Five Years Plus

{October 29, 2013}   3 Weeks Post

Three weeks out from surgery I am pleased to report that I am doing great. I decided to recount some of the highlights from this time in hopes that it might be interesting to read or helpful to someone else going through this or other major surgery.

Week 1 – Coming Back to my Body

It helped that we knew ahead of time that the first few days after surgery would be challenging. Chuck cleared his schedule to take care of me full time and we had many of our meals prepared by friends and delivered to us at home.

I didn’t sleep much the night in the hospital, I expect because of the trauma and all the drugs. When I got home I slept like a baby for four days straight: waking every two hours at night and then sleeping intermittently all day. I could only lie on my back with pillows under my head and knees. It was too painful to roll to either side, so I would wake up pretty sore. I started gentle stretching to work on range of motion almost immediately. I used some ideas from a video about recovery from breast cancer and also included some spinal movements to relax my aching back.

Mastectomy followed by reconstruction is painful, I’m sure even more so for women who have a double. My core is strong from a consistent Pilates practice over the last five months and this really helped my mobility; even so I needed Chuck to help lift me from lying to sitting for the first couple of days. I had two solid days on painkillers, then went off them cold turkey in an effort to combat constipation. I don’t know why medical doctors don’t address this more and perhaps prescribe a stool softener from the get-go. Too late a friend mentioned to add Magnesium to relax things.

Week 2 – A Reason to Get Up

This may sounds crazy, but we had out of town visitors stay with us at the beginning of the second week. They are very special friends that we really wanted to see and they had given us the option to change their plans at the last minute if need be. As it turns out, this visit gave me the motivation to get out of bed.

The day before they arrived I had what seemed like a lot of activity: watering the plants, rechecking the guest rooms and arranging flowers. Their visit marked my return into life,  that is being awake and up for most of the day, going for short walks outdoors, helping to prepare a meal and drinking a little red wine.

Nine days after surgery our friends departed and I had post-op appointments with both the surgeon and the plastics surgeon. One of my two surgical drains was removed. Day 10 was a day of rest. By the week-end I decided we must get the apples picked. This involved both reaching and ladder climbing, a sure sign that my body was healing. As the week progressed the pain let up considerably and I could begin to roll and lie for short periods on my right side. I upped my yoga practice and stretching, began to bear a little weight with my arms and did some gentle core exercises.

Week 3 – Gaining Strength

This week I focused on gaining stamina. We have a 3-mile forest-meadow walk out our back door which I have been hiking most days. I also began to prepare meals again. By the end of the week I was able to work four hours in the kitchen making applesauce from the apples we had picked the week before. Yum.

On day 16 I finally had my second surgical drain removed. This is an annoying but important contraption, like a tiny soaker hose on the inside of the tissue, and a rubber hose that protruded from my side. This feeds into a larger rubber ball that provides a gentle suction and holds blood or lymph fluid that drains from the surgical site. Early on Chuck sewed me a makeshift bra from ace bandages which featured a pocket to hold and support the dangling ball. He regularly emptied each drain and recorded the quantity it held. The drainage had to reach a minimum of 25cc in 24 hours before being removed. Now I could shower freely and lay for short periods on my left side.

Being able to lay on my left side was my criteria for returning to my Pilates class. This was a challenge for sure but a landmark all the same. That evening Chuck and I had an impromtu dance party in our living room. I also started to go to physical therapy this week for an added support in getting stronger. I am now able to stretch without fear of injuring myself and have nearly regained full range of motion, though there is still quite a lot of stretching pain at the end range of movements of my left arm.


Chuck has been a foundation of consistent, loving support throughout these weeks. There is a certain beauty and intimacy in being so dependent on another and both of us have enjoyed this sweetness.

The support of friends and family is also fundamental to healing. From preparing food and organizing its delivery, to lending me books to read, making visits and calls, sending cards, flowers, inspiration texts and emails, I feel incredibly loved and supported. One couple even let me plan a dinner menu which they prepared and brought, shared with us and then cleaned up.

While my surgeons are both great doctors, in a post-op period without any complications, they are not much involved. I have supplemented my healing with weekly bodywork from my talented and versatile massage therapist. Two days after surgery she did mainly energy work. By the third week I was able to briefly lie on my stomach for some gentle back massage. I also added a lymphatic bodywork session in the second week when I realized my arm was swelling slightly. Not the least to mention that we asked our cleaner to come weekly in the pre and post surgery periods.

This post-op period has certainly been smoother than eight years ago. We knew more what to expect and we prepared well. I have been able to rest and sleep well throughout. Even so, we have had to be adaptable as there have been surprises, like having to have a drain in for over two weeks, Overall I think I went into it stronger physically, mentally and emotionally, in part because I took enough time between the diagnosis and surgery.


This is excellent news Gyata. And your description of your recovery is so well presented. Thanks.

Sue says:

Thank you for writing about your progress to health – very interesting story. Take care.

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