Just Shy of a Month Post-Surgery

I’m still quite swollen, but at least my belly button looks normal again!

I really am not a fan of the compression garment (aka girdle or binder) that I have to wear for another two weeks, but it is what it is. It apparently helps with keeping the swelling down and holding my torso together so my abdomenal muscles can continue to heal. So yes, I’m not in any hurry to take it off prematurely. But it is uncomfortable.

With that said, I am impressed with how smooth my stomach looks now. Of course, with the swelling, I can’t see any of my (formerly somewhat visible) ab muscles, and the sides are still swollen which make them look like there’s not much difference between pre-op and post-op, but I can assure you that there’s quite a bit of difference. Even with the amount of swelling there, it’s greatly reduced from what it used to look like prior to my surgery.

I will begin distance walking this weekend, and in two more weeks, I will begin light lifting and other exercise. I have to wait another full month before I can hit the weights like I did pre-op, but that’s okay; that still gives me three solid months to get strong before I go to WOBC.

At this point, the most difficult part is the pain in the sides (from the liposuction) and the skin discomfort (it’s drying out a lot). Sherry massages my scar with scar cream twice a day, so that’s helping the scar heal nicely, and I have to massage the sides as often as I think of it, and that’s pretty painful, but it seems to help.

I am still feeling better day after day, but I’m still not nearly done. I watched some videos online of what the surgery actually entails; I’m glad I didn’t do that before the surgery. Wow. It’s pretty serious, and actually a pretty big deal. Now I understand why it has such a long recovery time.

So, I am doing better. My mood is good, and I am no longer questioning my decision to do this. I already see the difference, and I’m sure I’ll feel the difference when I’m able to run again. I’m able to walk around and pretty much act normal at home with the exception that I still can’t lift anything over 5 lbs and I’m still somewhat limited in reaching for things or grabbing things (due to the pain under my shoulders from the liposuction). I also have two spots on my back where I still have stitches that will come out in two more weeks. But, I’m on the mend, and I’m feeling great!

Half-Way There: Three Week Post-Op Appointment

I’m feeling a lot better.

I had my mid-recovery appointment today, and it went well (except for the part where the nurse was cleaning out/touching the inside of my belly button and it caused some reflexive anxiety response that left me sweating and a little light-headed, but whatever). The nurse said that my scar is healing very well; better than she expects to see for people at the three-week mark, in fact. She was very surprised with how well the scar looks, and with how my stomach is looking.

One of my biggest concerns was laid to rest today as well; I was worried that I may have ripped a suture on my stomach muscles, but she checked it all out and said everything looked perfect. She also told me that next week, I can go into the pool. I’m also allowed to go for walks, but I still cannot do any work that involves my core. Walking will be good enough for now.

I was given some scar cream I’m supposed to start using today. I will start applying it and sticking to everything they’ve been telling me to do for recovery.

I have a theory as to why my scar is healing up so well: we don’t eat processed food. Everything we eat has been made from whole ingredients and is very healthy. That healthy food intake translates into giving the body the best quality nutrients possible which equates to better/faster healing. It was really nice seeing the nurse’s face as she went over the scar saying over and over how well it’s healing, and how far ahead it looks.

I still can’t sleep on my stomach for another three weeks, but that’s okay. I’m making do right now sleeping on my back. Having an articulating bed really helps. I can change the angle as necessary to alleviate pain on my back or glutes.

I was told today to expect swelling at the liposuction sites for up to six months, but the rest should start getting less swolen as time goes on. The funniest part was when I told her how much I thought the swelling had gone down, but after she poked and felt around the tissue, she said I still have a lot of swelling and it’ll still go down from here. That means it’ll look even better than it does now, and frankly, it looks pretty good already.

So, things are looking up. The pain I’m experiencing is all normal, and my recovery is going well: ahead of expectations, in fact.

One Day Shy of Three Weeks Post-Surgery

Strange pains are what I’m dealing with most, right now. What I mean by that is that there are a number of different types of pain I’ve been experiencing since having the skin-removal and tummy tuck (sewing the stomach muscles together) surgery almost four weeks ago.

