Mastectomy, 2

Recovery from surgery is a slow process.

The first few days after getting home from the hospital were challenging. I couldn’t take a shower or get dressed by myself. I needed help to make my morning coffee. I could not help with Aidan and Cooper at all. I spent most of the day laying in bed, watching shows, reading, and really doing nothing. I made an effort to go for a long walk each day, grateful that the weather hasn’t gotten too cold and I could just wear a shawl over my shoulders instead of asking for help putting on a coat.

I had drains coming out of each breast that needed to be emptied in the morning and night. We recorded the amount of fluid on a spreadsheet (I love a good spreadsheet) and with each day, the amount of fluid decreased. The drains were annoying and had to be clipped to my surgical bra. They made it hard to wear anything other than a baggy zip-up sweatshirt or button down shirt. 

On Day 7, I went to my first post-op visit with my breast surgeon. Dr. Axelrod removed my bandages and I was able to see my breasts for the first time post-surgery. I had envisioned a much more mangled, bruised outcome and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw. The incisions were still covered with steri-strips but everything looked very clean.

Dr. Axelrod asked me to lift my arms above my head. I looked at her skeptically, thinking that she was joking. I could barely move my arms at all! I quickly realized that she was serious and slowly began to lift my arms. My right arm was able to go pretty high but I couldn’t lift my left arm above 90 degrees. She explained that once my drains were out, I would have to do some at-home physical therapy exercises to increase my range of motion. 

Dr. Axelrod also shared the great news that the pathology reports from my surgery showed that I am now cancer-free. This was the news that we were holding our breaths for. As I wrote about in a previous post, there were a lot of emotions surrounding this news, but most of all, we were relieved.

The next day (Day 8), I went to see my plastic surgeon. Dr. Choi said that I am healing beautifully and that my drains were ready to come out. Brooke, the nurse practitioner, told me to take a deep breath in and a long exhale as she pulled each drain out. I couldn’t believe how long the tubing was that was coming out. It must have been at least a foot long!

It was a relief to have the drains out. Immediately I could feel a difference- my chest felt less tight. Now that the drains were out, I could start doing the at-home exercises, but Brooke suggested that I wait a couple more weeks before starting actual physical therapy.

At both doctor appointments, Matt and I asked how soon I would be able to travel. A close friend (hi @thewellnecessities) was getting married in Miami only 19 days after my surgery. We were optimistic that we would be able to go to the wedding but waited to make any travel arrangements until with got clearance from my doctors. We were relieved when both doctors said that we could go to Miami for the wedding. They warned that I still should not lift anything and that I should try to take it easy (spoiler alert: Matt did carry all of my bags, but we stayed out dancing until 2am…balance.)

The days leading up to our Miami trip were spent resting. I had lots of visits from friends, pushed myself to attend Aidan’s Halloween parade in the rain, and made a special appearance at trick-or-treating.

Matt and I were both so happy to be able to go to Miami. This trip came at the the perfect time for us to enjoy a getaway and exhale after holding our breath for the last 7 months. We celebrated our good news and the excitement of our friends’ wedding. It was perfect.

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