It’s been awhile…

Over the past monthish, I’ve been working a lot; late August and early September was me gimping through work, unable to lift anything over ten pounds. But by the time I went to Tampa with my family on the 20th, I was completely cleared to do everything, physically and activity-wise.

Tampa was tempestuous. I’m still feeling the burn, and I don’t mean from the sun.

In early September, I signed with a talent management company. I’m not a huge fan of them, for a lot of reasons, but after a week of being signed with them, I went to this workshop with a casting director from one of the big production companies. After the workshop, he met with us individually. I didn’t get in to see him until ten p.m, but I really liked him, and he liked me and where I was at. He said if I was willing to come to NYC twice a month, and I could afford it, he’d love to coach me.

I decided to go for it. I’ve been wanting to get back into training for awhile, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. All I knew was that I couldn’t take some for-fun class at a local theatre. And I really liked Robert; his personality clicked with mine and the way he described his approach reminded me of my college training. I had my first session with him on Saturday and it was AWESOME. I was really nervous; I knew he was expecting me to have four monologues, and I also knew from a story he’d told at the workshop that I’d be expected to perform all of them. I was especially nervous about my monologue from  my first college show because when I tested myself on it that morning, I wasn’t clear on it at all. So I downloaded the file and studied up and hoped I would remember it.

After we had a sort of re-intro session, Robert had me do all four monologues, back to back. I could see him nodding through all of them and giving littling compliments at the end, so I knew he liked them. He asked about the last one and if I was nervous about that one. I said yes, and that I wasn’t sure how solid I was on it. “Saving the best for last,” he said. Finally, I launched into that one, and though I did mess it up a little, it was fine. After I finished, there was this long silence, and then Robert said, “Stunning. Wow. That was the one you were unsure about?” Then he said, “I knew you were saving the best for last. That was what I wanted to see, that emotion!” like it had been my plan all along.

The thing he didn’t realize about me is how much of a theatre person I am. He thought I dabbled in theatre but focused on film, so when he heard me basically speaking theatre, he was like, “Oh no, this has to change.” Basically, he said I need to get out there and audition because I’m ready, and he would know. After that, had had me read a lot of sides. I knew he was the right teacher for me (besides my instant comfort with him) when I read the first line the first time and he said, “Nope, not good enough.” That’s what I’m paying for. He was really impressed with how well I read on the spot, so he pulled out a ton of more complex sides and looked really happy when I was able to rattle them off cold.

I’m so excited to be working with him. I think this is a step I needed to take. Now I just hope I can keep affording it…

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This has been a long, hard week.

I went back to work on Tuesday, and as I reported, it wasn’t nearly as tiring as I expected. And almost all of my workdays were like that- the activity gave me some energy, and things were good. My coworkers have been really helpful and we have a good pattern going on.

But Friday was rough. I was in a hard Jersey store, and Jackie was working with me. Jackie is my friend, but also my manager, and there’s some extra pressure when she works with me. It also happened to be a bad depression day, one of those days that reminds me that, though I’m much better than I was a year ago, when I spent most of my time on the couch, too tired and sad to do anything but watch tv, I’m not completely recovered. So I spent all day trying not to cry over little things, and couldn’t wait until I could get home and curl up in my bed.

It’s so weird to be having days like that, too, when I’m so happy with my reduction decision. I went to the mall yesterday to see what I could find. I got my first ever Peter Pan collared shirt, something I’ve wanted to wear for years, and a tank top I couldn’t have thought of wearing before. I also went to aerie and got my first ever non-underwire pretty bras, the kind I’ve always wanted. Shopping has never been so fun. I have to completely rewire my thinking, but so many more options are open to me. 

Of course, I got stuck in a dress while trying it on, which kind of hurt me on one side, and add that to working my first week (and a full one at that) and getting some very very tight hugs at a party last night, I am very very sore today. I get the last of my stitches out tomorrow!

Back to the Grindstone

Yesterday, I returned to work. While every other transition in this recovery has worried other people more than I,this one concerned me. Partly it was just guilt over not being able to help my coworker do any of the lifting that would take up most of the final 45 minutes of our shift. But I also knew that returning to this job after even a three day break can be rough- your script isn’t up to snuff,and then of course there’s the audience. I knew that if I got heckled first thing, there was a good chance I might break down. Then add to all of this the incredible fatigue I’ve been feeling, sleeping around 12 hours every night, which apparently will keep happening for another month or two.

