Positive news about the reconstruction surgery and recovery

We heard that there are many problems post operatively with the reconstructive surgery and many of us are concerned about the possible complications , but if there is any consolation, I just want to share the good news about my breast reconstruction surgery and recovery. I hope this would add to the positiveness of those who are going to have this operation. Yes, we can do it girls.

Before I had the mastectomy I was asked what kind of immediate reconstruction do I wish to have. I trawled various websites and gathered many information and finally decided on DIEP (or nothing). I was told by various consultants that it would be a major surgery and was told all possible complications (seroma, infection, flap failure, long recovery, long anesthesia risk, possible coming home with the drains, infection, etc, etc). Every surgery has risks, so although I was weary but accepted those risks and decided to go ahead - as I was deemed a suitable candidate for DIEP. I am 56 and slim, non smoker (my surgeon made sure that each of his patient is not smoking).

I have my unilateral mastectomy on 8th Oct but the surgery took much longer than anticipated. More than 15 hours (went in to the theatre at 8.30 until 12.30 midnight, back in the ward at 2.30 morning)! There was a complication with the perforators (veins) during the operation. My chest/breast vein was too small and when connected to the flap, the blood flow was poor. So my plastic surgeon in the theatre decided to re-do the surgery by harvesting a vein from my left arm to use. Because it is a highly complex micro surgery it took a very long time, but in the end it was successful. My flap receives good blood flow.

I have to be honest that although I felt awful after the surgery, I did not have pain. I recovered pretty fast on the 3rd day. The surgeon was surprised to see me on day 4 looking “alive” and well. You would be surprise, a good dry wash and a change of clothes with a little lipstick boost your look :slight_smile: . All drains were out on day 4 and I was able to walk freely to and from bathroom, to the corridor, etc. it was not a long walk as my back hurts from hunching forward.

I was allowed to go home on day 5 (2 days earlier than scheduled) when both the breast and the plastic surgeons were happy with my recovery.

It is 3 weeks after my surgery now. I gained strength each day, I am able to walk around the house, garden with no problem. I am able to do small chores at home. I am very fortunate that I dont have seroma, lymphodema or infection. yesterday my surgeon was so pleased to see my progress. Although I understand that no driving for 6 weeks, but I feel strong now and may be able to drive before then.

I know that I am lucky, but I am sure I am not the only one. I just hope that this information gives you a bit of boosting and positive feeling, that despite this major surgery, a quick recovery is possible.

Tips: always use anti bacterial soap/gel to wash your hands before touching or changing dressing, I spray my armpit stiches (where they cut for the lymph nodes removal) with antiseptic each day then pat dry. This is a very uncomfortable wound, keeping infection away is a must.
Always sleep with two pillow under your thigh the first 3 weeks. Vitamin C helps to heal, drink plenty of water.

Wishing those who are going through this type of operation, a speedy and good recovery.

Thanks for this M.P.

I am contemplating having DIEP surgery and hearing your positive comments is a real boost. How is your tummy scar ? It is good to hear that only 3 weeks post surgery you are doing so well.

Well done !

Hi Cora123

My tummy scar heals beautifully and quickly. My plastic surgeon was so pleased because I have no seroma or other tummy problems - I am fortunate. I wore abdominal surgical binder for 2 weeks post operation which I bought from a pharmacy shop in London and now am wearing a tight M & S girdle. Once your scar is healed you can massage with either E45 or Vit E to promote healing. I was told to massage the ointment deeply twice daily. I am now wearing ordinary trousers and jeans with no problem.

Good luck with your forthcoming reconstruction surgery. Believe me, I was really scared before the surgery about the possible risks and complications. I imagined to come home with drains and be bed bound for a while. But to my pleasant surprise, it is not that bad.

One thing I was warned by the plastic surgeon team registra is not to hang my hope too high or to expect 100% that you would definitely have a newly reconstructed breast when you woke up from anesthesia - as I opted not to use LS or implant if my DIEP fails. Things could go wrong and complication happens. So I went into the operating threatre hoping that if they managed to build me a new breast that is great, but if it does not happen then I am already prepared mentally to have a flat chest - but at least they got rid of my cancer. The surgeon just does not want you to be too disappointed in case things do not work out.

I hope the above gives you a positive message and I wonder how many other DIEP patients with quick and good recovery.

Hi, were you advised to buy the abdominal surgical binder? I have heard others who have had TRAM or DIEP say that they were advised to wear tight girdle type underwear. The only thing holding me back at the moment is the thought of having such a big tummy scar. I wasn’t lucky enough to be able to have immediate reconstruction when I had my mast and lymph node clearance. Now I face the dilemma of further surgery and because in some ways it is non urgent surgery I find I am dithering on the sidelines.

thanks for your story.
i had mastectomy 3 years ago and have now opted for a diep.

cora i understand exactly where you are coming from, we had no choice with the 1st op but to put yourself through it when it is not life threatening is a different thing.

i have seen a friends recon which helped me change my mind and still i am bricking it but have said yes to it and he has told me to do stomach scrunches while i am waiting to encourage strong and healthy blood flow.

Hi Wonder1

I think I have spoken to you before as you spoke to the PS who did my mastectomy about your reconstruction.

Good on you for making the decision to go ahead with DIEP reconstruction. I just wish I could be as decisive. I really want to go ahead with reconstruction but something seems to be holding me back. Have you got a date for your surgery ?


My PS suggested pre-operation I ate lots of protein, do lots of stomach exercises, buy a stomach surgical binder and most importantly no smoking (apparently smoking causes complications). Of course there is a big scar, hip to hip. It will stay there forever and take a while for the scar to fade, sometime up to a year. Just keep massaging the scar and put Vit E.

Good luck.