I’ve had some sweet friends wonder about some things a lot of people may not know about a mastectomy so I thought I answer them here. So here goes…..
Q: What kind of mastectomy did you have?
A: So there are actually several types of mastectomies. I won’t go into detail about each one, but I had a “prophylactic, bilateral, skin sparing mastectomy with reconstruction.” Basically that translates into a “preventive, both sides, nipple sparing, breast tissue removal with reconstruction.”
Q: Why was the surgery 5 hours? That seems long.
A: It is long! The surgery consisted of 2 parts. During the first couple hours, my breast surgeon removed all the breast tissue. During the 2nd part of the surgery, my plastic surgeon sewed in a pouch near the bottom of each breast for the implant to eventually “sit” in since there isn’t any tissue for it to sit in. He also placed expanders under my muscle and filled them each with about the equivalent of a cup size of fluid.
Q: How many drains did you have, and what purpose did they serve?
A: I had 2 drains. We were expecting 4, but the plastic surgeon only had to place 2. The drains create suction inside the breast to drain blood from all the tissue that was removed. I had mine for 5 days.
The drains have to be emptied and the fluid measured twice a day. The average woman has her drains in for about 7 days after a mastectomy.
Q: Do you have any breasts at all now, or does that happen later?
A: I have expanders in right now, which are very similar to an implant (except harder, really uncomfortable, not as pretty, and customizable). 3 weeks post surgery after my incisions were healed and my swelling was gone, my plastic surgeon began adding fluid to stretch my skin until I get to a cup size that I’m comfortable with. They will actually overfill my expanders by 10% to make sure my skin lies nicely over my chosen implants.
Q: What are the expanders like?
A: As I mentioned above, their pretty uncomfortable. They are backed in plastic and sort of an odd shape (I call them the torpedo boobs). They are also as hard as rocks. The expander on my left side has caused a lot of discomfort and pain. Apparently they can lie on a nerve. Since the expander is plastic and foreign to my body, every time I move the wrong way or over extend my arm, I get shooting nerve pain down my side. My surgeon said that that pain can last as long as I have my expanders in or my brain could possibly eventually decide that it doesn’t actually hurt so that it would stop sending the signal to my nerves.
I can tell a huge improvement over the past few weeks in the pain decreasing so i’m hoping my brain is deciding that it doesn’t really hurt.
Q: How do they fill your expanders?
A: I was a little worried about this part, to be honest. My expanders have a port in them with a small metal disc. My surgeon locates the port with a small metal detector and marks it was a marker. He then inserts a 6 gauge needle through my nipple and fills the expander with saline. The expanders get filled every 2 weeks.
Q: When will you get your final implants? What is that surgery like?
A: My surgeon won’t perform my 2nd surgery until 3 months after my 1st surgery to ensure proper healing, blood flow and blood supply. He will use the same incision as my 1st surgery to take out the expanders, check on my little skin pouch, and place the permanent implants. It’s roughly a 2 hour surgery. I won’t have to stay overnight at the hospital like I did after the mastectomy and should only be on pain medication for a few days.
I can’t thank you all enough for your encouraging words, your prayers, the food, the cards, and all the flowers!