- Patient Info
- Referral to the Breast Clinic
- Breast Reconstruction
- Breast Cancer Surgery
I have opted for a second, prophylactic skin-sparing mastectomy but also sparing the nipple this time. Giles says I may have some remaining sensation on the surface of the nipple and that the brain may rewire to simulate some sensation, which would be good. Time will tell I guess whether this is the right decision, or maybe I'll never know. He advises me that the removed tissue is tested for cancerous cells but the expectation is that it will be clear. So, some anxiety for the following results, but hopefully not on the same scale as last time.
I'm less nervous this time as I guess I know what to expect, although the prospect of starting the post-operative recovery period from scratch is disheartening. I let my clients know that I will need a further two weeks off work again.
After the operation, back in my hospital room, despite the morphine, I'm reminded of the pain that seems to emanate deep in my bones and muscles. I feel very tired and slightly depressed at the thought of the broken nights of sleep to follow and the queasy stomach from taking painkillers every few hours. A knock on the door and my son's bright-eyed face appears with its customary cheeky grin. Husband and mum follow in to the room with worried looking faces. My resolve returns and I make an effort to look perky. That wasn't so bad I say ruefully. Giles checks in on me – I may have more bruising, he says, as it was tricky inserting the implant. He advises that I spend an extra night in the hospital to ensure that sufficient fluid has drained. It’s quieter this time, but I still don’t get much sleep.
I want to be back to normal and getting on with my life. I'm not a good patient - my mother has kindly come to stay for the week to help out. She bites her tongue as I restack the dishwasher she has just filled and move the cereal packets to their proper places.
The discomfort is less than previously, I think due to the lymph node not being removed this time, although finding a comfortable sleeping position is a struggle and I have very broken nights of sleep. Much of my blog is written at 4am as a result and I reread it in the morning to check my muddled and random thoughts – setting my thoughts down is cathartic.
I'm emotionally less drained than last time as the likelihood of a cancer diagnosis in the left breast is much lower. Still, when I receive a short text from Giles a few days later to let me know I have the all clear, I feel a weight drop from my shoulders and I'm appreciative that he has taken the time to let me know straight away rather than wait for my next appointment the following week.
A further email drops in my inbox from Giles as an afterthought, 'u ok?’ The messages are getting shorter and shorter, but I appreciate the contact which bridges the gaps between consultations. We may feel important in our own worlds: job, car, status; but doctors occupy a unique position of power and respect when we find ourselves needy and at the receiving end of their care, knowledge and skill. The value of an informed and regular dialogue with my doctor has been hugely beneficial to me in managing my expectations, making decisions and ultimately building my confidence in achieving a good outcome with his support. My health insurance has afforded me this luxury, which I suspect may be less readily available in the NHS due to workload and time pressures.
On the rare occasions where my consultations have felt hurried, I feel slightly irritated, at myself mostly, for not having prepared my questions or concerns sufficiently in advance. The focus is on the technical aspects of my surgery and post-operative recovery, not my emotional state.