Sunday, 4 March 2012

Recovering - Reconstruction tips part 1

I am recovering from my surgery on Feb 21st.  I was finally able to get my reconstruction process started.  I found it amusing that the surgery was exactly one year and one week after my original mastectomy.  For those that do not know, I had the second breast removed (my choice) and opted for implant expanders to be placed in both sides of my chest.

They put 180cc of fluid in each of the expanders, I looked like I had A cup breasts for the first few days.  That was the most cleavage I've had in over a year lol.  Since I did have a mastectomy on the left side, however, it started to fill the new void with fluid (seroma), causing the new mastectomy side to fill out to about a D/DD cup over only a couple days.  This is not fluid in the expander, just in the area that used to have breast tissue.  Over time my body should re-absorb it and be only the size of the expander, once more.  There was some increase in size on the right side (the side that had cancer last year).  I looked like I had a full B cup on that side.  This is good news as I see it.  The skin looks like it could easily hold a B cup and I hope to get somewhere close to an oversized C cup or perhaps a D cup.  (Remember, I was once a DD cup).

The issue is that since I was forced into radiation treatments, my skin and the surrounding area may not stretch properly.  I'm discovering that for most that it does not work with the implant expander starts moving up the chest wall, not pushing out properly because of the lack of elasticity in the skin.  For some people it works, others it does not.

A couple of tips I would like to pass on to those that may just be entering their journey with cancer and hope for reconstruction someday:

1. Sign up for reconstruction the second you discuss surgeries, whether it's mastectomy or lumpectomy.  It is better to sign up and after a while decide to not get it than to decide to get it after a couple months/years of deliberating and now need to wait several more years for your consult.

2. Research all the reconstruction techniques that your surgeons can perform.  Some can do the more extensive surgeries like DIEP and TRAM, even the GAP.  But most every reconstruction surgeon can do the implants/expanders.  Talk with them about what you want and what they recommend.

3. Even if your surgeon says their opinion is that a surgery you prefer may not work, discuss the chances of it working.  If the failure still gives you options afterwards, do what you are comfortable with.  Remember 1% chance is greater than 0%!!

4. If you happen to get expanders and the optional mastectomy like I did, make sure you keep a close eye on your bandaging.  If it starts to loosen, and for some reason nurses seem to forget how to secure dressing around a chest sudden (because they can...), get some help to tighten it up.  A loose dressing can cause the pain to increase exponentially.  Ask for more tape to take home so you can secure it again if it loosens too early.

5. Be prepared to ask for help.  It's hard.  I hate it.  But you need to let your body focus on healing.  Ask your caregiver (husband, friend, family member) to get you things, like that cup of tea that you want, to answer the phone for you, to help you lift yourself from the awkward chair.  You do need to get back into routines, but there's no harm in asking for help in the first few days/weeks.  Just make sure you are trying to be as active as your body will permit.  If your body is limiting some areas, work on your stretches and make small goals that are realistic.  *Do not push yourself too far too early*

That's it for now.  I labeled this "part 1" because I know there will be more. :)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this. I fully understand. I had a mastectomy of my left breast on Feb 3/12 and opted for immediate reconstruction. I was also a DD chest and currently have about an A on my left and my original DD on the right. I have had some hurdles with my reconstruction including a seroma that began leaking terribly when I popped a stitch (I had been stomach sick for a week and the vomiting wrenched my chest terribly). My surgeon also opted to change out my expander for a narrower one, because of the popped stitch refused to heal (even after being stitched again), and it had a nasty corner that looked as though it might come through my skin. The skin is too precious to waste after such a surgery, so it was definitely the way to go. I've been so much more comfortable after my second expander. I still haven't begun the actual expansion process though, and I'm so anxious for it to begin. I want so much to be as close to the same girl I was before that sometimes I get nervous about how the final outcome is going to be. I guess that's just human nature though. So is asking for help, especially when you aren't used to it. I'm a fairly independent person by nature, so having to depend on others has been very hard. Now my support system has been incredible and I couldn't as for better. Its still difficult however, but it is an important tip. That and to listen to your body. It knows what it can and can't handle.

    :) Kelli