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Avatar universal

Breast Reconstruction

I will be having a mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction. What I should I expect as far as pain/recovery afterwards? I have an office job & hoping to back at work within 3 weeks! Does this sound reasonable?
10 Responses
739091 tn?1300669627
Hi Kazzie,

I had DIEP as well and this will take you 6 weeks of being off work. Really. And I had an office job too. This is major surgery and you will be thankfull for those 6 weeks off.

As for pain, you want to stay ahead of it. That means, take your medication before it starts to hurt too much so it doesn't get out of control. I believe I took pain medication for 4 or 5 days after I left the hospital and maybe not even that long. While in the hospital they should keep on top of it for you and if not do NOT feel bad ringing for a nurse. You will want someone with you once you get home for a week or so. Getting in and out of chairs can be difficult for some (me) after surgery during that time frame. I actually found it most comfortable to sleep in a reclining chair.

**TIP** The nature of the DIEP surgery is that it removes so much fat and tissue and tightens up your tummy that standing up straight takes some effort. If your hospital bed has those buttons that raise the head part up and down and the feet part up and down use those functions to start lowering yourself and raising yourself while lying in bed. It will get your body used to limbering up for the stand up position once you are up and walking the next day.

I had my DIEP done in New Orleans by Dr. DellaCroce and I am very pleased with my results. I hope you will be with yours as well.

Best wishes and make sure to do a lot of walking around the hospital after surgery!
Avatar universal
Thanks Sue, for all your helpful tips!
I am hoping not to tell my employers that I am having this surgery as I think it is a very personal issue which is why I was hoping 3 weeks recovery would be enough!!
Was planning to just take a few weeks holidays & they will be none the wiser.
Wondering what ook the longest to recover from? The tiredness, pain etc?
Kazzy x
739091 tn?1300669627
You only need to tell them you are having "female" surgery and they won't ask anything more nor do you need to tell them anything more.

With DIEP you are cut from side to side at the belly button area, from hip to hip. Tissue and skin is removed from that donor area along with it's own blood supply. This is major surgery. You are also cut at the breast area. Your profile says you had lumpectomies so the cut you receive there will depend on your previous scars. Ask your surgeon to give you the same cut for each breast so you achieve symmetry. He'll be able to do that for you and should be able to draw that on your chest for you to see just how he plans to achieve the desired effect.

Your body after all of that surgery will require those six weeks to simply recover. You can't drive until you are off all pain meds entirely. And even then, you will need to be able to stomp your brake pedal and turn your wheel violently should you need to do so while driving without hurting yourself, do you see what I mean?

You will have drains coming from each breast and you should have two abdominal drains. I had one ab drain for 6 weeks. Trust me, you will need that time to recover. Give your body what it needs so it can heal.

Best wishes.
Avatar universal
Yes Sue, I do see where you're coming from!! I'm just not too good at doing nothing!!!
I've heard alot of women say they love their new breasts - & so do their husbands!!
I think my husband is actually "hoping" i will go with the bilateral (even though he isn't saying) coz i guess it will make him feel more relaxed about the chances of the cancer recurring. At the end of the day it's all about survival.
Did you have the nipples done & if so, how did that go?
Once again, thanks for you advice - I really do appreciate it...
739091 tn?1300669627
My Dr did the nipples at stage two along with some revisions of scars and liposuction to contour the torso since I'd had a chunk removed from it (so to speak). I am SO glad I had him create the nipples! His way of doing it is to cut into the newly created breast and twist and sew and twist and sew until he got the nub the way he wanted it. It looks huge right after surgery but I had told him I wanted them to not to be noticeable and when they shrunk, which they do, they were perfect. I didn't want permanent headlights. And to later get the tattoos done for the aureola and nipple with the shading you honestly couldn't tell if you couldn't see the scars that these used to be my tummy. Amazing what they can do, really. I can only hope you like yours as much as I do mine. :)
Avatar universal
I'm starting to feel better about all this! Your
comments & tips are all so positive!
I hope you don't mind my questions (I guess if you did you wouldn't answer them!!) as I have another one:). It's so helpful to have advice from someone that has actually been through all this! I have a friend who had a reconstruction with implants 7 years ago so she can't answer my questions as it's totally different.
What size were your breasts before the recon & what size are they now? Also, did you have a large or small amount of stomach fat?
Thanks again - x
739091 tn?1300669627
I went from a large C to a double D. I believe that's because my hubby made a smart alec reply to my Doc to make them BIG. They could have been used as a chin rest LOL

