|Trouble starts up again: The telltale yellow spots.|
Three small yellow/green spots (not infection, but excess collagen which is interfering with my body's ability to close my skin) develop along my right incision line. I continue to keep it sterile and covered with antibiotic ointment and Xeroform and plenty of gauze (which I have to change every few hours, because the fluid my body is producing is leaking through the spots in my incision. Kind of like having a bad period, but continuously).
I keep Dr. C.’s office informed, and I monitor my progress (or lack thereof) by photographing my incision line each morning. I also rest more by taking a long nap every afternoon.
Can I just say how hard it is to try and lose weight when I have to eat more food rather than less? Dr. C. told me that healing "is not the time to restrict calories." And getting in 100 grams of protein a day — protein promotes healing — means eating every three hours. (See my Top 10 List.) I can’t lift anything using my right arm because the incision is still healing. No pulling, no pushing, no carrying with that arm. No upper body exercise aside from gentle stretching. Walking is fine, as is the elliptical (but no arms).
I still feel semi-exhausted most days. Though I realize I've been under anesthesia twice in the past month (4 ½ hours total), in my mind I feel like I should have more energy. The old me is having a hard time accepting the new me.
|Three spots converging to become one.|
After several weeks, I notice my revised incision is not healing properly. The yellowish green spots have merged, colliding to become one larger spot. Dr. C. doesn't like the look of it. He wants to "debride" (i.e., clean up) the unhealed area and re-suture my incision line. Again.
I'm pleased he’s taking the precautionary road and we are dealing with this surgically (my other choice: continue to take a "wait and see" approach while continuing to use a special “debriding” ointment, but that doesn't seem to be helping), but I’m not happy about having a 3rd surgery.
Dr. C. debrides the area and re-sutures the skin. (And yes I'm loosing a little skin each time he does this.) He removes another 50 cc's of saline from the right tissue expander, reducing the pressure further in an attempt to get it to heal.
My right tissue expander is now less than half the size of the left. Yes I am very lopsided and that makes it difficult to disguise in clothes. (As if having coconut shells on my chest weren't enough, mine seep and are different sizes! Oh the joy!) I buy a heavily padded bra that I wear to give the illusion of a normal shape. (Just don’t hug me.) But most days I live in my surgical compression vest — which I still must wear 24/7.
|Newly debrided, re-sutured incision|
My new incision, however, looks beautiful (see image at right)! I am told to focus on getting back to life: keeping up my protein intake, walking, trying not to do too much around the house (I have to force myself to limit movement of my right arm so I don't put undue pressure on the new stitches). My energy is coming back despite having 5+ hours of anesthesia in two months. I’m back to hiking twice a week.
But as all things in the world of cancer, nothing ever goes as planned. Several weeks pass and again, the tell-tale spots. (What a sinking feeling that is.) The spots are small, and do not advance as quickly as in the past, which is good (and I make note of), but still, it's hard to ignore the fact that this incision does not want to heal. (My other side? Completely fine, still.)
With spots come seepage. It's almost like my incision is weeping along with me. The seepage seems to be tied directly to how active I am. If I work at the computer and then take a nap, it doesn’t leak; if I take a hike, make a salad or drive to the grocery store, it does leak. How much of a prison can I live in? I vacillate between doing nothing for days on end, and trying to be normal (save from using my right arm). And still I leak. Labs show no sign of infection, BTW.
|Dime-sized hole in my incision.|
I have been wearing my surgical compression vest and changing my gauze dressing for 5 long months. I can do it a little longer.
Husband and I decide to take a short trip to Las Vegas to celebrate our anniversary and take my mind off my healing. It works; I am able to completely forget I have cancer (seriously!) and I feel like the old me. It was fabulous.
Except when it wasn't. We were walking a lot, so, natch, the seepage increased. (We went to a show one night, and I was seeping so much I had to stuff a washcloth in my big bra to safeguard against leakage.)
The "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" addage apparently doesn't hold true for me. I make an appointment with Dr. C. to discuss said seepage. He removes my pretty plastic stitches and says the incision looks great, but is concerned that the incision is not sealed. He explains that because my skin is so thin, any buildup of fluid will exit at my weakest point.
We are bandaging the wound differently for the next few weeks to see if it heals any differently.
Then we start talking about Las Vegas. (Funny, I don't remember telling him I was going.) I say it was great to get away. He asks how we liked the Wynn. What? How does he know we stayed at the Wynn? I look at him, perplexed. He keeps going. “You were on the 60th floor, right?” Whoa. What? "How do you know that?" I ask. He laughs and says he saw my husband and me get on the elevator just as he and his wife were getting off. He called out to us but then the elevator doors closed.
He figured I didn’t recognize him in his pool shorts. (He would be correct; I usually see him in a suit.) I added that had I seen him, though, I would have told him I had a washcloth stuffed in my bra! We had a good laugh.
When I tell Husband the story, he laughs too, then has a vague recollection of a guy in a straw hat, waving at us from an elevator. Small world, isn't it?