Two months ago today I was sliced open on a table in Greenwich, CT. Five pounds of breast tissue was removed from my body and it was replaced with five pounds of flesh from my belly. Arteries were reconnected, blood began to flow to the new mounds on my chest, and I was stitched and glued and stapled back together. It still sounds like science fiction to me. But here I am. Sitting in my office at work, the scars (physical and emotional) largely invisible to everyone I come across.
Sometime in the past month the great relief I felt about getting through the surgery with a clean pathology report and surviving those first few weeks of recovery has morphed into sadness and frustration. I’ve gotten stuck at feeling about 85% back to normal for the past few weeks…which I know is not bad…but it’s also not great. What’s most frustrating is that after making leaps and bounds in my recovery early on, things really feel like they’ve stalled and stagnated. Actually I feel like I’m taking little baby steps in the wrong direction.
Swelling is currently a top recovery concern. It seems like anything and everything I do (aside from laying perfectly still wearing a compression garment) results in epic swelling to my upper belly. Walk a few miles? Swelling. Go without Spanx for a day? Swelling. Step outside into the heat? Swelling. Eat ANYTHING? Swelling. Wear something that rubs on my incision (aka anything other than a flowy dress) SWELLING SWELLING SWELLING. And it’s not just a vanity thing (although I could stand to go a day without looking pregnant), it’s really freaking uncomfortable! It feels like being squeezed into a pair of jeans 2 sizes to small…you know…like when you know you’re going to take the jeans off and see the indentation from the button temporarily branded into your flesh? Except there’s no unzipping this feeling and slipping into something more comfortable. I’m super grateful to have literally zero pain at this point, but being in a constant state of discomfort like this really starts to wear on a person after a few weeks!
My other major concern are the couple super hard lumps I have…one in each boob (foob? bloob?). I asked my doc about them in the first couple weeks after surgery and he said they were probably just areas of swelling. Well, at 8 weeks post-op, the rest of my swelling is gone, but these 2 rock hard lumps remain. They are on the upper, outer side of each boob/foob/bloob (I’ve really gotta choose something to call these)…right where the tubing from my drains ran. It seems likely that they are scar tissue. Or maybe fat necrosis. Whatever they are, they are tender to the touch and prevent my new pair from feeling natural to me. I’m seeing my surgeon for our first follow up since 9 days post-op later this week…and assessing these lumps is going to be a major goal of that meeting for me.
Another (purely aesthetic) concern I’ll be bringing up to my doctor this week is how crazy flat my boobs are in the front. When I look at my body in profile they almost look like some sort of citrus fruit cut in half…round top, then flat, then round bottom. From a front view, however, they look beautifully round (just like a grapefruit cut in half would). This is only something that bothers me when I’m naked or not wearing a bra. Thankfully once I put a bra on they seem like a normal shape. I’m guessing this deformity is a side effect of having patches of belly skin where my nipples use to be. And I doubt there’s anything that could be done about this without further surgical intervention. I’m not sure if I’m willing to consider more surgery at the moment but I’ll definitely see what my doc has to say about it and what he recommends.
Something else to add to the list? On Friday night…totally out of nowhere…a tiny little hole opened up in my belly incision. I’d done a strength workout and 30 mins of yoga a couple hours before I noticed the hole, so I’m wondering if too much stretching/twisting/exerting had something to do with it. Or it could have just been random. Either way it totally bums me out. I’m keeping it covered with a little band aid right now (it’s oozing a bit) and dialing back my workouts until I hear from my doc about what to do. I’m hoping that’s the first and only wound healing issue I encounter.
To sum it all up…I’m frustrated. I’m tired of not feeling quite like myself and not looking quite like myself. I knew that this surgery was going to be a doozy to recover from, but the initial weeks were just so much less painful and easier to navigate than I imagined they would be that I think I got my hopes up too high.
So now I’m trying to balance honoring my feelings of frustration without dwelling in them. I’m trying to accept where I am in this healing process and think about what the best path forward for me will be. While there are a lot of things bugging me right now, I’m still happy with my decision to have a preventative mastectomy and do DIEP Flap reconstruction and believe it was the best choice for me.
That being said…if anyone has any magical remedies for swelly belly…please pass them this way!