If I tell you they made them smaller at stage two surgery would you believe me? :) The beauty of this type of reconstruction is that if I gain or lose weight so will my breasts so I will always be proportioned in size in relation to the rest of my body.

Though I never considered asking for a size I did have the belly to make these as I was about 40 lbs over weight and I tend to carry the weight in the middle. As I went into surgery with only one breast I had them remove the second one as well so that when they did my reconstruction they were a matched set when I came out.

I also had Doctors who are experts in harvesting tissue to use. You can see some of their work at breastcenter.com. I'm sure you saw work your physicians have done too. This surgery can be frightening to some in advance of it but for me I was excited to get it done and really am thrilled with my results especially considering what I went in with and what I came out with.
739091 tn?1300669627
Oh, and as for not being good at doing nothing, that describes me as well. So, since I was somewhat limited in what I could do, I watched the food network and became a fiend in the kitchen. I love to cook but now have an obsession with baking. I make the meanest most delicious cinnabuns you will EVER have in your life. I now grow my own veggies and some fruit and almost all my own spices as well as canning, dehydrating and putting food up in whatever manner I want. I create my own spice blends and share with friends. I need a gourmet kitchen LOL
Avatar universal
Yes, it frightening - at this stage I have both my breasts!! Even though one is "poisonous" it's still mine!!
I'm worried that when I wake up with 2 reconstructed breasts with no feeling that I may feel a sense of loss or even feel a little depressed!!
I know there are worse things that could happen but it's such a big thing to be going through - as you well know:)
I'm a c cup now & would be hoping to come out the same size!!
I think I've plenty of belly fat but haven't seen the plastic surgeon yet - I could do with a bit of weight off but not a lot - the "tummy tuck" aspect of it is certainly appealing.
How long have you been cancer free??
739091 tn?1300669627
I am a 3 year survivor.

I can feel my breasts with my hands, with my fingertips. If it is pushed up against a counter I don't feel that and that may be a blessing since it wouldn't feel good :)

Alot of women are worried about the lack of sensation from a lovers touch that may send tingling down to "other regions" where as I worried about cancer coming back in the remaining breast. I worried about having to go through chemo again and radiation on my left side over my heart would have terrified me, I admit. The fear that swept over me at my first gynecological appointment after chemo, surgery, more chemo and radiation when she found a lump in my left breast is a fear that I never want to experience again. I cried and couldn't stop crying. I was devastated because I had asked the surgeon to remove both breasts and he refused to do so. I don't know what I would have done if I had cancer again. But, this I had some control over. I removed as much of that fear as possible when I had them remove the breast tissue that "breeds" cancer. I guess it boils down to what is most important to each of us. Only we can make decisions that we will live with peacefully for the rest of our days, no regrets. So, though I understand your fears, and I'm sure you understand mine, we may travel different paths to what is best for us, decisions made by us.

Make sure your surgeon/surgeons have done DIEP successfully several hundred times over several years. This is where experience really does make a difference. Ask what their success rate is as you're looking for 99% or better. Ask and make sure that your Dr won't be removing any muscle, not even a little bit during the surgery. Ask what options you have as far as nipple sparing go, if that is even a concern for you. Ask if they have had a lot of success with it too. Ask questions, get answers. When you feel totally comfortable with your surgical team then you have made a decision you can live with. Research them, research DIEP, research everything :)

Best wishes.
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