Recovering from breast cancer surgery

I came round in the recovery room with a chap sat to the right of me telling me I’d been talking gibberish to him whilst I coming round. God knows what I was talking about – hope I  hadn’t been rude! I was still woozy but I do remember him saying that they’d tested my lymph nodes and they were all clear. Wow, great news!!

After I had come around more a nurse helped me get dressed – I distinctly remember it feeling really uncomfortable to lift my arms up. I then sat in a seated area where I was brought a nice of cup of tea and some Marmite on toast (this put a smile on my face as I absolutely love Marmite!).

After a little while longer Pats came to collect me – I was so pleased to see him! The nurse went through the discharge instructions and said I wasn’t allowed to drive for two weeks, to avoid stretching or heavy lifting in that period too and to just take it easy. I’d need to get my dressings changed in a week’s time and she handed us some spare dressings along with some paracetamol and ibruprofen to take for the pain.

Pats walked me gently out of the hospital down to the car. When we got home that afternoon he had to help me get changed into my pyjamas as it felt sore to move my arm. The doctor was right about having blue bodily fluids! I was surprised to take a trip to the lavatory and discover blue pee in the pan – it looked like bleach!

I didn’t feel in too much pain that afternoon and just felt a bit sleepy. My sister and Simon came over after work to see how I was doing. They’d brought a beautiful bunch of flowers and some sweets and were making jokes making me laugh which cheered me up.

Pats made us a really nice dinner that night, one of my favourite Friday night munchies – an amazing spread of antipasto. Mmmmm yummy!

By the next day whatever they’d given me at the hospital had definitely worn off as I felt decidedly tender and bruised. I felt okay, but had a little cry at the fact that I was struggling to even get myself dressed. Putting on my bra by myself was completely impossible. It was so frustrating not being able to do such a simple task, but I guess to be expected given that they’d probably cut through nerves and muscle under my arm. My complexion had also taken on a sallow/pale colour – not quite the smurf look the doctor described – but I did look rather ghastly and washed out!

Things like lifting the tap on produced a feeling of pain, opening the fridge door with the wrong arm or trying to slice a loaf of bread would hurt and I’d taken to walking about with my wrist held across my chest – partly as a defence mechanism to protect my wound, but also because it felt most comfortable there. It was hard to lift myself up when laying in bed or sat on the sofa and swivelling around to either side hurt too. Laying on my side in bed became completely out of the question as it was just too painful. That was tough as all I wanted to do was snuggle up to Pats and be held and comforted by him.

I managed to get showered by myself, that was one thing. I put off washing my hair for a couple of days and then finally took the plunge. It’s actually quite surprising the amount of things you can manage to do one-handed. The whole of the top of my left arm and arm pit felt numb – a really strange feeling.

Pats made me a make shift sling to help keep my arm in that position without having to hold it there myself. Not being prepared for this eventuality, we didn’t have any sling material hanging about in the house, so he made a make shift one with some old material and a cable tie – it was a good look!

Over the course of that weekend we kept getting photos pinged from our friends who were on the camping trip that we were supposed to be going to. They’d had masks made up of Pats and my faces and they were all wearing them! It was absolutely hilarious and they had us both in stitches (pardon the pun!). We knew we were missing out on fun times with our mates, but it was really sweet to know that they were thinking of us and cheered us up no end – god knows the other campers on the campsite thought!

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My Mum, Dad and sister came over on the Sunday and Pats cooked us up an amazing chicken pie with all the trimmings! My Mum and Dad had bought some flowers with them and my Mum had also made me a little cushion in a heart shape. Through her WI group she’d learned that women who had recently had breast cancer surgery found great discomfort from where their wound came into contact with their arm and that this “comfort cushion” provided a buffer. The moment I tucked it under my arm I can’t tell how nice it felt! I carried it around with me wherever I went from that point forward.

This is exactly the sort of thing that my dear Mum does all the time. She is such a kind and caring lady who always likes to help others. She belongs to a local WI group and between them the ladies have helped lots of charities over the years. She’s knitted hats and scarves for various causes (including Innocent’s big knit campaign), she’s made up food boxes for the armed forces and the needy, she’s gathered food and beauty products for women in refuges who have been subjected to domestic violence and have nothing to their name. She also collects hundreds of milk bottle lids from various people that enables a local MS charity to gain funds from them.

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I’d ordered some leaflets from the breast cancer care charity, one of which was on exercises to do post surgery. Even the basic ones where you had to shrug your shoulders up to your ears felt so hard to do. I felt really helpless and annoyed that I couldn’t move my arm in the way I had been able to only 24 hours previously. I obviously misread the leaflet too as despite it saying to start the exercises as soon as possible, it clearly said to only begin with the warm up exercises. Somehow I’d got onto doing the “intermediate” ones – no wonder I was struggling so much! How long would I feel this helpless for? I thought back to when I used to be able to easily lift heavy weights and felt so feeble in comparison.

Another tip that may be of use to anyone having surgery is to have a “post-surgery bra” at the ready. You definitely won’t want underwired bits sticking into you whilst you’re recovering. Some aren’t great looking, but some are much prettier than others. Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Asda, The Bra Clinic and Figleaves, amongst others, all do a specialist range.  I found the Marks & Spencer’s ones good quality, comfortable and reasonably priced.

One thought on “Recovering from breast cancer surgery

  1. I wish you a smooth and quick recovery. Please keep doing your stretching exercises everyday. Doing them daily helped me get my motion back sooner than expected.

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