I’m just over a week post op after my Bi- lateral mastectomy, and I’m in a lot of different places. First of all, the physical pain is hard to really explain. I have large incisions that cover where my breast’ used to be, and although they look it’s so much pain, they’re numb. Yeah, numb. It’s like if you have ever had a cavity filled, your cheeks and face are numb, yet you can feel them at the same time. Exact same feeling on my chest in the places that just make you cringe thinking of what the pain must feel like. Above and below where my breast’ were, my sternum area, and the sides of my chest all the way to my back following my ribs are in so much pain. It’s a constant pain, sprinkled with very intense shooting muscle spasm pain throughout the day. One of the most painful moments I’ve had to experience since surgery is sneezing. Yes, I know, sneezing. But let me tell you, that sneeze completely took my breath away. I’ve now figured out, when I feel the urge to sneeze I make sure not to look at a bright light, or the sun, plug my nose, tilt my head back, and my husband will say “bless you” and then wah-la! No sneeze! You might want to take out a sticky note out and write that down, title it “Erin’s secret recipe for stopping a sneeze”. Alright, so you all understand a bi lateral mastectomy hurts, lets move on to something new, let’s touch on expectations. Anyone can google “post mastectomy photos” and figure out it’s not the most sexy pot surgery look. I specifically talked to my plastic surgeon about this. His response after a giggle, was, Erin, do not google those images. They are not your body, and you’re not a 50 yr old woman going through this. Of course my breasts were not going to look like they do prior to surgery, but he would do anything he could to give me breasts I would be happy with for the rest of my long life. After all of our friends and family left the night of surgery, and I had come out of the anesthetic a little more, I walked to the bathroom to pee. I did need to pee, but I knew with my heart I was going to look at myself in the mirror. So I did. I pulled up my hospital gown and took a deep breath as silent tears fell down my cheeks and my whole body began to shake. I let down the left side of my hospital gown so with my hand free I could touch where my right breast used to be. They were gone. My breasts were done. Everything was gone. The skin left from surgery, and the scars were all that was left. I felt nauseas, and started to breath quick. Took a deep breath, got myself back together, and walked back to my hospital bed. It’s gone! The cancer that was in my breast is gone! As much breast tissue as possible has been removed to prevent reoccurrence in the future, and another big step on our list is done! But, as happy as I am, at this exact moment I am terrified and heart broken. I had no idea what my body was going to look like post surgery, I had convinced myself that since I had expanders placed I would come out of surgery fully expanded with a few incisions and no nipples. I do know that was a ridiculous thought, and I was fully aware of what delayed reconstruction post op photos look like, but I’m 29 yrs old, and having expanders placed at the time of mastectomy. Big, scary, emotional wake up call while I looked at myself in the mirror. My feelings around this are changing often. There are moments I feel like I look like a monster, and at the exact same time those tears fall down my face, they are stopped on their journey to my chin by a very proud smile. A smile because I am a fighter, a survivor, and I’m unique. Forever memories I will always carry with me. Moving on to relationships. I’m not going to talk about my marriage again, because we all know it will turn into a Nicholas Sparks book. So, here’s the thing, friendships, and relationships with family change. That’s just a fact. Some for the better, and some not. That’s a pain I don’t think anyone is aware comes with a cancer diagnosis, and it’s a pain I wish didn’t. I’m figuring out that some people genuinely do not know what to do or say for fear of doing something wrong, so they just don’t. Others are “friends” that are accountable for a good time, laughs, and all the easy stuff, but can’t or don’t want to be invested in a true friendship for the other stuff, the hard stuff too. There are also the people from your past that you haven’t spoke to in a while, or new people you’ve never known that step up and support you more than you imagined they would. Have you heard the line in a Garth Brooks song that says ” some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”? I have in so many ways learned this is true throughout my life and this is another one of those times. I’ve been on my knees, or in my husbands arms in tears praying that the friends and family who have fallen away would come back, and that the mean things people have done or said would just go away. Those prayers weren’t answered. But, they were. I just didn’t know yet. Or I still don’t know they’ve been answered yet. So many of the things we pray for, because we think we need something, or we think we know what’s best for us, are not what God has planned. It would be easy to be angry with God, for letting me get cancer, or all of the prayers left unanswered, but now is when I need to be thankful, and quiet. I need to sit back quietly and wait and listen. If I don’t it will be easy to miss my “why”.
One thought on “One week post op”
Erin I know you are tired and have great pain, but your words help so many women know they are not alone–thank you for your wisdom and strength
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