I’m a pretty logistically-minded person. I like lists, I like making plans, I like knowing exactly when and how something is going to happen. For Seamus’ top surgery (double mastectomy with nipple grafts), I didn’t feel like I had a clear timeline in my head of what was going to happen when. This post is partially for anyone who is like me and may need a timeline around top surgery events, and partially for me to sort out the events of the last few weeks. To read my partner’s reflections on the last few weeks, check out In Good Faith.
Before: Three weeks prior to surgery, we drove to San Antonio for a pre-op visit at Lawton Plastic Surgery. The surgery had to be paid for that day, and we also talked with Julie, who would be Seamus’ recovery nurse. Dr. Lawton was out of town, so Julie explained how the surgery would go, how we’d arrive and leave that day (the entire procedure takes place in the clinic office itself), and answered any remaining questions we had. Of course, I had lots, how would anesthesia affect Seamus’ blood sugar, how were they going to monitor that, what kind of emergency protocol did they have, you know, the basics. Julie also explained Seamus’ medicine schedule from that day forward. Dr. Lawton is very proactive with wound healing, and put Seamus on a multivitamin regimen for a couple weeks before the surgery, and a multivitamin, bromelain, and arnica regimen for a couple of weeks following surgery. (It was on my list to ask if Seamus would be allowed to take these supplements as I have read about their effectiveness in assisting healing, so I was pumped that Dr. Lawton not only allows it, he gave Seamus the bottles of supplements to take home that day.) Afterward, we talked with Veronica about payment. We had applied a few weeks earlier for a Care Credit card, and had been approved, so we used this to pay for the surgery. From this point on, Seamus limited and then eliminated caffeine and alcohol.
Day before: Seamus’ mom and aunt flew down from North Carolina to be here for the surgery. The day before the surgery, we picked them up at the airport, had dinner, and drove to our hotel in San Antonio. Our hotel room smelled pretty musty and felt damp, and while I don’t like to complain, I’m so so so so glad we asked to switch rooms. We moved to a sunny balcony room, which was so nice considering how much time we spent in the room over the next couple of days. Seamus wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything after midnight, so we kept a close eye on their blood glucose level.
Day of: Seamus’ surgery was scheduled for 6:30 a.m., so we had to be up early. After a quick shower and a glorious Stevie Wonder sing-along on the ride to the office, I kissed Seamus bye and they were taken back for surgery. This is where I had to really grapple with not falling apart. This is when I really felt all of the stress and anticipation of the weeks prior (about the surgery, about getting our apartment ready for guests, about what Seamus’ mom and aunt’s reaction would be) really hit me. I took some time to journal while Seamus was in surgery, and then spent the rest of the time energetically hold space and healing energy for them. In three hours, it was over, and we were wheeling a loopy, sassy, happy Seamus to the car. The rest of the day was spent getting Seamus comfortable in the hotel bed, making sure they drank water so they would urinate (on threat of the nurse), and collapsing into the bed myself when things were quiet for the moment. That evening, even though I was worried about the anesthesia making Seamus nauseated, we were both eating Thai food and cracking jokes with Seamus’ aunt and mom.
24 hours after: We went back to the office the next morning so that Dr. Lawton could check on the incisions and drain tubes, and see how Seamus was feeling. He was super happy with the way things had turned out, and said multiple times that Seamus’ surgery was very easy to do and that it all went well. That afternoon, we drove back home to Austin. The next couple of days were spent making Seamus comfortable, helping them use the bathroom, making sure they ate and drank. We had some awesome connection time with Seamus’ aunt and mom, and they told me lots of embarrassing stories of Seamus’ childhood, an excellent perk of family being around a pain-med relaxed partner. :)
This is the morning after surgery:
This is the first time Seamus saw their new chest:
This is how I take care of Seamus, and make sure they have enough pillows to be comfortable:
1 Week After: Dr. Lawton wanted to see Seamus again one week after the surgery, so we drove back to San Antonio the following Friday. During this visit, the nurse removed Seamus’ drain tubes, which turned out to be a rather uncomfortable process. It was over quickly, and then the nurse removed Seamus’ incision stitches. I was, and am, constantly awed by the body’s ability to heal itself. One week after being cut open, the doctor felt this confident that Seamus wouldn’t pop open.
Tube removal (you can see the paddle portion of the tube being pulled through Seamus’ skin):
2 Weeks After: Dr. Lawton wanted to check on Seamus again at the two week point, and it was at this time that the nipple sutures were removed. Again, I was amazed that enough time had passed to ensure the nipples wouldn’t just fall off. Dr. Lawton seemed very pleased with how everything was looking, and assured Seamus that the swelling would continue to go down. (Except at the 6 week point, when, apparently, the swelling is at its worst.) Seamus had been applying silver sulfadiazine cream until this point. Dr. Lawton had prepared us to do that until the 4 week point, but he said things looked so good at 2 weeks that Seamus could stop applying it. Yay for nipples not falling off!
Dr. Lawton removing nipple sutures:
After that, Dr. Lawton wanted to see Seamus back at the 4 week point, so we’re headed back to San Antonio tomorrow. At this point, Seamus has been back at work for a couple of weeks on light duty, is still not really driving, and hasn’t been cleared for regular physical activity (exercising).
You can read Seamus’ reflections on the last few weeks here (read it, it’s like a story book, you won’t want to put it down): In Good Faith
Stay tuned for a list of partner’s tips.