pointedly on our own discomfort. So when my name got called I sprang out of my seat like Ebenezer Scrooge upon waking after that frightful dream. I was so relieved to not be surrounded by the sick and aching I felt deeply I should give them each a well basted Christmas ham.
A, Dr. Medalie’s nurse, showed me back to the party room, or rather, the tiny drain removing room, where we got down to business. I took my shirt off and she started unzipping my compression vest. (What’s coming next isn’t nearly as sexy as the previous lead-up sentence might make it sound. My apologies.) And her cavalier actions toward this vest scared the shit outta me: I didn’t know she was just gonna go for it, and so I felt unready. I was unprepared for the speed at which the action was occurring (shouldn’t there be some incense burning or chanting or something?): after being bound up in this thing since I had tits, after waking up in it after surgery and having no idea what layers of carnage were waiting to come tumbling out upon its loosening, I squeaked, “Oh, this scares me.”
She stopped (she had clearly done this before) and said, we’re (“We!”as though I was also helping, and not gripping the surgical bed in order to steady myself should shredded skin or dead nipples or felt snakes with springs jump out) just going to take this vest off you; there is a layer of foam underneath.
Oh. Of course. Ok then, let’s get this goddamn vest off so I can breath for a change.
And so the vest was undone and I got to breath once, maybe twice, got to arch my back just a little and roll my shoulders and OH MY GOD SHE’S PULLING THE FOAM OFF ME.
To be fair, A pulled a little corner of foam off me, then stopped and said, “that’s what it feels like for the foam to be pulled off your skin, can I go on?” The foam is kinda glued in place around the edges, so it doesn’t hurt to be removed, but it does pull at your skin and so it was kind of her to give me a little taste and brace me for the not-so-painful-but-a-bit-jarring business of removing the foam.
When the foam was gone, it was just me and my new chest. I could feel the air on my chest, and it felt refreshing, but I also could feel that I had little to no sensation in my entire chest. This sensation will probably come back over time, but I will never fully recover the kind of feeling I had before surgery. For now I was just glad to feel the air. But I couldn’t look down. K was videotaping the whole event, and I looked to her, “Is it wrecked?” I asked. Is it bruised and disgusting?” Behind the camera I could see the corners of her mouth turn up..and up and up. A nice smile was hiding back there and she said “No, it looks great!” A agreed, and then I turned my chin down.
***FIRST LOOK AT NEW DOUBLE INCISION CHEST RECONSTRUCTION BELOW***
*****NSFW/NSF THE FAINT OF HEART*****
And as I looked down I saw the landscape I should have seen playing basketball on the Nancy Hill courts when I was 16, it’s what I should have seen as I wiped sweat from my brow with a t-shirt tucked into the waist band of my shorts while playing football in the street when I was 14. I don’t have those memories; I don’t have that history. But I can have that future.
A talked K and me through some post-op instructions, which if you’re interested can be found on Dr. Medalie’s website. A recommended K help me with the dressing of my chest after showers, which I of course heard as, “K should take showers with Eli.”
I felt, as a part of good self-care, that I should request a prescription for that.
Medalie came in shortly after the whole show was over, just to check in with me and answer any remaining questions. I thanked him, asked how much tissue was removed (just under a pound on each side) and we had time for this pic:
I left the office feeling much better: A cleaned me up a bit where the drain sites were, gave me new ointment and bandages over my nipples, and of course removed the horrid drains. The removal of which burned, but wasn’t impossible to live through.
Tired of seeing me in that same Penguin checkered button-up yet?
After the office visit, K and Poppa T and I went out to lunch:
All in all the day my drains came out was a great day for lots of reasons: new freedom of movement, new self-directed options for identity, new gauze on my nipples. And I didn’t even need to hug a pillow on the way back to the B and B.
Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli