Post-op swelling is NORMAL!

February 12, 2008

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten loads of nice emails and comments asking me questions about my surgery and my recovery, and I want to answer them because I remember how panicked and worried I was at times before my surgery. And after.
So, one that comes up a lot is worry about size and swelling. Before my surgery I was pretty clear to my surgeon that I did not want to be that big, so when I woke up and groggily looked down I was actually surprised by how kind of high and perky they were. As day 1 and 2 went on they continued to swell. I was then perscribed an anti-inflammatory drug called Difene by my surgeon to reduce pain and swelling. I had 260cc implants put in behind the muscle, remember, so right after surgery I was a D cup. There is more pain and swelling from behind the muscle jobs.
But swelling is completely normal, and actually, one of the nurses told me that it’s more weird if there is NO swelling. (I really need to look up ‘swelling’ in a thesaurus and come up with an alternative…)
If anyone is in their first week of recovery and is sore and swollen, honestly, stop worrying. Talk to your doctor about taking an anti- inflammatory, or maybe take an over the counter one like ibuprofen. But obviously check with a doctor/pharmacist about safety, etc. Use ice-packs to decrease swelling and bruising, or bags of frozen fruit or veg if you like. Sleep upright and keep your arms elevated on pillows or cushions, this will also help reduce swelling.
It won’t last– it can take a month to pass, and even up to 3 months, according to my PS. He told me I wouldn’t see my actual final result until SIX months after my surgery. But I’m over two months now and I’m actually happy with them already. I don’t want them to de-swell more!
Just relax and wait it out, that’s all we can do. We were cut open, had something shoved into our chest, then sewed back up– of course we will be swollen! It’s the body’s natural healing process, and when it’s over, man is it worth it…

Cut them again, Sam

January 18, 2008

Breast Redo Surgery– a scary term for those of us happy with our new boobs and thanking Jesus the surgery part is over, and the looking great part has begun.
But lets be realistic– chances are most of us who get a boob job will need to have them replaced at some point in the future, whether because the implant itself has lost quality in appearance, or because we want to go bigger (or smaller).

It’s a bit early for me to be thinking about it– I plan to wait the recommended five years (after this year’s final check ups) and then go back to a surgeon and just get them done again, regardless of how they look. Actually, the WEEK after my surgery I was like, hey, this wasn’t so bad! I’ll get it done again! I’ll go bigger! My friends were like, um, calm down, you complete plastic surgery addict.

But will we all need a redo? How much will it be? Will the implants start visibly looking bad? It’s all slightly depressing thinking of this but here is what I’ve found out, anyway. Yes, I did me some research. Ahem. *shuffles papers*

Basically, the three most common reasons for breast implant revisions are a desire to change implant size; a need to improve the natural feel and appearance of the breasts; and correcting capsular contracture. I’ll leave capsular contracture out of this, since I don’t have it, you probably don’t have it, and lets all pray we never get it.
So I’ll focus on the need to improve the natural feel and appearance of the breasts, because after up to ten years this all can change, and a redo is recommended. Especially for all us young girls getting it done– I’ll be 30 when I think about going back under the knife.
(OK, that sentence actually scared me a bit. I sound like…I don’t know).

The good news is: not everyone needs a redo. You just wait and see what happens, basically. Go back to a surgeon in five years and get them checked. Also get them checked when pregnant, after pregnancy, and when getting a mammogram.
The other good news is, because the muscle has been stretched and your body has been through it before, it will be much less painful, with a shorter recovery time. Original problems like high boobs and lots of pain won’t be as big a deal.
It doesn’t cost less for a redo–unless you are having it done in the same place because of a problem with your original surgery. I think most places, fearing litigation, will do a redo (?) for free in these cases.

But, yes, many of should expect to need more surgery to replace or remove them in the future.
The exact life span of the implants varies widely from woman to woman…but they are expected to deflate eventually (gulp) and may have a life span of only five to ten years or less.

I wouldn’t let the idea of a redo stop you from surgery– it’s like getting a great bikini wax– it hurts and isn’t pleasant, but it’s worth it, even though you know you’ll just have to go back and do it again…eventually.

