Preventive Mastectomy: The First Week
Posted May 9, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 20 comments
The first week was not what I expected at all, but we made it through.
Note: I decided to include real pictures of my body during my preventive mastectomy in this post because I know that it will help to prepare other women as they begin this journey, as well as help educate family members and friends. I hope that you my readers, will be respectful of that choice, and if you are offended at the thought it’s best for you to stop reading here.
I have to say that I am amazed at how easy this last week has been, I know, crazy right? I am beginning to think that the hard part truly was the decision making process and all the emotions and planning that led up to my preventive mastectomy.
As I wrote in my surgery day post, I had struggled a bit the last few days before surgery with my decision. Eventually, I found peace and as The Cowboy and I headed to the hospital at 5:30am there wasn’t anything running through my mind other than “Let’s get this done!”
The nurses and doctors picked up on my attitude and we spent the hours of prep time before the surgery laughing and joking in between taking care of all the medical necessities. When it was finally time to head back to the OR I gave The Cowboy a big kiss, told him I loved him and then promptly had a wonderful 4 hour nap.
I woke up from the surgery feeling drowsy but not in pain at all. As I became more and more coherent I began to notice that something was a bit off. I was itchy…itchy like I have never been before in my life. With my limited arm use I begged The Cowboy to scratch my head, ears, arms, stomach and back. It turns out I had a bit of a reaction to the anesthesia and after a dose of a Benedryl in my IV things were a bit better. I still can see the face of the nurse when she came around the corner and saw me using The Cowboy’s hand as a my own personal scratching post…rubbing the top of my head and my face against it like a cat!
The next 24 hours were spent with me laying completely comfortably in bed and dozing off and on like a granny. I was barely feeling any pain and it was hard for me to remember not to use my arms, so I was admonished often to stop reaching and lifting things. When the plastic surgeon came in to check on me the day after surgery I was a bit nervous for the big reveal. I really had no idea what to expect.
Of course I had poked and prodded my chest as soon as I was able but, I couldn’t feel anything (with the removal of breast tissue most of my feeling is permanently gone) other than the completely solid edge of the expander. I was already used to seeing the drains coming out of my side but I wasn’t sure what everything was going to look like…
My Plastic Surgeon undid the tight surgical bra and The Cowboy and I saw my breasts for the first time.
The look on the Cowboys face was not very reassuring and as I looked down I couldn’t help but laugh. I now had cliff boobs. A solid square top that tapered down to completely folded up and mashed in nipples and skin. There was a line of stitches under each breast and I could see the lines of the drains coiling under my skin. I knew that this was not going to be the final product so I wasn’t worried a bit. I trusted my doctor when he said everything looked fabulous and we could leave the hospital when we were ready. (Just wanted to add that mine looked so “cliff like” because of the way my pectoral muscles contracted over the expanders, this is not usual.)
They discharged us within the hour and The Cowboy and I stayed at a local hotel for the next day. Our surgeons wanted us to stay close by for the first 48 hours. I spent the next day dozing off and on and forcing myself to eat. I really had no appetite at all and am just now starting to feel hungry again. At one point I woke up and screamed as I saw CollegeBFF sitting on the couch where The Cowboy had last been. Apparenlty they had traded when I was asleep and I had no idea!
The four hour drive home was totally uneventful and coming home and seeing The Cowkids was one of the best feelings ever.
As we rounded the corner on day three some of the heavy duty meds that they gave me during the surgery began to wear off but still, I would have to rate my pain a 3 out of 10. The pain was actually good as the twinges when I moved my arms too much forced me to behave. The only way I can think of to describe the pain is that my chest muscles felt tight like your legs feel when you’ve run too much. The absolute worst part was the surgical bra which felt like a heavy metal band around my chest. It began to rub sores on my skin, which I couldn’t feel but were obviously not a good thing so, I put a soft t-shirt on (that hurt like hell) underneath it…its a hot look right?!
Four days into my recovery I was hit with a bout of nausea that was absolutely miserable. It was triggered by the pain meds and the anti nausea medicine my doctor gave us wasn’t helping a bit. Thankfully, The Cowboy was able to get a different prescription called in that worked, and I woke up the next day feeling infinitely better. The next day I stopped taking my pain meds during the day and am now only taking a muscle relaxer at night to help me comfortably sleep.
That’s another part that sucks…sleeping sitting up. My back and shoulder muscles were/are so tight that they wake me up in the middle of the night. I’ve figured out a few stretches that helps to ease the tightness and The Cowboy has learned to sleep through my 2:30 am “yoga” sessions.
At my one week follow up call I was told I could take off the surgical bra and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to get rid of that tight metal band feeling. Except when I finally took the bra off, I realized that more than half that feeling was just me. The tightness was simply the heavy expanders under my muscles doing their job. I’ve found that taking time every hour to do some deep breathing has helped my muscles adapt and thankfully, the feeling gets less and less each day.
The Cowboy has been amazing. He’s now a pro at washing and “styling” my hair and hardly gags when he empties my drains for me. He and I are both pretty happy that I have been able to wipe myself after using the bathroom. He gets credit for being willing to do what’s needed, but I know he’s glad his love wasn’t put to that particular test. When he saw the tears in my eyes at a failed attempt to hold a squirming LittleMissH, he took the time to bring her to me that night when she was asleep so that I could snuggle her until my love tank was full. He’s been patient, kind, loving and utterly exhausted. I love him even more than I did before.
The older Cowkids haven’t skipped a beat and simply hop into bed (or in the easy chair) with me when they need some attention. Mary Poppins and Ma have been utterly wonderful in taking care of the Cowkids, the house and me. My friends have brought meals and flowers and stopped by for short visits. Their smiles and laughter have kept me from feeling too stir crazy and are appreciated more than they know. The words of comfort and well wishes from you my readers and my family and friends the world over have also helped me to keep looking forward and stay positive.
Other than a twinge here and there, a bit of tenderness and the afore mentioned muscle tightness I’m feeling pretty good. I still get tired easily and most of my walking involves moving from the bedroom to the TV room or table to eat…Each day I can feel myself getting stronger and I can tell my body is healing.
On Thursday I’ll be headed down to Denver for my first fill (other than the 100cc that were put in on surgery day). Frankly I’m fascinated to see how the shape of my “cliff boobs” will change!
Note: I will be posting a more detailed list later this week of what I brought to the hospital, and what I have used at home for those of you that will be undergoing the surgery and are looking for resources.