Two Weeks Post-Op — My DIEP Recovery Essentials

I’ve officially made it to two weeks post-op! Overall I’m feeling good. I still have quite a bit of swelling but it seems to be going down…albeit slowly. My pain is minimal, controlled with regular ol’ Advil a few times per day and I’ve been able to do normal human things like driving (short distances), dressing myself, taking walks around the neighborhood, and preparing some simple meals. And as of today I am cleared to go without my cumbersome abdominal binder! My doc’s office said it’s up to me if I wear anything on my midsection now…but I’m not feeling ready to go without any support so I’m wearing some classic high rise Spanx.

I still get tired out very easily and I’m moving slowly when I’m up and about. My range of motion is pretty good so I can reach overhead without help, but bending over to pick things up is uncomfortable (my toddler has been endlessly amused watching me pick up his toys with my feet). I can’t believe I still have a month before I go back to work! Resting and being sedentary is so far from my norm that I get antsy sometimes, but I try to remind myself that even though I’m feeling good I shouldn’t push it because there’s a lot of internal healing still going on.

Now that I’m (hopefully) through the worst part of recovery I’ve been reflecting on what things have been most essential for me in this healing journey. I know some people reading this blog are preparing for surgery of their own, so I figured I’d share my “Recovery Essentials”. Hopefully it’s helpful to someone out there!

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One Week Post-Op

I’m officially one week (well 1 week + 2 days) post prophylactic double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction and I have 3 pieces of good news to share. First, the pathology report came back from my breast tissue and it’s all clear! Second, I had my post-op appointment with my plastic surgeon yesterday and he is very pleased with how everything is healing. Third, I GOT MY DRAINS REMOVED! Hallelujah!

As I’ve been reflecting on what my healing journey has been like so far I found that things are naturally falling into two categories: things that I expected, and things that have surprised me. So that is how I’ll structure this update.

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Surgery & Post-Op Days 1-3

So it happened.  I did it. Prophylactic double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. I’m home from the hospital and by all measures recovering well…although I’m still terrified of something going wrong. But we’ll get to where I am now…let’s start with a recap.

Surgery day: Woke up at 5am in our Air BnB to drink 16 oz of gatorade and take my pre-op meds. Followed this up with a shower with special antibacterial soap. Then around 5:45am we headed out the door a drove the couple miles to the hospital. I was checked in and promptly whisked into my pre-op room. I first met with a nurse who set me up with an IV port, then checked in with my breast surgeon, met the anesthesiologist, and saw my plastic surgeon and his co-surgeon. After about an hour in the pre-op room it was time to kiss my spouse goodbye and get wheeled off to the operating room.

I saw my surgeons and nurses in the big bright room, and took a moment to access the visualization from the meditation I’d been doing for the last 2 weeks. The anesthesiologist came over, and as my breast surgeon told me a funny story about her daughter’s school picture day I slipped into unconsciousness.

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Ho. Ly. Shit.

We’re really here, aren’t we. My preventive double mastectomy is tomorrow. My bag is packed and in the car. My post-op prescriptions have been filled. My body is marked up with sharpie – a road map of where my surgeons will be making their cuts. I attempted a serious heart to heart talk with my 2 year old this morning about what’s going on to which he replied “Ok….Mommy, did you see that snow fall down?”. So much for that.

Other than tying up a few odds and ends at home — prepping food for my kiddo for the rest of the week, making my post-op clothes easily accessible, filling out the last form or two for my doctors — there’s nothing left to do but wait. Oh, and take my little guy out for a pizza date tonight as promised (if he still wants to after his nap, that is).

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Ode To My Boobs

We haven’t always been best friends, but you are mine, my boobs.

When you first emerged when I was 10 you caused me nothing but embarrassment. I still remember being pulled aside by my 5th grade teacher and given “the talk” about bras. One of my most mortifying moments. I was ashamed of you then, boobs.

Boys in 7th and 8th grade saw you as an invitation. A neon sign inviting touch without consent. They’d “trip” in the hallways, hands positioned just so. I hated you then, boobs, and wanted to hide you under giant tee-shirts and pretend you were not there.

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How Did We Get Here?

How on earth did we get here? “Here” being just 2 weeks away from my mastectomy and reconstruction. My last 2 weeks with my breasts. My last 2 weeks with nipples. My last 2 weeks of weight lifting, sleeping on my side/tummy, rough playing and lifting my child for the next couple of months.

The past couple of months have gone by so quickly. The calendar is inching toward April. It’s time for me to climb out of my hole of denial.

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Breast Reconstruction and the Patriarchy

I’ve been thinking a lot about boobs lately. Obviously. Because I only have 6 weeks left with the ones that have been with me (in some form or another) since around age 10.

20+ years I’ve lived with these boobs…tatas…fun-bags…tits…breasts. And in less than two months they will be unceremoniously severed from my body, because they will likely try to kill me one day.  Then they will be replaced by some excess fat from my abdomen.

But why?

Beyond just thinking a lot about boobs lately, I’ve specifically been thinking about the “why” of breast reconstruction. Why go through more pain and face more risks during surgery? Why do I want non-functional flesh mountains sewn onto my torso? Why bother?

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