My first week without boobs has gone well, if not as enjoyably as I’d hoped. I know recovery from surgery is a necessary evil, still, I’m eager to be done with it and just get on with my boob-free life.
(A warning: I’m including postop pics, which might be a bit nastier than some people have a desire to see. I’ll put them at the very end preceded by a censored version so you have time to avoid them. I am ever the considerate one.)
I’m realizing that recovery is really just proceeding through different levels of discomfort (hopefully, ideally one day to emerge free of all of them). I’ve been exceedingly fortunate so far to have experienced very little actual pain; however, that might be still to come as the severed nerves in my chest reconnect.
The first circle of hell was the drains. As I said previously, not as gross as I expected, but a huge nuisance that I couldn’t wait to be rid of. I meticulously measured the output as instructed, knowing the goal was less than 30 cc on each side in 24 hours. By Thursday I was there, but the nurse hotline made me wait until Friday to see the doctor just in case it fluctuated. I hoped mightily it wouldn’t, because that would mean waiting until Monday. But it didn’t and I excitedly prepared for my visit.
I read online about people needing theirs for up to a month, and I can’t even imagine; I was almost late because I couldn’t find a single combination of clothing that did anything at all to hide them, short of maybe a muu-muu (which I don’t own). I settled for cargo shorts where I could at least shove the bulbs in the pockets, and a button-down shirt I could drape awkwardly over the tubes that still contained pus-colored fluid (I know, eww. This is why I can’t imagine dealing with them for a month).
As I changed into the gown at the office and pulled the bulbs out of the pockets, I noticed one of them had popped open. Nothing had spilled, but this is a big no-no as this is a path for germs directly into the system, and all the care instructions repeatedly stress how important it is to touch them with freshly washed hands. I hurriedly closed it and hoped the doctor wouldn’t decide they had to stay for some reason.
He didn’t. He didn’t even look at my log, just asked “Less than 30? Great. Let’s go.” The removal was less than painless, I actually felt nothing at all (I’ve read accounts of people that could feel every inch slide through their skin. Very glad I was spared that as well).
The rest of the dressing had to stay until Monday, which I was fine with. As long as that big piece of saran wrap was plastered over everything, I wasn’t responsible for any wound care or complications from doing it wrong (although the longer it stuck to me, the more it felt like it was tugging painfully at my skin, most importantly my fragile little nipple graft buds).
I also couldn’t shower properly with it on. The instructions say you can, but with dire warnings not to get any of the dressing wet at all. I made a half-hearted and very nerve-wracking effort that wasn’t terribly productive. It wasn’t like I was working up much of a sweat relaxing on the couch anyway.
Time off work. I was afraid it might be challenging, and I was right. This is the first vacation I’ve taken that I haven’t traveled to visit family and spent the whole time in a frantic whirlwind of trying to catch up with everyone. I feel oddly detached from the whole world (which you’d think I would enjoy). I can’t keep the days straight, and if not for Tery’s unique daily changing work schedule I’d be utterly lost.
Yesterday the dressings all came off. The worst part was the nipple packing, which is sutured on. They were mostly numb, except the bottom right, where a suture was a little stubborn and I could feel everything. We both agreed we didn’t want him digging around for it, and apparently it’s going to work out eventually on its own (I’ve also read about buried sutures having to be surgically removed. Let’s hope not).
He seemed quite pleased with the nips, though when I looked down all I saw was a blackened, bruised, barely recognizable horror show (they look better today, in my pic).
As for the huge incision line that bisects my thorax, normally he’d cover it in Steri-strips for a week, but since I’m allergic he left it completely bare (surely there are alternatives to Steri-strips?) I’m not complaining, it means I can proceed directly to applying ointment and not messing around with even more wound covering, but I’m wondering if this isn’t a crucial step to healing why include it for anyone? (For the first week I couldn’t stop hunching my shoulders forward, I think subconsciously keeping from pulling on the incision. I’ve gradually overcome that now.)
His instructions are sometimes inconsistent with my packet anyway. When I said I was already off the narcotics, he told me to switch to Advil. Except the packet specifically states to avoid ibuprofen for two weeks. Well, guess what Advil is? So I ignored him and went to Tylenol (acetaminophen). He told me to get Adaptic to dress my nipples, which turns out is really expensive and only available online or at a medical supply store. Meanwhile, he used plain old gauze in the office, which sort of undermined the importance of a specialized product (I settled for plain old non-adhesive pads).
I stopped at the grocery store on my way home, and this was kind of my public debut. I felt great, but couldn’t help wondering what strangers thought (if anything at all). A couple of cute girls smiled and said hi, other than that no angry mob formations. It felt like a slice of heaven, walking around braless in a tight tee without worrying about flopping everywhere (and the first time I put on a T-shirt without the drains, Tery did a literal double take. “I’m sorry, babe, I really really didn’t like your boobs. You look so much better now.” I couldn’t agree more).
I do have so much more sympathy for men with little pot bellies. I never gave any thought to how useful boobs were for minimizing them (not a good enough reason to keep them though…)
Yesterday morning I had the worst pain of this whole process. After a week of sleeping on my back and not being active, I woke up feeling like my spine was nailed to the mattress. AGONY. Mind you, Dr. S says you can sleep however you want from day one, but the incision is too sore to side sleep. A nice walk around the block (which I was meaning to do anyway) made me feel worlds better.
My chest feels…very strange. The incision of course is very prominent and bunched, and feels tight and vaguely itchy, like a rough burlap rope tied around me. It’s not as thin as I’d hoped, but I think the unfortunate fact about this procedure is the smaller you are to begin with, the easier and better your results. I was not small in any sense, so with that in mind, I think he did the best I could expect. I have to remember the goal is to look good in clothing, not out of it, since most states don’t allow topless women regardless of their breast status. I have what might be little “dog ears” (my biggest fear going into this) or might just be normal incision ends that will smooth out eventually. Either way they’re very small and I’m not going to worry about them. The drain exit sites feel the worst, still a little stingy and irritated. Different levels of discomfort.
Are we ready for some photos?
Alright, if you’ve made it this far, thank you. If it helps, it looks far more horrific than it feels. And, this too shall pass. I’m really really happy with my result so far (remember, successful nips will be nice but not the only goal in mind). I’ll be back when I’m a little further along.