When I tell people about my mastectomy and breast reconstruction, I receive lots of support, many questions and even some rude comments. The most frequent thing I hear from both women and men is “at least you will get perky boobs” (insert awkward laugh here)
For those of you who, thankfully, have not had a mastectomy or been close to someone who is going through one, you might think that this is going to make us feel better. It doesn’t! I understand that it is meant to be a supportive comment, but, I promise you, this is not a normal boob job. Yes, I did get implants to replace my real breasts, but that is where the similarities end.
A breast augmentation consists of an implant being inserted behind the existing breast tissue. Typically this is for aesthetic reasons and is meant to enhance a woman’s natural breasts. A mastectomy “(from Greek μαστός “breast” and ἐκτομή ektomia “cutting out”) is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.” (Wikipedia)
I was sent home the day after my mastectomy feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Unable to stand straight, I walked and sat hunched over. The tissue expanders that were placed under my pectoral muscles made me feel like I was wearing a metal corset while an elephant sat on my chest. On top of all that, I was extremely nauseous from the anesthesia and, on the car ride home, it felt like every bump was going to send me over the edge.
As awful as all of that sounds, the worst part, for me, were the drains. I wish I had been prepared emotionally for them because, although it is doable, it is by no means easy to handle them!
The JP drains (Jackson Pratt) are used after a mastectomy to remove any fluid buildup that can accumulate after surgery and cause infection. I woke up from surgery with 4 of them dangling by my side, under the bandages, and they stayed with me for 10 long days.
With every move, the drains would pull at the incision site and, on more than one occasion, I sat on one. Going to the washroom was an ordeal in itself. Where to place the drains? I never really found a great solution for that, but the trial and error was quite entertaining. After battling with the drains for a few days, I finally found a solution that worked the best for me. It didn’t make the drains any more comfortable but I was able to get around a lot easier.
I placed the drains in the pockets of a hooded sweatshirt that I turned inside out. Not attractive, but effective. To prevent the drains from pulling every time I moved, my daughter (who was 2 at the time) suggested “band aids for my boo-boo”, so that’s what I did.
When I returned to the surgeon ten days post surgery to have the drains removed, I was so relieved. I felt some pulling and pinching, but the unpleasantness didn’t last long. Whenever you speak with someone, who has had drains removed after a mastectomy, they will tell you it is a sense of freedom!
These new boobs of mine came at a price, but, for me, it was a price worth paying.
Until next time ☺
What was your experience with breast reconstruction following a mastectomy? Did you have any trouble dealing with your drains?