A breast surgery journey
Pre-surgery through recovery
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This photo shows me post-excisional biopsy (basically, a lumpectomy). I had more bruising and swelling with this excisional biopsy than with others in the past, but a large tumor (4 cm) was removed. A remaining 1.1 cm of tumor was removed with the mastectomy two weeks later.
Immediately following my bilateral mastectomy, I came home from the hospital wearing a tight compression bra which I only tolerated for a day.
I then switched to the softer mastectomy camisole, which was more comfortable.
These were my drain tubes, which I pinned to the bottom of my bra and later to the camisole.
This photo shows day three following my bilateral mastectomy. The tiny tubes at the top of my chest are a pain management system the hospital sent me home with. I had to wear a fanny pack that contained a large bulb full of anesthetic liquid. This medicine was sent through the tiny tubes to bathe both sides of my chest with the anesthetic. It worked great! I had to pull the tubes out myself on the third day and noticed a difference in my pain level the next few days, but the pain was still pretty minimal overall. Narcotics make me nauseous, so I stuck with ibuprofen and that worked pretty well for me.
This photo was taken on day four, after I pulled the pain management tubes out. The medication only lasts for three days, so once it's empty there is no more reason to keep the tiny tubes in. I still had the major drains on each side, though. I think those finally came out on day nine. I did not have to pull those myself, thank goodness! It really surprised me how much tubing was actually wrapped around the old breast area—they just kept pulling and more tubing kept coming out.
The following three photos were taken three weeks after my bilateral mastectomy and one day after my first chemo session. The scar on my right side is higher than the left because the surgeon wanted to cut out my old lumpectomy scar from a ductal cancer that was treated in 2000. I would have preferred the scars be evenly matched, but in the big picture it really doesn't matter that much to me. The small bruise under my left scar is from a needle aspiration of fluid due to a small seroma, which the doctor wanted to drain before I started chemo.
This photo is of my left side and armpit. The small scar in the armpit is from the axillary dissection. I had all three levels of nodes removed, 23 total and all of them positive. I have since developed lymphedema on that side. The small dark scar below the incision is where the drain tube had been. I had not started shaving yet on the left side.
This photo is the right side and armpit. I had a sentinel node biopsy done there in 2000 with just six nodes removed. I have been lucky so far not to have developed lymphedema in that arm, since that is the one we used this time around for my chemo and blood draws. I try to take good care of it and know that if my cancer comes back I will have to get a port.
This shows my chest 27 months post-bilateral mastectomy. My scars have healed up well. I had a brief scare with a small lump over my right incision line, but it turned out to be old scar tissue and a bit of suture. So, I gained one more new scar on my chest.
I have chosen to go flat and that has been very freeing. I know it is a personal choice, but it was the right one for me.