I have been having a lot of nerves wake up lately.
Public Service Announcement: Tune out on this post if you are queasy about nerves and surgery stuff, but I am posting this for women considering reconstruction, a mastectomy, or are just strangely curious about your body after such events (I find this stuff fascinating).
When I was 12 years old I was hit by a car when I was riding my bike across a crosswalk in front of my junior high. It was raining and the 17 year old driving her mom’s car was going 40 MPH. I was a lucky goose and she only hit the back tire of my bike. I am still not sure if she was going too fast or if I gauged the whole thing wrong. My knee broke the plastic gear shifter on my older brother’s mountain bike and I was thrown several feet in the air with my leg hitting against the plastic (sorry about your bike Justin). It sliced through my leg to the bone. I didn’t have a single broken bone. I had been tossed in the air like a ragdoll and my bones stayed intact… Which is why I say I was a lucky duck. *knock on wood* I have never broken a bone in my life, but I have had more plastic surgeries than most 32 year old women, none of them actually elective (I should work on that, I am seeing a lot of ladies with some seriously puffy lips on bad reality TV shows lately, not that I ever watch bad reality TV…*cough*).
The doctor at the ER sewed the sutures on my shin too tight, so subsequently the tissue between the stitches ended up dying and I had two plastic surgeries over two summers during my teenage years to make the scar less obvious (thus I didn’t wear shorts or skirts for most of my teenage years because I was usually asked what had happened, my eventual answer was that I should pay better attention when I shave and that one really earned me some funny looks).
Why do I tell you this story? I tell you because I am no stranger to nerve damage. Especially after they had removed all of the incision down to the bone and replaced them twice (starting to sound familiar). My nerves never quite stitched themselves back together properly, so the sensation in my leg is “funky.” Not quite numb and the only sensation I have there is pain-ish. So when they removed the latissimus dorsi in my back I expected my back to remain “funky.”
After a bilateral mastectomy your skin is numb up front. Numb to the point that they stick big hollow needles in your chest and fill up breast expanders and the only reason you may react is because the rate at which that butterfly needle comes in you think they are going to poke out your lung. -*SNAP* needle inserted- So imagine the look of surprise on my face when I felt them insert the needle on my right side to expand it after I had a latissimus flap surgery to put the expander back in. My eyes flew wide open and I looked at my favorite nurse Vicki and said “I felt that.” I felt the next one too.
My nerves are in the process of recovering. I am getting a lot of feeling back in my back, I think that will get pretty close to normal as time goes on (benefits of having a good surgeon) and I have some sensation in my chest. I am not sure if I will get more or less, but it seems that bringing the muscle around gave me more active nerves (which is strange at times if I run into something unexpectedly). One thing that you never quite fully expect from a nipple and skin sparing mastectomy is that your nipples still react to cold – but you can’t fully feel it – so you notice it a bit unexpectedly. You learn to wear thicker bras (I have found the Victoria’s Secret wireless bras to be the most comfortable on these days, cheap bras have you aching and sore by the end of the day, you still have plenty of working nerves BEHIND the implants).
You get random shooting nerve pain as nerves knit themselves back together, but it is worth it. The scars everywhere are healing very nicely! I am 3 months out after surgery and they are fading more each day. It is amazing and I don’t regret my surgical adventures. I made the right choice for me.