February 1st 2016: Double Mastectomy with Free Nipple Graft
Location: Victoria, BC
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: Dr. Chris Taylor
On February 1st, 2016 I travelled to Victoria, BC to get the surgery I’ve been waiting my whole life to get. I was put on the waitlist for about 2.5 years, as there were only two surgeons in BC at the time (Vancouver and Victoria) who were trained to do the type of surgery I needed. The waitlist was long as you can imagine.
Surgery: I live in Canada, so luckily with our health care system, the surgery was covered (unless you dont want to wait). It took place in a plastic surgery office which was much more comforting than a hospital setting. The surgery took about 2 hours to complete and I was in the recovery room for 2 hours before going home that evening.
Post Surgery: I remeber waking up was very painful and confusing. Out of sorts and in a lot of pain until the recovery nurse gave me something to ease the pain.
Weeks 1-2: The most uncomfortable phase. The drains in my sides to drain any buildup of fluid were the worst part. They sat uncomfortably and pulled from the inside due to the compression binder I had to wear for the first month. Not much movement for simple tasks. Luckily I could go for daily walks, which helped with the pain. I was even walking to a coffee shop with my Dad the next day. I was advised not to shower until the graft dressings had been removed from the surgeon/nurse.
Weeks 2-4: Finally showered, but couldn’t lift my arms above head for about the first month. Range of motion was limited. Getting dressed was easier. My drains were taken out by the nurse during this time frame. It was painful and uncomfortable for me as scar tissue had formed around the drain sites, but the pain was over quickly.
Weeks 4-6: I was staying the month in Victoria to recover and was set to fly home to Kelowna February 27th. Healing was going well and my incisions were healing nicely. My range of motion was improving, but I still couldn’t lift much. At this point when you are feeling better, you have to remember to continue to take it easy. You are still healing quite a lot. It’ll take a while to get back to your old self. But remember it’s temporary.
After 6 weeks: Most research you do will tell you that you can go back to the gym right away, but take it easy. Listen to your body. Depending on the type of surgery you got, in my case I had large scarring to work around, I didn’t want to risk stretching them too much in their crucial healing phase. Stick to cardio and legs. You have your whole life to gym. You have one shot at healing successfully, or risk having to get a revision, which in some cases it is unavoidable depending if your body takes the skin graft. Rest, Recover.
*Plan to wear loose fitting clothing, preferably only shirts that button up in the front as range of motion is limited.
*Plan to have someone take care of you, not just for the first day. Every task is challenging, even sleeping at the beginning and sorting your pillows out. You wont be able to lift anything heavy or even cook much as you won’t be able to reach anything. Think of having T-Rex arms.
*Scarring: Products I’ve used for my scars: Vitamin E oil, Jojoba Oil, Scar Away Strips and Doc Spartan Scar Cream (online)
*Most importantly: Be patient. Give your body time to heal. You have one chance to heal. That’s it. I am an avid gym goer, and not being able to go for months was hard both mentally and physically. What got me through was appreciating how far I’ve come and how well my body was healing because I was allowing it the time to heal.