It’s now two and a half years since my first surgery. Time for an update on my body’s healing process. I feel like long time readers of my blog must be thinking, “Isn’t she over all of that YET?!” Don’t worry, I feel like that too! One day I hope there will be nothing to report on my body front.
One of the main reasons I set up this blog was to share my story with those who may be contemplating, or travelling, a similar path, and to help those around them to understand what it is like to have this surgery. What I’d mainly like people to know (and what I wish I’d known myself!) is that it just takes a really long time to heal. It DOES get better, very slowly but surely. And there are things you can do to ensure you heal as best you can.
For me now, I can still feel the tightness in my torso and my breasts are still completely numb. I’m less conscious of the tightness than I was, and my torso feels less “twisted”, but the tension is still there. In the past month I went to see an osteopath. Osteopaths focus on your internal organs, tissues, bones, nerves and muscles and help ensure that everything is in its right place and working as best it can. He explained to me that much of what I had been thinking of as old scar tissue is not that at all. My scar tissue is healing really well, internally, with the help of the lymphatic drainage massages and acupuncture treatment I had, and externally, with the silicone strips I used back in the early months after surgery. What is causing the feeling of tightness and discomfort is my fascia, which will always be disrupted with any deep abdominal surgery like I have had. He explained that the fascia is mesh of tissue that holds all of your organs in a stocking-like sack. If you cut through it, as happens with this surgery, then it can sort of buckle up in the healing thereafter. The solution is to make sure you are stretching your body and the fascia, to kind of pull out any tangles in it. Each person’s body and reaction to the surgery is different so you need professional help to work out what is best for you. A small thing, but my belly button has been about a centimetre off centre since my surgery and after a few good stretches (the osteopath showed me how) it is now back to almost centre and I don’t have that “twisted” feeling any more. A small triumph and proof that the stretches do work. He told me some people have their belly button half way across to their hips and my issues are only small compared to many post abdominal surgeries he has seen. I am sure he sees the worst of them, but that made me feel better too!
So now I have a series of stretches to do every day, or whenever I remember. I’ve put a note on my fridge and try to remember to do them whenever a make myself a cup of tea. Small things, but it works! And I just feel so much better knowing exactly what it is that is going on in there too.
More good news is that the numb area on my stomach continues to shrink. It is about the size of my open hand now, compared to a small dinner plate size before. The tightness is still there, but at reduced pressure than it was. My breasts are still totally numb but I figure the nerves have a long way to travel in the regrowth from the chest wall to the outer skin, so maybe some feeling will return in years to come. I will keep the faith! I need to do pectoral stretches too, to help that area feel less strained. They don’t feel quite so heavy, which the osteopath explained is because my body and nerves are adjusting to my new breasts and they are slowly incorporating them back into my body.
My breast shape is now, I have to say, quite spectacular! They’re even and full, with the scars slowly fading. Still uncomfortable in anything but a light crop top (wearing nothing or wearing a regular bra, even without underwires, still does not feel comfortable for me), but they are feeling better overall. They look fab, considering what they have been through. Well, I think so anyway – thank you to my surgeon, James!!
All small steps, and all headed in the right direction! So, thirty months on, am I glad I did it?? Of course, anything would be better than having cancer and the dreadful treatment that accompanies it. Am I glad I chose the tissue transplant route, rather than breast implants? Yes, despite the very long, sometimes painful, mostly uncomfortable process. I love that my breasts feel like my own now (from the outside anyway), warm and soft (not cool and firm like they were in the early months or could be with implants). And I’m glad too that I won’t have to have any further breast surgery (as is likely down the track with implants). Nor will I have the fear of breast cancer hanging over me. That’s the best part. I was given an early warning with the discovery of those pre-cancerous cells. I was brave (I am starting to own that for myself now!) and took action. So yes, I’m glad I did it. No one would want to go through it and I understand why others might not. I wish I’d known that it’s just a very long process. There are things you can do to make it heal better and slowly but surely your body does rebuild.
I hope that’s helpful to others facing the same decision making process as I did, or those in earlier stages of post surgery recovery. Keep going, be brave, rest, ask for help, do your best and look after yourself. It all gets better in the end. (Could be a mantra for life really!)
As for the rest of me and my life, well, I’m pretty much following the same process – step away from that which doesn’t work for me, appreciate the good, be brave, do my best, look after myself and trust that it will all work out okay (hopefully even better than okay!) Sometimes it is hard for me to believe that the grief and sorrow will ever end, as the torrent of sadness has been pretty continual for me this past five years. The past eight months have been the worst (and nothing to do with my surgery!) Just writing this post has helped me to see that things do come good. I just have to be patient, do my best and keep the faith.