Lymphedema · Recovery · Surgery

Healing Progress

My surgery was two weeks ago and things are healing well. My first drain (the lower one, from the axilla) was removed the Wednesday after surgery. The second one, from the clavicle, was removed at the one week point, as were the stitches on my arm. (That’s another story in the “minor acts of self advocacy” series: after the ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL nurse was done removing the drain and started cleaning up, I asked, “when will the stitches come out?” She stopped short and looked at my arm – as if she had no idea I had stitches there. And out they came.)

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Dr. Champ’s nurses appreciate that he is mindful of making it easy to get the stitches out.

By Wednesday after the surgery, the anesthesia had fully worn off (it took until then for my vision to clear from the Scopolamine patch), and things started to feel sore. The shoulder in particular felt odd, as if someone had punched me in the arm nowhere near the actual incision. Apparently this is the nerves coming back to life.

I had one last visit with Dr. Champ at the 1.5 week mark, this past Wednesday. My drain wounds are still a little tender but he thought they looked fine. I told him I think my hand looks a bit smaller and he said that’s probably because during surgery he was able to suction out some of the built-up lymphatic fluid. Interestingly my arm itself still looks very puffy, maybe even more than pre-surgery. I am guessing it’s a combination of inflammation from the surgery itself, and the fact that I’m not wearing the sleeve. However I do think it feels better – less hard, and less “tight.”

Speaking of the sleeve, Dr. Champ told me not to wear it until the three week mark, at which point he suggests that I go back to my previous routine. My hope from this surgery is that I can stop wearing the glove. The sleeve is not really an issue but the glove is a pain in the ass. And actually with this whole Coronavirus thing going on right now, not having the glove makes it a LOT easier to wash my hands, so I have good timing.

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My right hand is still bigger than my left (particularly visible with the index fingers) but I do think there is improvement.

Except for walking and gentle yoga, I’m restricted from strenuous physical activity for 4-6 weeks. When I was preparing for this surgery I asked Dr. Champ about various activities – jogging? skiing? hiking? backpacking? weight lifting? – and the answer was always the same: 4 to 6 weeks. Hmph. I suspended my OrangeTheory membership until we get back from our spring break trip in early April. Next week I will start going back to yoga – taking these past two weeks off entirely from exercise was nice while it lasted but it’s time to GET MOVING again.

Hm, what else? I’m sure I’m forgetting something… As I write this (just over two weeks post-surgery) the little cuts on my arm are looking great; the drain wound on my shoulder is still tender but not too bad (bra straps are evil); the two large incisions are healing fine. I don’t need to see Dr. Champ again until June.

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