So I don’t really remember waking up from my mastectomy surgery. The first thing I remember is looking down at my bound chest with these little mounds. I had to keep them bound for a week until my first appointment my plastic surgeon. I also had four gross drains pinned to my compression bra. They looked like little grenades that filled up with blood and mucous from my surgery site. And I had to dump and measure the content throughout the day.
At my first appointment with Dr. Kulkharni, my plastic surgeon, I was thrilled to have two of my drains removed. My dear friend, Amy L., drove me to my appointments. When they remove your drains, they literally just pull the tubes out of your body. It doesn’t hurt but it is really bizarre to see these tubes just coming and coming and coming. They can sure fit a lot in there! This was also the first time I was able to see what had been hidden under my compression bra.
There it was. These oddly shaped things that were supposed to resemble breasts. Incisions halved what once were my breasts while holding the remaining skin together. I was actually surprised by my lack of concern of what I saw before me. The phrase “I am a work in progress” was something I had begun repeating to myself post chemo.
At the time of my mastectomy, my plastic surgeon was there to immediately begin reconstruction. That’s why when I came out of surgery I was not completely flat. She placed an expander in each breast and filled each with about 300cc of saline. Each week I would need to come to her office for a pump up of 100cc of saline.
At the second appointment, my other two drains were finally removed! They are the worst part! They are awkward and anything you wear looks bumpy and are just generally gross. Having all of my drains removed meant I was also allowed to drive again!
So each week was further progress in my healing. Each week I would be pumped up with my 100cc and given valium to help ease the pain of my body having to make new skin as we created space for my new breasts. It hurt to be hugged. And the shape was awkward. They kept filling into my armpits and were pretty much flat across the front. On the upside, I haven’t worn a bra in weeks!
I’ve completed my saline fills and am happy with the estimated size I will be when I have my actual implants exchanged in November. But why share these photos? It’s not about you. It’s about sharing the unpretty side of what cancer has done to my body. It’s about normalizing it for other men and women who may someday find themselves in the same situation and it helps to know what to expect physically. Cancer sucks, ya’ll. But I will continue to be a work of progress. And for those of you who have to do this, I’m so sorry. But I promise you can do this. Be patient. Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. Let others love you. You are simply a work in progress.
Much love to you all. I am so thankful to be able to share this journey with you.