Suzie's reconstruction diary part 5: Feeling stronger - News & Updates • Breast Cancer Foundation NZ

Suzie's reconstruction diary part 5: Feeling stronger

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 the final part of Suzie’s journal. She talks about her recovery and feeling stronger, attending her daughter's wedding, getting Covid-19 as well as her feelings about her new breasts.

Feeling stronger

Nine weeks post surgery

I have been enjoying the sense that I am getting stronger thanks to the daily exercises that my physio gave me. It’s exciting how quickly my strength is coming back and how fast I am able to progress with this. Its finally starting to feel like things will soon be back to normal.

10 weeks post surgery

The last week has been busy for my family with my daughter’s wedding, followed soon afterwards by the death of my mother. Sleep has been challenging, and as a result my pain has increased slightly. I have not needed any pain relief, but it is a reminder that I am still healing. Despite all this I was able to wear a dress to the wedding that would have been impossible to wear before surgery, and to dance the night away as well. I have absolutely no regrets about having reconstruction surgery.

Eleven weeks post surgery

The last week has included COVID-19 going through my household as well as attending my mother’s funeral. It’s been a week of rest, rest, rest, with a bit of grieving thrown into the mix. Thank goodness that I am sufficiently healed from surgery that coughing is not painful.

Twelve weeks post surgery

From today I am considered to be fully recovered and cleared to return to work, however I have felt fully recovered for several weeks already. Here’s a summary of my observations:

  • My scars are still quite pink and I am still oiling them twice daily.
  • I still have a 2cm long hard section on one side of my abdominal scar.
  • My abdominal scar feels comfortable and no longer needs to be supported by tight yoga pants.
  • The breast scars are now comfortable with nerve pain only happening when I’m overtired.
  • My right breast is still lower than left, although my left breast has started to drop.
  • My pectoral muscles feel back to normal except for when I attempt to use strong inwards force.
  • My abdominal muscles feel strong although they feel slightly asymmetrical upon contraction.
  • The middle section of my belly (from ribcage to pelvic bone) is still numb.
  • I am looking forward to being cleared to sleep on my tummy again.

Three months post surgery

I had my three-month post-op review with my surgeon yesterday. She is very happy with my healing. She said the hard section on my abdominal scar is scar tissue. It might still soften, and I can massage it to encourage that to happen, but it is normal and nothing to be concerned about. It may persist for several months, or permanently. Because my scars are still quite pink, I have been advised to continue oiling them twice daily for another three months. This will keep them supple and help them to stay flat and continue to fade over time. She advised me to keep up the exercise I am already doing and increase it as tolerated. She cleared me to sleep on my tummy, which I tried last night but found it a bit awkward and somewhat uncomfortable. My breasts feel strange to lie on because they don’t spread out like natural breasts. Ironically, they are too perky – and perky breasts is something that I never thought would be problematic!

We discussed further surgery (fat grafting) to fill the hollows above my breasts and give me a little more volume. We also discussed nipple reconstruction. I have booked in to have these procedures done next year. She showed me photos of patients who had had these surgeries so that I know what sort of results to expect. I left feeling super-excited about getting the finishing touches done.

I have absolutely no regrets about having my bi-lateral DIEP breast reconstruction. Although there were times during my recovery that were difficult, the result is so much better than I had expected. The medical staff have been incredible, and I cannot thank them enough. For anyone who is uncertain if the long recovery is worth it – it absolutely is! This has changed my life and has given me back my womanly shape, my confidence, and my happiness.

Read more about Suzie's breast cancer story

A big thank you to Suzie for sharing her reconstruction journal with us.

Want to read the rest of Suzie's story? 

Click the links for part 1part 2part 3 and part 4 of her breast reconstruction story.

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