However, things went just fine. I had been told to arrive whenever I wanted; my shift technically started at 10, but Jackie told me I could show up at 2 if I wanted. In the end, though, I had to get there at 10 to provide some supplies, and I ended up being able to work through the entire day without feeling super tired, which makes me feel SO much better about working on my own when I can lift things again. But I definitely have to wait for that- at one point, I was slicing a particularly dense onion, and felt a twinge in my left breast, and by the end of the day, I was pretty sore. I really hate not being able to do things on my own, but since my just-the-facts-ma’am surgeon told me not to lift anything over ten pounds, I know she means it. But I’m healing very well, so that’s good. 

A lot of psychologists and people in general get concerned about older women getting reductions (or other body-altering surgeries) because it’s difficult to accept your new body. I was worried this would happen to me, especially because it did when I lost 40 pounds; it was hard to see myself as this new person. But in this case, I don’t feel that way. I feel like I’m finally in the body I’m supposed to be in. For the first time since I was 12, I don’t have to wear a bra. I noticed how much taller I was walking last night; it feels really weird in my spine, since I’ve spent the last ten years hunched over, hiding my boobs. But it does feel good to finally have more physical confidence.

So I’m finally back home in Philadelphia, and so far it’s been great. While staying with my parents was good and they gave me food and love and things, not being able to drive was, well, driving me crazy, and I constantly had this empty feeling between my ribs that made me feel like I wanted to cry. I thought I might still feel that way when I got home, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. It’s been great to hang out with my roommates and my friend Kara, who is staying with us while she rehearses a show in the city. They asked me all about my surgery and said I look really good. “I’m sorry, I’m staring at your boobs,” Dustin said. “But it’s for science.” 

I was kind of tired and would have liked to just chill out for the rest of the night, but I had plans: I was going on my very first date.When I was walking around the city last week, I was stopped by a guy who was very nice and I agreed to go out with him. I got there a little late because for some reason, no trains were coming and when one finally did, they wouldn’t let us get on it. When I finally did meet up with my date, Bryan, we went to a not-loud bar/restaurant. I got some soup and we both got a drink. We stayed there for awhile, and he was really easy to talk to. When we finished, I paid because I am a feminist and because I got the most stuff. Then we went back to his apartment, he showed me this video we had been talking about, and then we made out. So apparently, I will kiss on the first date.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with him- I had a lot of fun and it was a good first first-date experience. Neither of us has contacted the other yet, so who knows if there will be a second date. Either way, I’m satisfied with the experience.

I’ve been feeling less useless being here, since I can do more things and go more places, which is nice. I see my surgeon on Monday and go back to work on Tuesday. I’ll also be seeing a bunch of my friends this weekend, which I’m really looking forward to.

The Quest for Bras

Tomorrow, it’ll be a week since my surgery. That’s so weird, because it seems like it happened yesterday. I’m glad, though, that it doesn’t feel like it happened yesterday. The pain isn’t gone- far from it- but it hasn’t gotten worse. I’ve been taking ibuprofen only, and actually more for headaches than anything else. Yesterday, I finally took a shower, which, besides smelling good at last, meant taking off the official doctor dressings off. While my mom did a really good job of patching me up, the bandages weren’t as supportive, so I was probably the most sore I’ve been since the hospital, this morning.

I had bought a two-pack of front-closing sports bras at WalMart a few weeks before my surgery. They were APPARENTLY extra-large, but holding one of them up to my new boobs, I knew that while they might be okay for exercise, no way were they going to work for recovery- way too small. And so after my mom stopped by her work, we went to look for some replacement bras.

I thought with my smaller size, it would be easy, or at least easier, to find sports bras. And it will be as soon as I can wear back-closing ones, but it’s extremely hard to find an abundance of front-closing bras without an underwire in ANY size. We had to go to three stores and ended up having success at KMart, of all places.

After shopping, I was so exhausted. I think I said this before, but I really need to slow down. I’m moving around like I’m two weeks post-op, and my body is feeling it. And even if my body isn’t showing it right now, I’ve heard that if you get your heart rate up too high, by exercising or exerting yourself in general, your scars will be much more visible than if you don’t.

