How long does it really take to recover from a mastectomy, (to be up, driving and lifting things)??
My doctors are telling me this can be done as an outpatient procedure and I'll be fine in 3 days!!
I had a lumpectomy done in the beginning of November (Stage I, Grade 2) with no lymph node involvement. I do not require chemo and can not have radiation because I am 21 weeks pregnant. The doctors feel it is too risky to wait another 4 1/2 months to start radiation and are recommending a mastectomy now.
I still don't have the full range of motion in my left arm due to the lumpectomy and find it hard to believe that I will be recovered from a mastectomy within 3 days of the surgery.
Thanks for any advice you can give me on this one.
Cristina, my surgeon told me a three-week recovery from mastectomy, but it was closer to six weeks before I had full range of motion. I think I was driving in about two weeks, but it was hard to reach up and over to get my seat belt fastened longer than that. Everyone heals at a different pace, and I had lots of lymph nodes removed, so you may get well faster than I did, but three days?
One thing I've learned about insurance and outpatient surgery is that if the insurance company thinks it's an outpatient procedure, the hospital schedules it that way, but if you aren't ready to go home that day, the doctor can then admit you overnight. I've had to do that a couple of times because anesthesia makes me nauseated. Ask the surgeon whether you can stay in the hospital longer if you don't feel well enough to go home.
Criss, three days is crazy! It'll take longer than that. Everyone has a different experience with mastectomy, so it's really hard to predict what you'll feel like when. My best advice would be to get referred to a physical therapist pre-mastectomy, and talk to him or her. You'll waant to do PT after the mastectomy, and my experience is the PTs have a really good idea of how long it'll take you to be up and around, feeling better, lifting, etc. Best of luck - PJH
I feel sick and cant think straight because I am scared of the pain I will have I will have both breast removed and a complete historectamy also I feel all alone my husband doesnt have a clue as to the life change comming. I have three kids and no family to help me my husband will avoid me I just want to cry all day.
I too was terrified of the pain I would feel after amastectomy. The fear of the unknown is a lot worst tha the pain from a mastectomy.
I just had a unilateral mastectomy on, Friday, April 16, 2010. I was home by Saturday evening and was feeling tired. They tried to do a sentinel node biopsy, but it did not work and had to have an axillary node done.
When I awoke on Sunday it was difficult to get out of bed, but once up the pain was minimual. I have had more discomfit than pain. So do not worry yourself about the pain. It is not that bad, and the drains are not bad either. It was a much better experience than I had anticipated.
Take a deep breath, relax and go with the flow and you will be OK..
Thanks for your good input here, Lorraine. I hope you conginue to recover uneventfully, and feel better and better each day. PJH
Hi: It took me quite a long time before the pain after my mastectomy surgery. I slept on the couch, and the surgeon told me have my husband put both hands to my back and push me up so I didn't pull any stitches. These surgeries take about 1 to 2 years to heal. As far as the pain it's an individual thing as we are all different. My mastectomy was January 10th 2006. Time is the healer, but as for the pain I agree with many others who said 2 to 3 months. Again we are all so different. I am older so I was more tired most of the time. Relax, worry doesn't help. God Bless! Joyce Geyer
Hi your nurse will get you a social worker that will direct you too the right people to talk to you and get you help, they will help you figure what to do for your life they are very good at that and very helpful so please talk to your nurse about getting you a social worker to help you with all your problems they are very good and helpful with this situation. i know things will get better for you if you do this, may god bless you
I am so sorry....I am in a same situation. My husband lifted his eyes up when I told him and continued on with the his book... I kiss and hug would have been great.
I'm sorry that you didn't get the support you needed when you told your husband. Put his reaction into the context of how he usually deals with problems and emotions. Some men are not very good at showing emotional support because breast cancer is such a scary disease, but they follow up with lots of practical help. Others fall apart just when their wives need them. Still others are come through with everything we need once they recover from their own shock.
If you have had a good relationship with your husband in the past, he will probably come through for you with his own style of support. You may need to say what you need specifically like, "I'm going to need some extra hugs and cuddling right now." It would be nice if our families could just automatically know what we need, but they are not mind readers, and sometimes we have to teach them how to be supportive.
PJH -- My wife (47) is going on three weeks tomorrow from double mastectomy and reconsruction. She is in severe pain still as the surgeons tell her this was major surgery, and it will take a while to recover. Her left arm is swelling and is painful due to removal of the lymph nodes.
She wakes up crying in the middle of the night from pain? I am learning in just 3 short weeks the less said the better as I realize I am going to be the brunt of her anger and frustration due to all things considered i.e. having cancer, pain, frustration etc.
I am starting to not know what to do since we are past the point of her needing help with drinking, emptying drain bulbs and showers as she does get out of bed here and there through the day.
I'm so sorry your wife's having a rough time. Double mastectomy/reconstruction is probably the most aggressive, invasive surgery a breast cancer survivor can have; and many women report this kind of painful experience. The doctors are right; it takes awhile to heal... how long, no one knows, because every woman is different. But time DOES heal. Your wife WILL feel better; it's inevitable. Unfortunately, like grief, the pain she's experiencing can't be stepped around or bypassed; she has to walk right through it. And she's probably in the worst of it now, when she's been suffering for awhile and is feeling, "When will this end?"
Laura Zigman, one of our bloggers, wrote extensively about her double mastectomy with reconstruction on this site. You might want to read some of her posts, especially the one on coming home after surgery, as well as visit her page, where you'll see a list of all her posts.
