Recovery From Surgery

After getting home and into my own bed there were a few surprises. First off, my bed doesn’t adjust. I bet most of yours do not either. I am a tummy sleeper. This isn’t possible after a mastectomy. The drain is also always in the way no matter how you try to situate. I did not know this then but have learned a trick I wish I had known. Take three pillows, make the bottom of an X (or an upside down V) with the first two and place the third across those. It elevates like a hospital bed. Make sure the top pillow of you half an X is on the side you had surgery. You wan also take a fourth pillow and place under your knees for comfort. I would have slept so much better if I had known this sooner.

pillow positioning

Stay on top of your pain. Do not wait until you hurt to take your prescription. Take it when it is time! If it gets out of hand it is hard to bring back  under control.

When you are in recovery you aren’t to lift anything over five pounds. You are told about the risks of lymphedema if the removed any of your lymph nodes. I had my sentinel lymph nodes removed and dissected to be sure cancer had not spread into mine. Lymphedema has no cure, only treatment. I was terrified of getting this so I was extra careful with me left arm. This was a big mistake. My soft tissue began to draw up.

Lymph nodes location-NCI image_med

Lymphedema occurs when lymph fluid collects in the arm (or other area such as the hand, fingers, chest or back), causing it to swell (edema).The swelling may be so slight it’s barely seen or felt. Or, it may be so great the arm grows very large.

Lymphedema _new

During the first 3 to 7 days after surgery, the American Cancer Society recommends:

  • Using the arm on the same side as surgery as you normally do when you bathe, comb your hair, get dressed, and eat.
  • Lying down and raising the arm on the same side as the surgery above heart level for 45 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. You can do this by putting your arm on pillows so your hand is higher than your wrist and your elbow is slightly higher than your shoulder. This can help ease any swelling you have after surgery.
  • Exercising the arm on the same side as your surgery when it’s raised above heart level by opening and closing your hand 15 to 20 times. Then bend and straighten your elbow. Do this 3 to 4 times a day. This helps ease swelling by pumping lymph fluid out of the arm.
  • Practice deep breathing using your diaphragm (the muscle under your navel) at least 6 times a day. Lie on your back and breathe in slowly. Keep slowly breathing in as much air as you can while trying to expand your diaphragm (push your navel out away from your spine). When you can’t breathe in any more air, relax and breathe out all the air. Do this 4 or 5 times. Deep breathing helps maintain normal chest movement, which makes it easier for your lungs to work

I agree with them! If I had just lifted my left arm several times per day my life would have been more pleasant. I did not, I was too careful with it and required physical therapy, AKA torture, to get my range of arm motion back.

Now, I know you are all dying to know what does it look like after they remove your breast. I had a skin sparing mastectomy to hopefully make reconstruction go a little better. This is a photo after. The scar tissue buildup from being to careful with my arm looks like a baby boob trying to grow. I also have a small seroma (fluid buildup) that my body will absorb.

A seroma is a pocket of clear serous fluid that sometimes develops in the body after surgery. This fluid is composed of blood plasma that has seeped out of ruptured small blood vessels and inflammatory fluid produced by the injured and dying cells.

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