Keeping abreast - the weeks after my lumpectomy (10 August 2021)

I have a lot to be grateful for. The breast lump has been removed and hadn't spread to my lymph nodes and family colleagues and friends have all been a tremendous support.

Sleeping

Lying on your stomach is a very good sleeping position if you have Covid (I've fortunately avoided this but I do fall asleep like this). When I advised a friend of mine with a larger than life personality, to sleep in this position, when suffering from the virus (apparently it helps with the breathing) she explained she had "two very good reasons" why she couldn't! But when you've had an operation on your breast you're advised to wear a non-underwired sports bra 24/7 and sleep on your back or your non-operated-upon side. Takes a bit of getting used to, I can tell you. Have you ever had a massage on a massage table? The kind that has a hole to put your face in? A friend who'd been through the same procedure 18 months before me told me how she'd fantasised about having a similar hole in her mattress lower down, so she could let her new breast hang through it and continue to sleep on her stomach. Unfortunately for both of us, I don't think this has ever come on the market.

Pain

Having a lumpectomy with lymph node removal and an 'uplift' was not a comfortable experience. I wasn't sure what to expect but the pain was by no means the worst I've ever had to experience. I didn't cry or scream. In the post-op room they asked me to rate my pain on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the worst it had ever been (I think I'd score my first experience of giving birth - without analgesics - as a 10). Initially it felt as if someone was sticking 28 needles in my breast around the wounds and my breast itself felt as if it had been punched. I was still hooked up to a canula in the post-op room and over a period of time (I actually have no idea how long this was) they upped my medication to the maximum dose whilst the pain reduced from a score of 7 down to 4 or 5. There were now far fewer needles piercing me.

Before I left the hospital that day with my shiny new breast, incarcerated Madonna-like in brown surgical tape (my surgeon later described this as "The Marsden Bra"), I was advised to use paracetamol and ibuprofen. I told them I didn't think this would cut the muster and they prescribed codeine phosphate to go with it too (with a warning that over-use could cause addiction). That helped considerably in the first few hours and days after I returned home... and the fact that there was still a considerable amount of anaesthetic in my body. Still didn't help with my sleeping, though!

What surprised me was the pain from the intubation - that was more difficult to contend with. It felt like I had a bad case of tonsillitis and hurt like hell. I spoke to the MacMillan nurses on the phone and was advised that lemon and honey in hot water would be too astringent; so long as I wasn't allergic to it, because it shouldn't interfere with my medication, I should try chamomile tea with honey instead. Apparently chamomile has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Apparently it has anti-cancer properties too - bit late to find that out!

Over the next couple of weeks the breast and throat pain from my operation reduced and I was needing fewer and fewer pain-killers each day. Probably a blessing for the neighbours as I stopped singing for over 3 weeks!

Getting back to normality

Now, several weeks later, I still have twinges but am no longer in constant pain. And the twinges are minor. Most of the time I forget that I've been opened up and mauled about. I have started to use anti-perspirant and have baths again, rather than showers, but I still try and keep the breast dry during my ablutions. There is a reason to avoid soaking my breast - getting wet / soft in the water can weaken the incision line the tissues have to have time to heal and become more water-resistant.

I started on endocrine medication a couple of weeks after my op (my type of cancer cells were fed oestrogen and it's now being removed from my body). So far I don't think I've turned into a menopausal witch, but my family might beg to differ! Having had further results from an amazing genetic test (which confirmed that the likelihood of my developing a new related form of cancer somewhere else in my body in the next 10 years is low, and I won't need chemo). I think I've been through the worst of it now, I'm feeling emotionally robust and ready for the next stage of my treatment. Radiotherapy here I come!

Cakes

I created a Baked Alaska for someone's birthday.  My post operation breast was round and no longer hung downwards; apparently it will take about a year to shrink and settle into its final shape, even if I wasn't to have radiotherapy. I was reminded of my new breast when I baked the Alaska, but didn't mention it to the person I made the cake for. Perhaps she'll one day read this blog - part of me hopes she never does!!  If you fancy baking one yourself have a look at my cake blog https://wordpress.com/post/kathiescakes.wordpress.com/887 

Anonymous
  • Morning, one lumpectomy operation down and another scrap operation followed for a wider clear margin fingers crossed for results in a weeks time.  I'm interested to know what the amazing genetic test was, is it something you requested or paid for privately ?

  • Hi there,  the test was a Prosigna Test and was carried out on the NHS (at The Royal Marsden) in a path lab, on the tissue that was removed during surgery.  It's for people whose breast cancer has oestrogen positive receptors and there is no lymph node involvement. The website https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms/testing/types/prosigna will tell you more about it.  I don't know how many hospitals around the country carry this out routinely, but it's worth asking.   Wishing you all the best, "I like coffee".  Do let me know how you get on!

  • Hi, thank you for the information I will have a read, I don't know excatly what type mine is but I suppose full results won't be until next Monday. Going for a dressing change tomorrow, so off to prepare Joylike I am going out for a night on the tiles with the girls, anyone else do this or just me JoyJoy

  • I know!  I had a shower and washed and blow-dried my hair before I went to get my results. Something made me feel it was important to look good for them but I've no idea why (they probably didn't give a toss)!!  

  • Hi I am awaiting my results, I had a theraputic mammoplasty on 3rd August, my dressings are being removed Monday. So far advised I am healing well.  Can I ask what your final results was please, grade, size, lymph nodes etc. I am interested to enquire about this test. Best Wishes xx