And there you are, right in the line of fire! One hint I can give you - you want to do something; that's natural. But there's actually nothing you can DO right now, as you've discovered. You simply have to be there for her, and bear witness to what she's going through. I think she'll ask you if she needs anything specific, but other than that, you're like a seawall with a storm beating against it: be strong. Hold fast. The storm will abate.
In the meantime, you need to take care of yourself, too. Have you read our page for breast cancer partners? Hopefully you'll find some help there. You've got a TOUGH job, and I don't envy you. But time will heal for you, too, just as it will for your wife.
One more thing - she should make an appointment right now with a lymphedema specialist - her doctor can set her up. They're usually in the hospital's physical therapy department. She doesn't want to let that arm swelling linger too long without being treated, if necessary.
I wish you (both) all the best. This experience is testing your mettle, for sure. Hang in there; gradually, things WILL improve. Take care- PJH
I am feeling the same as you. I am having my mastectomy on Tuesday 10 2011 and i am so scared i cant think. All i do is cry.I am not sure of what i am scared of most, cancer or the surgery
I cried and cried the night before my surgery. It's normal to mourn losing your breast. If you have never had surgery before, it's a scary proposition. Or if your previous experience with surgery has been with major procedures, your past experiences may be making your more fearful than necessary. I found the actual surgery to be much less painful than I had expected. Call the doctor's office and ask if there is a nurse or volunteer who can walk you through exactly what to expect at your local hospital. Call your most supportive relative or friend to pour out your fears. Then try to put it all away and enjoy your weekend.
Please just keep prayer your top priority in this situation. You can go to the hospital where you will be having your surgeries done and ask to speak to a social worker who can help you get help through this. I just had double mastectomies and reconstruction and it is very hard to go through even if you have help and support all around you as I have. I am so sorry you are feeling that way and please go talk to the social worker and have them get you some help. This is not a time that you should be upset as you have enough to deal with. Also, talk this situation over with your doctor. Depending on your insurance you may be able to have someone come in for so many hours a day to help you with things around the house. I sure hope this has helped let me know and I will be in prayer for you.
Thanks for your kind and supportive words here - other women reading them will surely take hope and sustenance from you sharing your experience. Best of luck - here's to survivorhood! PJH
I'm going to go with Phyllis on this one. Though I was released from the hospital after 2 days it was weeks before I could do certain activies. like PJ said everyone heals and responds differently. You may not need meds, while others do. I was in pain for quite a while and the drain tubes only made it worse. Your doctor will likely tell you no lifting over 5 pounds and the best thing for your arm is to stand nxt to a wall and slowly crawl you hand up the wall till your arm is straight. It will take some time and a PT will help - as does a nerf football being squeezed in your armpit. Most importantly is for you to go at your own pace - don't let someone rush you into recovery too soon. Also don't just take it and chalk it up to being strong - take the time you need, let others care for you if possible. One thing that PJ didn't mention that surprised me was her anesthesia theory. If your surgery last for 5 hours expect to be in and out of sleep for 5 days. I think it's fairly true cause from all my surgeries I don't recall much of the first week home. your body will need that rest to recover, so don't push yourself too hard, ok.
I hope it all goes well for you - and really, do not let them push you out of the hospital following your surgery if you don't feel up to it. you really should spend at least one night there - in fact I do beleive they just passed a bill to stop drive through mastectomies. Good luck!
I just had a bilateral. I was off the narcotic pain meds by 1 1/2 weeks since they seemed to not be doing much. I went on Tylenol and alternated with Motrin for these past two weeks. Really by week 2 I could drive small distances, but found it fatiguing. I also had mostof my mobility back by week 2 (except for putting shirts on over my head or extended reaching). However I still have pain from both sensory nerve damage as well as nerve re-growth. It's not the end of the world pain, I have days where I don't take anything, but it's kinda' there. I also got expanders put in and by week 2 I thought I would die if I didn't get them out they were so "present" and uncomfortable, but by week 3, they were doable. Mostly for me the strange sensation is the nerve re-growth and now, in week 3 it seems to be changing daily and the numbness is disappearing. I'm sure it will be at least 6 weeks for a total recovery. Good luck to you!
Your post was the most helpful to me, describes my experience the closest. I am 2 wks. out from a unilateral mastectomy and I can't believe how uncomfortable I feel. I am going crazy, the implant on my "good" side drives me crazy and the operative side 10 times worse, has the expander type implant. The sensation are stange, like a tightness, pulling, like there is somethin in there that doesnt belong. hard to describe, then some random ribcage pain as well, did you feel these sensations? as far as the brast itself it feels weird, numb but not really?? not a good feeling at all. I'd love to chat more. thanks.
Joan, since this post is many months old, you might want to contact the reader above by clicking on her screen name and sending a private message - otherwise she may not see your comment here. Hope you feel better soon! PJH
You'll pull through! You're through the worst of it. Yeah, those expanders are not the funnest things, but you get used to them. No one really tells you that.
I just got my implants 5 weeks ago. That surgery was soooooooo easy and they look great!! I didn't expect to like the way they turned out as I've heard so many stories of women being disappointed in the way they look or feel, but I didn't have any boobs to start with, so I'm happy to be curvy and they really are a great shape! And I'm happy to be alive!!! Getting the expanders out and the implants in helped to sort of complete, or finish that chapter in my life. Now I'm done with it (still getting Herceptin) just wishing my hair would grow faster.
Deep breaths, it will all be good.
HI V, I am scheduled for surgery next week so don't know whether i'll have expanders or implantd. How long did it take from expanders to implants? was it after radiation or did you have to wait until after chemo?
ps, i didn't have great boobs either so i'm looking at this as a perk:) I also have to do the Herceptin but I'm with yu, it will all be good.
