Preventive Mastectomy: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Funny

Posted January 16, 2017 by Prairie Wife - 5 comments

As I sit and reflect on the last year of surgeries it’s a bit overwhelming. I’m SO thankful I have a record of my preventive mastectomy  journey here on the blog.  My week by week surgery posts go over the big things people want to know…the process, pics of what things look like, what I could and couldn’t do and of course mental and physical pain.

But, there were so many little things that came up through this process that I thought I’d turn them into a post.

The Good

faMy friends and family circled the wagons around me in so many ways I can’t even begin to thank them. From Mary Poppins living with us for 6 months to all the meal planning that TallGirlJ and numerous other friends helped with…it all combined to make my year of surgery so much easier. These are the things that helped me the most.

Childcare: With 5 Cowkids 10 and under, there was no doubt, I needed fulltime help for the first three weeks after my mastectomy and exchange surgery.

Meals: For the first two surgeries three meals a week were provided by friends and neighbors to help take the work load off of my family.  We were blessed to have family and Mary Poppins here but, the meals helped immensely to take some of the burden off of them.

Rides: I couldn’t drive for several weeks after each surgery so not only did I need rides to doctors appointments but, help taking Cowkids too and from school and practice was much appreciated.

Prayers and Words of Encouragement: I cannot emphasize enough how much this meant to me. Hearing on social media that people were sending me well wishes, and getting texts helped to boost my spirits. I know this positive energy helped me to heal faster than anyone expected.

Short Visits: At times sitting at home felt a bit like house arrest. Even when I felt up to it, getting out of the house was still hard to do. The best thing ever was when friends stopped by for a short visit (two hours at most) to chat and hang out. I know Mary Poppins appreciated it too! Mid morning was the best time for me, as I was often tired by the afternoon and evening.

The Bad

woman in hospitalPain: For me the pain from the surgeries was never that overwhelming. I only took pain meds for the first few days after the mastectomy and not at all for the next two surgeries. For me the fills were by far the worst and resulted in three days of extreme pain and limited movement. Also, there was a constant dull throb or random stabbing pain through all of this healing. Nothing I couldn’t handle but, by the end of the day it would wear on me and my temper would be short.

Bumping: Nothing hurts more than a small child’s head hitting your recently chopped off or replaced boobs. It only took a few times for me to have my “protective pushing away move” down pat. Things are much better now but, those first few months after each surgery…beware!

Guilt: This was the hardest for me. I felt so guilty that everything was revolving around me. Not only because of the surgeries but, the doctors appointments, the money, and the traveling back and forth and all the things necessary for my surgeries and recovery. Then you add in all the times I was back in my bedroom (it was best to just stay locked in there trust me) and I could here chaos going on and I couldn’t help….guilt, guilt, guilt.

The Ugly

My Boobs: I have to admit that to me, my sunken bruised chest never looked too bad…at the time. Now when I look back at the pictures I cringe and think holy cow…they were ugly. Even when my expanders were filled they were ugly. Thankfully, I could cover them up with various clothing tricks but at the end of the day I thank God for a husband who saw past all of it and loved me anyway…and doctors that turned it into something beautiful.

woman screamingHormones: Little revealed fact…you are going to be a hormonal wreck after you mastectomy. Removing all that breast tissue along with the physical trauma caused some drastic changes in my body. One of the worst was the hormones. Mood swings, crying for no reason, your monthly cycle getting completely jacked up, weight gain…prepare for it ladies. For me it only lasted three months, and then slowly but surely week by week it improved.

My Skin: Along with the hormones came a bunch of acne on my face, back and chest. Nothing makes a girl feel as fabulous as chopped off boobs and massive pimples on her face (insert super sad emoji here). Also, along with each surgery I had dry peeling skin that lasted several weeks.

My Hair: Anesthesia does a number on your hair and turns it into a brittle dry mess. The trauma of four major surgeries in less than a year means many women have their hair falling out in chunks. For me it resulted in super oily hair at the roots and fried and dried at the ends. Thankfully, my amazing hairdresser gave me a weekly hair mask regimen that kept me from having any falling out issues, and it remained somewhat healthy.

The Funny

No Nerves: No nerves on your chest means you can’t feel anything…If you can think of an awkward moment this could cause, it happened to me. I’ve walked around the grocery store multiple times completely oblivious to my child’s hand cupping my breasts. I’ve had clothing mishaps where body parts are hanging out and I have absolutely no idea. I even had my toddler load my bra with goldfish crackers during mass (watching me dig them out was quite a spectacle I’m sure). Side note that’s not funny: check the way your bras fit because they could be rubbing and can cause severe chafing/bleeding.

balancing cupsNo Vanity: I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned to laugh at myself with this process. Just take a look at this picture where I clearly show that I need to take this show on the road! My friends and The Cowboy and I have had lots of laughs about the funny things that have happened with this surgery. Also, my toddler is constantly touching my boobs and saying “Booboo’s owie?” that’ll take you down a notch or two. The amount of people emailing me about the picture that’s the thumbnail on this post and asking “Which is the before and which is the after?” well…ouch I know I was small breasted before but…?!

Friendships: It’s amazing how this experience resulted in some amazing new friendships (TheSurgeon I’m looking at you girl) and wonderful new memories with old friends. I was blessed to have a multitude of friends that were willing to take the trip to Denver with me when I had appointments and MRI’s. The staff began to refer to them as my entourage. There was laughter and fun and it was more wonderful than I can even say to have these people with me helping me to be strong.

Those of you that have gone through this let me know in the comments if you think I missed something.

If you’re going through this journey or about to start, know that you are #strongenough!


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5 thoughts on "Preventive Mastectomy: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Funny"

  1. Jennie Weeks says:

    Thank you so much for all of your posts and info on your preventative mastectomy. Mine was January 27th and my exchange in Monday, May 11th. I hear you on the weight gain. Ugh!! My weight was fine for the first 6 weeks or so and then quickly without good reason went up 6 pounds and they won’t go away!!! Seven weeks now and I exercise regularly and keep a food log. When did your weights gain occur and did it go away on it own?

    1. Jennie Weeks says:

      Also, what was you favorite bra post exchange?

      Your posts are so relatable and helpful. I have read them several times along my journey. Thanks for sharing to help keep me calm when weird things happen.


      1. Prairie Wife says:

        As far as my favorite bra I didn’t bother investing in anything until 3 months after final surgery (I had fat grafting separate from the exchange surgery). I bought a few soft and comfy (wireless) padded bras from Target to get me by, but mostly wore nothing or a cami. When things had settled after my fat grafting and it was clear I was going to stay a certain size and shape, I went into Nordstrom for a bra fitting and invested in some nice bras that I still use daily years later. They have staff that are specifically trained to help mastectomy and reconstruction patients because our breasts don’t act the same as real ones.

    2. Prairie Wife says:

      Honestly, for me even with running and working out and eating healthfully, it took until about 3 to 4 months after my LAST surgery to get back to normal weight wise. So about a year. Be patient with yourself, follow doctors orders and remember your body has been through a lot, give it time 🙂

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