Basically everything I read prior to surgery about the pain and recovery was a big damn lie. About the closest thing I read was one woman’s account of it feeling like being hit repeatedly in the chest with a baseball bat. I know that everyone is different and therefore their experiences will be different, so here is mine.
Waking up in the hospital I was groggy and confused, heavy and sore. I kept telling the nurses I was in pain and they kept telling me that I wasn’t pushing the morphine button enough. Meanwhile, I was up all day and night staring at the machine because I could only push the button every 10 minutes. The night nurse was surprised to find me awake every time he came in, and he upped the dose. Nothing. Eventually, I was switched to oral medications, and switched multiple times, because those were not making a difference either. Finally, on discharge day, one of the residents said that I needed Valium to control the muscle spasms, and assured me that my pain would finally improve.
At discharge, I was sent to the pharmacy to pick up drugs, and then wheeled out the door. My pain was not under control by any means, and every pothole felt like we were going over a landmine. I sobbed in pain the majority of the ride home and could barely make it into the house.
After the marcaine ran out, I realized that I was actually experiencing some level of relief from it and that it was now gone. The marcaine had been numbing some of my chest, but not all of it. Every time my muscles moved after that, they would twitch and spasm, become sore, ache and cause pain and discomfort. My chest was still feeling a ton of pressure until the drain tubes were removed, and a bit more space was created in my chest.
At the end of my three weeks off from work, I contacted my boss to tell her I was still in a lot of pain and having a lot of pressure, and at that point I was still draining, so I took a fourth week off from work. Every little task required resting. Everything from getting up and eating to brushing my teeth, tidying up. Naps were and still are essential to my functioning.
I’m at the end of my second week back to work, working part-time. Every day I can do a little bit more, but every night I am in pain and still need the Valium to control the muscle spasms. The Valium and rest have been the only things to help my pain.
Physically, it feels like there are rocks in my chest. I can feel the metal ports of the expanders under my skin. I can push the plastic material around and move portions of the rigid material under my skin. There are hard parts jabbing my rib cage, especially below my arm pits. If I get cold, and start to shiver, my muscles twitch uncontrollably, moving part of the expanders. If I overuse my muscles at work, again, my muscles twitch uncontrollably and move part of the expander.
Psychologically, it’s painful to look in the mirror, because I can’t imagine the end result. Everything is scarred and deformed. I’m not afraid of the scars, but I definitely am not adjusting to lumps that are not shaped like boobs. It is difficult to imagine my body looking the same in bras and corsets, as the expanders lack any flexibility whatsoever, so I’m stuck wearing nursing sleep bras at the moment.
I haven’t had any fills yet, and my last meeting with the surgeon made it sound like I wouldn’t need any. He tapped my boob and said he could fit a larger implant in. I plan to discuss this further at my next appointment in March, because I was told I was only at 3/4 of my final size and I can’t imagine fitting an implant in that’s much larger than what’s in there now.
While I’ve come a long way to controlling my level of pain, and my body has done a reasonable job at healing, I’m still in pain every day. I don’t think I was adequately prepared for the level of pain, discomfort and emotional distress that this whole process would cause. In the end it will all be worth it.