The little things seem to be the hardest in terms of pain. Granted, I’m not attempting to move furniture or anything so it’s not like the bar is set very high. But now that my entire upper half has been hacked into and put back together, I am very aware of how often we use obscure muscles.
Case in point: Remember last time you pressed down on the soap pump to wash your hands? I am here to tell you, my friends, that that singular, throwaway, nonsense move, requires muscles and if yours have been recently futzed with, it’s going to hurt like a mother.
Here are some small things that we take for granted that are now difficult for me: door knobs, closing a cap, turning on a faucet (remember T-Rex arms?), even pressing a button invokes pain. Having to call for help because you can’t flush the toilet is a pretty sad state of affairs.
Today is a ‘shower day’ and I am dreading it like the plague. Since my arms are persona non grata, I am reduced to kneeling in the tub while my mom and sister clean me delicately, the way I would picture a PhD in Renaissance Art cleans the sculptures in the Uffizi. Or how you see on those documentaries when the archeologists begin to unearth fossil skeletons with only the finest whisps of a paintbrush. It’s a beautiful time of women helping women, but it’s also sort of a pathetic shitshow.
Another side-effect that I didn’t know about until it happened, are the muscle spasms. Move your arm one inch in a direction that your muscles wish not to go and, boom, charlie horse. When the surgeon gave me all of my prescriptions to pick up beforehand, I thought he was just being nice by throwing in some muscle relaxers. I need them more than any pain pill. Once those pectorals get their spaz on, it becomes urgent that the next muscle relaxer is on deck.
While we are discussing muscles, I want to give a shout out to my abs and all leg muscles. What I cannot do with my arms, I am finding ways to compensate for with other parts of the body. My abs help me get up and down from bed. My legs are strong, allowing me to take walks and do stairs with no trouble.
At a pre-op appointment I was given a few sheets of paper outlining ‘exercises’ post-mastectomy. At the time, I laughed at them and shamed those poor cartoon women for needing a rolling pin as exercise equipment. Guess who’s got the rolling pin now? In a day I went from clap push-ups to rolling my shoulders backwards and forwards as an advanced work-out.
We think about mastectomies in terms of breasts, aesthetics, function for breastfeeding, etc. but we rarely give any credit to the muscles all up in there that assist with practically every move that we make. Ladies, take a minute to travel deep beneath your rack to where your muscles are hiding out.
Men wear these muscles on the outside because they are show-offs. Us ladies keep ours tucked away behind our funbags because we don’t have to prove anything to anyone (insert 3 snaps). They are like our secret weapons. The function behind the form. Currently, I lack both function and form in this area, though not for long.
I know it is a process and healing takes time, so I am granting myself more patience than usual. Plus, living at my mom’s with my sister as my handmaiden and no kids is absolutely delightful. Watch for signs of Munchausen, as I may stay here in this peaceful oasis much longer than necessary.