Tomorrow I will be two weeks post-op. This site...
Tomorrow I will be two weeks post-op. This site has been such a source of information and comfort for me, so I wanted to contribute and share my experience! I hope this is helpful for anyone about to go through this process. It can be an emotional rollercoaster but it is so, so worth it.
I spent most of my twenties very overweight. At thirty I got pregnant and ended up having an emergency c-section. Not long after the birth of my child I lost around 65 lbs. Needless to say, my body was a stretched out mess. I made a complete lifestyle change but no amount of exercise would change my mid-section. I exercised strenuously on a daily basis, counted calories and at the end of the day still felt bad about my body. All of my clothes were purchased to disguise my abdomen and getting dressed every day was frustrating. With the support of my amazing husband I had a consult with Dr. Swail in June and booked my surgery for September 12th. We agreed to do a full tummy tuck with muscle repair, and lipo of hips/flanks/back. Dr. Swail was fantastic and validated that no amount of gym time was going to take care of my skin laxity and muscle separation.
I have to say that so far this has been the most fantastic experience! I would do it again in a heartbeat. Dr. Swail removed about 4.5lbs from my stomach and 700cc's or 1.5lbs with lipo to flanks, hips and back. I was so nervous anticipating the pain but I have to say that for me, this has not been painful. Uncomfortable at times, yes, but never pain. Dr. Swail uses a pain pump and I think it made all the difference. When I went in on day two post op to have it removed, it had already run out. My discomfort was probably highest that day. However, I took my pain pills around the clock and stayed ahead of it. By day 5 I was off prescription pain pills and had switched to advil and tylenol.
My first drain came out two days post-op and my second drain came out 11 days post-op. I have hardly had any swelling so far, mild to moderate bruising that has already faded and I have been very mobile and upright since the day after surgery. I did need some help the first 3 days getting out of bed and up and down off the couch. You tend to feel a little like a turtle on its back. I actually bought a toilet seat riser for our master bath, as all of our toilets are very low, but found I really didn't need it. I think the hardest part was not being able to shower for 12 days, as my PS won't allow showers while a drain is still in. That shower was the best I've ever had!
Every person and body is so unique that it is hard to say what makes one experience different from another, but here are some of the things I did that I believe made a difference in my recovery so far.
-Fitness: Exercise is a huge part of my life. I'm curvy, not skinny, but I'm strong and muscular from strength training several times a week and aerobically fit from hiking, running and competitive tennis playing. I really think being in shape has allowed for a quicker recovery. I've been using my leg muscles a lot with my abs being out of commission ;) those squats come in handy.
-Take your pain medication around the clock: This has been said again and again, but it is really true. Staying ahead of the pain is so important. I took percocet every 4 hours and a prescription anti-inflammatory every 6 hours for the first 4 days post-op.
-Try to be mobile: Every time I got up to use the bathroom I would try to take a lap or two around the living room or bedroom, nothing crazy but just enough to keep the blood flowing and stretch my back a bit.
-Drink TONS of water. I don't know if it was the binder or just my fluid intake, but I peed non-stop the first week. I think this helped with swelling and generally cleaning out my system from the anesthesia.
-Rest and get as much help as you are able: I think in some ways this is the hardest part for people who are used to being active. It is hard not to take care of your kids and home and work in the way you are used to. I gave in and asked for lots of help. I am super blessed and fortunate that both my mother and mother in-law flew in separately to cover the first two weeks. I realize that not everyone has this kind of access to support, but it really helped. They packed lunches, made meals, ran errands, did school drop off and gave my husband the space to focus on work and taking care of me. I knew my little one was being well cared for and that helped me relax. Even though I am a little stir crazy, I really have stayed down these past two weeks. There have been times I felt like I could run out and do errands or cook dinner, but I resisted and I think this has helped with swelling and healing.
-I purchased a wedge pillow system for my bed. I LOVE my bed and couldn't see myself sleeping anywhere else. The wedge system has a super soft cover with supports for your back and under your legs. It supported me in all the right places and I've slept really well every night.
-Rally your emotional support system: Even if it is just one special person. This is an emotional process. I am extremely grateful for my friends and family. Everyone I've shared this with has been so positive and supportive. I realize that this isn't the case for everyone. But even if you just have one special person in your life who can visit and sit by your bed and chat with you, it is so helpful. It is easy to start feeling isolated. You also need people with whom you can share your fears leading up to the surgery. I was an anxious wreck the entire week before! My husband is a rock-star care giver but my girlfriends and family have been a huge help too.
-Do a little self-care before surgery and during recovery: Before surgery I got my hair colored and my toenails painted (nothing on my fingers because of the heart rate monitors). I knew it would be a while before I could shower and wash my hair but I figured it would make me feel better to not see the grey growing in while I healed! When it became clear that my second drain wouldn't be coming out for a bit, I had my husband wash my hair a couple of times over the following week. We sat an adjustable stool in front of our bathroom sink and I was able to lean my head back for a hair wash. He massaged my scalp and it was heaven! Clean hair makes you feel like a new woman. My best friend bought me a yummy smelling candle and I put that on my bedside table and lit in once and a while. A few people brought flowers and I set those up in the bedroom to keep it cheerful. I do think it is the little details that can really help keep your spirits up.
Tuesday I go in for my next follow up. The plan is to remove the steri-strips and begin scar therapy! I'll post some more photos when the tape comes off!
Good luck to all of you about to embark on this journey!
