Moving through Mastectomy

I have tried to keep my social media posts positive, but there have been hours and whole days that I have been broken. You don’t really know what something is like until you experience it yourself.

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One day after surgery!

I had a mastectomy of my right breast, removal of sentinel lymph nodes and a tissue expander placed under my pectoralis muscle for immediate reconstruction. While I have recovered well, I have definitely been in a lot of discomfort.

Here’s some things I experienced during recover from my mastectomy.

Surgery Discomfort

I mean, you just had major surgery Meaghan! Of course it’s going to be painful!

Drain

My surgeon put in one drain to prevent the buildup of fluid (blood, lymph). He told me it could be in for up to two weeks! Drains are pains! I luckily only had one, but it disgusted me so much. I was constantly nervous I would accidentally pull on it too hard or get it caught on something. Milking it to keep the fluid moving was gross. I think I got the shakes every time I had to empty the drain’s collection ball.

My best friend bought me a button up mastectomy shirt (Recovery Tee) with pockets on the inside. I slept every night in it so that my drain stayed in one spot. Another friend who is also a breast cancer thriver gave me a drain holder lanyard for showering with. Both so useful!

I was so fortunate that I only needed my drain for five days but I was extremely nervous that it’s removal was going to be really painful. It wasn’t! It was quick and easy! However, for a few days after the area was very tender.
Having the drain removed was a big mental boost for me. I really felt good after that happened.

Sleeping

I am a side sleeper. Not after a mastectomy though! You would find me sleeping on my back propped up with pillows.
Still three weeks later it is very uncomfortable to sleep on my side. I believe this is from the tissue expander providing pressure under my pec.

Tissue Exapander

I don’t even know what to say other than, this is thing fricken uncomfortable! It feels like there is something hard in my chest and for the first two weeks there was a lot of pressure. I came out of surgery with the tissue expander filled slightly. Soon I will have more saline inserted and so begins the process of decided how large I want my reconstruction to be. How do you choose your breast size?! If anyone has any ideas please let me know! haha!

Skin

As nerves the came back to life my skin from my armpit to my sternum felt like it was being ripped off every time something touched it (clothing, water). This slowly went away and about four weeks post surgery I no longer felt this sensation.

Shoulder Range of Motion

I have been diligently working on my right shoulder range of motion. Gentle movements have become easier and I have progressed to longer holds at my end range. Each week I see improvements, but it feels very tight and uncomfortable still at four weeks post surgery.

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One week, 10 days and two weeks post surgery shoulder range of motion.

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3 weeks post surgery shoulder range of motion.

New Body and Body Image Issues

I’m not sure how you prepare to have one or both breasts removed. My life from cancer diagnosis to surgery was fuelled by adrenaline. I don’t think I fully comprehended what I would feel like until the final bandages were removed.

I no longer have a breast or nipple on the right. It is different, weird, emotional.

I will have breast reconstruction, but it is still different. This is not a boob job. This is breast cancer.

I have a lot more to get through. More treatment, more surgeries, more recovery. For me this is really just the beginning.

I will continue to work on my fitness, strength, shoulder range of motion and positive body image. I will move through cancer.

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