Thursday, August 26, 2010

Recovery Journal - Part III: On the road again

I am now in Missouri with my younger son visiting my family. This is a trip we make every summer. My parents live on Lake of the Ozarks in Southern Missouri. Lake of the Ozarks is the largest man-made, non-flood control lake in the United States. It is 90 miles long with 1,100 miles of shoreline and is a major resort and vacation destination. This is not where I grew up, although my parents have lived here for more than twenty years. It is a fantastic place to visit in the summer and their house is high on a bluff overlooking the main channel of the lake with a spectacular view. I took the photo here from their deck this morning. There are dozens of golf courses, a large outlet mall for shopping, dozens of miniature golf courses, a water park, and every other type of amusement you would expect to find in a resort community. And of course all of the activities in and on the water. Behind the house on the rocky hillside my brother has planted a garden with cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, and pumpkins. My son went out yesterday morning and harvested his first watermelon.

I must be feeling better as I headed for the shopping mall the first day after we arrived. I have been out walking every morning. Lake of the Ozarks is located in South Central Missouri in what are called the Ozark Mountains. I live in California and we spend a week every summer in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. By comparison, the Ozark Mountains are really only hills, but they are a beautiful place to walk in the mornings and the hills make for a good workout. They are short but steep and forty-five minutes of walking here is a good workout. My parent's house backs onto several acres of heavily wooded area. I see deer every morning, and this time of the year often I see fawns that still have their spots out their moms. Now as I write I am sitting on my parents deck enjoying the view of the lake.

Yesterday marked three weeks since my laparoscopic bilateral salpingo oophorectomy (BSO) and laparoscopically assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH). For the most part I feel totally normal and able to do my normal daily activities, although I do get tired in the late afternoons some days. Overall, the recovery from this surgery was significantly easier than the recovery from bilateral mastectomies with breast reconstruction. Had I not run a low fever (or as my doctor reminded me, an elevated temperature, not a fever) between days four and ten, I expect I would have felt better more quickly.

My oldest son came home from camp sick on day 11 of my recovery, which was my first day without a fever. Although my husband made heroic efforts to care for both of us I nonetheless had no choice but to be on my feet helping care for my son. Three days later, when my older son rounded the recovery corner my younger son returned from camp and also promptly got sick. At that point, almost two weeks after surgery, I found that most of the abdominal swelling was gone. I was able to wear my normal clothes. I felt pretty good and had minimal pain, but I did not have a lot of stamina. I was pretty much where my surgeon had predicted I would be. He had said: "Expect to get half as much done, in twice as much time, and to run out of energy and need to nap," He was right, I was not setting any speed records, everything took longer, and I needed to rest. Often I didn't actually need a nap; I just needed to be horizontal for a period of time.

The good news is that the third week was a huge turning point. Each day I felt stronger and more normal and I have gradually given up the afternoon rest. In just the past three days the bleeding has tapered off significantly. At this point I don't have any pain, just an achy feeling in my lower right pelvis if I am on my feet for a lengthy period of time. Now I just need to gradually return to a normal exercise routine and get ready for the Kickin' Cancer run/walk on September 19th!

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