On Thursday, I was ‘released’ from hospital. I’d been in for 4 days and by then I felt very anxious to get home. Like I would walk in the door and magically start to feel better… That didn’t happen. What did happen, was a big dose of the reality of what I’ve just gone through. In my last post, I mentioned ‘the operation’ but didn’t go into details of what that entailed.
I had a prophylactic (risk reducing) mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. The mastectomy was done horizontally through the middle of my breast. As my cancer was ductal in origin, it was decided that the surgery would remove my nipple completely (this can be reconstructed at a later date if I choose to) as this would be the highest risk area for a new primary tumour. Once all of the breast tissue was removed, an implant was placed in under the chest muscle and then stitched into place using a synthetic stratice. A drain was inserted under the wound which allows excess fluid, tissue and blood to be pulled away from the wound site by a small vacuum to decrease the chance of any post op complications.
This is the same surgery I had on my ‘bad’ side just after diagnosis but unfortunately, the chemo meant my ability to heal was seriously compromised and, after several attempts to save it, my implant had to be removed. Couple this with the damage caused by radiotherapy and you’re left with one seriously knackered boob. The next option for me is to have this reconstructed using donor skin, tissue and blood vessels from another part of my body, most likely my back. This is the next conversation I’ll be having with my surgeon once he’s happy I’m healing from this operation. I might give us both a bit of a rest for a few weeks before I start hounding him to put another date in his diary though.
So, physically that is what I’ve been through. Mentally, it’s been even tougher. On the days running up to the operation, I suffered from a couple of extremely frightening panic attacks. The fear and uncertainty of more surgery as well as the flood of bad memories was consuming. I try to be a generally positive person but the truth is, this is an awful thing to go through. It’s extremely painful and limiting and, having been through it previously, no amount of being told “you’ll be fine” did anything to lessen that fear. Actually, it just kind of annoyed me. I understand it’s in our nature to try to make people feel better, but sometimes it’s more helpful to just acknowledge that it’s a shit situation and offer to listen. If in doubt, ask. I’ll never be offended by someone showing an interest. If that interest is followed up with cake: even better!
The recovery from this operation is likely to take several months. At the moment, I’m taking lots of painkillers and resting as much as possible. The physical trauma means that my body is working extra hard to mend itself so I’m very tired and sleeping lots. This is good because I’m not very good at doing nothing. I’ve already pushed myself a bit further than I really should and been told off for it by a few friends and by my infuriatingly always bloody right, mum.
Mum, I’m listening to you. If you need me, I’ll be on my couch, doing NOTHING. Well, maybe eating that cake I mentioned.