I didn't have radiation. I got expanders put in in October and the implants in in June. I teach, and had a project I was working on so I waited about 4 weeks longer before I had the implant surgery out of scheduling reasons. I also took a couple weeks off of expansion. It seems typically they start expanding about 6 weeks after your last chemo. Then 4-6 weeks of expansion and you're good to go.
A great book I found on Breast Cancer:
Breast Cancer Real Questions, Real Answers by David Chan
Hurray for Herceptin!!!
Good luck to you!!
HELLO THIS IS MY 1ST TIME RESPONDING TO ANYONE ONLINE. JUST FINISHED CHEMO 5 ONLY 1 MORE TO GO. MY SURG IS SCHEDULED OCT 27 I TOO AM GETTING HERCEPTIN THE MIRACLE DRUG I WAS DIAGNOSEDIN MAY STAGE 3 I ALSO HAVE INFLAMATORY BREAST CANCER ON MY SKIN AS WELL AS 3 CARCINOMA TUMORS. I WAS A GOOD GIRL AND HAD ANUAL MAMOGRAMS BUT MISSED THIS ONE BY 8 MONTHS NOW THIS IS ALL HAPPENING SO FAST. IT BREAKS MY HEART HOW MANY OF US HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS ARE IN IT AND HOW MANY WILL FOLLOW US. I WILL BE THINKING OF YOU AND WISHING ALL GOES WELL FOR YOU KEEP THINKING OF THE PERKS!!! I CAN'T HAVE MY RECONSTRUCTION FOR 1-2 YEARS DOES THAT SEEM RIGHT?
TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELF
Deb, welcome - sorry you "meet the qualifications" for this club, but we're glad to have you join us! Be sure to stay in touch during your treatment, OK? The community here can definitely help you through this. As for the wait for reconstruction, that's a question you need to ask your surgeon. Many women have reconstruction concurrent with their mastectomy, but it sounds to me like they want to be absolutely sure they've wiped out both your tumors, and the IBC, so that your reconstruction has the best chance of success. Waiting years to have a reconstruction isn't unusual; many women choose that path, so don't worry if your doctor wants you to do it this way, OK? Best of luck to you - PJH
Hi pjh thanks for your quick responseand support. I was reading around the site and found info on ibc which shocked me and terrified me. I did not realize how rare it is and that the survival rate is low i am stage 3 they are removing all nodes as well as the oliptical mastectomy. I am more scared now than when I first got my diagnosis. I am finishing my chemo up next month surg in oct then radiation they have used the cure word but this ibc God I am so scared also am getting the 52 week iv herceptin wondering if my drs are just trying to keep the bad news from me. i do have a great team of drs that much I am certain. even rarer is the fact that I also have carcinomas within my breast. No sleep tonight
thnak you for any info advice
the new gal
Deb, my fellow expert patient here, Phyllis, is a 12-year IBC survivor. And treatment now is much better than when she was diagnosed. Keep in mind that the majority of women with IBC do survive it, so chances are you will, too. I'm sure your doctors are attacking this with all the tools in their arsenal - it sounds like you're getting aggressive treatment, which is exactly what's called for. It's natural to be afraid - to be terrified, in fact. But try to feel this fear, validate it, then move past it. And do speak with your oncologist about this; s/he'll probably prove more reassuring than you'd imagine... Hang in there, and stay in touch here, OK? We'll help you get through this. PJH
Deb, I've been where you are right now. I also had Her2/neu positive inflammatory breast cancer. We didn't know until surgery that I also had two tumors on my chest wall and sixteen positive lymph nodes. If Herceptin had been approved for Stage IIIB patients in 1998, I would have been eligible for it, but the timing didn't work out for me. It's true that IBC is the deadliest form of breast cancer, but it is much less deadly than it used to be. I'm a twelve-year survivor and I have friends from my on-line support group at www.ibcsupport.org who have survived even longer than I have who are also doing fine.
To get a five-year survival rate, you have to follow a group of people for five years and then write up your research and get it published. So statistics can tell us what happened to a group of people who were in a study more than five years ago, but they can't predict what will happen to you. The only way I found to live with IBC was to assume that I would be in the surviving group. There was no way to know what would happen, and if my time left on earth was going to be short, I didn't want to waste it living in fear. I also didn't want to spend a lot of time worrying about something that didn't happen if I was in the group that did survive. Of course, I had scared and depressed days, but I tried to spend more days living in hope.
There are many new treatments for aggressive cancers like IBC, so believe your doctors when they say you are a good candidate for a cure. You will be getting Herceptin, which wasn't available for me, and Herceptin and some of its cousins are making a huge dent in the mortality rate. Your surgeon is correct that reconstruction is not usually done right away for IBC patients. That is because the cancer is in the skin of the breast, and they don't want to rearrange that skin during reconstruction until they are absolutely certain that the chemo, radiation, and surgery have eradicated all the cancer. I have heard of a few people whose surgeons and oncologists agreed to immediate reconstruction, but that is not the usual practice at this time.
It sounds like you have probably already found some of my earlier entries about my experience as an IBC patient. I've also featured the stories of some other IBC patients, so keep browsing. You will find some hopeful stories as well as scary ones. Keep in touch. I found the surgery not nearly as bad as chemo, so i hope yours goes as well as mine did.
