Advice wanted from horsey ladies who've had reconstruction

I have to decide what reconstructive surgery, if any, I have after my mastectomy on Jan 2nd 2008.I have small breasts and I’m really worried that the suggested under muscle implants will reduce my strength for riding and yard work long term. Has anyone any experience of this or how practical prostheses are when working with horses? I have to let the hospital know what I want on Dec 17th!

Hi Julie

I am sure you will soon receive lots of replies from other forum users with details of their experiences. In the meantime you may find it helpful to read the Breast Cancer Care booklet on reconstruction. This can be found by following the link below:-

I hope you find this useful

Kind Regards

BCC facilitator

Hi. I have an implant under the muscle of my right breast and have noticed no loss of strength or mobility. Hope this helps,. Lou

Hello julietfra, just got back from five days away and saw your message. Just on 2 years ago (Dec 21) I had a bilateral mastectomy (for DCIS) with implants under the muscles. Doesn’t affect my riding at all. Very heavy load carrying is not really a problem, can do it, but feel the muscles! A friend who had exactly the same op is a keen water skier (imagine the pull when you come up out of the water on to the skis…). Hope this helps. All good wishes in making your decision. petitepart

Dear Redlou and Petitepart Thank you very much for your comments, v reassuring to think I could be back riding with little difference even after choosing recon. Appt today, still have not made up my mind, think will go for recon (in my case there won’t be too much for the surgeon to do!) , but am hoping for a revelation between now and 2pm!
For Petitepart, I have been offered bi lateral mastectomy and recon as well- how long til you were back to full strength? Happy with results? Needed further ops?

I had breast cancer in 2002 with masx and reconstruction from my back. Still rode my horse, carried sacks of feed, bales of hay and straw and mucked out. I have been diagnosed again in October 07 and am now 3 weeks after surgery from a full masect with reconstruction from my back again this time on the left hand side (right last time). Even only 3 weeks after surgery I can still do haynets, but lift with both hands, muck out with shavings but rather than throw the muck in the barrow I have to walk over and “tip” it out. Still use a wheelbarrow. I haven’t tried water buckets yet and will wait a couple of weeks for that and can’t comment on riding yet as my horse is only a youngers (3 in April) so can’t ride her. The horses are a great therapy I think as you can get away from it all and “forget” the cancer. When I was riding after my first surgery didn’t notice any difference in my strength muscles or weakness and my horses was a nutter - even competed a show 6 weeks later but only inhand. I rode a month after surgery. Got on okay but had to dismount by flicking my leg over her neck as couldn’t slide down the saddle for obvious reasons. Let me know how you get on as please as think you are the only horsey person I know in the same situation.

Hello Julietfra, I am sorry I did not see your email of December 17th, it was around the time I left for a month in UK and France so things were a bit chaotic! I guess you have made your decision by now…?? I imagine the time it takes to get back to full strength depends on the time of recon - as I said, I had skin sparing with implants under the muscle, i.e. nothing taken from my back or stomach. I was told it would take three months to get back to normal and, following the surgeon’s instructions, it took about that. I was driving my car about ten days after the op, and was advised to avoid lugging loads of more than 5 kilos for at least a month - didn’t feel like it anyway as I could feel the “pull”. After that things just gradually slipped back to normal. Of course I did not swim until the scars were completely healed. I am very happy with the results, both “feel”, and aesthetic! My nipples had to be removed, so it looked a bit odd after the op: the surgeon did not want to do their recon until at least 6 months after as she said the implants needed to settle first. The nipples were constructed out of the skin on the breast and the aureole was taken from high up inside my thighs where the skin is naturally a bit darker. That was a very short op and I was in for less than 24 hours. Had to be careful for a while afterwards (it is a skin graft, after all) but no real problems and I am very pleased with them, too. I could have them tattooed but since they look reasonable (my skin is pretty pale anyway) I am not going to bother!
What did you decide on? Like Mandy said, you “learn” to lift differently (probably at long last the right way!), using both hands. I agree the horses are good therapy - I forget all my worries, not just the physical ones!
So look forward to the spring and better weather for riding out - by then you should be ready for it!
Best wishes, petitepart

Hi girls,

I am another horsey girl, didn’t have mast just a lumpectomy, but carried on riding during chemo & got my highest dressage score in that time (68%).!!!

