Diep reconstruction fears

Hi all,
I had a single mastectomy and radiotherapy a year ago, Im two weeks away from DIEP surgery.

I have been so excited, as a 41 yr old, I hate how my body looks post cancer and I want to get back to backless dresses and low cut tops (I was never big busted, so havent got huge clevage! :rofl:). I also dont think I ever processed last year, everyone else gets ‘back to normal’ so felt I had to too.

As the surgery gets closer, Im scared.
Im scared that I’ll have a huge scar on my stomach and a belly button that looks fake, I like my stomach and belly button as it is! :woman_facepalming:t3:

Im scared of the impacts on work, I was made redundant last year and as kind as my now employer has been to take me on knowing I need surgery, they have limited sympathy for the effects of my time off on the business - am I able to have asymmetry surgery at the same time to save me from needing further time off?

Im worried about the time I wont be driving - how long will this be? I am a single parent and my son needs to get to work and to his rugby academy an hour away. I dont want to put too much on others to help.

Will I ever look “normal” again?

And most of all, how long will I really be in pain / unable to do normal activities? I have a hugely supportive partner who has had his own cancer battles, but he also doesnt like people moping and after my mastectomy had me in the gym 10 days post op!

Im sorry, Im ranting… but Im scared, and I dont feel I have anyone to talk to (partner is already dealing with his own thought about my surgery, Dad is going through cancer treatment, friends think Im fine now I domt have cancer and my employers are worried about my time off). So any advice, tips, experiences would be really welcome so that I can fully mentally, prepare.

Pipx

Hi @Pippy14,
I’m sorry you’re feeling so overwhelmed/worried. There is certainly a lot to consider/process, but it seems you’ve given it plenty of thought, so I’m sure it’s the right decision for you. Just remember that in the next few days leading up to surgery, and particularly afterwards. It’s obviously a big operation, but any short term issues will be worth it for the body shape you want. I had a bilateral mastectomy and diep reconstruction 5 weeks ago and am doing well. My tummy button honestly looks fine, I don’t even think you’d know, and the scar on my stomach is healing really well and fading further every day. The pain hasn’t been too bad at all, totally manageable :+1:
I’m afraid I can’t help with the driving/assymetry surgery questions, but I’m sure the nurses/surgeons will be able to advise you on that.
It sounds like you’ve got a lot going on atm. Remember you can phone your breast care nurses, or there are various cancer charities that have helplines/online chat services etc. Have you spoken to your friends about how you’re feeling about the surgery? Don’t feel like you’ve got to be ok. You can feel however you’re feeling, and friends will hopefully understand that and support you. I totally get about not having a chance to process things, but try to find a way to help with this after your surgery. I understand that your partner and dad have their own health things going on too, but that doesn’t mean you can’t address your own. I really hope all goes well with your surgery and recovery and that you find a good source of support for yourself. Wishing you all the best, Sarah

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Hi @Pippy14
I understand your mixed emotions, I was both excited and anxious before my DIEP surgery, which is normal as it is a big undertaking.

I am 6 weeks post-surgery for a bilateral mastectomy and immediate DIEP reconstruction, so not quite the same as your surgery. I was worried about looking like Frankenstein’s monster post-surgery, but can safely say that I have been thrilled with the results of my surgery. I can see that the scarring is improving by the day, I did have an issue with my belly button area being slow to heal and I had to have some of the dissolvable stitches removed by the nurse as I have sensitive skin and was getting some reactions, all look great now. I still have some swelling around my stomach area, particularly at the end of the day, but this is reducing by the day.

Driving wise I have been doing short journeys locally since week 4 after surgery, but haven’t driven any further than 30 minutes yet, I plan to do a longer drive of 2 hours next week. I would say don’t be in a rush to drive any distance as your concentration will be reduced for a couple of weeks post-surgery and you will be tired.

Work-wise, it depends on the type of job you have, and how your recovery goes but I would say take some time to fully recover this is a big and important operation so put yourself first. With your employer remember that you have legal rights for time off and a phased return being a cancer patient, but just being open with them and saying you will need 6 weeks off might help them with planning.

With the gym I would say be careful as you have lots of internal stitching and healing to do as well as the external, when talking to my plastics nurse she emphasized that it takes around 3 months for these stitches to dissolve and doing too much early can be detrimental to the healing process. I haven’t been moping around and was keen to get up and out by doing lots of walking building up from very short tentative walks in week 2 to now doing long faster walks, I also do some gentle pilates (no planks!), next week I plan to start swimming again.

Speaking to others can help, have you contacted the Someone Like me service at Breast Cancer Now, you will be matched with someone to talk to or the speak to a nurse service might be able to assist you.

All the best with you surgery and recovery and do let us know how you get on x

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