Breast Reconstruction Surgery: Updates + Insights

Why is there no short, easy way to say, "removing my tissue expanders and replacing them with my permanent silicone implants"?  

Note: I'm experimenting with keeping my breast cancer-related experiences on the same blog as the crystal information I post. It may or may not stay here - but it's a part of my, and this brand's, story - so, for now, you can find it here.

Last Tuesday, I had the second part of my breast reconstruction surgery: I had my tissue expanders removed and the permanent-ish silicone implants put in. The first part, done at the same time as my bilateral mastectomy, was to insert hard tissue expanders, which begin flat and expand as they are filled with air and/or saline, to stretch the skin in preparation for the permanent implants. If you're wondering what these look like: if you've ever seen a silicone measuring cup, that flattens to store and expands for use, they're kind of like that. 

I regret not better-documenting the first parts of my breast cancer journey (diagnosis, prep, chemo, surgery, radiation) as I went through them - so I'm really working to make this a more in-time account. I'll go back, as I can, and fill in the holes. I definitely have notes from that time - but nothing really well thought-out and with a lot missing, since I didn't write down all of the details I wish I had.

A lot of the information on breast cancer treatment out there doesn't, in my opinion/experience, really address some of the challenges and situations that come up and, again, in my opinion/experience, really didn't do a very good job of preparing me for what I'd be going through. Sometimes, in some very bizarre ways (i.e., "this is an obvious, common side effect/occurrence - and NO ONE thought it would be good to tell me this would probably happen??" There's one of those in this update, as well.). This makes me wish even more I'd documented it better as I was going through it - but, honestly, at the time, I couldn't have. 

So, with all of that said, here are my surgery updates (written 5 days post-op), along with some notes and observations about how I've been feeling and what I've noticed, this time around.

1. This surgery actually came with a higher emotional toll than physical.

Last time, that was the opposite. It's always surprising to me, how much low-grade "crappiness" (mild/moderate pain, nausea, headaches, overall "ofc balance" or "unwell" feeling). I'm fine - just a bit crabby and frustrated.

2. My implants are making a *squorsh* sound when I move my arms sometimes.

No one told me this would happen (??? why don't we tell people things of value, before treatments?), but Google tells me this is fairly normal (caused by fluid buildup around the implants, under the skin. It typically resolves as healing progresses)

3. They're so soft - omg.

I've had the much harder tissue expanders in for over a year. I had no idea what to expect with these. But they are so soft - and, actually, they're pretty "normal" feeling, from what I can tell so far. 

4. I'm still so glad I had a bilateral mastectomy, as opposed to single.

I've had several people ask why I chose it in the beginning and, honestly, it was because that's what my surgeon told me to do and I trusted her opinion. Looking back, I'm so glad I didn't have a choice (I mean, I *did* technically; I could have refused and she would have respected that. But again, I trusted her medical expertise - I chose her bc of her excellent reputation. So I mostly did exactly what she said to do).

I can't imagine having one real and one reconstructed breast. Always comparing. Always remembering. Always feeling...off. These feel pretty normal to me, tbh. I don't think about them, most days (well, during non-surgical times. This week has been different, ofc, as I heal). And I'm grateful for that.

5. There has been really very little physical pain.

Some, yes - but I'd call it more discomfort/soreness than "pain." It's mostly swelling, bruising, tightness, and reduced range of motion (bc of the previous).

6. I am SO tired.

I really feel like my body is using extra energy to repair and readjust the past few days...and I'm just exhausted. I've noticed a trend that applies to this, but also to every other "unwell" cycle I go through: Once I really just accept it and ALLOW IT, it'll go away on it's own. A cold. Resting after too much work. A headache.

When I stop fighting it and just decide that it's actually, really, truly, trust-the-Universe okay, THEN it will let up. And not a moment sooner.

And I'm actually finishing this on post-op day 6 and, wouldn't you know, I'm feeling much less tired today, than I was yesterday. When I decided to surrender to the exhaustion. 

Next Steps

My post-op follow up with my plastic surgeon is later today. I'm hoping to be able to post more content like this, in the coming weeks and months. 

Enjoy this post? Have questions as you navigate treatment for breast cancer? Need someone to walk with you through it? Email me: kristen AT mooncatcrystals.com for information about 1:1 coaching via Zoom and/or Voxer. 

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