Annie, I can understand why you would be afraid of pancreatic cancer given your sister's experience with it. Breast cancer does not usually spread to the pancreas. It most often goes to the bones, lungs, liver, or brain; so I think you can put worrying about your breast cancer spreading to your pancreas out of mind. Muscle spasms after a mastectomy are not unusual. I had them quite frequently for years after my mastectomy. Doing regular stretching exercises has reduced their frequency. My physical therapist tells me these spasms are not unusual. I'm not sure why you didn't have them with your first surgery. Keep doing what you have been doing, notifying your doctors about any pains you are having.
I had a mastectomy and 4 lymph nodes removed 10 days ago. I was up walking within 3 hours, actually waltzed with my husband in the halls 5 hours afterwards. I was discharged 24 hours after surgery, and began limited (computer) work while in the hospital. I am still being gentle about lifting with my left arm, but I can write, carry a cup of coffee, hold my large digital camera, etc. etc.
The lymph nodes have caused by far the most discomfort and limitations on my movement. I have been extremely fortunate and had very little pain. Advil is doing the job just fine. But I do tire easily, and am forcing myself to take it easy. And the lymph node area swells if I am too active - bouncing along bumpy roads, or using my arm a lot.
All that said, outpatient sounds crazy to me. It was comforting to have the nurses there to make sure things were really going as well as they seemed.
Excellent, Debi! Sounds like you're having a great recovery. Do watch out for swelling in your arm, however; do you know the signs of lymphedema? This is a condition you definitely want to work to prevent. Good luck - hope your recovery continues uneventfully. PJH
I am scheduled to have a (L) breast mastectomy Friday, March 5th. I have had more time to consider my options and have requested that my surgeon consider a bi-lateral mastectomy...I just do NOT want to go through all of this again. I am 56 years old, and a single mother (of a teenager). I do not have the resources to be able to stay home from my work (essentially done on computer and phone) for a longer than one week...I plan to return on the 15th. I will have to drive myself there and back...about a 45 minute drive. Do you think I am being too optimistic, in thinking that I will be able to do this? I am having the expanders put in at the time of surgery...I have alot of 'expansion' there as it is...I had not considered that the expanders may be a cause for further discomfort...I appreciate you all taking time to write about your recovery experience.
I didn't have a bilateral or expanders. I had a right radical mastectomy, which means that I had more muscle removed than you will. I would strongly urge you to have a backup ride for work. Forty-five minutes is a long way to travel home after an exhausting day. I traveled a thousand miles ten days after my surgery for a combination consultation at a comprehensive cancer center and a beach vacation. By then I was long off pain killers and up and around, but still not able reach over my head. I also tired easily, and I don't know if the travel contributed to the post-surgical infection I developed, but at week two I needed an antibiotic because of an infection in the scar.
I was the passenger, not the driver on my trip. I'm assuming that your car is an automatic. Shifting gears would be difficult. I found reaching up to get my seat belt on a challenge. You may be feeling great at ten days and well able to go back to work, but try to have some back-up plans in place if it is too much. Is it possible to do some of your work from home?
I hope all goes well with your surgery.
I agree with PJ. Driving, especially for 45 minutes, could present a challenge. Find someone to drive you, if at all possible. This is a perfect time to ask for help.. and your friends will *want* a way to help.
I had only a left side mastectomy with a few lymph nodes, and no expander.. and I would not have wanted to try a drive that long that soon. I'm also thankful I did not go for the bilateral option. I had much more independence because I still had full use of my right arm.
A seatbelt is not all that comfortable after a mastectomy. If all goes smoothly and you have an automatic you might do fine, but stopping fast or turning quickly in an emergency could be very difficult. It is not worth risking extreme pain or disaster. Being there to watch your teenager finish growing up is more important!
I'll be thinking of you on the 5th, sending healing thoughts and wishing all the best for you..
Its 5 days since my mastectomy with all nodes on that side out. Ive had almost no pain, only a bit of aciness from time to time, but expect it to get more uncomfortable as I start needing to excercise.
I had 3 nights in hospital, for which I was extremely glad. Getting out earlier would have been scary. Though the first day after I felt great, but I think it was residual morphine, I went on to be fragile feeling and incredibly tired and sleepy.. still am- more confident of moving around, but dont really want to.. still hauling my drain about and contracted a bad cold in hospital.
Ive been told it takes 6 weeks for soft tissue to heal.. so nothing demanding till then. And though I can drive in a couple of weeks, the effects of anaesthetic and body stress on concentration mean I should not expect to do long journeys.
My friend who had one in 2001, attempted to act normal afterwards for the sake of her daughter, did too much and popped her stitches. !!
My children feel empowered by my need for looking after, and want to do that for a while. People like to be allowed to help if they know its needed and what they can do. Men sometimes need it explaining.
Sounds like you've got a good handle on everything, Mira. I'm glad your recovery has been uneventful so far, and hope it continues to be so. Good for you, realizing now's not the time to refuse help - people want to take care of you, and you need taking care of. Simple as that, even though we often find it hard to simply accept help and say "thank you." Best of luck to you - PJH
I had a mestectomy back in November 2009. I found it to be very painful an uncomfortable. I had no use of my right side for about a week than got a little mobiltiy back each week. I had lymph nodes removed and that was a big culprit in my pain and immobiltiy. I also had a tissue expander put in and that didn't do well with me. I had to have it removed last week eight weeks after the last surgery. So now I have to heal all over again. I am not sure why the tissure expander did not do well me. I was told that I could be just petite on top and I felt everything. Most people do well with a tissue expandure in I was one of the unlucky ones. I think everyone recoveries differently and my experience is not the norm. I just wish the doctors would of been more honest about the pain and the disruption of life. Good luck with recovery and remember that everyday gets better. L.Shea
I had a left breast mastectomy with sentinel node biopsy 2 weeks ago. I left hospital after 24 hours with just Ibuprofen as painkillers. I drove my car for a short drive after 2 days and was back at work (45 min drive each way) after a week.