Recovery, day 5 on

December 10, 2007

This is where it eased up for me. I could use my arms again (slowly) and I could put stuff over my head. I also tried on a sports bra for the first time. THAT moment made it all worth it for me. At that exact moment, as I looked in the mirror and saw something I have wanted since I was 16, I finally realised that I DID IT! Focus on this moment, ladies.
It’s not all plain sailing from here–but it’s easier. The mornings are still pretty bad. But I kept taking the painkillers as timed until they ran out, then I bought more because I still needed them in the mornings.
I was still wearing the boob tube bandage at this point too, which annoyed me because my nipples started to hurt (they still look kinda squashed!)
I still took things slowly though. Get a lot of rest and don’t over-exert yourself.
After day 7 I could put on a sports bra, THANKS BE TO JESUS because (and this is pretty gross) my boobs had this weird, greasy look and feel because they were cooped up in the tight bandage. I started panicking thinking I had this weird secretion. But apparently it’s normal, just vile. I could also shower after day 7 too, as long as I changed my incision plasters and kept them dry.
At this point I was still kind of worried about complications, I guess I can’t help being a worrier. But it’s pretty normal to have moments of panic I think…So I’m taking it a day at a time. Tomorrow is my last day of covering my scars, and in one month I can wear underwire…YAY. At the moment I’m massaging and waiting for them to soften. One is actually harder than the other (my right) this could be ‘cos I’m right handed…
Also in week 2 I was still stiff in the mornings and couldn’t completely lie on my tummy or side in bed, but that passes.
I’m trying to think of more details, I guess me saying “It hurts a bit” and stuff isn’t much help. I was pretty much back to normal life, which for me is pretty unstrenuous anyway. I wasn’t having sex which you have to wait a while to do and I don’t lift heavy stuff, or exercise, or dance around…wow I’m a poster girl for the good life, aren’t I??
You have to wait about a few weeks to do all this stuff anyway.

Things that are normal, but that you may worry about:

1. Pain in ribs and upper abdomen–I was like “Gah! My muscle has split open!” and stuff. But of course this area will hurt as your muscle heals.
2. Itchy, tingly scars
3. Sudden sharp pain inside boobs (I don’t know what causes this but I asked and it’s normal! And doesn’t last. It’s more like a small, fleeting stitch than a pain.)
4. One breast softening first
5. Uneven scars–I freaked about this–but my left scar is slightly longer, not much. A nurse said to me, think of each breast as a different entity–the surgeon does each separately and manipulates them differently–he must have had to make a bigger hole in my smaller boob.

Recovery, days 1-5

December 6, 2007

Hmm, I am trying to accurately remember details. All I did with my time was sit on a recliner in my parents house and watch bad TV. Although, bad TV becomes good TV when you’re off work.
The day after the surgery (Day 2) was the worst.
I stayed overnight in the clinic (highly recommended) and before I left they gave me a strong painkiller, along with my supply of prescription painkillers, antibiotics and anti-inflammatories (Difene). So although I was stiff and sore, the pain wasn’t that bad. When my parents collected me I was kind of giddy and happy in the land of No Pain. My mother wanted to stop at Dundrum Shopping Centre (as you do, when you’ve collected your daughter from a plastic surgery clinic) and I was like, yeah great let’s go shopping. BAD IDEA. This is why taking strong painkillers ends up hurting you more–because the pain is masked, your body thinks its OK and you act normal, using your arms a lot etc. I suffered for this later on when the drugs wore off. I also got really emotional and started crying. When we got home I just burst out crying, it was weird. I’m blaming the anaesthetic.
Anyway Saturday I just ate and slept. I felt a bit sick and shaky. Sunday I lay around watching TV and trying to remember the times I had to take all the different pills. I couldn’t use my arms much, have a shower, anything. But it’s not really pain, like stomach cramps or period pain. If you’ve ever had a sports injury/muscle injury you might know the pain. The scars don’t hurt or anything, but my whole chest area was really tight and stiff. It’s kind of hard to explain. Also because of the sleeping propped up nightmare, my neck and back were killing me.
On to what I had to wear: they made me put on this boob-tube style tight bandage, that just looked like a top. A top that people in hospital would wear. I looked pretty big in it because it was so tight it kind of squashed them together and held them up. After a week of that thing, my nipples were becoming inverted.
But every surgeon has different advice, which is weird. You’d think there would be a standard set of instructions. Some say massage, some say not to; some say don’t wear underwire for three months, some say six weeks. My instructions were not to shower for a week, don’t get the incisions wet, keep the bandage top on for a week, and try and exercise to get circulation flowing to area. Exercise! Yeah, right.
I felt a bit better on Monday, although it takes a few hours every morning for the ache to go. I got dressed, and got my sister to wash my hair for me over the bath, so I felt semi-human. The next few days are not very interesting. My friends called in, took a look, and said they looked “really fake” (thanks). They do at first but they soften up. I’m just kind of letting them do their thing while I wear a sports bra and nipple padding every day (because nipple visibility is high at the moment). A few days after surgery I started to get twinges inside, especially around my upper ribcage and abdomen, I presume where the muscle was cut into. But this was manageable.
So in summary, fellow breast fans, I would say my recovery period was more boring and mentally problematic (worrying about risks, infection, what would I look like etc) than physically painful. Just give yourself time off work and make yourself comfortable. The pain is bad for about two, three days but just sleep and take your painkillers to get through it.

