Sarah Dickinson, South Carolina

Friends of the Feather 

Age: 36

Date of Surgery: June 16th, 2022

Type of Reconstruction (if applicable): Expanders to Implants.

 

One thing I wish I would have known before surgery:

How much patience and help I would need. I figured the first week or so I’d need a good bit of help, but I was not expecting to have such limited mobility (likely attributed to the expanders sewn to my chest wall) that affected my ability to do my own hair, get dressed and reach things in the upper cabinets for several weeks. 

 

What brought me joy during my recovery:

Support from friends, family and co-workers as well as the amazing community I found online. I started an Instagram account @yestheyarefake to track my journey and I met so many other women on the same journey. It was nice to talk with people about how their drains were doing and if they were able to get their expander flipped back. Things that only someone on this journey would understand. 

 

What was a trigger for me during my recovery:

Not being able to do something simple that I normally would have no issue doing. Opening heavy doors, blow drying my hair, swimming in the summer, helping around the house with laundry and dishes (ok missing that part wasn’t so bad).  I found that by being VERY vocal about my situation allowed those around me to step up. Without asking, someone would grab the door, my kids would proactively load the washing machine, and I even had a friend come over to blow dry my hair for a big date night. I attribute a lot of my resilience during recovery to talking, sharing, asking for help and reminding myself that this is temporary. 

 

Why did I choose my reconstruction pathway? 

I knew that I wanted to go the implants route and honestly didn’t realize the breadth of options for recon until I was on this journey. I spoke with my surgeon and he recommended expanders to implants would be ideal to have a similar look to what I had previously. On the recommendation of the surgeon I also went above the muscle. I had implants previously under the muscle to address a severe asymmetry so the idea of implants were not a hurdle for me mentally. I wanted to “ditch the risk” and get back to living my life! 

 

Biggest hurdle I faced and how I overcame it:

Post exchange I was and still am trusting the process. With expanders you always know this isn’t the final look or shape so you aren’t too concerned with the football shaped balloons on your chest, but immediately after the exchange I was nervous, sad, doubtful. Did I choose the right size? To address the anatomical asymmetry of my chest, 2 different size implants needed to be used and they looked well different! I felt more scar tissue on one side and the finality of the decision sunk in (4 months later!!) and hit like a ton of bricks. I talked about it with my husband and I’m trusting the process. Week by week they are settling and looking great. Patience is not something I have a lot of so this journey has tested that over and over! 

 

My best piece of advice for anyone about to undergo their mastectomy:

Give yourself the time, patience and grace to heal. This is major surgery, in my case almost 6 hours, and it will take weeks to heal. Plan accordingly when it comes to driving, help with kids, dinner plans and goodness have someone there to manage the med schedule the first week or so! 
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to others who have had a mastectomy! It’s amazing what you can learn from someone who’s been on this journey! 

 

The product(s) that saved me during recovery:

1. My mastectomy pillow. If you buy nothing else, buy the pillow!!! I used it in the car, at hotels, in bed and nightly for months! 

2. A bin to keep the meds organized and within reach. Ideally with a paper and pen as well! After surgery I had pain meds, nausea meds, and antibiotics that all were to be taken at different times. I was very out of it for the first few days and so grateful that my husband kept a log of everything so we were on the same page. 

3. Something to watch or read! Ted Lasso season 1 for the mastectomy and the Crown for the exchange! 

4. Gloves and alcohol pads for drain duty! By the end even my kids were gloved up helping empty the drains.

5. Stool softener (yikes!) It took days for my intestines to “wake up” and I was happy someone had given me this recommendation! 

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