Happy riding!

Jane x

Hi Ladies,

I’m another horsey person, although haven’t ridden since dx last July as my little boy had tendon problems. He’s only 15, but have just been told last week that he has to retire, so my dream of riding again once my treatment is finished has gone. I’ve had him since he was a yearling, so was pretty upset. As I’m lightweight, I’ve been told I can take him out if he seems ok, just at walk, but its such a shame, he was such a lovely fun little chap to hack. I’ve had chemo now, and due a mastectomy on 18th Feb. I’m having a tissue expander implant at the same time, which won’t need much inflation as I’m only AA cup, and after that, 5 weeks of rads. I’m hoping to find a kind person who needs help exercising their horse after that. :o)

Happy riding all!

Hello again,
good to hear from other horsey gals getting on with usual life after mastectomy. Had my op on Jan 2nd (left mastectomy and tissue expander) and am amazed at the body’s ability to recover from such an assault so quickly. Although recovery very good indeed, I think I may have overdone it a little as I have a most unpleasant “twanging” feeling in muscle over implant since over enthusiastic muck collecting in field ! Only hope this isn’t the muscle splitting that I was warned is a possibility of too much too soon. I’m not even thinkng of riding yet, my mare is gorgeous but far from a predictable ride! I’m happily mucking out 2 each day, doing haynets etc. ,but leaving bale carrying and 2 stables to my husband. This is marvellous- he’s never been interested before, but now loves the work and may continue when I’m back to full strength. So, something positive out of this!
To Shannon, I am also small breasted and thought I would need little inflation, but although new boob was huge at first, its now smaller (and dented!) and I’m hoping pumping up will even me up. However, if this was as good as it gets I would still have the recon as in my bra it looks fairly normal. So sorry about your horse, 15 is no age, but I’m sure you’ll give him a happy retirement.
On Mon I get results from op, which will help me decide whether or not to go for prophylactic mastectomy on right side. Have had to wait all this time (from Jan 2nd to 28th), went in for appt. once to be told no results yet and then consultant away for a week! Anyway, the op itself no longer fills me with the same dread as I now know its not too painful at all.
I haven’t gone back to work yet (in a High school) which makes me feel guilty but my stamina isn’t up to much yet. My family can’t believe it- I’m actually resting in the day- unheard of!
Best wishes and health to al


nice to hear from all the horse lovers

I am on chemo at the mo so am not riding but found grooming great for the post op/recon surgery exercises. You have to stretch all the right bits. We are treating ourselves to an all weather arena in may when i finish chemo so i have plans to get back on with a vengeance. OUr ladies are 16 years old and are so cute but we came to riding late in life (30 - i’m 35 now) and dont do anything posh or dangerous. Just having them and just walking in the fields watching them is great therapy.

all the best to you all


Great to hear from horsey people on here. Thought I was the only one!!! I find that each day I am able to do more and more at the yard. Haven’t tried grooming yet (daughter does it) but thinking about it I bet it could help. Just wished this dammed swelling would go down so I can wear some underwear at least. I haven’t tried bale lifting yet or hard feed. But the time will come. think that is why we have recovered so quickly and our muscles are well developed from all the muck shovelling, wheelbarrow pushing, years of mucking out and riding and have strengthened our upper bodies. Well that is my theory and I am sticking to it!!! Just got to see the onc next week to see when Chemo I need. Wasn’t too bad last time. So fingers crossed I will be the same this time. Does any one know if react the same to each one?