My BRCA Surgeries: Part One

After meeting with my breast oncologist (Dr. Megan Baker), oncological gynecologist (Dr. Eleaonor Oakman), and my plastic surgeon (Dr. Jennifer Dixon-Swartz), we scheduled dates for my surgeries.  All of these surgeons were incredible – highly recommend ALL THREE!  The breast surgeon and plastic surgeon scheduled my double mastectomy for mid-August and noted that I’d stay overnight.  It was actually the day before school started, but coordinating dates with everyone involved doesn’t give much leeway on specific dates to choose from.  Ideally, it wasn’t the best case scenario, but I figured there would never be the perfect time.  My first step that morning was getting two nerve blocks put in.  Little did I know these would become my best friends for the next couple days post-surgery.

For this surgery, the breast surgeon goes in first to remove all breast tissue.  After she finishes, the plastic surgeon then assesses the area and decides her next steps.  There are many different case scenarios here depending on what your blood flow looks like, so it’s hard to say you’ll have this same situation.  Some doctors and patients choose spacers, expanders, etc. but I went with implants.  Even right before the surgery, she made sure to tell me that implants would be ideal to pop in, but she couldn’t confirm that until she knew what she was working with.

A few hours post-op.  The surgeries took a total of about five hours.

It was so weird to look down and see actual boobs.  I kind of freaked out first because I told her I didn’t want big ones, but she assured me the swelling would go down.

Thankfully, I woke up with implants. As to what size I chose, I told her I wanted to look as natural as possible. Seeing as I’d never had true boobs before, she explained they wouldn’t look natural to me, but she’d do her best to make that happen. I didn’t choose the size. She said she’d choose based on what everything looked like once she got in there.  She ended up giving me 375CC on the left and 360CC on the right.  That seemed big to me, but she had to remind me that I no longer had fat so the implant itself is pretty much all it is once it’s inserted.

A few hours after my surgery they had me do a quick walk down the hall and everything felt great.

Day 2 Post-Op

On Day 2, I made sure to wake up super early at the hospital so I wouldn’t miss telling the kids to have a great first day of school.  So thankful for our Alexa so I could see them!

Nerve Block Balls
Nerve Block Meds

I had nerve blocks that lasted about four days and so thankful I had them.  I know it made the first days of my recovery so much more comfortable.  My first post-op appointment was two days after my surgery, and I was able to carry my nerve block medicinal balls in my raincoat pockets to go out to lunch with my parents after my appointment.  Haha.  I was very sad on day four when the medicine ran out and I had to remove them from my back.

One Week Post-Op

As for pain, I think the incisions for the drains were honestly more painful than the implants.  I had four drains post op that I had to manage for about two weeks.  This is the least grossest pic of the drains about a week post-op.  Every few hours or so they’d fill with blood and I’d have to squeeze them into cups and record measurements of how much blood there was.  Once the blood stopped after a little over a week, my drains were removed.  Lanier offered to help me with this part, but I guess coming from my parents with medical backgrounds, it didn’t make me squeamish at all, so I just did it myself.  She made incisions under my breasts for my double mastectomy and they healed nicely.  I chose to leave my nipples in tact rather than remove them.

This was my normal look the first week or so.  My drains were in pockets inside the vest.

These were four of my favorite things while I recovered.  A body pillow, a back scratcher, this blanket and these little pillows.

My kids loved the body pillow too.  They still use it.

These little pillows were perfect under my arms.

I loved these cheap bras that came as a set.  Only $8.50 for a two-pack.  Make sure to size up.  They shrink in the wash.

I had to rest for six weeks and then could resume regular activities like tennis.  I didn’t wear this anywhere, but this was two weeks post-op.  I was just sharing an outfit for work.

I was back to playing tennis and even serving felt great about 7 weeks post-op.  I was really surprised at that.

This was all a new world to me.  The weirdest part for me was seeing boobs on me and then not really being able to feel them there.  You lose nerve sensation in lots of areas after a mastectomy.  Every patient is different.  I for one can’t feel mine.  But with everything I went through, I’m just so thankful these were all preventative measures!

My plastic surgeon went into this telling me that I’d have two surgeries.  Sharing details on my second of two breast surgeries here.

For More:  My BRCA Story // My BRCA Surgeries: Part Two // My BRCA Surgeries: Part Three