SURGERY #1: I had a non nipple sparing double mastectomy following chemo. It was a major surgery so I will say to expect pain. I was amazed at just how well my breasts looked just hours after my surgery, and that was with the expanders only. My recovery period was a month before I went back to work. The key to feeling better faster is getting up and moving. You will not want you, but push through it. You've got this!!! Through the weeks following surgery I would go weekly to have fluid put in while going through radiation treatments. It was the neatest thing to witness and so easy. You can not do radiation treatment with implants so you will have expanders. I had to let my skin adapt to the changes radiation caused to my left breast where the cancer was. It would cause my skin to continue to draw up and lift that one breast.
SURGERY #2: 6 months later I had surgery to place the implants. The recovery time for this was so tolerable for me. Also, you have a lot of numbness after a mastectomy so that probably helped me with the pain level. Don't tell Dr. Mackay but I went to the mall the next day to look for a dress for a Christmas Party. Don't panic Dr. Mackay! I didn't actually drive. You can't for a time period determined by your surgery because if you have a car wreck you do not want your incision to open, bacteria to enter, and get an infection. I was back at work after a week, and completely healed after a few weeks.
SURGERY #3: My third surgery was about 4 months later for nipple reconstruction. It involved a tolerable graft from my groin area and what I like to call my Madonna cups to keep them protected while healing. Recovery time was one week to go back to work and about a month for everything to heal. With this surgery, Dr. Mackay also did some fat grafting to put on top of my breast without radiation to give me a symmetrical look across the top of both breasts when wearing cut dresses, tank tops, and bathing suit tops. I had to wear a compression bandage where he did the fat grafts from (it's liposuction) for several weeks. Recovery time to be completely healed was about 4 weeks.
SURGERY #4: 8 months later I had a "release" done and fat grafts but on the left where the cancer was. That breast was continuing to lift due to radiation. Dr. Mackay went in under the breast where the natural fold line is (where your underwire in the bra goes) to release the area so the implant would lower. Now that it was lowered he put fat grafts on top of that implant to continue the symmetrical look across the top. I was back to work within a week and complete time to heal was about 3 weeks.
SURGERY #5: The way my skin healed back to the muscle (totally me and radiation, nothing from prior surgeries) was causing my implant to retract into my chest wall and cause discomfort as well as pull my incision in when those muscles were flexed while lifting. Dr. Mackay removed the implant from under the muscle, put the muscle back onto my chest wall, and added fast grafting on top of the implant and under the incision to try to protect them implant. This one was a little harder as far as pain compared to the other ones because the muscle had to be moved. I was back to work within a week and total time to heal was 2-3 weeks.
NIPPLE TATTOOS: Please don't ask me when I had this done. My chemo brain just can't. Haha. It was in between surgeries early on. The lady who did my tattoos was trained to do 3-D tattoos. They look so, so, so good. I have had people say they could not tell they are tattoos and thought they were the actual nipples. Don't panic when you leave. They will look like slices of pepperoni because of the blood coming to that area. They will look FABULOUS. I promise. I honestly didn't have any pain from it because of the numbness from the mastectomy.
TODAY August 29, 2016: I am doing amazing! He did a beautiful job on my reconstruction as well as my heart through such a tough cancer journey.