Post - Op by Charlie Lonidier

POST-OP:


A quick shout out to my physicians:


Dr. Anuradha Rangarajan is my Primary Care physician and my "go to" person for all things medical.


Dr. Debra Patt of Texas Oncology is my "go to" person for all things BRCA.


Dr. Bridget O'Brien of Texas Oncology is the awesome surgeon that removed the breast tissue.


Dr. Elisabeth Potter is the most incredible plastic surgeon that worked all kinds of surgical magic to make my chest look good after a bi-lateral mastectomy.


Immediately following the bi-lateral mastectomy, I was wheeled into recovery. I spent a few hours in recovery wondering how I looked. I am not vain and do not care about my appearance for my sake. I was more concerned for the sake of my family. I did not want my grand kids or children to be shocked or traumatized by the appearance.


When the surgeon came to check on me, after speaking with my family members in the waiting room, I asked if the “hockey pucks” were removed from my chest and she responded “hockey pucks? They were more like hamburgers!”.


I spent a few hours in the recovery ward before moving to the Pain Management Unit, for the night. Vicky and the girls were waiting for me when I got there. I mentioned to them the doctor said the tissue removed was the size of hamburgers. Vicky asked what size hamburgers (i.e. Big Mac, What-a-burger, Quarter pounder, etc.). 😊 I remember thinking size does not matter, chuckled and dozed for a few minutes.


My surgery took place during the World Series. Vicky and I spent the evening watching game 6 of the world series on a tiny TV. Granted, I was coming off anesthesia and was not focused on the game. The first of many waves of pain hit me during the world series. I had an IV pump with pain medications and a button I could press to release the medicines. I tried not to use it but had to give in around the 2nd or 3rd inning.


Overall, my post-op experience was not as bad as I thought it would be, especially considering my allergy to codeine. There are only 4 or 5 classes of pain medications. One of which is Codeine. My allergy precludes me from using a lot of common pain medications. For my recovery, we used Tramadol and Acetaminophen.


I coordinated post-surgery pain management responsibilities with all of my doctors before the surgery. In my case, the plastic surgeon (Dr. Elisabeth Potter) would be the person managing pain and any complications that arose.


The next day, the nurse asked to demonstrate a few things before I could be released to go home.

  1. I had to urinate a certain amount. Item #1, Check!

  2. I had to walk to the end of the hall, so I walked the entire floor. Item #2, Check!

  3. I had to use a Spiro-meter to inhale and hold 2500 ML for a few seconds. Item #3, Check!

The IVs were removed, then someone helped me get dressed and I was wheeled to the door. Free at last!


Note to self - I should have taken more pain medicine before leaving the hospital. My daughter gave me seat belt cushions for the waist and shoulder strap They are absolutely essential for anyone with a mastectomy. I bought mine off ETSY and used them for months. I recently gave them to a good friend that had a lumpectomy.


Upon arriving home, I was ushered to my bedroom and helped into bed. My family set a folding table next to the bed. On the table was an assortment of things including baby wipes, medicines with a schedule, bandages, dressings, water, and CPAP machine.


My family was my support team and caretakers. Vicky, my children and their spouses were absolutely amazing. They tended to my wounds, helped me in and out of bed, and kept me fed. They are without a doubt the shining superstars of this whole ordeal.


I had 4 drain lines that needed emptied a couple times a day for about a week. We were told to keep a log of how much was drained from each line. Once all 4 lines were below a certain number, the drain lines could be removed. Thankfully, it was a little less then a week because the compression garment I had to wear would press the drain lines into my skin. I still have ‘scars’ where I had pulled the lines out of my skin.

I was released to return to work about 5 weeks after the surgery. The doctor felt I could return to work with some restrictions. Mainly, I was not to lift anything over 5 pounds and I was not to lift my arms above my shoulders. I felt comfortable returning to work as I had full range of motion with only minor pain. However, a week later, I tore open a small hole by lifting my arms over my head.


Luckily, the company shutdown for ‘winter break’. The 2-week Christmas vacation gave me plenty of time to heal up. I returned to work on January 2nd and officially retired on January 3rd.

It's been 9 months since my surgery.


I am healed from the surgery, for the most part. However, I do not have the upper body strength I had before the surgery. The scars are hidden behind a layer of chest hair. Although I am not a fan of body hair, it does a wonderful job of camouflaging the 5-inch scars on each side of my chest.

Since the surgery, I have retired, started flying lessons, and we are learning how to live in a pandemic.


I originally planned to include before and after pictures. However, I’ve decided against it because not everyone would be comfortable with seeing a naked chest minus the nipples. If you want to see pictures, send me an email at charlie@livingwithbrcamutation.com.