“This is cruel!”
This was the only real and honest response I could muster when my beautiful family and friends asked me how I was coping after my most recent surgery.
On January 21, 2016 I woke up in my hospital bed, showered, then got wheeled down to the now familiar pre-operating unit at The Mount Hospital.
I met yet another anaesthetist, then surgeon one and surgeon two. This was a biggy! The first surgeon, my breast surgeon who took my first breast last June, did his bit – taking my second breast and leaving the skin so surgeon number two – my reconstructive surgeon – could come in re-build that first side and then insert my air expanders into both sides.
Medically the surgery was a bilateral lat dorsi – essentially they used my back muscles to rebuild my front! This was a lot more traumatic on the right side as it was flat as a tack and needed to be rebuilt from scratch.
I get queasy with a paper cut, so imagine how it felt knowing I’d have a 20cm scar running from around my shoulder blade down to near my hip – and knowing that piece of tissue was removed to help make me a new boob!
It’s almost impossible to put into words how you feel when you look down at your chest and you see your back. Bride of Frankenstein comes to mind!
But you know what, the body is just amazing and mine is rebuilding itself – one post-Cancer part at a time.
Recovery from the surgery was nothing short of cruel as anyone who has had major surgery would know. Three days lying helpless in a bed, unable to move because of the pain that comes when you try to use any of the muscles surgeons have pulled from all parts of your chest! Cathedas, sponge baths, having to call out “Hello” in a meek childlike voice when you can’t reach your nurse call button because you dropped in on the floor – all the joys of post-op.
The nurses were sensational – absolutely nothing short of amazing. They’ve seen it all before and knew when you were ready to get up and moving and weaned off the ‘good drugs’.
After a week in my city-view hospital room (where the timing wasn’t bad because I had a front row seat to the City of Perth Australia Day Skyshow) I headed home.
Tender and tired, the next few weeks were pretty quiet – with a family birthday celebration for our 7-year-old weaved in there on the first weekend after I got home!
A couple of weeks post-surgery and the expansion started. As did pain and total discomfort I’ve never experienced before.
My surgeon used air expanders. Amazing inventions that meant after he expanded them over the first three weeks or so using their remote controls, he gave me the ultimate power and let me take the remotes home. However, when he expanded them he added around 30milograms of air at a time. The next day the pain was quite debilitating – the skin was stretching (especially on the right side where radiation had created a lot of scar tissue and tightness).
Some nights I would just sit on the side of the bed, bemoaning how cruel this process was. Then I would see the doctor who told me to take more painkillers – I had eased off a bit – but got back on them pretty quick and it helped (fancy that)!
Now 11 weeks post-surgery and my expanders are pretty much where they need to be and we’re preparing for the next surgery. That will involve taking out the air expanders and inserting permanent implants. It also involves an oophorectomy (yep, it’s a real word) where my ovaries and tubes will be removed.
I’m only expected to be in hospital overnight.
I’m slowly getting my energy back and have even signed up to a HBF fitness program — time to get moving and stop with the excuses!