I cannot look even over 2 weeks after my mastectomy

I had a diagnostic lumpectomy after i developed abnormal breast tissue recently. I had already had cancer in that breast 15 years ago and had had a lumpectomy and radiotherapy then. I sailed through that experience.


This time around however I was not a candidate for radiotherapy again and my only choice was a mastectomy if the tissue was diagnosed as cancer. 

The lumpectomy results did reveal cancerous tissue and I had a mastectomy 2 1/2 weeks ago. My Dad also passed away a fortnight prior to that so it was an extremely emotional time.


I have been in bed ever since the mastectomy. I can’t face looking at the site. I have had 2 showers, both times with a t-shirt on and not looking down. I have left the house twice - both times for medical appointments.


I don’t understand my reaction and cannot get past it.


I can’t even feel the area, even outside my clothes.


I can’t imagine ever getting used to this. I feel like it’s ruined my life.


I’m generally pretty resilient. But I do suffer major depression and anxiety and with Dad’s death (my cat was also euthanased last weekend), I’m feeling totally overwhelmed and unable to cope.

I live alone and have few supports. I feel so weak for being this way and everyone at the clinic is pushing me to get over it. but I just can’t.


Has anyone else had this reaction? How did you get over it?


Hi cleo2012

I was so sorry to read your message, my condolences to you. I didn’t want to go past without sending you a big hug and a comment.


First of all, you are not weak for feeling as you do. At the risk of stating the obvious, you have had a lot to deal with, a real lot of shocks and upset, so it’s not surprising that you feel overwhelmed and unable to cope. We cannot just move on after treatment, it’s not like a broken leg that is all good once mended. It’s good that you reached out on here.


I wonder if you are also suffering the after effects of general anaesthetic - after I had my mastectomy I felt very much like you describe, and someone told me that a GA can make you feel dreadful. As the GA wore off I did start to feel better.


Do you have access to a cancer support centre? Maggie’s or something similar? Maybe they could arrange some counselling for you? I had some sessions and found them very helpful. I’ll try to remember some of the things she said. Oh yes, you might like to look at a book called The Cancer Survivor’s Companion by Frances Goodhart and Lucy Atkins, which was recommended to me on here by OldSpice.


I assume you haven’t had a reconstruction? I did, but it still took me ages to look at my chest. I would wash without looking, but I am now used to it. I can’t remember when I was first able to look at it.


I’ll send this now and have a think of some things that helped me. Feel free to private message me if that helps.

Hugs, Evie xx



Hi Cleo


I’m so sorry you feel like this. It takes me back to 14 months ago. I was in a haze of misery. I was sore and uncomfortable from the surgery and, like you, was not going to look. I was hunched over, wore my husband’s shirts if I ever got out of my pjs and, again like you, only went out for medical appointments. However, I’d been warned the general anaesthetic and major surgery, as well as the emotional trauma of losing a breast, might make me depressed so I just went with the flow.


I didn’t look at my scar for quite a while. I flinched when dressings were changed. It got a cursory swipe with the sponge in the shower and I could just about bring myself to do the exercises.


I then had chemotherapy which turned me into a zombie and approached radiotherapy with great trepidation. It was that that gave me the confidence I needed to accept my scar and its two little dog-ears (one of which actually gives me some cleavage!). Massaging and moisturising it frequently, making sure I could stretch it out as was necessary, just coping with all that gave me a huge boost.


14 months on, I am quite happy with my scar. I’ve never hidden it from my husband. I have stripped in my gym changing room and ignored any eyes or frowns of disapproval. I simply don’t care. That breast was endangering my life and I am glad to see the back of it. I can look curiously at the scar and wonder why, after all these years, surgeons still can’t quite get it right, with lumps and bumps each end. I’m now struggling not with my prosthesis but the fortress bras that I’m expected to wear. First thing I do when I get in is remove my bra! I wish we lived in a world where single-boobiness was not regarded as some kind of freak show. I’m also, by the way, wearing exactly the same clothes and styles that I wore before surgery. Nothing has changed except I cant sleep comfortably on my front.


Right now you’re living with double trauma. Major surgery is hard enough but grief for yourself is intensified by your losses and the grief those bring. That’s a lot to contend with. It’s nothing to do with strength, resilience or weakness - these are natural feelings you must come to terms with in your own way. If that involves curling up in a ball of misery, do that. If it means cancelling Christmas, do that. Listen to your body and your emotions and, if it feels too much, why not ring one of the nurses here. I’m sure you won’t be the first woman traumatised by a mastectomy. As others have suggested, your hospital should have links with other services and charities (ask your breast care nurse) where you may find the support you may need to help you face your body and then face the world again. I found out such a lot was available on the final day of my treatment, a bit too late for some but I’m using some now, at the Haven and through Macmillan.


Much as I hate tripping out the tropes, they are true. Time is a great healer. A problem shared is a problem halved (well, almost). Just accept this is a tough time, there’s only so much one person can take at a time and reach out if you can - to your GP, to your breastcare nurse, a nurse here, anybody. You need some validation, someone to tell you it’s ok to feel like this and you can still emerge healthy and strong. Meantime, please be kind to yourself- you need it.


Jan x

Hi Cleo2012, you’ve come to the right place as lots of us understand how you’re feeling right now. It will get better. It might not seem like that to you at the moment but try to trust others a little further down the road from you. Speaking personally I think it just takes time for the mind/body to re-map itself and feel familiar again and you need to allow yourself that time. My Macmillan nurse was really helpful with the surgery and prosthesis adjustment and she also said there is extra therapy for when people need more help - you could ring or see your nurse about that or ring Macmillan. The Breast Cancer Now helpline is really good too. Everything is such a rush when you’re diagnosed sometimes the nurses and charities are able to take more time to talk things through. You’ve been going through so much recently please don’t feel you have to do this on your own. My diagnosis also came at difficult time and my GP was really helpful too. I am now 1yr on and can reassure you things will feel better. Liz O’riordan and Trish Greenhalgh’s book is v supportive emotionally and practically too The Complete Guide to Breast Cancer. Let us all know how you get on x