The drain was awkward to deal with, but I concealed it in a shoulder bag when I went out.
I was given a 'comfie' breast replacement, which my Mum kindly adapted by sewing a button on as a nipple. When I wear this, I feel and look very much as I used to.
I am having more lymph nodes removed next week, and will face chemotherapy after that.
I am not a Superwoman, but with two teenage daugters, and my own company to run, I find that my way of coping is to get back to normal as soon as possible.
I will find it harder to do this during the chemotherapy, but will cope as best as I can.
Good luck to all of you out there.
Hi Jane - Like you, I was right back at it quickly - not every woman can do this, but it sounds like you're coping. I never missed a day of work due to chemo, other than the day of the infusion itself. But PLEASE be careful not to be Superwoman and think you can work as hard as you always do, and not suffer consequences. Chemo does a number on you - you HAVE to take care of yourself, or you could find yourself very ill indeed. See if you can cut back your schedule, reduce responsibilities for awhile. Get plenty of rest, and stay away from crowds and other potentially "germy" situations. If you don't suffer side effects that are ultra-debilitating, you can balance chemo and work - but you have to be sensible. Best of luck to you - PJH
I just had a bilateral mastectomy Dec 9, 2009 and I am reovering nicely, but it definitely takes some time. At about 7 weeks I could do some light house work for a short period of time. I had no problem going back to work 3 weeks after surgery doing desk work but going easy on lifting still.
It did require 3 days at the hospital, and I did have to ask for them to keep me.
I had a stage 2 that was reevalulated to a stage 1 at surgery. It was invasive but had not spread into the lympth nodes. I would like to sugest you look into having the oncotype DX test performed on your tumer tissue, this test shows how you will rate on reoccurance based on genes found in your tumor. This test was used in helping determine what the best treatment would entail.
If I were you, I would go forward with the mastectomy. I feel by acting quickly I avoided harsh treatments. I only have to take a pill instead of Chemo and radiation.
You might want to get a second opinion on the damage of waiting 5 months.
Personally, if the surgery can be done without harming your unborn baby I would proceed.
Best of wishes.
I had a left breast mastectomy April 20th. It was an outpatient procedure in a surgery clinic, and I was driven home by my daughter about 30 minutes after I woke up from the anesthetic. I sat in my recliner, took pain medication, and slept on and off the rest of the day. I took some pain meds the second day, but was able to quit them after that. I drove on the 5th day after surgery. I had one drain tube in for 3 weeks, and it was more of a bother than painful. As everyone has said, each person reacts and heals differently. The thing my female surgeon said to be diligent about is the exercises when you are able. The exercise helps to combat scar tissue, which can be very painful. I think the key is a positive attitude and confidence in your doctor. I'm looking at 6 weeks of radiation, so that will be another new experience....
Sharon, it sounds like you've handled the mastectomy very well. I'm betting radiation will be the same. Bst of luck to you - PJH
Thanks, PJ! Every bit of encouragement helps! I've had great support, and tried to maintain the "normalcy" around here. I have two adult children and a great husband who were worried and upset, but I found that if I maintain my sense of humor and talk about this in a calm way, they have come to see this as just another aspect of life to be dealt with like any other problem that comes along...
Meet it head on and take care of it! Then, get on with life as usual. I have a fear of the unknown like everyone else, but I figure that fear just gets in the way of solving a problem or dealing with it in the best way possible. So, I put fear on the back burner, and tried to ease everyone's anxieties, including the doctors! lol They have said it's been much easier to work with me since I've kept my cool and let my sense of humor get me through this. I think humor is contagious, don't you? Sharon
Humor and laughter are definitely contagious, Sharon - let's all catch them! I'm so gla dyou're handling this well. If you ever feel down, remember - it passes. You'll feel good again, like you do now. Take care - PJH
I know that everyone is different but I think that is outrageous that a doctor
woud tell you that you will be fine in three days. This is major sugery and not
a procedure such as having a tooth removed. On April 1, 2010 I had a bilateral
mastectomy with senitnel nodes removed on both sides.
I feel that I have been let down by the medical community. No one has been
truthful with me in regards to the pain that can be experienced post op. The
surgeon prior to my biopsy told me that he "was not impressed by the area that
he felt on my breast. Well after the biopsy was performed he was surprised that I had breast cancer.
I am 2 months out from surgery and I havin pain that cannot be
controlled by Dilaudid. I was sent home on this after being hospitalized for
3 days after surgery. I was given morpine after the surgery and had it stopped
the next day.
I have had pain everyday since surgery and I can not get anyone from the
surgeons office, oncology or phyical therapy to take me seriously. It feels
under my arm pits (12 lymph nodes removed on the left and 3 on the right) as if there are steel hoops under them. My chest is tight and the pain goes around to
my back. (NO this is not heart related).
I just wish that someone would have told me just how painful this can be
instead of painting a picture of yes, you should have some pain but that you
should be back to normal in 6 weeks. Well I am not back to normal and I
am waiting for my referral to pain management to come through.
My experience with the medical communiy is that they have a fixed time limit
as to when you should feel better. I am scheduled to start chemotx tomorrow
and I pray to God that I wll be able to go through it as I have had constant
pain from day one and have not experinced one night where I have been able
to seep through the night due to pain.
I have learned that there is a conditon such as post mastectomy syndrome.
There have been some cases where women have experienced pain from their
mastectomies for over 2 years.
