DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery during a pandemic, is it safe? (Updates & reflections about my experience)



I will likely have lots more to say about my recent explant and DIEP flap breast reconstruction surgery. Yes, of course, I will. But for now, I’ll share updates and a few random thoughts about my experience having a major surgery during a pandemic.

First and foremost, if you (or a loved one) is facing any sort of surgery during this pandemic, one of your top worries undoubtedly is — is it safe to proceed?

Obviously, everyone’s situation is unique for a host of reasons and decisions are highly personal. I’m sharing updates and reflections about my recent experience hoping to help others in similar situations.

You might want to read, Preparing for surgery during a pandemic.

These are a few post-surgery reflections in no particular order:

First of all, I am doing pretty darn well at two weeks out. Knock on wood.

Thus far, I have had no pain. None. Not even in the hospital. Now, maybe this is partly due to many nerves being severed in my original bilateral. But mostly, I think it’s due to having highly skilled surgeons (I had two) and an excellent medical team. Grateful is what I am. (To be clear, no pain does not equate with this was/is a breeze, but so far, it’s all been doable.)

Having a Covid test was not something I needed to have worried about so much.

Sure, having a swab inserted and swished around in your nasal cavity isn’t pleasant, but my experience was not bad at all. Any woman (probably any man too) has been through much more unpleasant medical procedures. If you need this test for any reason, don’t worry about it. You’ll do fine.

Never seeing your care team’s faces unmasked is weird. (As is wearing a mask much of the time as a patient.)

However, you can read an awful lot via a person’s eyes, voice and body language. IMO masking in hospitals seems like a really good idea ongoing.

Being allowed only one visitor was fine.

I feel for those who have been allowed no visitors while hospitalized for any reason during this pandemic. I was fortunate to be allowed one. Dear Hubby was the only one I needed anyway.

After making my decision to go ahead with surgery during a pandemic, I was at peace.

Pandemic or no pandemic, at some point, you have to put your trust in others to do their best to care for you and to keep you safe. When I arrived on surgery day, I was calmer than I’ve ever been for any medical procedure. Go figure.

Bottom line, I felt safe proceeding.

My body is remarkably resilient. So is yours.

When I think of all this body’s been through in the past decade (not to mention the previous decades), I’m astounded. Amazed. And yes, grateful.

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Up and about next day. Like I said, we are resilient, right? Mask wearing required whenever I left my room.

I am even more acutely aware than ever how fortunate I have been, and still am, to receive excellent medical care. Everyone deserves the same!

This pandemic has further exposed countless disparities across the board, including in healthcare. These disparities are unacceptable, and must be addressed. It’s time for lip service to end and action to be taken.

Who among us does not deserve top-notch health care?

#DIEP Flap Surgery During a #Pandemic - Is is safe? #breastcancer #breastreconstruction #surgery #womenshealth
My lead surgeon, Minh-Doan T. Nguyen, M.D., PhD, who kindly agreed to a photo with my non-showered, puffy looking post-surgery self. #keepingitreal

I am relearning to listen to my body.

Self-care is critical all the time. We all know this and yet… Post surgery, you really don’t have a choice. You must listen to your body and avoid comparing your experience to that of others.

I am eating when I’m hungry (which is pretty often). Sleeping when I need to (also pretty often). Walking as much as I am able (and allowed). Turning on my computer (and phone) in limited time doses. And, of course, I am listening to my care team and following all directions as best I can.

I am blessed to have a loving caregiver. (Thank you, Dear Hubby.)

Dear Hubby always says he never reads my blog (and he doesn’t). He says he doesn’t need to. He’s living it. Yep. That is his truth alright. When your Dearest One sees you at your most vulnerable (drains hanging out of you and other unmentionables) and tenderly cares for you despite the fact medical stuff is not his thing (at all), you are truly blessed. And loved.

If you’re having this particular surgery (or any sort), you really do need a caregiver for at least the front end of your recovery. Obviously, this can be anyone you feel comfortable with in filling that role.

With this surgery behind me, I am feeling many emotions. You likely will too if you’re facing, or have recently faced, surgery of any sort.

I am feeling relief, gratitude, apprehension (the road ahead likely won’t be entirely smooth) and a whole bunch of other ways.

Come what may, I am content with my decision to choose this particular surgery. It is not the option of choice for everyone for various reasons. (More on this later.) It was the right one for me.

Rolling the dice and choosing to proceed with such a big surgery during a pandemic was a risk I decided to take after carefully contemplating the situation. I realize I am not yet fully out of the woods. I intend to practice extra precautions for the foreseeable future. No visitors, not even family for the time being. No outings other than to medical appointments. I’m even avoiding my neighbors taking social distancing to an extreme. (Sorry. Not sorry.)

#DIEP Flap Surgery During a #Pandemic #breastcancer #breastreconstruction #surgery #womenshealth #mastectomy
Release day. Woohoo!

As I’ve said many times, the breast cancer experience is never over, regardless of type or stage.

Once again, I move forward (not on, big difference.)

You might want to read, Moving Forward vs Moving On.

Finally, even though thus far I am pleased with the results from this surgery and grateful for all options that have been available to me, I will always mourn my original breasts, that original wholeness that was once me, and this is okay.

I make no apologies for that. Nor need you.

You might want to read, Things We Aren’t Supposed to Say, and/or Breast Cancer Is a String of Losses.

Again, I will likely have more to say about all this later.

For now, I can say, I did it. I made it over yet another hurdle.

My body is bruised and banged up looking, though things are improving every day. But I did it. I came through an 11-hour surgery during a pandemic. Yes, during a freakin’ pandemic.

I am still here to talk about both.

Thank you, Dear Readers, for your kind comments, emails, cards and messages. Thank you for being out there.

You’re the best. (You are!)

I’ll be taking my usual summer blogging break for a bit.

Stay safe. And please, #WearAMask and do what you can to protect yourself, your family and your fellow citizens.

See you in September!


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Saying goodbye to stubborn drain #4 is definitely something to smile about. 🙂 #anotherhurdle #breastcancerrealitycheck #breastcancer #mastectomy #DIEPflap #cancersucks #surgeryrecovery #jpdrains #breastreconstruction

A post shared by Nancy’s Point (@nancyspoint) on Aug 10, 2020 at 4:33pm PDT

Photos via Dear Hubby (doing his part to help me in #keepingitreal). Oh yeah, he’s living it. And yes, he knows me well.

To get more articles like this one delivered weekly to your inbox, Click Here! #KeepingItReal #SupportYouCanUse

If you like this post, why not share it? Thank you!

If you or a loved one is facing surgery during this pandemic, I hope reading this helps just a bit.

If applicable, what option did you choose regarding breast reconstruction (including Aesthetic Flat Closure) and why did you choose it?

Have you had a surgery or other medical procedure cancelled, rescheduled, completed, or whatever during this pandemic?

Any advice for me (and others) about recovering from surgery?

#DIEP Flap Surgery During a #Pandemic - Is is safe? #breastcancer #breastreconstruction #surgery #womenshealth #mastectomy #cancersucks #keepingitreal
A little pre-op glamour. Not!

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