My advice for anyone recovering from a boob job:

1. Have someone with you- I wouldn’t have been OK on my own the first two days. If you’re worried about telling people, don’t. All my reactions have been positive which really surprised me.

2. Be prepared for some uncomfortable sleeping arrangements. There is, however, a way to arrange your pillows, which took me four days to find. It involves using three pillows and two cushions. Put the first pillow propped up against headboard in the normal way. Don’t use too many pillows because your back and neck will be aching. The second one goes vertically to support your back, then the third on top of that normally. Then put the cushions under your arms. It’s all about elevation. And sleeping pills–if you can get those, even better, because you won’t wake up.

3. Have these things at home for when you come back: bottled water, lots of food, comfy clothes that do not require bending down or stretching over (putting on socks isn’t fun); lots of books, magazines, DVDs etc. I gorged on Buffy boxsets which cheered me up enormously. I may be in pain, (I thought to myself), but at least I haven’t had to sacrfice myself to save the world, only to go through the turmoil of having my friends drag me back from the dead.

4. If you’re not telling people about your op (except your family and close friends, like me) invent some story beforehand. My mother told people I hurt my back when they saw me hobbling around the house in my PJs. Of course, this story was ruined slightly when my aunt came into the room and saw me Googling “breast implant scars”. Try recovering from THAT one.

5. Have clear post-op instructions from surgeon and follow them, even if you disagree, think it’s stupid, or want to wear a nice bra and look all new and sexy. Before my surgery I thought it was a few days of badness and then back to normal–definitely not the case. My body is still healing almost two weeks later, the scar tissue is still forming, the implants are trying to settle in, all that jazz. Wearing wired bras, or having no support at all, and moving your muscles a lot will not be good for them. I may have done too much in the beginning because this week I’m just tired all the time and still sore sometimes.

The hardest part is over…

September 25, 2007

Went for my first consultation with plastic surgeon yesterday. I thought I wasn’t nervous but one of the staff in there told me afterwards that I looked terrified. So much for my unaffected poise…It was slightly horrible, only because I had to stand half naked under harsh office lighting while the PS (who was very nice) measured every inch of my chest. Turns out I’m even smaller than I thought!
Anyway, the people at the ACS clinic were all lovely. I checked when I went in if the surgeons are registered with the Irish Medical Council (they are) and I also asked could I check out before and after pics of breast ops.
But first, I had my discussion with the Surgeon.
He asked me what I wanted done, my expectations, my medical history, etc. He then measured me (gaaah) and felt around my boobs for any lumps, bumps or unusual parts. (This didn’t take long, since there’s not much there!)
After I put my bra back on (which took about four hours because my hands were shaking!) he told me all about the operation, the risks, the recovery, and the follow up care I’d get at the clinic.
“Any questions?” he said then, and I asked could I stay overnight at the clinic as I would be on my own afterwards. He looked concerned and said of course, the bed is mine anyway. I also asked about size.
This is the most important bit. For anyone out there who wants this done and thinks she knows exactly what size she wants, well prepare to be flexible.
According to my PS, he first needs to know my hopes of what I will look like afterward. I said I wanted a natural increase, meaning I don’t want to look huge, as I’m naturally small anyway and I don’t mind still being small (ish). So I said a B cup. Mr. Surgeon then gave me a number of different silicone balls to try on. He explained that they are measured in volume, not cup size, so for example, he suggested I go with 240 ccs, which is slightly above a B cup. He said once the implant is inside, it will eventually drop and sit properly, and won’t look as big as it did when I stuck it in my bra. (That is important. Because I had it in my bra, i.e outside my breast, and of course it will be further back once inserted, therefore not as far out. If you get me.)
I asked him could I go for maybe a 220cc, thinking 240 was too big. But he said in his opinion 240 would be best, and I should take time to think about it. He said once I’m under (open?) during the surgery, he looks in and sees what will fit. (Have images of myself lying on op table with slits in boobs, as surgeon slides various implants in and out…euggh!)
He then told me, because I have very little breast tissue, he would put the implants behind my muscle, not in front.
In breast augmentation (I found out) implants are either put behind the muscle, or behind the breast tissue (‘overs’). Women with enough breast tissue are given the overs, which apparently have a quicker recovery time and less pain. In my case though they will go behind.
The PS told me to come back for a second consult if I wanted, then brought me out to speak to a lovely girl (a patient co-ordinator, I think her title is) who, I found out, is the daughter of the owner of the clinic. As she led me into another consult room I was admiring her lovely shoes, and I thought she was about my age, maybe in her late 20s. She then told me she was 37, which I still can’t believe. She has implants in and let me feel them, something I’ve been dying to do to see if they would be hard and fake looking. But hers were lovely and felt really soft. Yay!
She told me the op would cost 6,150 euro, and talked to me about what to expect and about size. She knows I don’t want a big increase but also recommended the 240ccs. She said the difference between 240 and 220 is about a teaspoon in volume and so I may as well go with the 240. I think she’s right.
She also urged me to have a second consultation with a different surgeon, to see who I liked better.
So I’m going back on October 16 to meet another PS, who specialises in BA and who inserts the implants through the armpit or the nipple. Lots of people prefer this because there is then no scar on the breasts. I wonder how they get the implant through the armpit though–I’m guessing that will be much more painful!
I’ll meet this second guy then decide, and book my surgery. I’m thinking around the end of November. Hopefully the swelling will have gone down for all the Christmas parties…

