Poinsettia

My Bilateral Mastectomy – Six Months Later

December has arrived bringing more frigid temperatures, all of the holiday decorations and the making of to do lists that seem to grow longer each day instead of shorter.

This December is unlike any previous one for me for obvious reasons; one being it is now six months since my bilateral mastectomy last June 2. Now six months later, it feels as if I’ve reached some sort of milestone. It is also time to be ridding my body of its rigid “chest plate of armor,” as David likes to call my tissue expanders. Today I will undergo yet another surgery to replace the uncomfortable expanders with new unfamiliar silicone implants.

This “day of implants” takes me back to last spring shortly after my diagnosis. Sitting in a plastic surgeon’s office that day felt surreal. I never imagined myself needing a plastic surgeon. Not me. I would grow older and wiser welcoming (OK, trying to welcome) wrinkles, sagging jowls and everything else gravity seems to eventually take control over. But there David and I sat, once again talking and making decisions about things we never intended to deal with. We passed around sample silicone gel implants as if replacing my real breasts with them was no big deal! I’ll have to post more about that day sometime.

A month or so ago when my plastic surgeon and I were discussing a date for this latest procedure, he threw out a few other days as well as December 2. However the minute I heard he was available on December 2, that’s the day I wanted. It seemed like the “perfect” date to pick, exactly six months to the day, since my bilateral. Somehow the timing felt perfect. It would bring some kind of odd closure to the whole mastectomy ordeal.

When I reflect upon the last six months, I am amazed at what my body has endured. Even more amazing perhaps is how easily both David and I adjusted to the whole mastectomy thing. I guess when you are facing life and death issues, breasts suddenly fall way below life on the importance scale. I say this bluntly in case anyone reading is ever faced with this reality as well. You can survive without your breasts. And now days, the reconstruction process for “new ones” isn’t too horrible. I feel so fortunate because I know so many women who traveled this path before me were not as lucky. They did not have the options I have had offered to me for reconstruction. I am grateful to all of those women for paving the way for me and others. They are my heroines. I will think about them on surgery day and beyond.

That’s not to say this whole process has been easy. It hasn’t been. And today I am having a few doubts, not about the mastectomy, but about the implants. Maybe I should be satisfied to not bother with implants at all. Are the women who opt out of reconstruction of stronger character than me? Maybe I should have researched more about DIEP flap, TRAM flap and other various flap procedures. Maybe I should be putting in smaller implants. Maybe I should be putting in larger ones. Why are silicone implants deemed to be safe now? Weren’t they banned a few years back? And what will I do about nipples and tattoos? Still so many questions and worries, when will it all end?

I also realize these questions and feelings of uncertainty are probably typical and represent a slight case of “cold feet.” Any surgery is a bit scary after all. I need to just get on with it and get this part over with too. It’s one more step on this bumpy journey I am on.

So with that thought, I better get out the door and on my way to surgery!

More upcoming posts on this topic will surely follow.

Have you had surgery of any kind? If you haven’t, what about someone close to you? How did you feel before, during and after?

 

 

34 thoughts on “My Bilateral Mastectomy – Six Months Later

  1. Nancy,

    You are in my thoughts on this day of your surgery. I had a DIEP flap four years ago (in fact, the anniversary date was Dec. 1). I wanted the mastectomy and reconstruction done at the same time after years of living with harsh cancer treatment and false scares.

    The surgery and its recovery were intense, but like you, I was lucky to have choices. I had great plastic surgeons and a wonderful mastectomy specialist.

    I agree that breasts aren’t important when one is facing life and death decisions. However, they became important for me to have. I just didn’t want to wake up from surgery without breasts — after 5 years of false alarms, cancer treatment, etc., I felt I had enough.

    Great, insightful posting, and good luck with surgery!!

    1. Beth, Thank for you comments and thoughts. How was the DIEP flap procedure anyway? I’m happy you are doing so well now, and have a precious daughter too! (I read that somewhere)

    1. Rose Mary, Thanks for returning and for your good wishes. I will continue thinking about you especially during this holiday season as you continue your own journey.

  2. Mine was a debulking surgery for ovarian cancer. Knocked me down hard! But here I am, a year and a half later, feeling well and enjoying every moment of every day.
    Take care, my friend! May you recover quickly and well from your surgery!

    1. WhiteStone, Thank you for being a loyal reader and one to leave comments. I always look forward to your honesty! Thanks for your good wishes as well.

  3. It is amazing what the body can endure isn’t it ? I’m always thinking about that and marveling at the body’s powers to bounce back and heal. Wishing you smooth sailing and all the best on this next step in the marathon.

