Mastectomy Recovery Diary
This will give an overview of what my experience was like. It is important to note that we are all different, so my experience may not look the same as yours.
I came round to a heavy-ish feeling in my chest and feeling very hazy from the anaesthetic. I hadn’t eaten all day, so I had some toast at about 6ish. I slept the evening away. I had three drains in. I did my first wobbly steps around the ward to use the bathroom. Pain-wise, It wasn’t as bad as I expected. I only needed Paracetamol.
I felt more human, still tired but in good spirits. My arms felt restricted, and I also had a wide dressing all around, contributing to that feeling. The breast nurses visited me and wanted to set up appointments for prosthetic boobs, but I told them I didn’t want any. They told me to contact them when I felt ready. I got to go home that afternoon. I used my Jen’s Pillow for a smoother ride home. That night, I had major anxiety about sleeping in my own bed with my drains. I had images of drains tugging at night and blood-soaked sheets. My husband helped me tuck them so I wouldn’t tug at them. They were in my drain bag and then hung on the knob of my bedside table. I slept on two pillows with my “V” pillow on top of that and my Jen’s Friends heart pillows on either side to rest my arms on.
I started my exercises. Just doing shoulder circling & shrugs. This was my first day home alone, and boy, was I nervous. By lunchtime, I had ordered myself a reacher as my arm movement and range were still minimal.
District Nurses finally came by. I had one drain removed, so I was left with 2. I felt better just by the drains being emptied and getting a new dressing.
Another drain came out today. The one remaining had an output of about 45mls, so the district nurse thinks it should be ready by tomorrow. I told her I was willing to be patient. I didn’t want a Seroma forming.
The final drain came out today. I felt so light and free. I still only needed Paracetamol throughout the day.
Huge lesson learnt today. I decided it would be a good idea to go to the county show, but walking from the car park field to the entrance tired me out. I forgot that these shows are all about standing about. I was gutted about missing out, but glad to have made it out. I also got to wear my white Broderie Anglaise top that I previously couldn’t wear as my boobs were too huge for it.
I learnt that my body was not ready for all that agro. I needed to slow my roll!
I still wasn’t ready to drive. There was an awful tugging, pinching sensation when I attempted it. I got myself a bus pass. I used this week to build up stamina again slowly. I started walking a bit more, went to a craft morning with my WI Group, and started doing the school run with the bus.
Day 10 – My Post-Op Appointment
I didn’t see my Surgeon, but the Surgeon who did my initial Wide Excision. He took my dressing off with no time for me to prepare. I didn’t want the first time I saw my chest to be that way. That night, I was so low. I wrote this on my Instagram: “Earlier today, I saw my new chest in a way I really didn’t want to be introduced to it. At my post-op appointment, they removed my dressings my psychological band-aid without much pomp and circumstance. It wasn’t a big deal to them, but it was momentous to me. I looked down, and one word popped into my brain …. FRANKENSTEIN”.
I didn’t like how raised and sewn it looked. It was ugly, and I felt incredibly mutilated. I decided the only way to accept it was to see it as often as possible. So I spent the evening with my chest out, and looking at it in the mirror helped as it didn’t seem so awful from that view.
I drove to Tesco after testing by going around the corner, and all was fine! This felt momentous as it gave me my independence back. The seat belt rubbed at my scar, which made it sore. I also did my first Pilates Class this week. It was great as I felt a bit more like me. I expected to sit out most of the moves but made it through with no pain or discomfort.
I found that my scar stung on days when I did that bit too much. I soon learnt just how much my body could tolerate.
I started back at work by accident. I popped into my office to fulfil an order and realised how much I missed my space. I initially thought I’d have to reopen in the Autumn, but I decided to start now. I had a few orders to do and the end of the school year to contend with. I also celebrated our 10th Wedding Anniversary. I appreciated my journey and the love I had around me!
4 Year Update
June 2023 was four years since my mastectomy, so I felt we needed an update. What has life been like? Well, I had a baby in 2020 – I couldn’t breastfeed her like I did her brothers, so I had a lot of grief to process there. Thanks to The Human Milk Foundation, we were lucky enough to access some donor breastmilk from Hearts Milk Bank. Those charities mean so much to me. As a past breastfeeding peer supporter, I’m a huge advocate and still passionate about it even though I no longer can.
I’ve realised that most people don’t notice I’m flat until I point it out to them, usually in conversation about health, etc. On a day-to-day basis, I do not wear breast forms because I feel better that way, but everyone is different. I have some knitted knockers just in case a dress I like needs it.
I have come to a place of acceptance with my scar. It’s not the prettiest – I have a bit of a keloid scar in places, but it’s part of my journey. Life without a bra is wonderful, and if I had known that before I went through the process, I think I would’ve worried less; but hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it?
I hope this insight into my journey helps if you are facing a Double Mastectomy with no reconstruction. You can be Flat and fabulous.
Lucy Benton is a freelance writer from the U.K. She has a Creative Writing degree from The University of Chichester. She has been published in 2 Mothers’ Milk Anthologies as well as various articles across the web. She lives on the Isle of Wight with her husband, Children & her cat, Charlie. When not writing, She enjoys film, Yoga, the theatre and Landscape Photography which pairs well with her love of walking and being in nature. You can find out more about her on her website lucybentonwrites.com