How much does it hurt…really?

September 21, 2007

OK last night I was trying to figure out how I’ll manage the three-four days after my BA (breast augmentation– see, I’m already using the lingo). (Last night I also browsed for pics of nice breasts, then had to stop because I felt like a 14 year old boy looking at porn). Anyway, my original hotel plan may not work after all. The nice girls over at the forums are kind of warning me that it may not be a good idea because I’ll be in a lot of pain and will need help to even sit up.
I can handle pain. I think. So far the most painful thing in my life (physically) has been when I injured my lower back and for MONTHS I was in agony. It’s only when something like your back goes bust that you realise how much you take it for granted. I mean, things like getting out of bed and even walking were a nightmare. I’m guessing this will be the same, except it will be my chest.
So I’m going to ask the people at the clinic can I stay over the first night, just in case. Then the next day I can heave myself into a taxi and go home, where I’ll have prepared a little recovery section for myself. I’ll just move everything into my room and put everything at hand level. I also plan to take a shit load of pills to knock myself out. I have images of waking up four days later, undoing my bandages and revealing perfectly sculpted fake boobs….really though I’ll probably reveal swollen, bruised and painful round things. Gaaah.

The level of pain also depends on where the implants are placed…I’ve been told if they are underneath the muscle (as mine will be) it is more painful. The surgeon told me I would have a heavy, tight feeling in my chest, and that lifting my arms up will be painful. Putting on and taking off the required sports bra you have to wear is also going to be painful. (My PS says to me, hopefully, “Do you have a high pain threshold?” I was like “Emmm, nope…”)
I’m not really worried about the pain though. All through it I will tell myself to relax, not to fight the pain, because it is worth it- it’s pain I welcome to get the results. It’s not like a kick in the groin- pointless and veerry painful…it’s good pain. Right?
Plus I’ll have hardcore painkillers….

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of having no breasts….Or to have surgery against a sea of risks, and by opposing, get bigger ones?
Hard to answer the question “But why?” in one coherent sentence. So instead I’ll just answer the most commonly given negative responses and beliefs about breast augmentation.

1. “It’s invasive surgery! Pain! Swelling! Leaked silicone!”

Well, this is true. So what I did was write a trusty pro/con list. The only cons were “It will hurt” and “People will know.” Yes, it’s surgery, yes, I will be in pain, but trust me, I have had years of mental anguish about my lack of ANY boobs. I really have none. Some women with small chests don’t care (but I think we all do), some do and I want to change it. I am prepared to face the risks (which are really very small) and go for it. Don’t worry, if I die at least it will have been on a quest for beauty. Not a bad way to go. Compared to, say, dying of a lack of sex because you’re too scared to let anyone see what you look like naked.

2. “You’ll never know if someone will just love you for you…”

In my case, this may be true. While I have had many flings, encounters and fast times at Ridgemont High, I have never had a man say to me “I love you”. (Well, none that I wanted to hear it from. The weird Aussie guy who stalked me last year doesn’t count.)
But this can be said for a lot of things. If I decide to spent 10 grand on a trip to Africa, I’ll never know what it’s like to go somewhere else instead. That doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy Africa, does it?

3. “It’s expensive. Like, you could buy the new Dior court shoes AND the entire Kate Moss for Topshop A/W line.”

I could, but I’ve decided to spend the money on this instead.

4. “You’re doing it for the wrong reasons/you have unreasonable expectations/you need a psychologist/you think the men will lurrve you afterwards.”

I’m doing this because I want to. For me. Cliche, yes, but true. I’m not doing it because some guy will like me better (fuck him), or because I think my life will be magically perfect, or because my life is shit and I need a change. I’m doing it because I’m sick, sick, sick of being self-conscious and scared. I’m sick of avoiding sex and I’m sick of turning away from the mirror. I’m sick of staring at other girl’s chests like a teenage boy. (Sorry, like any boy.) So really, I AM doing this for me.

Any more objections, bring ’em on…