Lightning Pain

This happens near any incision site. I infer this pain as nerves awakening, or perhaps nerves that were cut re-connecting or becoming aware of newly adjacent tissue. It’s jolting and hurts a lot, but the pain is typically over within half a second.

Soreness

I’ve been experiencing soreness throughout the affected areas. It’s like after a workout when you’re sore, but not from over-exerting. Just sore. My entire abdomen, from the last rib down to my nethers feel this way almost always.

Shooting Pain

This is different from the Lightning Pain I described above. This is more like a pulled muscle kind of pain, only how it feels WHILE you’re getting the injury. I have this in a few spots in my groin, and I can’t decide whether these are real or phantom pains. One of them coincides with an injury I sustained at Phase II of WOCS in April, but it’s not consistent.

Burning Pain

This is ever-present in my lower abdomen, primarily after my blockage issue last week. It seems to be subsiding day after day, but it’s still present. After being prescribed medicine that forced my body to have a bowel movement, my lower abdomen has been burning. It’s not nearly as bad now as it was at the time, and I still had drains in me back then and no, there was no increase in fluid output or any blood in the output. Burning usually indicates internal bleeding, but fortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case. Someone said it could possibly be an allergic reaction to the internal stitching. I will be asking my doctor about that at tomorrow’s appointment.

Muscle Cramps

This one surprised me. My upper abdominal muscles (my stomach, above my waist) gets cramped up very easily when I’m sitting. Every time I stand up, I have to allow my stomach muscles to stretch out, and sometimes it takes them a few seconds or more to loosen up to allow me to stand up straight. I think it has to do with the girdle/binder I’m wearing that is allowing those muscles to get weaker.

Liposection Site Bruising/Pain

I had liposection at a few sites on my back where the fat never went away, and the incision spots as well as the actual sites that were suctioned are sore. Actually, this is some of the most severe soreness I’m experiencing, and separate from the general soreness I listed above. These are very specific, and in very specific spots on my back and lower sides. To make matters worse, I have to massage these sites regularly which seems to exacerbate the pain.

Incision Line “Hot” Pain

The incision line itself is pretty sore almost all the time now, moreso than before. I remember the doctor telling me that there was medicine placed in my body to help reduce the pain at the incision, and this seemed to be working for far longer than I thought it would. Now, however, I feel a bit of discomfort along the incision. This was to be expected; they literally cut a swath of skin out of my body. Also, it’s not terrible pain. It’s quite tolerable, but definitely noticeable, and it’s something I’m aware of all the time.

Overall, even with all that pain, I still feel a lot better than I did even earlier this week. So, while things are still uncomfortable, I definitely feel improvement day after day, and it gets easier to sleep (which has been an issue for the past two weeks since I stopped taking Hydrocodone and Diazapam).

Mid-Way Through Week 3 Post-Op

I need a shave, but I otherwise feel much better this week.

Today is the “Hump Day” of Week Three, and I was told by a friend who has undergone this same procedure before me that this is the “Tough Week” mentally. I think I understand why she said this. As my body continues to heal and the pain continues to subside, I’m struck with impatience at the process coupled with a desire to start getting back to my active life, not only in terms of exercise, but also with doing the mundane things like washing my car, performing small maintenance tasks, or even something as simple as helping my wife bring in the groceries.

I am adhering to all of my doctor’s warnings and admonitions against physical activity and lifting to ensure my abdominal muscles and scar tissue have the best chance at healing properly. I’ve ignored doctor’s warnings in the past at my peril and have paid the consequences. As I’ve grown older, I’ve accepted the fact that it’s often better to just do as I’m told than to believe that “I feel better, therefore I know better.” I finished all pills as prescribed (for those telling me to take them all), and I stopped taking those that I was allowed to stop taking as soon as possible (Diazapam, Hydrocodone).