2 week post-op update
I saw my PS today for a follow up appointment. They removed my steri-strips and we started scar treatment. They use silicone tape to both heal and keep tension on the wound. I'm to change the tape every two days. My scar looks great, very flat and thin and they are super happy with how I am healing!
I was cleared to start walking on the treadmill and to wear a spanx type compression if I want. I think I will still use the binder at night, but some spanx during the day will be great for work and for under clothes. It is amazing how fast these two weeks have gone. Time to join the world again, yippee!
Back on the treadmill, work clothes and new photos 16 days post-op
Well, I got back on the treadmill today for the first time! I wore my binder really tight under my workout clothes just to feel extra secure. It is pretty hysterical to go from running sprint intervals pre surgery to walking at a 2.5 pace, but it felt nice to just move, albeit slowly. I felt good and probably could have kept going, but I kept it to 30 minutes and then came straight home to lay down and put my feet up. I'm feeling more like myself each day, but I can tell that I'm still healing and my stamina is certainly not back to pre-op levels. Here are a couple of pictures I took yesterday at 15 days post. My pre-op jeans fit, but they are certainly not comfortable particularly when sitting. Yesterday I traded out my binder and put on spanx for work. I'm finding that stretchy knit/sweater dresses are a great solution to look pulled together and comfortable. Plus they show off the new curves :) Happy healing to everyone!
3 week post op...ups and downs
Today is 3 weeks! I had a little scare on Friday and ended up going to the ER. I was having pain in my right calf behind my knee, which I was attributing to being more active. However, Friday afternoon I also had a terrible dizzy spell and some tingling in my right fingers. I called my PS and he instructed me to head to the ER for an ultrasound on my leg to rule out a blood clot. He told me not to panic, that it was likely nothing but better to be safe. After a long wait at the ER they did the ultrasound and everything looked good. The rest of the weekend I felt sort of dizzy off and on but made a connection between the tightness of my surgical binder and the hand tingling and light headedness. Today I followed up with my primary care Dr. and after giving me a good checkup she agreed it was likely the binder being too tight and constricting blood flow. We did some blood work just to check for anemia. Long story short, I'm ditching the binder for spanx from here on out. My PS had given me clearance to do so last week, but the binder just feels more supportive and prevents me from swelling too much. I think I will take the little extra swelling over being light headed.
Today I felt pretty great. Did 40 minutes on the treadmill and was able to run errands. My discomfort in my abdomen is way down. I'm hardly taking any advil or tylenol and I think tonight I might try to sleep normally in my bed without the wedge system. The three week mark feels like a big turning point. I feel less fragile and more like myself!
5 weeks post-op and feeling great...exercise, scar healing and clothing sizes
Yesterday marked 5 weeks post-op and I am really feeling fantastic. For those of you who are on the front end of this journey take comfort in knowing that every passing week marks a huge improvement.
I saw my PS last week for my four week appointment. He said everything looks amazing and that I don't need to return for two months. We are going to do a little revision, as I have small dog-ears on both hips, although the left one is more prominent than the right. He said it should be quite easy, as it is just a bit of skin involved. We will schedule that at my next appointment in December.
Next week, I am cleared to head back into the gym as well as play tennis. He asked me to start back slowly and build up over the following weeks. I'm so excited to get back to my workouts. I have been walking and hiking daily and have been able to do 3.5 miles or so as well as pretty steep hikes but I'm looking forward to using weights again and hitting the tennis court!
Swelling is way down in the past week. I was getting nervous, as week 4 I was swelling up a ton, so much so that I went back to wearing my binder. Now, spanx alone seem to work to keep it under control. After trying various types of spanx I've found that I like the kind that goes from tummy to mid-thigh with straps that go over your shoulders. Kind of like a body suit but you can wear your own bra. This smoothes everything out, particularly if you've had lipo and the Spanx brand is thin enough that you can wear it under skinny jeans without the leg line showing.
I'm continuing to treat my scar with silicone tape and nothing else. This was my PS's suggestion, as they have seen great results with it, and it is also really affordable. I keep the tape on 24/7 and replace it every two days. After just a few weeks my scar is totally flat and pencil thin, although still pink. I know this will change over time. I feel like I see a big difference every time I take the tape off.
Lastly, the one thing I didn't quite expect was having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear! I'm pretty much consigning my entire wardrobe. Almost all of my shirts are huge and baggy. I was a size large pre tt, and now any t-shirt or shirt with stretch is a medium or small. Some of my pants are unwearable due to being too big in the waist, but mostly all of the denim I own just doesn't fit right on my new shape. I was buying denim previously that would hold my gut in and now I need to buy pants that fit a different body. I've gone down a pant size so I'm buying a few new things to hold me over, hoping that I will continue to lose more as swelling eases. I'm still experiencing swelling in my thighs because my pre-op jeans feel really tight in the thighs. This was never an issue before and I have lost, not gained weight since surgery, so I'm attributing it to swelling.
All in all I'm amazed by the wonderful recovery I have had. My self-confidence is so much better. I feel different out in the world. It is fun to step out of the dressing room and have the sales people tell you how amazing something looks, when previously that almost never happened! Happy healing to everyone :)
Almost to the eight week mark!
Monday will be 8 weeks and I would say I feel fully back to my old self. I'm seeing my trainer again, and have been easing back. I also hit the tennis court for the first time and it was awesome!
I'm still tired the end of the day but the swelling is way down. The past few days I have been able to wear clothes without any compression and am not swelling up Yay! I'm posting a new picture, everything seems to be smoothing out and I'm so happy with the outcome!!!