My 6 Month Recovery Update
Today is a big milestone: it's been 6 months since my preventative mastectomy + reconstruction. WHOA. Somehow it feels like, how is it only 6 months? It's been years. And at the same time, 6 months already?? It feels so fresh!
Leading up to the surgery, I was writing a LOT. It was the best way for me to process and prepare for what was going to happen. Not only was I writing here, but I slept with a notebook next to my bed and took it to every doctor's appointment, scrawling down irrational middle-of-the-night fears alongside my notes and questions for the surgeons.
And then, I stopped. Thank goodness for Instagram, otherwise I wouldn't have documented a single thing. There's a lot of reasons I haven't felt like writing, including feeling generally BRAIN DEAD. My attention span is shot and I feel like I'm "slower" at tasks that used to happen quickly.
I also am just not ready to process it. I can't sit down and relive it just yet. IT WAS TRAUMATIC. Like WTF-levels. I'd never had a major surgery before, and I feel like I've got a little PTSD happening. The last 6 months have been overwhelming, heavy, frightening, enlightening... it's a lot. When I'm ready, I plan to revisit those first few weeks, both recapping what I experienced and sharing what other BRCA women might want to know about the recovery. If you have any questions or topics you'd like to see, please leave a comment or send me a message! In the meantime, here's a brain dump of how I'm doing:
- I'm totally fine!! I made it through surgery and healing with no complications or infections. I will see my doctors in a few weeks and have a better understanding of how I've healed and if I'll need another surgery, but from my view, everything looks/feels great! Like as normal as you could expect. My boobs are perkier than before but basically the same size. The implants were really hard but have started softening up, so it feels more natural.
- That said, it's VERY obvious I have two foreign objects inside my body. About once a week, probably more, they'll move a certain way or I'll feel uncomfortable, and just look down at my chest and think O M G what did I even do? I am VERY grateful to have had such a skilled plastic surgeon, because I can't imagine how my brain would deal if they looked super fake.
- I have some scarring, but below (on the bra line) as opposed to through the middle. The scars have improved quite a bit in the last month. I feel self conscious about the scars -- I'll have to be pretty selective when swimsuit shopping. This is funny to me because I've never worn a revealing swimsuit in my life yet now my mostly-modest tops are "too risqué" AKA I would be mortified if my scars were on full display.
- I am able to exercise again, which is a blessing and a curse. I am definitely not as strong, and have basically no endurance. So working out is hard! After, I have to take a nap or sleep in the next morning -- it wipes me out! But WOW I am ready to get back into it, because I've eaten a lot of pizza and had a lot of wine over the last 6 months (self soothing much?) and my clothes don't fit all that well.
- The extra sleep thing is weird, because I've always needed a lot of sleep. So to need MORE makes me feel lazy.
- On that note, I'm working on grace and forgiveness and acceptance. I have often been really hard on myself -- for not being able to start exercising at full capacity, for gaining weight, for having difficulty focusing on my work or completing a task. So I am doing what I can to be gentle on myself and allow myself the space to heal both mentally and physically.
- I didn't expect it, but I had a LOT of anger and still do some days. I felt like I was in this stagnant place, while the world kept moving forward and everyone but me was going with it. This is one area I'm not ready to elaborate on more (AKA deal with) just yet.
- I have basically no pain, just discomfort with certain movements. And occasional nerve pain, which feels a bit like an electric shock.
It seems like I'm real grumpy right? I'm not actually, it just was a much bigger ordeal than I had planned for, and the details are emotionally charged. So when I sit down to "write about it", it seems like the heavy stuff that I've sort of filed away is what bubbles to the surface. I tried to write a similar post to this one and it was way more aggressive (ha!) so with time, the emotions seem to lighten up.
My biggest emotion, believe it or not, is gratitude. I had so many incredible caretakers come stay with us. I had amazing surgeons and nurses. None of my "irrational fears" came true. I have a really wonderful, patient husband who has been by my side every step of the way. So to go back to that first bullet point, at 6 months out, I'm totally fine! I'm still working through a few physical and mental challenges, but I am alive and healthy and each day and week that passes is a little bit closer to normalcy. And it's never once been lost on me that this path was substantially better than the alternative. Yeah, it sucked, but cancer would suck more. I am very grateful to have been able to do it on my terms, and not have been in a situation where I didn't have much of a choice.
Before ending, I wanted to offer a sincere thank you to everyone who has followed along, offering words of support and just general kindness along the way. You all have truly impacted me, and taught me a major lesson in being there for people. SO thank you!