recover(y)(ing)

I’m four weeks post-op from my brachioplasty today and it sort of feels like I just got home from the hospital, but also like it was last year.

The day itself is blurry, I remember us leaving around 5 am to get into the city without too much traffic, which is kind of impossible no matter when you leave, and then having to wait for three months until they took me back.

I remember being hungry – “staaaaarving!” – anxious and freezing.

Despite it being my fourth surgery in the last five or so years, I questioned the anesthesiologist about the likelihood of my waking up during the procedure, I made jokes that a tired nurse laughed at, and someone put my nose ring in a biohazard bag. Three different people promised to go out and get Steve for me, but didn’t.

I remember feeling more anxious but simultaneously relieved when my doctor came in, by the time he finished measuring and drawing on me with a sharpie, his pocket tape measure unraveled and he laughed and he tossed it on the table in a way I remember being so funny – a la Andy Samberg throwing a piece of cake on the ground, but underhanded and not so aggressive – I’m a little high. He told me about his favorite nurses and his excellent intern that would be with him, we talked for a few more minutes since we’re old friends now, and he got Steve and we basically all said goodbye.

Rubbery plastic Bane-esque mask over my mouth and nose that smelled like a beach ball, “You can talk to us, it’s fine, just take a deep breath” …. “This things smells kind of like a bea….”

…four hours later …

My head is heavy, my arms are tight, like really tight and the cutest older nurse is trying to get me out of the bed into a chair. Steve’s back and my doctor and his intern are in jackets in front of me – I remember saying “Are you guys wearing jackets?” and them saying they went to lunch or something – and then my doctor said a bunch of things I misremembered for the following week.

I could barely stay awake on the drive home, and kept nodding off and then waking up asking very specifically for a “Java Chip Frappuccino” from Starbucks. Of course he got it for me, dropped my prescriptions off, took me home, went back for my prescriptions and some Gatorade and stool softener. (Maybe that’s TMI for you, but if you’re ever going to have surgery and be on pain medication you’ll be happy to have it!) I fell asleep sitting up on the couch and eventually moved to the bed where I still slept sitting up.

One drain in each arm, ace bandages tight around the tops and a compression bra/garment over that. Two days later I got to peel it all off (except the drains) and shower. The whole process took over an hour, drains pinned to a lanyard around my neck, and required a nap almost immediately after. But by the next day I’m taking Tylenol, instead of prescription pain pills.

I could wash my own hair, didn’t need any help in the bathroom and had free reign over the kitchen since I had no restriction on range of motion, so cooking (and eating!) was slower, but doable. I just couldn’t lift anything heavier than my coffee pot.

The drains remain the worst part. Hanging from above each elbow from what are basically puncture wounds and keeping me from being able to move as freely as I felt I could. At my two week follow up, my doctor greeted me with a goofy smile and “How are those drains?” To which I replied “I hate you.”

He took them out, examined his work and said everything was healing nicely.  What I didn’t expect, was for him and excellent intern to each start ace wrapping one of my arms starting at the hand and going all the way up to my armpit. Wouldn’t have been half as bad if I wasn’t told to leave them on constantly until the following week when I was to come back.

With the intention of transparency, that day was the only time I experienced any pain, and it was when me got home and I could feel the wrap rubbing against the incision and I cried a little.

Surprisingly, I have yet to ask how much skin and fat he removed, how many stitches might have been used or to see a photo.

And to be super transparent – my mood was totally dampened by the now constant wrapping and the itchy, tight feeling it gave me almost non-stop. I started getting crabby more frequently and “turding out” as we coined it. (This is basically acting like a turd). I would turd out occasionally after my panniculectomy too; when I couldn’t do something, or had to do something that was impeded even slightly by the wrap or binder or inability to flail around fluidly. At one point last week I violently shimmied my body against the doorway while shouting “I’m just so fucking itchy!” and until a few days ago, these swollen, scabbing, wrapped up arms didn’t look any different to me.

I knew they were but I couldn’t fully see it.

One hot shower and photo shoot later I got my brain together and am obsessed with them.

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I’m still tired and wrapped from hand to pit, but I can sleep laying down, on my side even! I can do everything I need to except comfortably wear a normal shirt over my garment – I’m glad that the pile of tank tops I never wore and had in a goodwill pile never made it there. Partly because I’ve been living in them and partly because I might actually wear them now.

