Post-surgery advice from a breast cancer survivor's perspective.
This blog is a part of a series written by a local breast cancer survivor, Rui Sasaki.
Click here for other articles in the series.
Part 5: Post Surgery
This part is a bit hazy. You will wake up from anesthesia in the recovery area. And eventually, they will move you to your room. I like to think my pain tolerance is pretty high (I have some tattoos, used to surf, and was prone to reef cuts). But removing major portions of tissue from your body is traumatic, and it was pain like I had never experienced. I don’t recommend falling behind on your pain.
I think I was hospitalized for three days. My boyfriend was able to come to visit me the next day. He brought my hospital bag, where I had packed changes of underwear, some lotion, and discharge clothes. I remember being really hungry, so he brought me granola bars and juice. Most of this is a blur since I was delirious from surgery and the pain meds. He tells me I told him funny stories. It helps to bring easy-to-wear comfy clothes for discharge day. I wore yoga pants and a mastectomy shirt (see one of my previous posts about this).
Surgical Drain Pumps
We should also talk about surgical drain pumps (the Jackson-Pratt drain). When you have a mastectomy, the surgeon usually places drain pumps in your body. This is because, after surgery/removing tissue, your body naturally produces fluids that need to be drained. If you’ve ever skinned your knee and seen the clear-ish fluid that seeps up over the injury - it’s kind of like that. I had 3 of these devices placed in my body. My surgeon and nurses taught me how to care for it. They stayed in my body for a few weeks. They are a nuisance, and I will talk about ways to help you live with them in my next post. To have them removed, you just go to the surgeon’s office, and they can take it out right there. One of my tube insertion points got infected (a red patch of skin that was hot to the touch and grew bigger by the day), and I had to take antibiotics, so please be aware and keep an eye out.
I have really sensitive skin. The doctors will probably use steri-strips to close some of your surgical sites. I also had this after my biopsy, and it damaged my skin! To remove this, you can use oil - coconut oil, olive oil, or an oil-based makeup remover would work. I don’t recommend using alcohol as it is harsh on your skin, and you don’t want that touching an open skin wound!
A few weeks after recovery, I started doing post-op exercises. PLEASE do not strain yourself. I googled exercises to do. In my case, I am used to exercise, so I felt confident that I would not hurt myself with self-care. If you are uncertain, please talk to your surgeon. I had a yoga mat that came in handy through post-op and chemo.
Another thing to be aware of is lymphedema. I was fortunate not to experience this, but it is a very common thing to happen post-surgery. My doctor gave me pamphlets to read; I recommend reading the material. There are also websites provided out there. One last thing - remember which side the doctors removed lymph nodes from. You can never have blood drawn, get injections, or IV from that arm ever again. This is because it can cause lymphedema. So in my case, everything has to be done on my right arm. They should be taking blood pressure from your legs, but there’s conflicting information about this. I think it’s better to err on the side of caution.
lymphedema: build-up of lymph fluid in the fatty tissues just under your skin and can cause swelling and discomfort. Return to article
The views and opinions of our blog writers represent their personal views and opinions and not those of Breast Cancer Hawaii. Through our blog, we merely seek to give individuals creative freedom to share their personal experiences. Do not rely on this information as a substitute for a professional's medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.
Rui Sasaki is a breast cancer survivor and volunteer with Breast Cancer Hawaii. She got involved with the organization hoping to help women in Hawaii by sharing her cancer journey. She also just accepted a position working for a medical group on Oahu and hopes to do better for the community.