Sunday, January 3, 2010

On My Way Back to Normal

It has been two weeks since I returned home from the hospital following my surgery, and sixteen days since the mastectomy itself. In truth, it feels like it's been much longer, like all of that occurred many months ago. I guess that's because both so much and so little has happened since then.

So much: I feel almost normal. But to appreciate how phenomenal a feeling that is, you have to understand how far from normal I felt just two weeks ago. When I returned home from the hospital, I couldn't not remember I'd just had a mastectomy: my chest throbbed, my muscles ached, my arms hung lifelessly at my side, my energy was low, and my spirits were down. Every time I coughed or sneezed or laughed, I felt it: the tightness, the soreness. I couldn't do anything--couldn't crawl into bed (which required help) or read a book (I couldn't concentrate on the words)--without reminding myself that I'd just had my breasts removed.

Now, I find myself so often forgetting. My drains were removed last week, Tuesday night to be exact, and once they were gone, I felt so free. Everyone says that drains are the worst part of the beginning stages of recovery, and I don't disagree. But my drains did more than tug at my skin; they depressed me. Being tethered to that very visual reminder of surgery, being encumbered by the twice-daily routine of stripping and measuring, really stalled my healing, both physically and emotionally. They were weights around my neck, literally, and they were dragging me down. I felt instantly much better after the surgeon threaded them out of my incision; it was like a great burden had been lifted. I never want to see those wretched things again.

Today, I feel so normal, so back to my old self, I have to stop myself from doing the things I used to do, the things I'm still prohibited from doing, like sleeping on my stomach (will I ever be allowed to do that again?) or reaching up to the top shelf of my closet for a pair of jeans or opening the sliding glass door. It's like my spirit is healing quicker than my body, and I have to remind myself to allow it time to catch up.

I'm also, as of last Wednesday, off the painkillers. And in quitting them, I felt like I emerged from a fog that had descended so quickly and unexpectedly I hadn't noticed it until I could see clearly again. I could think! I could read! I could again rely on my acerbic wit! I appreciate what those magical pills did for me--they got me through some tough moments--but I'm glad to be myself again.

So little: Until last Tuesday, I hadn't wore "human clothes" (I'd come to think of my button-down pajamas and zip-up hoodies as the uniform of the invalid) since the night before my surgery and had left the house only on a very few occasions. Time moves so slowly when you are inert, and the days both seemed interminable and interchangeable. Since then, G and I have ventured out a lot, but we're not breaking any land-speed records. Per doctors orders, I'm still taking it easy, which means sleeping about twelves hours a day and spending most of my day horizontal, either reading or flipping channels. In the past two weeks I can honestly say I've done next to nothing, and yet I've come so far.

It's hard to believe so little time has passed--at least by the calendar--because I feel like I been through a lifetime of healing. I'm still not 100% yet, and likely won't be for sometime, but I'm on my way back to normal. And I can't wait to get there.


  1. Thanks so much for posting your update, Steph. I'm glad to hear that time is marching on, in that way that it does. Hard to beleive, isn't it? All that waiting, agonizing, deciding, and how it's behind you. Well, mostly anyway. I'm proud of how far you've come!