My bank account and my mental health need a little time to regroup, so the thighplasty I have scheduled for April is getting pushed until the summer. I need time to mentally prepare for potentially swollen calves and toes and who only knows what type of compression garment!

Plus, recovery from surgery, no matter how elective or exciting is exhausting and can be depressing. I need some time to be back in a routine and move my body before putting it on the bench for another few weeks. Please remember that if you are considering any procedure, weight loss wise or plastic surgery.

I’ve only been back to work for three days and I’m exhausted, but my skin is looking less like that of a shut in, I put makeup on and wore shoes that aren’t my slippers, and I have a follow up next week (I should probably bring him a treat for saying I hated him – because I so don’t) that should alter my current wrap situation, so my mood is up.

Swollen arms and hands, misshapen and uncomfortable forearms, temporary limited movement and drains aside; I almost can’t think of a better decision I’ve made in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

armed.

In the midst of a seven thousand step Zumba class last year I took my zip up off to avoid certain death, but the slapping of my arms and the fear that everyone could see it and hear it was enough to take the fun out of it and get me back into my sweat soaked jacket.

I can count, maybe on both hands the people who have seen me in something intentionally sleeveless or short sleeved in my lifetime. That list basically includes my mother, my boyfriend, any doctor I’ve seen and the occasionally friend or family member. Oh – and a nice older lady measuring me in the Victoria’s Secret dressing room.

I barely own anything with short sleeves, and what I do has a coordinating layer. I haven’t owned a bathing suit in at least ten years (save for last summer when I crashed my parents beach vacation) and aside from a handful of unfortunate bridesmaids dresses, business casual tops for funerals and interviews (again covered) my wardrobe is all long in the sleeve.

I used to harass my mother about an outfit that wasn’t long sleeved repeatedly from the time I put it on until I would walk out the door, sometimes even going back in to ensure that she “wasn’t lying” about how I looked, or worse, that she “wasn’t lying about lying”.

I wore the long sleeved shirt or the optional uniform sweater practically every day of my high school career. I’ve had to wear promotional or uniform t-shirts for restaurant jobs that would make me so uncomfortable that I would consider calling out sick, or saying I forgot it knowing they might not have another one on hand in my size. I would sweat my way through bbq’s, push up the sleeves of things to make them more weather appropriate and ‘throw something over’ almost anything I wore.

I may have single-highhandedly kept Old Navy in business with my cardigan purchases over the years.

I have fantasized about upper arms toned enough for tattoos and tank tops or dresses. I have had more people that I can remember offer to take my jacket or ask if I was hot, or comment on my layers.

I’ve gotten better over the last few years, mostly since my smaller body makes me feel less bad about my not smaller arms. I’ve worn things outside of my comfort zone to avoid extreme discomfort or sweating to death. But I still cloak their soft, flabby hanging skin in jean jackets, zip ups and long sleeves. Winter, summer, spring and fall. Not (always) in the privacy of my own home, but for the most part, all day every day.

You would think (I know I did) that losing nearly ninety pounds, having your protruding folds of abdominal skin and fat removed and being able to grab things off the rack in size medium and large I’d be living the good life. And I am, but have also been unable to buy things that otherwise fit because they constricted my upper arms to the point that the sleeve would roll up and practically cut off my circulation, or expose so much of my arm flab that it would double on itself and look, for lack of a better word, gross.

I assumed, even as recently as last year that I would spend the rest of my life in a long sleeved prison, unable to muster the confidence it would take to expose my arms or to find clothes that fit me as well in the body as the arm  – uncomfortable with the skin pinching itself or slapping when I move too quickly.

I’ve been mostly okay with it given everything else I have gained as a result of my weight loss journey. Turns out, I don’t have to be. I am being freed this week.

So soon, in fact, that forty-eight hours from now I will likely be out of surgery and on my way to being discharged to the comfort of my couch.

I’m in a state of excitement mixed with anxiety; I’m not afraid of anesthesia or hospitals, I’m a surgery junky by this point. I am however unable to imagine a body that has ‘normal’ arms – nondescript, average sized arms – since for dozens of years I have pulled, poked and flapped them in frustration. I probably won’t be able to picture it, no matter how many times I pinch it or pull it back in the mirror, until I see it with my own eyes.

armedI’m not one for New years resolutions; not on my fattest day or in my saddest year, but I am armed with complete confidence when I say that I will be leaving my arm flab and related anxiety in 2017 and braving some short sleeved tops in 2018.