For the past few days, I’ve been asked over and over again to rate my pain on a scale from 1 to 10. The first 24 hours, it was easily an 11. When the pain meds would wear off, it was all I could do not to scream. It was difficult to so much as press the button calling for the nurse, let alone to swallow the pain pills. I had some IV meds, but they burned worse than the pain in my chest when they were injected. I wouldn’t wish the first 24 hours after my double mastectomy on my worst enemy.
But three full days out, I’m happy to report that with the aid of some heavy-duty meds, some rest at home and some really crappy TV, my pain is hovering between a 2 and a 5 – a very manageable state. It’s really more of an ache or some discomfort at this point, not outright pain. I can get up and walk around, although I get winded and nauseous after a few minutes. I can pee on my own, which, if you read the previous entry, you’ll know is a big milestone for me. I never thought I’d be so happy to celebrate the ability to use the bathroom on my own, but then again, a lot has changed in the last few weeks.
The most uncomfortable part of the whole experience is the drains. I have four Jackson-Pratt drains, a hellish combination of plastic tubing and one of those bulb-things you can use to water plants when you go away for a few days. They work using suction, so it feels like my chest has been vacuum-packed to my ribs. They’re also clearly visible snaking throughout my chest, which is incredibly bizarre to see. They need to be “stripped” occasionally, which involves increasing their suction – one of the most awful and painful experiences I’ve had this misfortune of undergoing. They’ll be removed at the end of the week, which is causing me a massive amount of anxiety. They hurt enormously while in, so I can only imagine how miserable it’ll be to have them yanked out.
Having cancer has been an enormously humbling experience. A month ago, I was in the best shape of my life. I was an avid runner, a healthy eater, a happy girlfriend and a fun, happy-go-lucky girl. Now I can’t even climb the stairs, the only thing I eat is burritos, I’m 3,000 miles from my boyfriend and I can’t remember what fun feels like.
There’s a lot more I want to share here, but the pain pills make it tough to concentrate and the pain itself, which they can’t entirely erase, makes it even harder. I was just re-reading this entry, and I feel like I can pinpoint the exact shift in tone when my Percocet started to wear off. Time for another dose. The only thing that keeps me going is remembering how many thousands of women have done this before me. The worst is behind me – the healing process has begun.