You Come First after Breast Reconstruction
One of the best pieces of advice I can give to those I talk to planning their surgery, “You come first after breast reconstruction.” It is a very difficult concept and mantra to adopt when you are so used to caring for others. It is particularly challenging for those who go into breast reconstruction feeling healthy and fit, going about their daily routine of cooking, cleaning, carpooling, mothering, caring for others, and working a full-time job. A sudden change in that routine is hard to wrap your mind around. Believe me, it stops very suddenly after breast reconstruction but it IS temporary and so worth taking the time to put yourself first.
We don’t realize how much bending, twisting, and lifting we do each day. I have been on the phone with individuals answering questions about the recovery process. While I am speaking with them about what that will be like they are busy multi-tasking away. I have asked the question during the discussion, “I want you to realize what you are doing right now. How many times have you lifted, reached for something or had to bend over in the past 10 minutes we’ve been on the phone?” I frequently get a bit of a pause and then this response, “Oh, yes, guess I didn’t pay that much attention.”
I quickly reply, “Get someone else who can do that for you for the first few weeks you are home from your breast reconstruction, especially if you’re having DIEP flap surgery. You’ve got to let things heal properly and follow doctors’ orders.
I taught Elementary school. My energy level has always been thankfully very high most of my life. The most difficult thing for me during my breast reconstruction recovery was lying in bed during my five-day hospital stay. It was nothing short of a mental game! The other difficult part of my recovery was coming home to my house and seeing two weeks of unopened mail in a bin, dust bunnies in the corner, food in the fridge that was in need of going in the garbage, and bathrooms that were not up to my standard of clean.
The Dusty Bunnies Can Wait!
What was wonderful was seeing my husband and two grown, adult boys cooking dinner together while I sat in a chair and watched them. Watching them clean the kitchen (OK, maybe with a few smears on the counter tops when they were done), having them bring me food, snacks, and pillows when I needed them, taking me to physical therapy when I couldn’t drive, taking me to the department store and staying with me while I shopped for new bras, having them patiently listen to me decompress about my own experience in the hospital, and the best part, having them tuck me in bed at night making sure there was nothing else I needed before they went to bed.
When you have toddlers, that becomes a challenge not to have them sit in your lap when you get home when they were used to that prior to surgery. My teacher/mom emerged as I was talking to one DIEP flap gal recently. I suggested to her to get a “cuddle pillow” for her young toddler who loves to sit in her lap. I told her to buy something fun and bright. Purchase it before surgery, and then show them how they can sit with you after surgery when “Mommy has her boo-boo that’s healing”. Let them take it to bed at night days before your surgery, while you are gone, and then they will be used to it when you return home and can put it to use.
Dust bunnies won’t hurt anyone. I eventually got that mail open while sitting in my comfy chair recuperating. The bathrooms didn’t need to be as sparkling clean as I thought they needed to be. I got quite used to letting them wait on me and asking them to go fold laundry or pick something up off the floor if I dropped it. Toes work good for that, too!
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First!
Let me make an analogy. You’re on a flight. You may have your own children sitting next to you or you may be alone. Either way, as those on the plane settle in, buckle seats belts, turn off their electronic devices and prepare to listen to the flight attendant, you hear them say,
If you are traveling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.
You can’t take care of others and heal properly after breast reconstruction unless you put your oxygen mask on first! This is your DIEP flap flight attendant giving you your flight instructions.
You Come First After Breast Reconstruction!