Five Days After my Double Mastectomy…

It’s Monday morning, the fifth day post-op. And I guess it’s time I give you a little update. I have done nothing but eat, sleep, read, watch shows, be pampered by friends and family, and take pain meds on schedule. (He makes me lie down in green pastures…)

The pain is dissipating now, but has been a bit worse than I expected. I have had other major surgeries, including three C-sections, but this was a completely different kind of pain (burning, searing, squeezing, cutting), and without the beautiful bonus of a healthy baby to cuddle with and coo at, and all those feel-good postnatal hormones that come along with giving birth. This pain is very localized, though I’m sure it feels different for everyone. Some women have told me it wasn’t painful at all. I think it’s the tissue expanders that are most uncomfortable for me. Let me try to give you an idea of what it feels like…

You know those ridiculously impractical little coconut bikini tops…
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that people bring you back as a souvenir from Hawaii? The bra cups are made from the two halves of a hardened brown coconut shell and they’re tied together with a string? It looks really cute above a grass hula skirt with a colorful lei swaying gently as the hula girl twists and turns gracefully to island music. But not so cute on a regular person, especially one with large breasts. Although I do actually own at least one, I have never actually worn it.

So what exactly does this have to do with a double mastectomy, you wonder?

Well, I feel like while I was asleep, under general anesthesia, my surgeons cut out all that soft breast tissue, as well as much of the skin and other breast parts that encased it, pulled me open and smashed a coconut bikini right into my ribs and chest muscles, strapped it on super tight, and then shrink-wrapped my remaining skin around the whole thing, resulting in the super-sexy look of two tightly-packed mottled round discs where my once voluptuous breasts were, surgical tape covering each of the vertical scars where there used to be nipples. I could feel the hard rim of the coconut bikini cutting into me when I changed position or took a deep breath. Or so that’s how it felt.

In reality, the plastic surgeon placed two breast tissue expanders into the now-empty space. Though they are indeed made from a harder substance than the saline implants that will eventually be in there, I know they aren’t actually as hard as the coconut shells they feel like.

A few people have asked why I need expanders in the first place…

since my natural (big boobs) breast tissue should have taken up plenty of space! But apparently this has nothing to do with the size of my natural breasts. The plastic surgeon said I am very “thin-skinned” meaning once they took out the mammary glands/breast tissue, there’s not much of a fat layer under my skin. It’s nice to know I am skinny somewhere since I’m generally pretty padded. But I guess this means we have to proceed slowly and carefully with the reconstruction process.

It has crossed my mind that maybe it would be better to just stay flat and natural…

but I don’t think that’s the right option for me personally. Even though they’ve done their job and I don’t really need them, women’s clothes are designed for curves

I do feel much, much better today. Like either the coconut bikini has loosened up just a little, the raw flesh underneath is starting to heal, or the expanders (and the meds) are doing their job.

Also, the best news of all is that all the pathology came back and there was no additional cancer besides the one they already knew about. This means no chemo, no radiation and no estrogen-blocking pills that would have brought on early menopause. This is very, very good. Now I’m off to take a nap. More later.

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