I had my full node clearance at the same time as my WLE. The operation went well - I went down to theatre around 2:30pm and I think I was awake in recovery at 5:30pm and I went home from hospital around 7:30pm. So I would expect your operation might be quicker if it is just the lymph node removal.
In terms of recovery the one thing I would say is try and do the exercises you are given every day as they really do help with recovery and range of movement- if the exercise are painful then maybe take it down a level and build up gradually.
I wasn’t in much pain after surgery - of the meds I was given when I left hospital I only used Paracetamol, I never felt I needed the Codeine.
I didn’t have any drains fitted after surgery so didn’t have any issues with that but I did get a seroma (build up of fluid) about a fortnight after my operation - this was a bit uncomfortable but not painful - I rang my breast care team and they looked at it twice but felt it didn’t need draining and it has now completed disappeared.
I am still having physiotherapy for cording under my armpit - this initially stopped me doing my exercises as my underarm was really tight so I couldn’t raise it to required positions.
The physiotherapist has worked wonders so far with this though and the cording has almost gone completely- if I had to describe it, to me it was like a couple of guitar strings pulled really tight than ran from my armpit down the inside and underside of my arm. Again it was never really painful just felt tight and restricted slightly when I was trying to raise my arm.
The physio was a little bit uncomfortable initially and I used to take a couple of paracetamol before each session which helped.
I also had a lot of numbness under the armpit and a sensation on the top of my arm that felt like it was bruised (although it wasn’t to look at). Sensation is now coming back in my armpit but in certain areas it still feels a bit numb.
Other than that I have not had any problems so far - you will be advised to wear gloves when cleaning and gardening in case you get a cut or scratch in the arm as that can lead to infection and also be careful with what you lift and do with that arm too as we are at risk of lymphoedema.
All in all I would definitely say the operation and recovery was nowhere near as bad as I had imagined and I can now do everything I could before the operation - just got to be a bit cautious with lifting etc.
I had 17 nodes removed (I think everyone is different in terms of how many nodes they have) and 6 showed cancerous cells.
It’s scary when lymph node involvement is mentioned but I have been told by my nurse and oncologist that this does not change my prognosis and my cancer is still curable - just have to throw everything at it!!
Please let me know how your surgery goes and just drop me a message if you want to chat about any part of it or have any questions at all.