As far as size goes, I’m in the D/DD range, maybe going a tad smaller when the swelling goes down. I’m not surprised by this. I really really wish I had been taken down to a C, for size purposes, but as long as I can buy my bras in an American store for less than a hundred dollars, I’m pretty happy. Plus, I finally got up the courage too look at my new self in the mirror today; I was really afraid to see the stitches and bruising. But actually, the weirdest part is the fact that my chest is stained almost completely yellow from the disinfectant they used during surgery. Otherwise… it looks awesome. Very little bruising, and while I will probably forever want to be a C, I look so much more proportional; the size is probably exactly right. I just love them,and they way I look now, so much. This decision was such a good one.

It’s day four of recovery. By last night, not even one full day into my stay at my parents’, I was going stir crazy.

Today, my mom and I had to drive all the way back to Philadelphia for two doctors’ appointments: my therapist and my surgeon. Because I haven’t had a lot of pain (only ibuprofen since Saturday night) and because I’ve been feeling less tired-all-the-time and more normal-tired, I thought I’d be okay. But after a two hour car ride and an hour talking to my therapist, I was exhausted.

Sitting in my surgeon’s waiting room, my mom kept telling me to go tell the receptionist that I was there. I kept telling her I didn’t have to; when you have a breakdown in the middle of someone’s office, they tend to remember you. I’ve never had to sign in. 

I got my final drain removed and the catheters in each breast. The research I did prepared me for some serious pain, but I didn’t even know she had taken them out until she told me. I finally got a look at my new boobs, and even though they’re still swollen and have marker and yellow antibacterial residue on them, I love them so much. There’s very little bruising, from what I can see. And you know what else I can see? My feet. My stomach. The button of my pants. It’s amazing. 

So now I’m back at my parents’, completely exhausted from my day. I may not be feeling a lot of pain, but I’m still suffering from the normal post-surgery fatigue.

Reduction Surgery!

I am at my parents’ house at last! I’m a day later than I expected because I had to stay in the hospital for an extra night, for reasons I’ll explain below.

Thursday was the big day. As I wrote, I thought I’d be nervous, but beyond a few butterflies here and there, I wasn’t. I was cool as a cucumber the entire time, and that was without drugs. I think I had done so much research, and all of the doctors and nurses explained things to me well and respectfully, so I felt secure.

I got up at 6:30, washed my hair and used the antibacterial soap. I don’t like using a hair dryer, but I didn’t want to be dripping all over the hospital, so I did that, too. Around 7:50, my mom and I headed over to the hospital. We were able to walk there, which was nice.

It took a really long time for my pre-op stuff to start. I was so surprised how young most of my nurses and doctors were the whole way through the process, but then I reminded myself that a lot of my friends are nurses and are the same age as me. The younger, male nurse was great and was able to draw blood (my first time) without pain and was fun to talk to. There was a older female nurse though, who wasn’t as great. She kept reiterating that she was just helping out and that everything on her usual floor, the third floor, was done WAY better than on the crummy old ninth floor. They needed a urine sample from me to make sure I didn’t get knocked up in the two weeks since my pre-op appointment. I’m bad at peeing on command in general, but the nurse kept coming over and hammering on the door, making me tense up. I didn’t know it was her and finally abandoned the single-occupancy bathroom, thinking someone needed to throw up or something. She made me feel super guilty for not producing the sample an I eventually got it to her, emphasizing that I needed to be left ALONE.

In between all of this, my plastic surgeon and another doctor came in and talked to my mom and me about the procedure, and my PS drew all over my boobs with a pen and a measuring tape, showing where she was going to, essentially, cut and sew. I think that was the weirdest part of the whole experience.

After I was finally pronounced without child, I climbed onto a rollaway bed to be taken to anesthesia. This was probably an hour and a half after I’d arrived. The anesthesia was the part I was most worried about, but again, there wasn’t any palpable worry about me. I waited forever for the anesthesiologist to come talk to me, and he was really nice and explained stuff very well. I got my first IV, and my entire IV experience wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable as I’ve read about other people’s being. 

