May 11, 2019
A year ago today I had surgery to remove the cancerous lump from my breast and also have a bilateral breast lift. It’s taken me the whole year to adjust to my new look. For probably 8-9 months, every time I looked in the mirror, I thought about how these breasts didn’t belong to me. Now, a year later, they feel more like they’ve always been mine. Or at least remind me of some that were mine when I was a lot younger.
I was looking at some of the pictures I took post-op the other day. There were long red scar lines across my chest and under my arms. Now there are faint white lines. There are scars I can feel but can’t see. My range of motion is significantly decreased as I feared it would be. I’m not sure if this is due to where the underlying muscle tissue is clipped near my outer chest wall or if it’s more related to the nearly 8 weeks of radiation I had following the surgery. I will probably never know.
I still have much numbness and a little pain here and there under my arm. I stretch my arm daily so I don’t lose any more of my range of motion. It’s hard to do.
I didn’t expect this. None of it. No one told me what to expect, either. I’ve had surgeries before. My right knee has been operated on 5 times. My left one twice. My shoulder was pulled apart and put back together once, and the recovery from that surgery feels now like it was a walk in the park compared to this. In each of those cases, I recovered my range of motion fairly quickly. I can still reach down and touch my toes. I’m not so great at quad stretches, but then after the 1st knee surgery, that was a tough one to get back anyway. This is different. Very different. I don’t feel like there is much elasticity in my chest muscles.
When I lift my arm straight up in front of me, I feel the pull all the way down through and below my right breast. It hurts more when I pull it over to the right to get a deeper stretch. I can’t raise it 180 degrees anymore. I stretch every day and there never seems to be much improvement. It always goes back to feeling like a very tight and overly cooked piece of chicken.
It took many months after the surgery to find a bra that fit and was comfortable. I didn’t notice before how uncomfortable underwire bras were. Now I couldn’t wear a bra with an underwire if I wanted to. Well, I can’t even stand to try one on at this point. I don’t notice much change in how my clothes fit because of the surgery. It’s more from the weight I’ve lost due to chemo.
In some ways I’m glad I didn’t need a full mastectomy. I can’t imagine what this would feel like had I had either one or both breasts completely removed.
My ex-husband didn’t like my breasts and wanted me to have a breast lift at the ripe old age of 22. I had no desire to have surgery on my breasts. Not then and not in my early 50s because of cancer, either. It was a conversation with a guy friend who helped me get through the divorce and losing my job that convinced me that implants weren’t something I ever wanted to have. He told me that even the saline implants felt hard and unnatural. I took that to heart. The idea of having to have tissue expanders for a year wasn’t an attractive idea, either.
In reality, I’d have been fine having them both removed and going flat. Little did I know at the time, the tumors in my breast and lymph nodes were already spreading the dandelion seeds of cancer to other parts of my body.