I had to wait a year after radiation was complete to allow my skin to heal before the surgery. When it was time to find a plastic surgeon, I already had one in mind: Dr. Anu Bajaj. First let me say that all my doctors could easily go straight to Hollywood to play doctors. For some reason I have a great looking bunch of medical professionals taking care of me. I know it doesn't matter, but I'm gush all the rest of the time about the awesomeness of my doctors. Dr. Bajaj spoke to my SHOUT Cancer Support Group a couple of years ago and was very passionate about helping survivors have a degree of normalacy and finding some happiness after the Big C. She brought pictures of her work and I remember wishing she did my original reconstruction. Not only is she a brilliant surgeon, but she has a wonderful bedside manner that totally puts patients at ease. My surgery was scheduled to take from four to six hours, and I think it was on the outside of six hours. The reason it takes so long is that microsurgery is involved attaching arteries and veins together to feed the transplanted material. According to my family, she looked exhausted when she spoke to them after my surgery.
The only negative thing happened before the surgery. When the nurse was placing the IV in my hand she had a very hard time finding the vein. Because of the lymphadema risk if any part of my left arm is injured I have to use my right arm for all bloodwork, IV's and blood pressure. Anyway...the thought of the nurse forcing my vein to pop up started to make me queasy and I became faint. When I felt a little better I begged to go to the bathroom because for some reason I was afraid I would lose control of my bladder. She walked me to the toilet and the next thing I remember is laying on the floor looking at shoes and wishing everybody would leave me alone and enjoy the coolness that was the tile floor. My next memory is in my bed getting an IV in a different spot on my arm. I think I scared a few people...I haven't passed out since college before I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia.
I remember little of the next 48 hours. I remember waking up in recovery and being very happy to look down and see a foob there. I remember eating ice chips, pushing my morphine button, and watching lots of TV. I was asked to get out of bed to eat the next day and that was about all I was capable of. I don't remember, but I also posted to FaceBook and sent pictures of my new foob to friends and family...something I'm not proud of.
I thought I would put my thought in writing what worked for me just in case I ever need to pass this information along.
DIEP Flap Surgery for Dummies:
- Exercise and eat right. Your body is going to go through lots of trauma and it needs to be in good condition to survive what you are going to do to it.
- Freeze meals. Unless your caretaker is a cook, you may end up eating a lot of pizza and takeout during your recovery.
- Clean the house VERY WELL and do laundry. I would love to believe my husband could take over these duties, but no...if yours does, you are very lucky.
- Put the clothes you will wear after surgery in an easy to access place. Many people recommend front button shirts, but I like v-necked t-shirts two sizes too big. I like to cut the neck out of the v-neck to make more room and easier to put the shirt on. Personally, it is more flattering. I like elastic waist yoga pants.
- Prepare your nest for after surgery. When you get home you will not feel up to doing much. You need to have the things you want within reach. My nest includes Klenex, the remote control, my iPod, my phone charger, my laptop and a book. Do not try to read anything very intellectual during this time. I'm currently reading the Southern Vampire series.
- Get your hospital bag ready. Mine was very basic: elastic hairbands, toothbrush/toothpaste, a phone charger, slippers and a lightweight robe. I wish I remembered my iPod. I wore the clothes to the hospital that I wore home: V-neck T-shirt with neck band cut out with elastic yoga pants. You will not need more than this.
- Take it easy. You do not need to resume Mom job. If the house gets messy...who cares?
- Take stool softeners. If you do not move bowels within a couple of days move to a laxative. Pain killers cause constipation, and the longer it takes the worse it gets. Truse me.
- Wash your hands and take care not to get an infection. Don't create a nightmare out of something that should be happy.
- Move onto anti-inflammatories as soon as you can. They will help promote healing and why stay on constipating pain killers longer than you need to? I take Alieve since I only need to take it every 12 hours.
- Take picutres. It will be nice to see how things change as the swelling decreases and the brusing go away.
- Take it easy. I know that it is hard. That is why I put it twice.