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discomfort after bilateral mastectomy please help

Posts: 76
Joined: Nov 2001


My name is Laura. I had a bilateral mastectomy (no reconstruction) on November 15. At the same time I had pelvic surgery. I am 33 years old. Since age 17 I have had numerous surgical biopsies, lumpectomies and partial mastectomy. So I thought I was prepared for this. When I first woke up from the surgeries it was the pelvic surgery that bothered me most. I really wasn't prepared for it. I hadn't thought about how much I use my abdominal muscles for simple tasks (sitting up). Compound that with the fact that I could not use my arms to lift myself up. My husband has been incredible. He has really kicked in to help me.

Anyway my question. I still have the drainage tubes in both sides. I know that they can cause some discomfort. I am hoping that I will be able to have them removed on Friday. It will have been more than two weeks. However, I am still having a great deal of drainage on the left side. Yesterday, I was just tired of being stuck in bed, not accomplishing anything, and feeling tired. So I worked on creating a database on the laptop (for work) for 8 hours. Well I paid for that last night. I was in tremendous discomfort. Then today I was having chest pains on the left side. Frequently at night I will wake up and not be able to feel my right arm all the way to my hand. It isn't like when an arm goes to sleep because I don't get the pins and needle effect. I just have to keep working it extensively and then I eventually get the feeling back. But what bothers me most is the constant sensations that I get across my chest. I know that there is nerve damage during the surgery. I guess this is just normal. I have tried different things to relieve it. I find that if I use an ice bag it at least distracts me. Sometimes I try to pull my shirt away from my chest to see if that helps. Sometimes I find that if I hold a pillow close that helps. I have been good about keeping my arms active. However, due to the drains I am not allowed to start the range of motion exercises. What have your experiences been? Does anyone have any ideas? After everything this seems petty, but it is annoying.

By the way everyone one on this site is a true inspiration!!!!! May God Bless You All!


Posts: 183
Joined: Nov 2001

Hi Laura, I had a mastectomy on one side with no reconstruction. I found that a pillow did give some relief. You have had a lot done especially with your pelvic sugery also. I would suggest you call the DR.to see what he says about the drainage and if you are having pain you probably should ask him if that is normal. I did have some sharp pain in the surgery area off and on but it did go away. I don't know if this will help you at all but It is good to be able to talk to others. Let us know how you make out.
God Bless

Posts: 682
Joined: Feb 2001

Hi Laura,

Essentially you had THREE MAJOR surgeries on Nov. 15 - just like yesterday !! I think you will find that given more time, everything will be better. If only patients could get a decent rest in the hospital after surgery - in 1981 I had a hysterectomy and was there - even being pampered a bit - for 6 days.

Take it easy and don't try to push yourself - your body will tell you when it's time to do more. I had ONLY a lumpectomy but was easy on myself and think it paid off.

Good Luck to you!

Posts: 76
Joined: Nov 2001

Jean and Debbie,

Thank you for responding! My husband had been encouraging me for a LONG time to register with an online group. I am So glad that I finally took his advise.

I noticed after writing last night that a lot of the discomfort is much higher than the incision. In fact the incision area is totally numb. The surgeon pulled tissue from up under my collarbone and it is the upper part of my chest that has the stangest sensations.

One lesson I should have learned by now is patience. I think Jean is right when she says to slow down.

I go back to my breast surgeon tomorrow. I will ask him about the sensations and pain. Hopefully, he will remove the drains. At least then I won't feel so "wired" and perhaps that will help!

Thanks to you both!


Posts: 931
Joined: Oct 2000

Welcome Laura! I'm glad you wrote for some friendly advice! I've been on now for about 1 year and it's amazing how wonderful everybody is. You'll be surprised at how much better you'll feel once the drains are removed. They become more uncomfortable the longer they're in and the less drainage there. I'll bet you'll write back when they're removed and tell us you're better! You will feel all sorts of weird sensations from time to time. Be aware of them but don't stress over them. I had my surgery 1 year ago(mastectomy and tramflap reconstruction) and I'm still having discomfort!The numbness will always be there. You'll get used to it. Keep in touch. Take one day at a time and in no time you'll be feeling better. HUGS!! Cathy

Posts: 26
Joined: Mar 2001

Hi Laura,

I had a radical mastectomy and tranflap done and it you ask me the worst part was the drains. You will feel such relief when you get them out. Just take it easy and don't push yourself to hard. Read a book, watch a movie and pamper yourself. You have been through alot and you deserve it. God Bless and take care. Luella

ssfoine's picture
Posts: 23
Joined: May 2001

Now I can say..I survived my bilateral mastectomy for a year now. WOW...what an experience. Keep up your spirits..the worse is over. You can only heal now and get stronger. Keep up exercizing your arms. (Walk your fingers up the wall at least 20 times a day) I did and now have complete usage of both of my arms again. I also had he drains in for a long time. BUt Im bad...I pulled one out..myself...stitches and all...couldnt take it any longer...
I did have reconstruction ...and Im glad I chose that route.
Im praying for you....
Good Luck and much love

sueholm's picture
Posts: 221
Joined: Oct 2000

Hi Laura. Let me tell yu my experience after mastectomy. For about two weeks eveything seemed to be progressing fine, and i was exercising religiously, then I began to get severe 'sensations' in the mastectomy area, an extreme sensitivity to the slightest touch, plus a sensation of an elephant sitting on my chest, or a vice being tightened around it. Eventually, my local doctor realized that I was suffering from a thing called costocondritis, which is an inflamation of the cartilage between the ribs and the sternum. Eventially i was sufferinf considerable pain from movement, and in particular, it got worse if i spent too much time on the puter. anyway, after numerous differnet kinds of antiinflammatories, some physio (abandoned cos it made it worse} then gentle movement never straining, th esensitivity reduced and the elephant left! If this sounds at all like what you are experienceing ask your doctor if it could be costocondritis. I cant help on the numb arm though..i get the pins and needles variety! Hope it is all resolved soon...Susan

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