I did it! It finally, actually happened... 11 days ago, I had my BRCA1 prophylactic double mastectomy procedure. It's over, it's done... now for recovery.
I really can't believe it has only been 11 days since I walked into the hospital, experiencing such an all-encompassing, heavy sense of fear and anxiety. I felt like I was a little girl, not an adult. Seriously, the impending sense of doom at facing the unknown, as well as my complete lack of control over what lay ahead, left me paralyzed with extreme fear in a way that made me feel like a child. It was petrifying to feel so small.
But since then, I have been wholly different. As soon as I woke in the recovery ward, the fear was gone, washed away, and replaced with an immediate sense of relief. The build up of anxiety had vanished, the worst was 'all over' ...and what an absolute whirlwind my recovery has been so far. Since the operation on September 13th, I am certain that I have experienced absolutely every single extreme emotion and feeling known to man, in their most magnified forms ...it has been torturous and relieving all at the same time... but best of all? It's now done.
I stayed in hospital for three days after my surgery. It was painful, I'm not going to lie. It was not easy and it was not fun. I found the best way to manage my pain was to sleep ...and so I did just that. I took the pain meds and I slept. Thankfully, sleep is a core element of success in surgical recovery. There are certain bodily processes, such as restoration and repair, that your body can only perform when you are asleep, as it is not focusing on doing anything else (like digesting, walking, talking...). Post-surgery sleep provided my body with the chance to carry out these vital repairing and healing processes, without distraction ....so lucky for me that I could, ahem, "sleep for England", as my hospital-bed neighbour so eloquently put it!
Unfortunately for me though, my strong pain meds negatively affected my blood pressure (dropping it as low as 88 over 58). So, before heading home, my doctors took me off these, thus, making my car ride home...well, let's just say: "NOT pleasant". Having hardly moved for 3 days, the action of exiting the hospital, journeying home, making my way up to my apartment and falling into my bed, left me in intense pain, physically and mentally exhausted and very, very teary. I arrived home, I wept ....and I slept.
Since flopping into my own bed for the first time 7 days ago, however, my recovery has moved rapidly from strength to strength, with each passing day leaving me with greater ability and movement, as well as an increasing sense of independence. Thankfully, my gorgeous mum, Julia, has been staying with me; an absolute God-send. I have NO idea how I would/could have managed without her being my nurse, my carer, my arms ...my comfort ...So, thanks, mum.
On day 7, I headed back into the hospital to have my drainage tubes removed (you can see them in the above photo, I had one on each side). This was a huge turning point, as I realised that the intense, sharp, stabbing pains I had been feeling regularly in the upper section of each breast were being caused solely by the end of each of these drains. Once removed, my experience of pain (and recovery) completely changed; from sharp stinging pain, to dull, achey throb ...which is far more manageable and has enabled me to move and function with greater freedom.
Since waking up in recovery, as you can see in my charming little photo above, I have been wearing an oh-so-fetching, post-surgery ensemble ...the medical tape 'bikini', adorned with perfect areola-sized holes to ensure ample nipple exposure. This not only allows for semi-breast-support, but also enables adequate visual nipple-checking abilities, allowing me to keep an eye on the region, to ensure my nips weren't 'dying' ...(yes, nipple necrosis can be a post-mastectomy thing ...and I would advise you to avoid Google imaging it if you ever want to sleep soundly again, trust me...and FYI, all good...my nips are happy and flourishing and they thank you very much for asking!). This fashionable wrapping stayed on until yesterday, day 10; the official unveiling of my 'new girls' at the hospital. The bikini came off and I saw them, undressed, for the first time. They are a bit swollen and bruised ...but they are even, they look natural and the incisions are healing and barely visable. I am absolutely amazed. Truly, I am blown away. To think that less than two weeks ago my body underwent severe surgical trauma and yet has bounced back so quickly and efficiently ...well, I really could not be happier. ...And when the doctor informed me yesterday that they had "tested the removed breast tissue", with the left breast being clear, but the right having presented some 'irregular cells' ...well, it is clear that I made the right decision for my health and my future.
Over the last few days of recovery I have reached many milestones (eg. being able to independently make a cup of tea, washing my own hair, even managing to reach my electric toothbrush down from the THIRD shelf in the bathroom cabinet) ....and as I continue on this road to full recovery, I do so with high hopes, positivity and increasingly big dreams of being able to rehang my clothes in the wardrobe soon and pulling open my apartment door all by myself in the very near future!
Thanks for reading ...and for all of your support!
Love, Emma xx