During my childhood, a member of my extended family passed away because he stopped taking medicine because he was feeling so good, he reasoned the medicine wasn’t necessary. I’m taking that as a lesson to continue to tow the line in regards to my doctor’s instructions: I’m feeling great BECAUSE I’m following instructions. Feeling great doesn’t give me permission to start ignoring those instructions.

I had another friend tell me about their healing from a large incision, and he told me that he ignored the doctor’s admonitions against lifting, and as a result, the scar tissue is far more prevalent due to stretching of the tissue area prior to it being fully healed. This is what I want to avoid, so I’m sticking to the instructions regardless of how maddening it is to watch my wife bring in bag after bag of groceries alone. She made sure to let me know it was five trips without me.

My next doctor’s appointment is coming up in three days, and I am looking forward to find out how I’m doing in her opinion. From my perspective, things seem to be going much better than Week 2. I still have some burning sensation on the lowest abdomenal muscles, and I still have a bit of pain when I cough or sneeze, but otherwise, when I’m just sitting, I feel good. My abdomenal muscles do take a bit of time to stretch out comfortably when I stand up after sitting for a while, but typically it’s only about 10-15 seconds of discomfort (but not pain).

So, it’s another week and a half of the girdle/binder. I am looking forward to being able to take it off, finally. Hopefully, Week 2 didn’t do any internal damage, and I don’t have to wear this thing for any longer than initially planned. Then, two weeks without it, and then hopefully I’ll be cleared to start exercising again.

Starting Week Three Post-Surgery

Sherry and me on Friday; the first day of Week 3.

I’m now in my third week of recovery after the skin removal/liposuction/stomach muscle repair surgery, and I am feeling much better. Digestion issues have been resolved and I can now eat somewhat normal foods as long as I make sure to take lots of probiotics and eat lots of fiber. I’m also taking OTC medicine to help aid with digestion because my lower abdominal muscles are still quite sore. Last Friday really took it’s toll.

On Friday, Sherry and I attended the funeral for a friend’s father, and as it was a military funeral, I wore my uniform. I was able to get the shirt and jacket over the girdle/binder, but the pants was another story. Fortunately, I have suspenders and was able to use that to keep the pants “Up” since I couldn’t zip them up all the way or fasten the button. This was all hidden under the jacket, fortunately, so nobody knew unless I told them.

Prior to the funeral, I drove us to a nice lunch at a local restaurant, and I was able to sit in the chair comfortably and eat upright. After the funeral, we went to my friend’s home for post-funeral gathering before we headed home so I could take a nap.

In the evening, we went out for dinner (my first time since the surgery) and again, I was able to stay upright comfortably and even eat the food without any issues. I drove us to and from dinner; there is no problem for me driving at all. In fact, my 4Runner’s seats are some of the most comfortable I’ve sat in since the surgery and actually felt really good for my back and my muscles.

All in all, I’m feeling much better and while I’m still sore all the time, the soreness does seem to dissipate with each passing day. I do still have some burning sensation in my lower abdomen, but I was told that this was normal at this stage and that it will eventually go away.

I’m still taking it easy, believe it or not. While I am walking more now, I am very careful not to lift anything heavier than my iPad or my cup of iced tea, and I am still getting a lot of rest. I feel more energized, though, and it’s nice to have a sense of humor about things again.

The Night of Day 12: Three Steps Forward, One Step Back

After a shower and a trim of the beard, I feel more human.

I felt like a new person yesterday, in more ways than one. I was able to sit at my desk and work like a normal person, had some moments I used to take very much for granted that proceeded without issue, and then I laid down for sleep. That’s when the trouble began.

I’ve been spending so much time in bed that my glutes get really, really sore. Painful, in fact. It’s not consistent, though, and that’s quite strange, but last night, they were more painful than usual. Enough to keep me awake for most of the night. The hardest part mentally was knowing that, sitting on the table within arm’s reach were opiates that could have taken away all the pain and put me to peaceful slumber. Knowing what those opiates do to my digestive tract, however, have kept me from taking them any further. Constipation coupled with post-operative abdominal muscles do not go well together.