I do not think that a surgeon should try to scare a patient by giving them
surgical horrow stories . But they should be more forth coming with
logically presented information to let the patient know that yes your recovery
period may go smooth but that also you may have a difficult time. And for those
like me who have constant pain to be taken seriously
One more thing. I was told today that I may experience bone pain as a result
of chemo and that it will be treated with motrin. Bone pain, bone pain and you
will treat it with motrin. I mean what is this a headache. I just cannot believe
Has anyone else experienced a lack of pain control?
I pray God's healing power and presence over everyone,
I'm glad you're seeing a pain specialist. Hopefully s/he can help you get through this. Some women, unfortunately, do have a terrible time with recovery - be it from surgery, chemo, or radaiation. There's no predicting how you'll handle any of these aggressive therapies; so it's incredibly disheartening when you don't have an "average" experience, and recover "like everyone else." All you can do is keep working towards a solution - which it sounds like you're doing. I wish you all the best, in hopes this pain disappears soon - PJH
I had my first chemo treatment on Wednesday June 23, 2010 and the fatique and bone pain set in on friday. It absolutely felt like my surgery area was squeezing me into, it became so tight. Has anyone else experienced this? Still fighting the nausea but have not thrown up yet. I can do this if it is no worse than it is now. Hang in there girls. We will survive!!
Indeed, Bren - you have to slog down this chemo path, no going aorund it. But every day you're one day closer to being done. We're with you, sister - we WILL survive! thanks for connecting here - PJH
I, too, had a double mastectomy with sentinel node removal on the left side for left breast cancer. I asked that the right breast be done as well for fear of a cancer in the future. I also am undergoing reconstruction. It is now 3 weeks, 4 days, and I feel like I had the surgery yesterday. It feels like I have an underwire bra on that is squeezing me with burning pain and I want it off! I am a single mom with two teenage boys and let me tell you if I didn't have a few friends stop by to "help out" a little I think I would have gone nuts. I am still on antibiotics as I had redness on the left side. My drains are still in on both sides and now the one on the left is "not working". Twice, the fluid drained out of the incision and not the tube/drain. Go to doctor tomorrow to see what needs to be done. Thank God I do not have to have chemo, radiation, or even tamoxifen as I had an in situ lesion and the path report was clear. I wouldn't know what to do at that point. Dilaudid does not work. Nucynta made me feel very drugged and sleepy. I wouldn't sleep at night if I took that during the day. I am taking three ibuprofen around-the-clock just to take the edge off. The pain wakes me up at night. I look like a stab victim (sorry but I do). I can only sleep on my back as these drains dictate how I do sleep so I have a backache. Tried the couch but that too was uncomfortable. I agree that no one tells you what horrific pain you go through and of course, like the writer above said, you certainly can't expect doctors to tell you that prior to a surgery like this. I would rather not have the saline injected at all and have the expanders removed but I don't want another surgery. I am 58 years old and I am trying to be optimistic that everything will be okay. I have to go back to work in two weeks and I don't know if I will make it.
Keep working on the sleep issue. Your doctor may be able to give you something to help with sleep. Many people find that sleeping in a recliner or propped up with pillows helps. If you can get a good night's sleep, it is easier to deal with the rest of it during the day. Let your doctor know how you are feeling.
I remember being very discouraged at three weeks because I still didn't have full mobility of my arm. Once I did start getting better, I was pleased and surprised by how fast I recovered. I didn't have reconstruction, so I know you are facing a longer process than I had, but please be patient. Everyone I have talked to who has had implants says they feel so much better after the expanders come out and the implants go in. Hang in there.
Thank you Phyllis for your input. It has been very discouraging as I had a Staph infection and my expanders had to be removed and my chest cleaned out. The pain is still there and it has been almost 9 weeks. I was on IV antibiotics for two weeks and now on oral. This is a very frustrating ordeal and I am back with no hope for implants because of all of this. I am just grateful "all the cancer was removed."
Wow! You have really been through it. I'm so sorry to hear about the staph infection. Some breast cancer pain lingers even when surgery goes well, so it may be a while longer before you are feeling really good again. I find that antibiotics make me feel run down even when no surgery is involved, so between the antibiotics and the normal post-surgery recovery, you are going to need to get a big refill of patience. I know that you were anxious to get back to a normal work schedule, but try to get extra rest while your body is healing. It is good that you can focus on the most important point: the cancer is gone.
Wow. I had a unilateral mastectomy in Dec. 2009. It took about 4 weeks to get back to normal activity with some painkillers. I really hated the drain tube, but mostly the emotional impact of the loss of my breast has been the most difficult. No one commented on this at all, so perhaps I have had an unusual reaction. Sometimes I still grieve when I see women on TV with lovely cleavage that I will never have. I just had my second surgery to adjust my expander and my surgeon says I will be done by the end of the year with reconstruction which will be just over a year since my first lumpectomy surgery. I find this whole process difficult and emotionally draining. I wish I felt as great as you all do, but I just don't.
I agree that the emotional pain at the loss of a breast can be greater than the physical pain. It was for me. The original question in this thread had to do with how soon a person could get back to work and other activities, so the focus has been on physical recovery issues in the comments. Well before I ever had cancer, I remember reading a woman's story about getting reconstruction so that she could wear low-cut tops. I thought that was such a shallow reason for major surgery. Now I understand completely. I hate shopping, especially in the summer because it is so hard to find a top that doesn't show the cavity in my chest from surgery. Although people have a range of emotional reactions to losing their breasts, I don't think your grief is unusual at all. You will probably feel a little better when your reconstruction is done, but a reconstructed breast will not be the one you lost. My grief about my breast is similar to grief I've had over other losses. Time does heal, trite though that expression may be. I still feel sad when I walk through the lingerie department, but most of the time, I'm fine. Having breasts is not the definition of womanhood, just one very nice part that I miss.
