Suzie's reconstruction diary part 2: The hospital stay - News & Updates • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Suzie's reconstruction diary part 2: The hospital stay

After 4 ½ years on the waiting list for bilateral DIEP breast reconstruction surgery and being first on the waiting list for more than a year, Suzie and her husband decided to pay for the surgery privately.

This is part 2 of Suzie’s surgery and recovery experiences. Read part 1 here.

My hospital stay

Day 1

My brain felt foggy all day today. The pain in my back is reducing but the local anaesthetic in my surgery sites has worn off so I am starting to feel sore all over. I am being given regular anti-inflammatories and paracetamol.

The hourly checks continue. Having a doppler on my breasts every hour is like listening to the heartbeat of an unborn baby and we all soon started to jokingly refer to my breasts as my newborn twins. My room is being kept at a minimum temperature of 24˚C which feels like I am having back-to-back hot flushes. I keep kicking off my covers to cool off and then covering myself up again to make sure my new breasts are kept warm enough. Maintaining a comfortable body temperature in such a warm room is almost a full time job!

I was visited by a physio who gave me a breathing device to help me to take and hold big breaths, which helps shift moisture from my lungs, reducing the risk of a chest infection. I need to use the device hourly for the next few days. The deep breaths are uncomfortable and surprisingly tiring, but I am determined to do everything I can to make a smooth recovery. The physio also took me for a walk to the end of the corridor and back. By evening I graduated to two-hourly checks which I hoped would mean I would get more sleep.

Day 2

I had a better night and managed to get a bit of sleep. I feel so much better than I did yesterday. I am still sore and tired, but I have been told that I can have my first shower today. Everything has been going smoothly and I’m almost out of the danger zone that could cause a return to theatre.

My shower was wonderful despite me having to juggle four drains and being exhausted afterwards. The nurse came to change some of my dressings which was my first chance to properly see my chest. Much to the concern of my nurse I cried tears of joy. My surgeon is truly an artist – she has created the most beautiful new breasts for me. I am so happy.

Later in the day, a different physio from yesterday visited me and suggested that since I have stairs at home it would be good for me to try walking up and down stairs today. It felt pretty awkward walking through the hospital with my drains clipped to the front of my gown. I was pleased that I managed to walk up and down one flight of stairs. Up was good, down was a bit trickier. Later in the evening, I went for another slow and hunched-over walk to the stairs with my husband. I found the stairs slightly easier this time. It is nice to be feeling a bit stronger but I’m still struggling to get enough sleep. I will graduate to four-hourly checks tonight.

Day 3

I had a bit of a rough night with a sore back from having to lie in one position all the time. I had to take a few short walks around my room during the night to stretch my aching back muscles. At least now I am allowed to get out of bed without calling for assistance first. Fortunately, my hot flush frequency is reducing now that I am out of my bed so much more, despite my room still being kept very warm.

I had my two breast drains removed today. Having drains removed is an icky feeling but it’s another step towards recovery. I’m hoping that I might be able to have one or both of my abdominal drains removed tomorrow before I go home. After the two drains were removed and the entry points were dressed, I was able to have another shower. This time I washed my hair, which felt totally luxurious.

I can’t wait to go home. I’m bored in hospital, and really looking forward to being in my own space with my loved ones.

Day 4

Again, I didn’t sleep well but I used some of the time that I was pacing during the night to pack my bag ready for going home this morning. Since my bowels didn’t move yesterday, I was pleased that they have moved again today and settled into a normal pattern. After having the third drain removed and another shower this morning I came home. I am experiencing very little pain. It’s so nice to be in my own space again with my special people. I am still needing to nap once or twice a day, but it is lovely to be back in my own bed. I am using a big fat pillow under my knees to take the pressure off my stretched tummy while I am in bed.

Read more about Suzie's breast cancer story

Read rest of Suzie's reconstruction story: 

Part 1: "The day has finally arrived"

Part 3: Back at home

Part 4: The weeks after surgery

Part 5: Feeling stronger

Read Suzie's story of being diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer here.