I thought I would write this post on my own surgery and my experience with my mastectomy. It’s not a post I thought I would write but I feel it’s a post that could be helpful to others and something that I would like to share too. It’s a long one so grab a cuppa, make yourself comfy and enjoy reading 🙂
I never imagined myself sitting in a consultation room with a Specialist Nurse and a Breast Surgeon/Consultant discussing options for a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. It’s not a situation we ever expect to find ourselves in, unfortunately, that’s life. Expect the unexpected.
After doing a lot of research over a couple of months I made a final decision to have a bilateral mastectomy and I am thrilled that I did. In the build up to my surgery I wasn’t nervous about it, I was more anxious, but anxious to get it done and over it, not anxious in a bad way.
Choosing to have a bilateral mastectomy was not an easy or quick decision. It was something I put a lot of thought into over the course of a few months and I had spoken with my Clinical Nurse Specialist and Breast Surgeon/Consultant multiple times before my surgery to ensure I had all the information I needed, I was able to ask all the questions I needed to ask and that is hugely important. I needed that because I needed to ensure that I was making the right decision for me. As well as a bilateral mastectomy; I also had some of my Lymph Nodes removed.
Any major operation is a scary thing to face and to go through, especially something like a mastectomy where you will look and feel different afterwards.
I recently underwent surgery for my breast cancer. I had a bilateral mastectomy. Although I had cancer in only one of my breasts, I felt that for me, personally, a bilateral mastectomy was the best choice, for a couple of different reasons including the impact that having a single mastectomy could (and most likely, would) have had on my mental health in the future.
I will be undergoing reconstruction surgery in the future and I felt that if I had a single mastectomy then I would have two different breasts, they would look different, feel different, be different shapes and I didn’t want that. I want both breasts to be the same, in every way, where possible. I want symmetry with both my breasts which I would not have with one natural breast and one reconstructed breast.
Obviously I knew that after my surgery I wouldn’t have any breasts, instead, I would have two scars and despite preparing myself for it, it was still quite a shock when I saw myself post-surgery.
No matter how much research you do, how many questions you ask, how much information you gather, nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you for the shock you get seeing yourself post-surgery.
When I first saw myself I was like “wow, I literally have no breasts”, now, not having breasts isn’t a major deal for me because I knew I wanted them gone, I wanted a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, so while having no breasts was a shock, it’s something that I was able to quickly accept and deal with and I now look forward to having my reconstructive surgery in the future.
Obviously having no breasts and just two scars is weird and sometimes when I see myself after a shower I think “oh god” but then, I think, what tried to kill me is gone, so while I look different and feel different, I’m also happier because my cancer is gone.
It does look strange when I put on my pyjamas and don’t have bra on and my chest is entirely flat, there is nothing to it obviously, no shape nothing. That is strange but it doesn’t bother me weirdly enough. It doesn’t upset me; it hasn’t affected my confidence or self-esteem in anyway luckily.
Because you will look different post-surgery it is important not to dwell on it too much, although it is not easy to do, it is important not to allow it to consume your thoughts, especially negatively and bring your self-confidence and self-esteem down. That is easier said than done.
I have two temporary mastectomy bras that I was given after surgery and they look great under clothing, the only thing I have found is because are similar in size to crop tops I find I have to dress around them, so I need to wear a high-neck tops/dresses as anything that is midway between my neck and décolletage is even too low for the bras, so high necked tops/dresses are the way to go.
In saying that there are days I don’t wear my bras because I find them very warm and I find I get too warm when I wear them as the material is quite thick and heavy so on the days I don’t wear them I quite enjoy being bra-free. Ladies, you know the comfort of it. 😛
I would have preferred to not have needed surgery, obviously, that goes without saying, but I did and it was the one thing that took my cancer away from me, chemo helped, of course it did, but it didn’t cure my cancer, it was never going to cure my cancer.
Chemotherapy helped to reduce the size of my tumour, surgery is what was going to and did cure my cancer and for that, I am very grateful. I can’t put into words how I felt hearing that the thing that tried to kill me was gone and hopefully gone for good.
The morning after my surgery my surgeon came to see me and told me he was confident they had gotten everything, but he couldn’t guarantee it obviously, so I will be having another scan to show up anything nasty in my body, so hopefully that will show there are no other cancer cells within my body.
The operation itself took about two to two and a half hours or thereabouts. I arrived to hospital at the crack of dawn on the morning of my surgery and checked in, I then went to the ward for elective surgery and went through all the usual checks and questions with doctors and nurses and then I waited to be called to theatre. I was waiting a few hours, but it honestly felt like a lot longer. I think because I knew it was happening that day and I just wanted to get in and get it done with.
Finally, that afternoon theatre called for me and I was taken down, when I was in the waiting area it suddenly hit me that it was real, I was going for surgery now, there was no more waiting, no more pre-op appointments or talks or research, it was here and now.
That was a scary feeling knowing that in just a few minutes I would be on an operating table and my surgeon/consultant would be removing what tried to kill me. Even now, almost a month post-op and I still get the shudders when I think of how I felt at that time.
I woke up after surgery absolutely dying of thirst. I had to fast from the night before so no food or drink until after surgery. I think I drank two full jugs of water I was so parched. 🙈
I stayed in hospital for four nights in total. I wasn’t in too much pain or discomfort thankfully. I had three drains post-surgery for my wounds and I found them to be the most awkward because I nervous that I would pull on them or the tubes or lie on them or something while sleeping that would cause issues, but thankfully that didn’t happen.
Recovery wise, I have been doing great, I’m healing well thankfully and I am (hopefully) cancer free, although, I am not finished treatment just yet. I have three more hurdles treatment wise so I hope to be finished all treatment by next year as planned and then hopefully I will be able to move on to the next chapter in my life and put cancer behind me.
While I am cancer-free currently, I am not finished treatment. I will be undergoing radiation therapy, reconstructive surgery and also taking part in the Penelope B trial so my treatment will continue until Autumn 2018, a long time, but for me, it is the best thing to help prevent my cancer coming back, although it isn’t a guarantee my cancer won’t come back, nothing could guarantee that, but it is an extra step that will hopefully help to prevent my cancer recurring.