Thursday, April 11, 2013

So how are things? Four years later...

I'm so glad I've kept this record of what it was like for me to go through rib resection and healing postop. My four year resection anniversary had me going back to refresh my memory of what I was feeling and experiencing at this time four years ago.
*See new, 4 year postop, pictures at the end of this post. To compare, see postop pictures from 2009 here.

It's interesting to go back and re-read posts from that healing phase. I remember it well.

Truth is, four years after right sided rib resection, I feel a bit stuck in that healing my mind and emotions. Having rib bone and muscle cut out of my body was dramatic and left me with emotions I am still working on getting past.

The initial healing phase postop was brutal for me because of my nature. I am a very sensitive, type 2 person, always picking up other peoples vibes. I have even been called "touchy".
When I am in pain, my nerves are already on total overload, so any talking, touching, loud noise or movement feels very jarring and abrasive to me. Just ask my husband about trying to comfort me years ago while I was in labor, poor guy. He wanted to help and each time he started rubbing my back I would hiss at him- "Don't touch me!"

However, healing takes time, that cannot be overstated-especially after rib resection surgery where nerves are stretched, things are removed and muscle rearranged. No one can expect to remain still and undisturbed for that extended healing period. I remember feeling so incredibly frazzled all the time after surgery.
Other folks with different natures probably do not experience the same emotional postop healing issues and would take my comments here as overly dramatic. In my experience (and that is what I share here on my blog) that postop phase was traumatic- in fact my psyche has still not recovered. 
Thus, the left sided resection that was recommended, that I realize would spare me from some of the left sided TOS issues I deal with, well it's just too hard for me to fathom signing up for more trauma.

Having said that, my current state is- not too bad.

The long red hair is shorter now. It had to go, too much weight for my TOS neck.

I had additional surgery two years after resection that improved more of my TOS symptoms.

I currently go for ABM (Anat Baniel Method-a type of Feldenkrais) sessions once every two weeks. The mind/body education and gentle movement of this therapy are teaching me how to organize my movements to lessen the stress on my neck, shoulders and upper body. Through this therapy it has become clear that my right side, the side that was resected four years ago, moves more, is free-er, less restricted, and my left side-where I have the bigger cervical rib and still need resection- is more frozen, stiff, and very guarded.

I have many of the common issues I see other TOS folks commenting about on TOS support groups.

Weather affects my pain level.
I have lost upper-body strength from limiting my arm movement.
I juggle a lot of things to minimize the flareup's of TOS pain.
Driving more than a quick trip always leaves me needing pain meds afterward.
I worry about a left-sided blood clot (I'm super careful with that arm when I sleep at night).
I, like most TOSers, continue to seek ideas to manage my life with TOS.

On my list of things to try are; acupuncture, taping, botox injections, Melt method therapy, anti-inflammation diet. My doctor prescribed an antidepressant to help with the pain. I was *very* skeptical and resistant to the idea, but dealing with pain has a way of wearing you down.
I gave in and decided to give it a try. Once I was past the initial startup side effect phase, I am happy to report that I have noticed a reduction in TOS achy pain symptoms.

I take omega 3, B12, magnesium daily. I will be adding vitamin D soon also.

I recently went back to working as an in-home caregiver, very part time, very light duty.

I have gained weight, up two sizes- partly from restricting my activity to avoid TOS pain, partly because donuts make me feel better-at least while I'm eating them.

All-in-all, my life with TOS has its challenges, but they are manageable.

I have found great support and ideas from online TOS groups. I appreciate the people who share their common TOS struggles and encouragement however they can-with suggestions, a word of support, or just offering a place to vent where everyone understands, because we are each living our own journeys... with TOS.

Four-year postop pictures below.
You can see my right resected side is lower than my left side. My neck on the right is straighter also.

The transaxillary scar is barely visible, 2 1/2 inches below the crease.
My armpit is mostly numb, including part of the back of my upper right arm .

So that's the scoop four years postop. As always, if you have any TOS questions, don't hesitate to email and ask.