So I laid on my side as best as I could until I was able to get sleep here and there. It worked, although I also have pain on my sides, but it was lesser pain. As I sit here now writing this, my glutes are still very sore, and I have no idea what I’m going to do to help this situation, but honestly, compared to how I felt this weekend, I still feel like I’m two steps ahead. It’s all about perspective.

On a very big plus side, I was able to take a shower alone yesterday for the first time since the surgery and I got really clean; squeaky clean. I found that the skin above and below the incision line is still numb. I’m not sure if that’s from the long-term anesthetic that was put into the tissue or if it’s a result of the skin being cut and severing nerves. Either way, it felt very weird although I have to admit, despite the residual swelling I am still experiencing, it already looks really quite good.

I’m also much more mobile now, which is nice. I can get around the house much more easily, and I can do some simple tasks on my own. I still can’t lift much (like a gallon of liquid is too much weight for my core to handle), but I can at least carry my iPad, iPhone, and a cup of iced tea from room to room. I’m glad I bought a set of dumbbells prior to this surgery; I’m going to need them to augment my free weights to regain the strength I’m losing right now.

So, tomorrow will be two weeks since the surgery. I had a very bad weekend within that two-week period, but my hope is that I’m past the worst of it. I continue to do what I’m instructed to do, and the doctor said I’m healing nicely, so I’m optimistic.

Finally Feeling Much Better (Again)

Actually sitting at my desk at home and working

I finally feel well enough (again) to be back at my desk and working. I had a doctor’s appointment this morning where the remaining drainage tube and catheter were both removed and my quality of life has greatly improved.

Mobility is surprisingly negatively impacted when you have tubes sticking out of areas that typically don’t have tubes sticking out of them. The diet change has really made a huge improvement, and I am able to function normally in ways that I have taken for granted my entire life.

The pain of my abdominal muscles is still present, but not nearly as bad as it was yesterday. Each day, it actually does seem to improve. I haven’t taken any pain pills stronger than Tylenol since Friday, and I don’t feel that I’d need anything stronger at this point. I’m still not out of the woods, but I can see the edge. It looks nice there.

As for what the doctor had to say today, my incisions/stitches are looking great, I didn’t do any muscle damage (that they can see) last Friday, and everything is healing up as it should be. That means I should be on schedule to start exercising again in four and a half weeks. My bike won’t look at me so longingly for too much longer.

Once again, thank you to everyone for your kind messages throughout this process. It hasn’t been easy, but never underestimate the power a smile has when someone is in pain. Sometimes, it’s that little bit that’s. necessary to make it past a rough spot.

Feeling a bit better, but still worn out

The longest my beard has been since I banished the beard.

I didn’t sleep very well last night because I slept all day yesterday. I finally fell asleep sometime around 2 am and woke up at 6:30 am. Sherry and my son Brendon helped me with my bathing (that was not a pleasant experience due to nearly passing out) but they both were very helpful, supportive, and gentle. After getting me back into bed, Sherry made me a small portion of farina with half an orange on the side. I took my morning medicines and went to sleep for four hours.

I am worn out. I lay here in bed, alternately standing up to exercise my legs and massage my sides as instructed by my doctor, and then I lie back down to rest again, only to repeat the process a few hours later. Through it all, Buddy is guarding me, which is nice. He knows something is wrong and he doesn’t want to get too close to me; he prefers to stay by my feet watching the door and the windows.

Buddy on guard duty.

I’m doing my best to stay positive. I am making plans for my workouts and how I will re-enter the world of fitness when I’m cleared by my doctor; not a day sooner. I am looking forward to being able to run without pain in my back/kidneys, and to be able to look good in a dress shirt or my uniforms. I look forward to the pain being gone, replaced by the good pain after a good workout. Four and a half more weeks.

Day Eight: Holy Hell

So, Day Seven went well. I was feeling good. Pain was almost gone, and I had a good visit with the doctor who removed one of the drains from my abdomen. I was told that I could attend a dinner the following evening with my family, and that by all accounts, everything was looking good. I was feeling great, and I remember thinking to myself that this process wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it could be.

