My DIEP Flap Reconstruction Journey (Part 3)

In this post there are pictures of me without a shirt on showing a lot more of my post surgery body then I’d normally be comfortable with. Please be respectful and if you don’t like it don’t read it. I’m hoping that by showing this I can help someone else going through this experience. Lots of love – Danielle

My recovery was slow at first with lots of areas of discomfort to keep my mind busy, see I had a horrible experience with opiate induced constipation during my mastectomy so I was taking only Tylenol to help with my pain. My back hurt so much from the position I had to sit in both in the hospital and at home. My right wrist hurt from the blown vein from the ART line I had during my hospital stay. My neck had a kink that lasted until I was released back to my bed from sleeping upright for 6 weeks. My stomach incision was tight, sore and made dressing nearly impossible. Simple things like getting up to go to the bathroom exhausted me. Not to mention I just looked horrible all the time. Now I don’t have any qualms with going out in public in sweats but this was next level! I was so self-conscious and so uncomfortable but determined to make all my appointments and even go places like the grocery store.

I immediately started Physical Therapy at Therapeutic Associates in West Linn by my gorgeous and spunky PT Victoria Bryson. Obviously the physical parts of PT were put on hold and mostly she just helped make me a little more comfortable through massage and light stretching. I also immediately started up my acupuncture treatments twice a week with Dr. Kacy Borba Spann of Quercus Natural Health at Portland Family Health Clinic. She is my savior and the relationship we’ve built since before I was diagnosed with cancer is irreplaceable. I’ll delve into my treatments and exercises in another blog post but just know that these two women are responsible for my quick recovery and amazing results.

My grandmother was my day nurse and my husband was my night nurse. My grandfather was my chauffeur. My mom continued her duties as best Gema ever by watching our son during the week, sometimes overnight and even on the weekends as needed. My dad cooked meals along with many other friends and family. It is always so touching to watch how people rally around you when things get tough or when you aren’t able to do things for yourself. My son even got in on the action by holding my hand and helping me walk to the bathroom and around the house from time to time. These are the things I remember most about those first 3-4 weeks of recovery. Just lots of love, family and support.

Now I’m very lucky that all the bad things that could’ve, and if you’d asked my surgeon should’ve, happened during my recovery didn’t occur and for that I am blessed. I had some issues with scabs giving way to open wounds but once my surgeons physician assistant Steve, who was the most amazing man and definitely my favorite person to see when I was in the clinic, prescribed me some Silvadene cream those wounds quickly began to heal. Like I mentioned in part 2 I was sent home with 6 drains. By my week 2 post op I was able to get one drain from each foob taken out, leaving me with one drain in each foob and each hip. By week 4 I was left with 1 drain in my hip which would get removed the following week. Drains are AWFUL!!! They are gross, they are uncomfortable and they make life very difficult. Imagine trying to shower with 4 drain tubes attached to a bladder hanging off of you???? It was my main goal each week that I went in to my surgeon’s clinic to get drains removed. The day I got my last drain out I immediately came home and took a long hot shower to celebrate! At 6 weeks post op I was released to return to bed, which was a glorious day, since up until then I had been sleeping in my recliner which had grown extremely uncomfortable!! At 8 weeks post op I returned to work, part time from home at first and then slowly back into the office.

Let’s talk about the aesthetic look of my new foobs…

Are they perfect? No

Do they look like real boobs? Only with my clothes on.

Do they feel like real boobs? Almost…definitely more so then implants ever would.

Am I happy? Yes

Considering the alternative I definitely like my new foobs but I am still extremely self-conscious about the way they look without clothes on. Because they sit above the chest muscles they stick out kind of weird, like implants would. I think my husband once said they kind of look like muffin tops (lmfao he’s right). Because my stomach fat was thick they couldn’t shove it all the way into my boob skin and just sew my mastectomy scar back up so I have a scar that goes all the way around each of my breasts. Now this doesn’t bother me, my scars aren’t something I feel the need to hide because they tell part of my story. Also I know that during my revision surgery that some of the things I dislike the most about my foobs will be changed so that is comforting. If you’ve had breast reconstruction you already know this but for those that have never experienced it just know that breast reconstruction is more often than not a long process with many revision surgeries and they never can replace what we all lost.

Breast reconstruction is NOT, I repeat is NOT, a boob job!

Now let’s talk about the aesthetic look of my stomach incision…

Am I happy? Almost

Of course having an incision from hip bone to hip bone and a new belly button created isn’t really what I had in mind for my stomach, but I can tell you that having my stomach fat removed to create new foobs was a perk of the surgery for me. It provided me with an opportunity to start over with my body. A body that had been through so many hormonally induced weight issues (including a pregnancy) that it was nearly impossible for me to make any progress in that specific area. I had what I call a mom pooch and it made me feel gross whenever I looked in the mirror. So yes, I am almost happy with that part of the surgery. Just like with the foobs I know my surgeon plans on making some really great improvements to that area during my revision surgery including, liposuction so that things lay flatter.

Overall, like when I had my son naturally (no meds), I don’t remember much about the pain. I know I looked like I had been hit by a semi-truck and there were days when my body felt so tired and uncomfortable that I wanted to just curl up and sleep it off but to actually recall the pain is not possible. It’s a part of my “glass half full” mentality that I just block out the crappy shit and move on to the better things.

For those that are interested in learning more about my must haves during recovery I’ve posted a blog that you can read here. I will also be posting a Part 4 to my journey all about my recovery techniques and the amazing work my PT and Naturopath have done for me during my recovery.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Undine says:

    You are a very brave and strong woman. I wish you nothing but the best for your future. Thanks for sharing your story.

  2. Monique Owens says:

    While searching for blogs on what to expect after Deip Flap Reconstruction I came across yours. Thank you for sharing such a personal journey to help others be prepared and informed.

    1. coopskandc says:

      Thank you for reaching out to me. I’m so glad you found my blog. If you have any questions please feel free to email me directly.

  3. Debbie says:

    Thank you so very much for sharing your journey with us. My Diep flap surgery is scheduled for August 8, 2018 and I have so many mixed emotions. Reading your story gives me the courage to go to the next step with confidence. I’m nervous as heck not knowing what the end result will look like. But it sure beats the alternative of not being here at all!

    1. coopskandc says:

      This comment means the world to me. Trust your doctors and YOUR BODY!! I never once didn’t trust that my body could do this. After all I’d had a baby, I’d gone through chemo and radiation so at this point my body was basically the most badass thing on the planet. If you need to talk please email me and I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have or just chat!! 😘 xoxo Coop

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