6 things no one tells you about cancer-related breast surgery

I was somewhat shocked when, just a few days after my 39th birthday, I had a miscarriage. Summer is historically my favorite time of the year, but to spend a June mourning the loss of a child that my husband and I were excited for dampened my surfing plans. I lay in bed one night, trying to make sense of it all. My hands wandered about my body as they do sometimes. That’s when I discovered a grape-sized knot in my left breast. One doctor’s appointment led to an ultrasound, which led to a radiologist. She approached my bedside. “This looks very worrisome,” she said. “We should schedule a biopsy, and soon.

“How’s today?” I asked. I couldn’t think of anything more important.

What followed was months of prodding, touching, stabbing, photographing and examination. The first biopsy came back benign, but that didn’t explain the “uneven border” or the “increased vascularity in the area,” a type of vein growth which is sometimes a sign of cancer. Another biopsy with MRI followed, one of the most horrific and fearful things I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing. But again, the tumor was found to be benign.

“I would normally suggest we just monitor it, but since you’re planning to start a family, I say let’s get it out,” my surgeon said. “We won’t be able to properly monitor it if you are pregnant. So let’s just deal with it.”

The day of surgery came fast. I woke up feeling strong but then broke down into tears over breakfast. I just hoped everything would go all right and be over quickly. As far as diagnoses were concerned, I had been lucky. I held onto that and prayed for the first time in recent memory. I had been lucky. I held onto that and prayed for the first time in recent memory.

Later that morning, I had a little more luck: I awoke from a successful surgery in the recovery room.

As I got home and settled back into my familiar surroundings, the anesthesia made my thoughts dance. I noticed the 1950s style beige halter bra I was put into after surgery. It had a strip of Velcro down the front middle — easily opened, but not for sex, sadly. The ice pack the hospital provided was awkwardly spilling out the front of the bra, making it hard to keep the bra shut. It pushed into my tender breast, causing discomfort.

My medical team was truly wonderful — compassionate, humane and skilled. I was given a folder full of information to read through for my surgery, but here are a few things they forgot to mention which could be helpful for others to know, plus some fixes I recommend.

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