Hello all. I had a mastectomy and lymph nodes removed on June 12th. I had very little pain following the op, and any pain/discomfort has been under my arm, not the breast area at all. I had a drain in but it was removed a few hours before I left hospital, which was 36 hours after my op. I have had fluid build up, and been back to clinic to have it drained a few times - painless and only takes a few minutes. The scar is very neat - I have a long one which curls up into my arm pit, but I gather from some of the bc nurses that others have a separate scar.
I can't help you with some of your worries, as my husband and I are much older than you and don't worry as much as we might have done when younger about important parts of ourselves not being as they were - grey hair for us both, glasses too, a hearing aid for my husband etc. But we both looked at the scar together a few hours after my op and were quite impressed by it. My remaining breast is very small and a poor shape due to 4 lumpectomies in the past. I might have that removed in a year or so, as I probably won't have reconstruction and matching up to my remaining breast would be difficult. For now I'm content to know that the cancer has been removed and haven't put a bra on yet as I'm comfortable without. The 'softie' the bc nurse gave me is fine, but far too big to match the other side if I did want to wear a bra. Anyone who has a 'normal' breast on the other side would be absolutely fine, I'm sure.
I know that BCC has booklets for help with explaining to children about your cancer, which might be useful to you.
It took a while for me to be able to lift my almost-3 year old granddaughter, but she gave me a gentle hug the day after I got home and it's been fine changing her and having her on my lap to read books etc, although I was very aware of my scar for the first couple of weeks, but she knows about being gentle. I lifted her after about 4 weeks, but we had plenty of cuddles before then. Hope this helps.
Best wishes for those of you who will have ops before long. Gentle hugs, Jo x