    1. Anna, Yes it is pretty amazing what the body can endure. You know this all too well. Although, you would think there might be some kind of limit on how much each of us has to take? ha. If only that were true. Thanks for you good wishes.

  4. Hope you are feeling better, and I am glad you have one more step behind you. Now you can relax and enjoy the holidays, right?

    I would like to see a post sometime on the pros and cons of whether or not to do reconstruction surgery.

    1. Lindsay, I’m feeling pretty good today, just soreness on my right side mostly. Yes, I am looking forward to the holidays and another visit from you guys. Excellent idea for a future post. I will do one on that eventually. Thanks for everything you do!!

  5. Nancy, I hope you’re doing well. Happy to be home and done! Congratulations on getting rid of the expanders. I know how annoying they are. Before my mastectomy in June 2009, I had never been in the hospital for any reason, so this sure was a first and I’ve two reconstructive surgeries since. I always get nervous. Here’s the thing: If someone offers you valium, take it. It helps. And when all is said and done, it’s one day at a time until you feel better.

    Hang in there.

    1. Stacey, Yes, I am happy to be done and home. Another piece of this journey over. It does feel better without the expanders already. They sent me home with plenty of drugs! Like always, thanks for reading and for your supportive comments, Stacey.

    1. LaVonne, Thanks for thinking about us. Things are going pretty well here and we are glad to have yet another step behind us. Enjoyed our visit over TG.

  6. Nancy I have read this Post previously and chosen not to comment. Your experience is different to my own and I therefore find it difficult to offer an opinion. What I do love and admire is your total honesty. Thank you for your wisdom and insight.

  7. i will pray for a quick recovery for you. I also had a double masectomy with 19 limpnoyds removed on the right side and yes the painfull tissue expanders i got an infection due to the expanders and had a pick line so I could do I.V.s at home 2 times a day for 50 days .I was lucky enough to catch the infection symptoms right away,it was either take the expanders out and start all over or try I.Vs and hope the infection would go away but no guarantees. it was a long 50 days but im glad I did it that way, the thought of starting with the reconstruction all over was horrifying.I beat the infection and had my surgery on dec.1st to take out the tissue expanders and have my silicone implants put in so im healing now but I already like the implants they feel so natural and look great even though there not healed completely. I am thankful for my surgeon and would like to tell everyone to watch for signs of infection temp over 100,nausia,headache listen to your body if it doesnt feel right you should call your doctor dont wait,if you do you might have to start all over with reconstruction . I am thankful for my husband who called the doctor when I had a temperature of 100 because I would have put it off. Take care and I would like to here how you are doing.

    1. Carla, Thank you for reading and taking time to comment. I had 14 lymph nodes removed, which was a real surprise considering everyone thought they would be clear. The infection you developed sounds nasty. I’m glad your husband was so on top of that. Thanks for reminding everyone to watch for signs of infection and pay attention to their bodies. I guess we are adjusting to our new implants at the same time! Good luck to you, let me know how you are doing as well.

  8. Nancy, like you I had a double mastectomy. But earlier I had had a lumpectomy with radiation. That earlier surgery limited reconstruction on my radiated side (I could no longer have an implant there). My husband and I opted for no reconstructive surgery, but not after much agonizing, reading and visits to surgeons. Women who opt out of reconstruction like me are NOT of stronger character than you. Believe me! I had had my lung punctured when they inserted my catheter port into my neck for infusion of chemo. After that experience I wasn’t too fond of surgery unless it was absolutely necessary. Deciding for or against reconstruction is such a personal decision; no one should push an individual one way or another. I send prayers your way for a great outcome. Take care and be well. Warmest wishes, Jan

    1. Jan, Thanks for returning and leaving a comment. That’s terrible you had a lung punctured when your port was inserted. I remember my surgeon discussing that risk with me, but I didn’t think it actually happened! I don’t blame you for opting out of more surgeries whenever possible. I agree these decisions are extremely personal, as are most tough choices on this cancer journey. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, Jan.

  9. I JUST HAD BILATERAL MASTECTOMY DEC 18 WITH TISSUE EXPANDERS. 2 DRAINS REMOVED ON THE 28TH 2 MORE TO GO ON THE JAN 4TH.HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE BEFORE THE THIGHTNESS GOES AWAY? HOPE YOU ARE DOING WELL.

    1. Tammy, Thank you for reading my blog and commenting as well. I’m glad your surgery is behind you! When the last two drains are removed, you will probably feel much better. As for the tightness, I imagine it is different for everyone, but for me it never completely went away. Your body slowly adjusts to everything over time. I hope you feel stronger and have less pain each day.