I had a lumpectomy 3 weeks ago followed by masectomy 3 days later, I still have soreness especially under my arm, as I have developed a blood clot, I thought it was because the drain came out too early, but was told it is the bodies way of healing and protecting and it will reabsorb itself. Although my scan with isotope was negative before the masectomy, after analysis under the microscope one was found to be positive, so I am going in for a 3rd operation next thursday for removal of the lymph nodes. I am concerned about the pain after, has anyone else had the same chain of surgery as me or have I been unlucky.
I had the same three operations, pretty much - lumpectomy, mastectomy with node biopsy, and reconstruction concurrent with mastectomy. I didn't experience much pain; maybe I was lucky, but I think you'll do OK. Discomfort, yes; but lots of pain? Well, hopefully not. Also, I hope they don't remove many lymph nodes; the newest studies show that it's not necessary to remove lots of lymph nodes, even if one is found to be positive, as it doesn't make any difference in survival rate. And removing lots of nodes increases your chance for lymphedema. So, best of luck to you - I hope all goes well, and you're back on the path to recovery soon. PJH
I am inquiring myself about an estimated recovery timeline and pain. I just wanted to thank-you all for sharing, which reminds me that there are other women like me that was afraid.
I do wish you all God's healing! Thank-you and I pray that my surgery (bilateral mastecomy) will be as sucessful as you all's.
I pray the same thing for you, Gwen. It's hard to say for sure what your recovery time will be - it depends on whether you're having reconstruction at the same time, how quickly/well you heal, whether there are complications, etc. I think your surgeon will be able to give you a "best case" scenario, given s/he knows all the aspects of your surgery that need to be considered. Best of luck - PJH
Thank-you so much for your response. Tentatively I'm scheduled for surgery 9 Aug 2011. I knew that there were not any exact timelines, but I was just wondering how others recovery process went. I am relieved to know that we have a network that is actually being monitored with real life experiences and replies.
Dear PJH, I had a double mastectomy, sentinel lymph nodes (2) removed on 7/1/11. I had stage II grade 3 HER2 cancer. That evening I was sitting up in bed working in my Sudoko book, the next morning I asked that the cathater and IV be removed so I could get out of bed and walk around, later that afternoon when my Dr. came by she asked me if I wanted to go home. I was scheduled to stay 2 days because I hade a double mastectomy. The 1st week my husband took care of me, because I couldn't use my arms to put any weight on them and he emptied my drains. The next week I drove myself to my Doctors appointments and to the grocery store when needed (I took my time, moved slowly). I drove myself to all of my chemo treatments, but the 1st because my Dr. told me I had to have someone drive me. I am sorry for going on so long , but what I want to say is that I am Blessed to have one of the top Oncologist in the Nation. What I have been told from the beginning is that I have cancer, but cancer hasn't got me and to put my life in the hands of the LORD and everything will be OK. So that is what I did and anyone that sees me doesn't know that I have had cancer, because I don't show it other than being bald ha!ha!. So it is how you deal with what you are given. When I was told I was 6 days shy of my 49th birthday, had just 2 months before seen my daughter give birth to her first child, 4 months before had meet my 2 other grandchildren for the first time and my estranged son for over 12 yrs. So I had so,so much to fight for. God had blessed me in so many ways, I knew that he wasn't going to let the Devil win me with this cancer. So I will pray for you every day and I want you to fight like I did, because you have something to live for. Don't let pain or the scars get to you, God loves us no matter what we look like. I love you and pray for you.
Thank you so much for taking the time to share with the women on this site. Your kind words will provide comfort and inspiration to so many... I'm glad you were able to recover so quickly, and are doing well. Best of luck as you continue to heal, both physically and meotionally. I'm so happy you were able to be there for those special family moments! PJH
I had my double mastectomy on 7/12/11. Unfortunately there was a leaking arthery so two days after they had to reopen me again and take care of that bleeding. The very next day I was home. I never had pain, discomfort only. My doctor told me to do everything I could and gently push myself to do that I couldn't. I am almost back to normal now. Hopefully your expirience will be no worse than mine.
However, I do have a question of my own. I am accumulating fluid in my breast right now and had to be drained. Which is not painfull just annoying. Does anybody have any expirience with that?
Hi - Yes, I've heard quite a few women say they have to keep having the fluid drained for awhile beyond when the actual drains are removed. As you say, it's annoying; but your body is healing on its own schedule, and there's not much you can do about it. Ask your surgeon if there's any kind of exercise, or perhaps massage, that'll help drain the fluid naturally. Good luck - and thanks for sharing your experience here. PJH
Hello, I have been reading through all these messages and think that you, PJH, are absolutely incredible - you are providing such wonderful calm advice which is just what I need right now.
I had my right breast and 13 lymph nodes removed through the British National Health system 17 days ago at Salisbury District Hospital in Wiltshire, England. They were amazingly quick after the diagnosis and it was only about 5 weeks from seeing my doctor with the lump to having the breast removed.
