Kaye: 1 - Breast cancer: 0
A story with a happy ending

   This is a summary of what happened to me in 2005; take the links provided for a more complete story, with pictures taken along the way.
My cancer was detected by routine mammography - there was no lump, nothing to feel or see. It was confirmed by further mammograms and a core biopsy.
When I was first diagnosed, the breast surgeon would have had me in for surgery almost immediately. My decision to have a breast reconstruction led to a three-month gap between diagnosis and surgery.
Admission and surgery:
I had my surgery at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth, W. Australia. The breast surgeon saved as much of my skin as possible, and I chose to have a free TRAM flap reconstruction, taking muscle and skin from my abdomen to construct the new breast. My belly button was repositioned. All was effectively painless, much to my astonishment.
Hospital stay:
The first two days were in a hot (27°C) room, being specialled; after that recovery was quick, and I was discharged after 7 days.
Follow-up clinics:
I had expected to go home (500km away) once I was discharged, but appointments were organised for both the breast clinic and the plastic surgery dressing clinic, so I had to organise to stay in Perth for another week.
Post-op infection:
Unfortunately I developed infections in both my belly button and the abdominal wound, requiring three weeks of antibiotics and visits from the community nurses.
Five weeks since my operation. I still wear the underwear from hell, I take care not to lift heavy weights, my doctor won't yet let me drive the car, and she has also vetoed physiotherapy for my abdomen until it heals a bit more. Other than that I am absolutely fine. I'm extremely happy with my new breast - it feels just like me! My recovery has been excellent despite the infections; the entire procedure has been almost pain-free, and, best of all, I no longer have cancer.
6-months on:
I'd expected to be totally pain-free now, but I have more pain after six months than I had while still in hospital. A post-op visit to the plastic surgeon in January revealed that he had removed about 6cm of one rib - that accounts for the ache on my sternum. I've also had a trapped nerve in my abdomen - very painful - and the abdominal wound hurts when I cough or sneeze. It is obviously going to take a while before everything eases up, but it suggests that previously numb areas are regaining feelings.
1 year after the operation:
Not a lot has changed. I've seen the plastic surgeon again, decided not to have a nipple added, and am getting on with my life

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