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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 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’s also time to be ridding my body of its rigid “chest plate of armor,” as Dear Hubby likes to call my tissue expanders. Today I will undergo yet another surgery to replace the uncomfortable expanders with new unfamiliar silicone implants.

Implant Day 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 Dear Hubby and I sat, once again talking about 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. 

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 dates 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 right. It would bring some kind of odd closure.

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 Dear Hubby 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 faced with this reality as well. You can survive without your breasts. I feel 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. 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 scary. I need to just get on with it and get this part over with too. It’s one more step I need to get behind me.

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?

My Bilateral Mastectomy - Six Months Later 

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Kathleen

Tuesday 19th of April 2016

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

Nancy

Tuesday 19th of April 2016

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.

Antoinette vitale

Saturday 4th of August 2012

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...

Nancy

Sunday 5th of August 2012

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.

Antoinette vitale

Monday 30th of July 2012

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.

Nancy

Monday 30th of July 2012

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.

Suzka

Saturday 30th of June 2012

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

Nancy

Monday 2nd of July 2012

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.

Sue

Wednesday 27th of June 2012

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

Nancy

Wednesday 27th of June 2012

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.

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