Girl talk (aka “how my body is healing up”)

"Femininity" by Martha 2004

“Femininity” by Martha 2004

This post is mainly for us women, especially those who have had, or who are contemplating having a similar surgery to mine. I don’t mind at all if you men read it, but I’m just alerting you that this is the “Sarah’s bosoms” update for anyone who is interested. It’s light weight but I don’t want anyone thinking “Whoa! Too much information!” And no, there are no photos of my breasts! I’m happy for anyone and everyone to read if interested, just giving you the heads up on what is to follow!

Anyway, two and a bit weeks after my surgery, here’s how my body is going …

The main thing I am is tired. I’m sleeping really heavily at night (with the aid of trusty Mogadon) – about 9 or 10 hours, and am propped up with extra pillows beneath my knees and under my head. Those drugs just knock me out so I wake feeling like I haven’t moved a muscle all night (Which is a good thing. Don’t want to roll over onto anything painful in the night!) And then I have at least one nap of a few hours during the day. All good healing stuff.

I’ve been sent home with nine different medications to be taken daily – pain relief in varying strengths, sleeping pills, antibiotics, keeping the intestine moving along pills, vitamin C for healing, iron to improve my strength, etc. I’ve had to make myself a chart so as I can remember and mark off what to take and when! The main thing is to keep the pain relief steady. Every few hours I take something for that, as soon as I feel any little twinge. If the pain gets a grip it is REALLY intense, so I am careful to keep that at bay.

My breasts and stomach are still a bit swollen. But James (doc) says that the bulk of the swelling has passed, so I should have a good idea now for what my body is going to look like. If that is the case then I am quite happy! My bosoms are multi coloured with bruises so we have yellow, green and purple going on there. But the shape of them is good! They look natural. A bit dimpled in places, but on the whole, they look like a real woman’s breasts are meant to look. They are also totally numb. When I touch them it is like touching your cheek when you have had your mouth numbed at the dentist. You know it is there, but you can’t feel any touch. I can feel the weight of them on my body, but I can’t really feel it when I touch them at all. A bit the same in areas on my stomach. (Comes in handy when I have my dressings changed by the community nurse, every second day!) As I understand it, some sensation will come back. Time will tell how much.

I still have bandages across my nipples, on my belly button and across my stomach, where I have a long scar that runs from hip to hip. The stomach scar still has steri-strips on it, but from what I can see (and from what James tells me), it is healing up well. I really do NOT like looking at scars or blood or anything like that (I am sure that’s a hangover from cutting my right foot almost completely off when I was seven!) but when I have a quick scan it looks all okay to me. I am not looking forward to when the bandages come off in a few weeks (because of my scar phobia!) but I’m confident the longer term outcome is going to be good.

Here’s a diagram of where all the incisions and scars are (I mocked it up myself so it’s not 100% accurate, but it gives you the general idea). Seems to me that the scars receiving the most attention and care are the ones on my breasts. We had a little scare earlier this week that the right breast scar had opened up again and might require further surgery (horrors!) but James has had a look and assures me all is well.

BLOG scarsMy belly button is new! After they remove the abdominal tissue and then pull down the skin to meet the bikini line, they cut a hole in the skin to let my belly button pop through again, and re-stitch it in place. I think that’s going okay. Don’t want to look yet!

The little scars at underarm and groin are just where the drains were and have almost healed up completely now. Also, I had a HUGE stroke of luck with my sentinel nodes – in 99% of women, the breasts drain into the lymph nodes under your arm, and that is what they remove to do the biopsy during surgery. This usually leaves a very uncomfortable wound under the arm, and means that most women are unable to lift their arms above their head or behind their back post surgery. (Quite debilitating and really inconvenient if you want to do even little things like brush your hair or do up your bra!). But I am a lucky one in one hundred women whose sentinel node was at the centre of my chest, between my breasts. I think this made it harder to remove (thank you Warren, my breast surgeon for doing a lovely job there!) but it makes my recovery so much better than it might otherwise have been. I still am unable to lift anything much really, because my core strength is low, but at least I can shower myself, and wash my own hair. Hooray for every positive thing!

So that’s what the body looks and feels like two weeks post surgery. I also have multitudes of bruises on my thighs, the size of 20c pieces, from all of the blood thinning injections they give you in hospital. Thank god they are finished! And I did have a lot of heavy bruising from wherever the drips were during and post surgery on my forearms and ankles, but they are all healed up now too. Hooray for the human body and modern medicine!

As for my posture, because of the abdominal surgery, it is a bit scary when you first start to stand up because you feel like you might be straining your stitches. But, with the help of the physio in hospital, you don’t. I feel like I am almost standing up straight properly again, just moving very slowly. I have to wear a “binder” which is like an extra wide stretchy bandage around my middle, from under my breasts down to my hips, as well as a mastectomy bra, all of the time , only taking them off to shower. I was a bit scared of the idea of having to wear a mastectomy bra, but it’s just a very simple, very comfy soft cotton bra. Not sexy but it does the job!

BLOG bra

In myself, I am VERY happy with progress to date. It is slow going, but I am finding I am quite liking going gently and enjoying the peace and quiet. So many of the things I was terrified about have not been nearly so bad as I had worried about. (And some things have been worse! But I’m not going to dwell on those.) It has been no picnic, but it is worth it. And who can complain about an enforced three month rest in sunny Sydney? Not me!

Thanks for your ongoing care and interest – and I hope this post helps even a few women to understand a little better this process if they, or someone they know, are contemplating doing the same. It IS hard, but it is SO worth it!

All is well.



6 responses to “Girl talk (aka “how my body is healing up”)

  1. LOVE that painting by Martha. So glad you have your belly button back (isn’t that funny how attached we are to our own belly button – or is it just me?) Wish no one had to know the phrase ‘sentinel lymph node” and be assured, a lot of women wear a ‘binder’ but these day’s they’re called shape wear. Enjoy Nap time. xxx


  2. JLB

    Reads like good, useful objective stuff. Well done. I hope that the feeling comes back. Love


  3. Megan

    Glad to hear that the healing is going well …and good news that your sentinel nodes were well placed. You will be able to hang the washing out all that much sooner 🙂 Also pleased you are enjoying the slower paced, restful time and are able to have a good night’s sleep.

    And that the horrors you had feared turned out to be less scary than you’d expected – an apt post for Friday 13th!

    Are you open for texts and/or emails and/or phone calls yet? Or still preferring a quiet, healing zen time at present? xxm


    • Yes hooray for the healing. Am happy for all positive messages whatever the medium. Just please don’t expect quick replies! And have very little energy for phone conversations. Am moving very much in slow motion and sleeping lots in the day too, so there’s not much time for anything other than looking after me. Selfish, but necessary! xo


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