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Back to Work after Masectomy

Posts: 153
Joined: Nov 2002

How long of a medical leave do you think I should ask for, after a masectomy? I know this is probably very variable, depending on if there are any complications (such as infection), or a need to take out more tissue if the margins aren't good, or I don't recover as well as expected...but do you think 2-3 weeks is a good first guess? Everybody says that since I'm doing chemo first (3 rounds down, up to 7 rounds left), that masectomy and daily radiation for 7 weeks will be relatively much easier. I am truly blessed in that I've never had a tremendous amount of pain on chemo and got a port installed from the very first. Lost my hair, of course. But minimal nausea and no mouth/throat sores (Knock on wood, a million times!!) What pain I've had 3 days after each chemo session is easily handled with a few extra strength Tylenol during the day, and 1/2 of a Darvocet for overnight. 1/2 of a Darvocet can knock out the pain for 8-12 hours on me. When they do the general anesthesia for the masectomy, I hope the level they give out doesn't kill me altogether, as I seem to be very sensitive to pain medications. Anyhow. If I could get some feedback on any of this, I'd really appreciate it.

hummingbyrd's picture
Posts: 961
Joined: Sep 2002

Rizzo, I've not had a mastectomy, and of course everybody is different, but it took me a good 3 weeks to get over my lumpectomy! I did 6-8 weeks of physical therapy and it was at about 3 weeks before I could raise my arm enough to hang clothes up in the closet. Course I had 27 lymph nodes removed and that may have an effect on recovery time.
You also sound like you tolerate pain pretty good so that should help you recover quicker.
The other ? is what kind of work do you do? I think that will have a big effect on how quick you can go back.
Ask your doc, I'd be guessing 3-4 weeks off and then light duty for awhile. If you have a lot of lymph nodes removed your not ever supposed to pick up more than 5-10#'s with that arm or it can cause permanent swelling.
That's something to consider with rad too, cause 'posterior axillary radiation' can cause arm to swell with heavy lifting also.
Sorry, not much help, but maybe these are things you can ask your doc next visit.
I always write my ?'s down before I go, otherwise I forget. Good luck and God bless. hummingbyrd
By the way, we chat at 10:00 AM (most week days) and 10:00 PM CST at:
come join us if you like.
Just type address into the address bar (not search engine) or go to my personal web page here, it's under Hummingbyrd, look on right side of page under resources and click on
Hope Through Cancer Trials, that should lead you to an active link. Look forward to meeting you!

Posts: 153
Joined: Nov 2002

Thanks, Hummingbyrd. I don't know why the medical people were so reluctant to predict recovery time. But now that my masectomy is finally scheduled, they are saying to request a medical leave of 3 weeks. The Dr. says that if I would rather have 4 weeks, his office would write up the papers that way instead. Luckily I work for a small company and a great boss, so I can leave this kind of open ended. The official leave policies for medical are for up to 1 year. After that, it is kind of "iffy" as to getting the same or a similar job back. I'm very lucky in that my husband has been the most supportive of all. He has said all along that if I want to stop working for good, he would support that decision all the way. Even though I don't think that will be the case, it just feels so good when he says it.

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