I will start chemotheraphy in the new year as they found two of the lower nodes were cancerous. I don't think I have been in any more discomfort than any of the other women writing here, but because of the speed with which everything happened I feel as if I'm in shock and cannot quite believe what has happened. I'm worried about sinking into depression and also about drinking too much. alcohol to 'cheer myself up' which I know is definitely not good for me. My lovely husband has been wonderful and I know I'm depending on him too much at the moment. I'm getting out walking my dog, reading books and watching Christmas videos to try and keep myself cheerful, but it is difficult! Any words of wisdom for me PJ? Karen
Karen, the first thing you need to know about how you should feel is that there is no right way to feel or not to feel. You are probably right that the speed of this who process has left you in shock, but everyone deals with that shock differently. This link to an article about the emotional stages of grief and shock as they apply to breast cancer may give you some context for what you are feeling. Yes, you may feel depressed when the shock wears off; you might also feel angry. I personally find a day in bed with the covers pulled up over my head allows me to acknowledge all the misery I'm feeling and then to get up the next day and do what needs to be done.
Walking the dog, reading, and watching Christmas videos sounds like a good recovery program from surgery as long as you do not expect yourself to feel too relentlessly cheerful. Expect to have some good days and some bad days emotionally and physically as you start chemo. Since most spouses feel helpless to help us, your husband probably does not mind you relying on him too much right now. You'll make it up to him later when he needs help.
Karen, thanks so much for you kind words. It's our pleasure to be a resource here - we've been through cancer, come out the other side, and we love to reach our hands out (virtually!) to as many women as we can.
My best advice is this: Cancer is a rock in the path. Step over it; the path will still be there. And you'll have SO many people (starting with your husband) helping you on this path. You'll be amazed at the love and caring you'll feel from family, friends, and the medical community.
As Phyllis says, it's OK to feel however you feel - there's no right or wrong about dealing with cancer, emotionally. I think it helps to validate those feelings, whatever they are; and if they're positive, hang onto them. If negative - try to let them go. But don't expect miracles - you're going through hell, and it's natural to feel like it, at least some of the time!
As time passes, and the fact of your cancer continues to sink in, you'll find yourself becoming more and more matter-of-fact; time heals, it really does. Basically, you just pick up your feet and move forward - because really, there's no other choice.
You can do this, Karen - I know you can. The millions of women who've gone before you have your back - we're here for you. So visit here anytime - to vent, to share, to ask questions, or just to visit. We can help you through this. Take care- PJH
Thank you for that excellent advice. I read your article and it absolutely summed up how I felt. You are so kind. Karen
Thank you - that is just the sort of advice I need. Your kindness in taking time to reply to everyone is overwhelming. I'm waiting for chemo to start and will go into it in a more positive frame of mind. Karen
Karen, have you read our chemo series? It might make you feel a little less overwhelmed about what you're facing... One thing I can tell you - many women report chemo isn't as bad as they thought it would be; that was true for me. It's no walk in the park, but you know what? One foot in front of the other, and every day you're that much closer to being through it. Best of luck to you - sending you healing energy. PJH
Karen, I am so happy to be able to pass along some of the kindness that was extended to me when I was in your shoes. I'm glad you were able to connect with the article. Write back as you have further questions during chemo. Let us know how it goes.
I experience both, lumpectomy and mastectomy, mastectomy take more time to recover, you can be up, but lifting things you can lift not heavy things, you have to give it more time, you can not do too much effort for at least 3 month.
Most people I have talked to say that they feel much better once the permanent implants are in. You should see continued improvement in the muscle pain as time goes on. I have found that when I stop doing my stretching exercises, I see an increase in muscle spasms and discomfort. A physical therapist could help you find ways to keep your range of motion good and to decrease pain. Unfortunately, even the best reconstruction can't give you back the sensation of your real breasts, but as time goes by, you will probably get more comfortable with your new new body. I hope the switch to the real implants makes a big difference in how you feel.
Mastectomy required more time than lumpectomy to recover, I had experienced both, 2 moths ago, I still can not lifting things. I could say to be completely recovery I will give you 3 moths. You can do things that not required too much effort.... good luck!
my surgeon said that the lymph nodes are held in a sac, everybody is different in the number in the sac and they just take that out. I will have to wait for reconstruction as I have chemo and radio first, so may be have to wait for up to a year.
As your surgeon says, the number of lymph nodes does vary. They tend to cluster together like grapes and they are found at different levels in your armpit. It used to be that surgeons would try to get all of them out. Now they are more likely to just remove the cluster nearest the surface. Ask your surgeon to remove the minimum number that he feels is necessary.
I had a masectomy on March 16th, The 2 hemavac drains were removed, 1 on March 31st with half of the staples and the other was removed on April 1st with the other half of the staples. They removed every other staple the first time and then what was left the next day. I was in the hospital 16 days and now here it is May 25th and I am finally going back to work on May 31st. That make it 10 weeks. I had more pain with the lumpectomy that I had with the masectomy. I had the lumpectomy on Jan 12th and was in pain right up to the time I had the breast removed. I could not wait for the breast to be removed so the pain could go away. After the lumpectomy my nipple became so sensitive that the whole breast hurt. I have a prosthesis now and I look perfect. I thought about reconstructive surgery but I do not feel like going under the knife again right now or having to have injections into the prosthesis yearly I think. There was nothing in my lymp nodes under the arm. I do not need Chemo because they said that it may only benefit me about 2% and it was my choice to have it. It is not worth me having to loose my hair, be sick all the time and loose weight. I can't take the pill a day because my cancer was not hormonal and Radiation was ruled out early. I have to go to the Doctor every 3 months now for the next 2 years and then every 6 months for 5 years after that. All I need to do is a blood test a couple of days before the appointment with the Oncologist. I feel Blessed and I do wish you all the Best with delivering a Beautiful and Healthy baby.
Sounds like you're really on the road to recovery. I'm glad you didn't have any lymph node involvement, and so can skip chemo - that's the decision I would make, in your place. Best of luck and I hope you continue to feel better and better every day. PJH