Silly me.

That night, I tried to have a bowel movement (something I’d only had once since the surgery) and was unsuccessful. So, I drank some decaf coffee and laid down. The next morning, I awoke and had a regular cup of coffee, took two Swiss Kriss supplements (they usually help “get me going” when I’m stopped up), and then tried to urinate and found that I could not.

Throughout the day, I sat on the toilet being unable to do either function.

All day.

By around 2:45 pm, I told Sherry to take me to the ER. The pain in my bladder was going from extreme pain to excruciating. I was immediately admitted and given a catheter. While that eperience is not pleasant, it did immediately alleviate the pain and a liter of urine came out of me. As for the other issue: I was given three medicines to get things going.

After about three more hours, the medicine started to do it’s thing. The only problem is that my stomach muscles were recently operated on, and part of what the medicine did was to push. I had to push way harder than I would have liked, and the pain I experienced was probably some of the worst in my life. About an hour and a half of laborious pushing, and I was through the worst of it. I was finally able to lay down, although I was unable to sleep due to extreme pain. Since it’s the pain medicine that constipated me, I was fearful of taking any more pain meds, so I stayed awake all night.

This morning, my daughter taught my wife how to make tejbedara, or Cream of Wheat the way my grandmother used to make it for me. Yes, it’s made with wheat which is not Paleo, but they used coconut milk and almond milk as well as a Paleo sweetener. It really helped calm my stomach. I got some pads with lidocaine to wipe my butt with that really helped with the pain and I was finally able to get some sleep. The worst part, though, is now I’m wide awake at 11 pm.

As for how I’m feeling now; it hurts. Without the pain meds, I feel all the cuts, the stitches, and the extra pain from all the pushing I did over the past day and a half. I’m eating much softer foods that should pass through me easier, and I’m being more diligent with going to the bathroom if there’s a hint of needing to go. I’m doing everything else the doctors prescribed, and my next appointment is Tuesday when they will remove the second drain and the catheter.

So, this is my experience so far. It’s not typical. This is just what happens when you eat too much meat and your body isn’t yet ready to process it all properly coupled with not knowing just how much pain medicines and antibiotics can constipate you. I also never knew that anesthesia can make a person have urinary problems for up to a week later.

I know this was probably my most TMI post, but I’ve always endeavored to be brutally honest on this site, and I want people to know everything I go through my my health and fitness journey without sugarcoating or dishonesty. Thank you for following, reading, and I hope to have better news and photos soon.

Day Five Part II

The evening went pretty well also. I didn’t experience too much pain except for the drain on the right side of my pubis area. Where the tube comes out can sometimes feel caught, and it burns, but only for a few moments.

I had dinner, a really good chorizo hash that Sherry makes, and it was delicious. After dinner, I took my Diazapam (aka Valium) and an hour later, my dose of Hydrocodone. We waited about an hour after which I took a shower with Sherry’s help. It’s kind of scary to get into the shower with so many cuts and stitches, but everything is covered by tape, so it was all protected. Sherry gently washed the areas that needed to be washed while I did my best to keep from shivering too much. Even though the water was a good temperature, my body decided that it was a good time to shiver.

After getting out of the shower, we put the girdle back on me and I laid back down. Sherry drained the two bulbs and measured the liquid production. Good news; both were down from yesterday. I am also feeling much better when I walk, and I don’t feel too much tightness on the skin over my abdomen. I’m hopeful that I’ll get to remove one of the drains on Thursday and that I’ll be able to attend the dinner Friday night (I did borrow a wheelchair from a friend just in case).

I was asked if I have a high pain tolerance, and I would have to say that I don’t really think so. What I do have is a strong determination to see things through, and the ability to accept discomfort when I know there’s not much else I can do about it. I find that reading or concentrating on other things (like writing blog entries) helps keep my mind off of the discomfort and allows me to pass the time. Oh, and there’s the naps. Thank you to Hydrocodone for the naps.