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.

Is The Pain Worth It?

Being silly on one of my walks every couple of hours.

Someone asked me via Facebook as to whether I think the pain I’m experiencing right now post-surgery will be worth the results. Honestly, I can’t answer that question just yet, because I’m still in bandages, and I haven’t even yet had a chance to see what my body looks like. Aside from the bandages, I am severely swollen; the process I went through is quite traumatic for the body, and there’s a lot of swelling and liquid retention (which is mitigated by the two bulbs that are connected to tubes that come out from my pubis area).

I can say that so far, the pain has subsided a lot day after day. Sure, I’m still in some pain, mostly when I get up out of bed or have to lay back down, but when I’m just laying here or sitting up or even standing, the pain is tolerable, and it gets more so every day.

I’m expecting that the results will be worth it. I’m hopeful that the excess skin around my waist, and notably around my back, will be gone. This will allow me to run and exercise without the extra skin getting in the way.

I also expect that I will feel better about my workouts and I will be further motivated now that I’ll be able to actually see the fruits of my labor with weightlifting, running, mountain biking, kayaking, and hiking.

So, is the pain worth it? I think so. The pain won’t last forever, but the results will.

Day Four Post Skin Reduction Surgery

The beard just keeps on growing…

Last night, Sherry made me a quite amazing steak with chimichuri served with asparagus. It was really delicious, and was a really nice cap to the day. I was able to fall asleep after going to the restroom nearly on my own. The sleep was good and solid and I didn’t wake up on my own (other than the medicine wake-ups in the middle of the night) until around 5:30 am. Then, I just sat in bed for a while reading the book, “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek.

Once Sherry woke up, I decided to try to get up and go to the bathroom as much by myself as I could. I enlisted the help of a small stool that makes getting in and out of bed for me much easier. I was able to get up, walk to the toilet, pull down my own pants (something I haven’t been able to do since the surgery), do my business, pull my pants back up, and walk back to bed where, using the stool, I was able to get back in bed without any excessive pain. The only thing I could do myself was to lift my legs to put some pillows under them, but honestly, it’s not a necessity if I keep my body more upright with our articulating bed. I figure I can stay that way until someone comes in to help me put my legs on the pillows.

Overall, I do feel better today both physically and mentally. Hydrocodone still wipes me out, and every 4 hours, it knocks me out for at least 3 of them. I just took another dose which is why I’m using this time to write this post and to watch a little car racing on TV.

One of the best things for me, aside from the stellar help from Sherry and Gelli, has been our bed. Never did we consider that we’d need articulating beds (like a hospital bed where the head portion comes up) for any kind of recovery. We just thought it was a convenience for either watching TV or to alleviate my sleep apnea (which went away after I lost all the weight).

The drainage bulbs did fill up a bit more yesterday than the day before, but we’re guessing it’s because I was up and about more (per doctor’s instructions). I’m not doing anything beyond what I’ve been instructed to do. I do still feel a bit dizzy, especially when I look in a different direction quickly, but I think it has to do with the Hydrocodone. I also take Valium for the muscles which were sewn back together. I can definitely feel when it’s time for another dose of the “V.”

This, being Day 4, has been the best day yet. I’m still making great progress and getting more and more back to being independent. I still can’t stand up straight (and won’t be able to for about 3-4 weeks), but at lest I’m able to get up and around and not be too dizzy and without nausea.

Day 3 After Skin Reduction Surgery

I am feeling much better today.

I feel much better today. I still have some dizziness when I look around the room, but nothing too terrible. I received flowers from my lovely sister which not only look beautiful, but smell great. My daughter Gelli and her boyfriend also got me a nice card and balloons. There have been countless friends and family who have messaged me or Sherry to check up on me and to offer their support which has also been nice. It’s amazing how much those little gestures mean.

Sherry and Gelli have been the most incredible caregivers/nurses. They come in every time on-time with the next task for me to do, whether it’s to take medicine, eat, or get up and walk.

Today, I was able to walk on my own without support. I look like Quasimodo when I walk, but at least I can do it without getting too dizzy, nauseous, or weak. I feel like I’m on the mend. With that said, I’m not pushing it too hard or too fast; the last thing I want to do is get too overconfident in how much I’ve healed. I’m taking it easy and not pushing it.

I had more of the chicken and apple salad for lunch today; that stuff is amazing! You should check out the recipe for it on Sherry’s site. Right now, I’m relaxing in bed and watching the Astros play the Rangers. It’s a close game, so there’s lots of drama for me to stay awake to.

I have an amazing dinner planed next Friday I’m hoping to be able to get to. I’ll talk about it more when the time draws near. Otherwise, I’m only concerning myself with following all doctor’s instructions to the letter and doing what I’m told to get better.

Thanks to all of you for your support and kind words. They are welcome and appreciated.

Day 2: The Day After

Feeling a little better. Sorry for my pepperonis showing.

Today, I feel much better. Not so well that I want to get up and dance, but the pain is much reduced. I was able to sleep through the entire night, and even though I’m sleeping most of my days away right now, it’s very welcome to not have to deal with the discomfort.

Walks today are still a struggle with the pain in the lower abdomen. Strangely enough, however, I feel otherwise much better. My primary diet of cantaloupe and applesauce makes me feel so much better. I did have to get up a few times again today to get on my feet, and I always use those opportunities to go to the restroom. So far, it’s only been number 1; I dread when it’s time for number 2. I can’t imagine how I’ll be able to push to make that happen.

I’m less dizzy today than I was yesterday. I forgot to mention how nauseous I got yesterday that first time I stood up. The second time I stood up yesterday wasn’t nearly as bad. Today, I feel much better. The only part that really hurts now is when I have to get back into the bed. Then, once I’m laying down, the pain drops from a 5-6 to a 0-1.

Lunch today was a chicken and apple salad that Sherry makes, and it was wonderful. Dinner was stuffed flounder with asparagus. I watched the Astros game for a little while but had to turn it off as I was getting to tired to continue to watch. Hopefully, I can make as much progress tomorrow as I did today.

Surgery Day

About 10 minutes before surgery.

The morning started out very early; I had to wake up at 5 am. From there, I took a shower with Hibiclens to disinfect my body, and had to shave my body hair from my bottom rib to below my privates. This was not a fun task and required a lot of careful attention.

Sherry drove me into the doctor’s office, and I didn’t feel any anxiety. It was weird. But that all ended when the nurse tried to get an IV into my right hand and had trouble doing so. I didn’t realize that I was holding my breath and nearly passed out. I couldn’t see, what I could see were purple spots, and my hearing started going away. Within 10 minutes, however, I was better (albeit embarrassed). I’d never had any sensation like that in all the years I’d given blood or had IV’s.

Once the IV was successfully started in my other hand, I was wheeled into the surgery room and began discussing some mundane things with the anesthesiologist and the nurse and then… nothing. I was out. I don’t even remember the sensation of going out. It went from “Talk, talk, talk,” to nothing.

When I awoke, I remember I was already in a wheel chair. I am told that I did talk to the staff there, but I remember none of it. I do remember having to get into the car, and it was uncomfortable. I remember getting home and being taken from the car to my bed, and that was also uncomfortable. But, thanks to modern medicine, I was out for most of the day except for those times I needed to be administered more medicine. I had to walk a few times, and the first two times were not easy. I could feel the abdominal muscle sutures, and they felt very painful. Fortunately, the pain medicine works well, and I was able to get a full night’s sleep.