A long, LONG time later (maybe a bit after ten?), I was wheeled to the OR. My plastic surgeon was sitting in the corner, casually on her phone. She and everyone else helped me onto the operating table and they gave me some heated blankets, which I thanked them for. I think those were probably the last words I said, or at least the last ones I remember saying. The anesthesiologist told me he was putting some relaxing medication into my IV, and I must be a super lightweight, because the room almost instantly went blurry, and I was out seconds later. I didn’t experience being told to think of a nice place or to count backwards; I don’t even remember falling asleep. Night and day experience from my terrifying one in ’98.

I woke up feeling like I’d had a long nap, and the first thing I noticed was that I didn’t have a tube down my throat like the doctor had told me I would when I woke up. Again, maybe being I am such a lightweight, I was supposed to wake up then and didn’t, but I had a nasal cannula on my face when I did wake up. I also noticed that the right corner of my upper lip was painful and swollen. They must have bumped it with the tube. That has actually been one of the most painful parts of recovery so far! The recovery room was super understaffed, so I had time to wake up before anyone was asking me any questions. When a nurse went to get me some ice chips, I looked at the clock on a column near my bed. I’m bad at reading analog clocks anyway, but there was also a glare on the clockface, so I couldn’t tell which hand was longer, and I panicked when I thought the clock read 10:30 pm. Between that and the cannula, I started tearing up, sure that I had died briefly during my surgery or something. But I asked what time it was when the nurse came back it it wasn’t yet five. My surgery took four hours.

After awhile, they took me up to my room and my mom and (surprise!) my dad came up. My pain level through the whole process has in general been pretty low. I figured I would have some nausea, since my twenty-minute surgery in ’98 made me dizzy, and I ended up vomiting four times that night. I had a catheter in, and it didn’t really bother me, though it felt weird when they removed it early the next morning. My first night was pretty easy. I didn’t sleep much because I kept having to get my vitals checked, or I just had some pain. For a stomach-sleeper, though, sleeping on my back hasn’t been as hard as I expected, but I’ll definitely be using the recliner here, not a bed.

The next morning, they told me if I could pee by 12:30, I could be discharged, since everything else looked good. So, as instructed, I drank lots and lots and lots of fluid.. but no matter what, my body wanted to keep it. It got to the point where they had to straight catheterize me (VERY painful) to empty my bladder, and the time was reset; if I peed by 8:30, we could leave. And… I couldn’t. Before 8:30 even arrived, they decided I was going to stay for another night. I cried a lot at this point, because I couldn’t do something I have been able to do literally since I was born. After a second bladder ultrasound, they put in the Foley (a.k.a the longer-term catheter) for the night. Again, REALLY painful. Like, seeing the lady doctor x10.

The next morning, I did more rounds of meds. There was a huge mixup with my everyday meds, which was kind of annoying; my schedule got thrown off, and at one point, they tried to give me the full dosage of Wellbutrin all at once, which can cause seizures. I watched tv, slept, talked to my doctors. They took the Foley out and I started drinking like a fiend, and FINALLY,my body worked like it should. I was so relieved. Even so, I didn’t get discharged until about 2:30 or 3; one of my drains was taken out (not painful at all. I still have the left one in), I got another bladder ultrasound, more meds, and then I got to put on real person clothes!

The drive home was a bit rough. I get car sick anyway, but add in recovering from surgery, being on several strong medications that made me dizzy, and not having sat up that straight in over two days, and I was really nauseous. But we made it home without incident, and hopefully I won’t have to go back to the hospital for any complications.

I think the thing that surprised me the most about having surgery in general was how tired it makes you. I’ve heard it does, and you always hear of hospital patients sleeping a lot, but I didn’t think I’d be doing that. I thought I’d be watching TV or reading most of my time there. But I would fall asleep constantly, no matter what time it was or what was happening. The entire time my parents were there on surgery day, I kept drifting off on them. I’m not a napper, but I’ve taken at least two naps today. It’s very weird.

From what I’ve seen of my new breasts, I like them very much! I look like I’m in my twenties, finally, instead of like I’ve had four children. As soon as I woke up, I noted that my neck pain was completely gone, and it still hasn’t returned. I haven’t been without some degree of neck pain since 2007. The tops of my breasts aren’t bruised, but my doctors say the undersides are. Right now, they’re swollen and covered in bandages, but I’d guess they’ll probably be D-cups when they get to their true size.

 

I am so happy I did this!

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