  10. I had my bilateral mastectomy on December 15 and just found this blog today. It is great to able to read what other people are experiencing. I have had lots of support from friends but it seems like they don’t really “get it.”It is wonderful to be able to read something written by someone who has been there. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Donna, I am so happy you discovered my blog and have found it somewhat helpful. That is the exact reason I decided to share my “story” on Nancy’s Point, in order to make a difference to others. While getting support from family and friends is invaluable, suppport from others who know what you are going through is like non other. I hope you are feeling stronger each day. Good luck with your healing, Donna.

  11. Hi Nancy, I have 8 days to go until my bilateral masectomy and I have just discovered your blog. I keep hoping this whole experience is a nightmare that I will soon wake up from, but I know in my heart it is not. Reading about this procedure from the view point of someone who has come through the other side is invaluable. Thank you so much for telling your story which in a way is interwoven now with my own. I hope your new additions look amazing and give you much comfort. My surgeon is talking reconstruction work but I have chemo and maybe radiation to go through first. This is one long journey. Much love. Sue

    1. Sue, Reading your comment makes my day. Thank you so much for finding my blog and letting me know about your situation. This is exactly why I write this stuff – to hopefully help others just a bit. It is a long journey for sure. I hope things go as smoothly as possible for you. Please keep me posted.

  12. Hi Nancy and everyone. I just had a double masectomy and tissue expanders inserted at the same time. It’s only been two weeks, the drains have been removed and I am on antibiotics as a precaution to possible infection. I went on a raw food diet adding fish or meat for protein as well as lifted weights to strengthen my arms and chest muscles before my surgery. Thank God. It made a huge difference. I am 65 years old. Does anyone have any idea what is the reasonable time for recovery… with no pain? Has anyone gone into physical therapy?
    Thank you Nancy
    and responding ladies.
    Suzka

    1. Suzka, I’m glad to hear your surgery is behind you and that you are doing well. It’s great you were so physically well prepared. Recovery varies for each individual, so I hesitate to answer your question. I had pain with each subsequent expansion session which usually lasted for a couple of days. I found the “change-out” surgery later on to be less painful. I did have some physical therapy last spring and found it helpful. Getting back to some arm stretching and exercising is important, but you need to follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Be patient with yourself. Recovery will take a while. Good luck with your continued healing and thanks so much for commenting.

  13. I’m just 4 days out of surgery. I had a bilateral mastectomy w expanders done July 25,2012. This is my 3rd bout with cancer. Once at 13, then 33 and now 39. Its been an emotional roller coaster. I’m a strong person, always have been. I’ve been thru a lot, but this is going to be very trying for me. I am not a vain person, but I still can’t muster up the strength to look at myself. I have wonderful family, kids and fiance but its still hard for me. I am a nurse aide and currently in nursing school, so im used to seeing a lot of things but I still can’t handle it. I also know that I am grateful to be alive, but I’m just having a hard time. I know its gonna be a long road ahead of me.

    1. Antoinette, I am so very sorry for all you have had to deal with. I hope you are resting and healing fairly comfortably. It’s no wonder you are on an emotional roller coaster. Who wouldn’t be? What you are going through is really hard and trying. Please be gentle with yourself. I know it’s hard to take that first look at yourself. All I can say is this: when I took that first look, things weren’t nearly as bad as I had imagined they would look. Give yourself time to heal physically and emotionally. Remember you aren’t alone. Thank you so much for finding my blog and taking time and energy to comment. Good luck and please keep us posted.

  14. I just want to thank u Nancy. U were rite. My first look wasnt what I expected. But now all I feel is pressure and tightness. But at least my drains were only in for a week…but as u said I know I must take it day by day.thanks again for responding…

    1. Antoinette, Well, thank YOU for keeping me posted. I am so glad you found that your first look wasn’t as bad as you feared it might be. It’s amazing your drains came out so fast. That’s fabulous! I know about that feeling of pressure and tightness… Take things slowly and remember, as you said, it is day by day. Do stay in touch and keep healing well.

  15. Hi Nancy, Here I am finding your blog on the early morming the day before my bilateral mastectomy. I’ve never felt so scared in my life…I have three small children and I can’t imagine the recovery period with them around. I am trying so hard to be strong for my babies but really just want to crumble …. how long did it take for you to get back to some type if normal? Thank you -Kathleen

    1. Kathleen, Of course, you’re scared. Who wouldn’t be? I won’t tell you any of this will be easy because it won’t be. But you will do what you need to. You can do this and you are not alone. As far as getting back to normal, well, that’s a very individual thing. Not much of an answer I know. Be patient with yourself. There is physical recovery and there is also emotional recovery. I wish you all the best. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *