Angela’s Corner: Side Effects, Still?

2012-04-08_16-29-46_746While researching my treatment options, I often found myself looking through personal experiences that other breast cancer patients have recounted.  I wanted to know what the side effects would be.  I wanted to know how long they will last.  I wanted to know if I was going to make the right decision for myself.  There were a few side effects I was aware of, but some I had no idea I would experience.  I am two years out from my surgery (Yay!) and I still experience issues.

I was informed that I would experience some numbness.  There was a chance that the numbness would go away, but also that slight chance the feeling would never return.  Two years out and I am still as numb as the day I woke up from my mastectomy surgery.  There is some slight feeling on the outer edges of the chest, which is often tested by my daughter.  It has become a game to her to see where I am still numb.  “Mommy, can you feel this?”  Unfortunately, I miss the sensations.  I miss being able to feel my husband’s touch, despite our running jokes about it.  I miss knowing if the water is too hot on the chest.  I miss knowing if my bra is still sitting in the correct location.

With the lack of sensation after destroying the nerve endings comes muscle weakness.  My chosen reconstruction surgery meant cutting into my pectoral muscles to put in the expanders and later the implants.  The ability to exercise using those muscles is often difficult.  Don’t get me wrong, I can definitely use those muscles, just not as much.  And, I’m definitely not as strong as I once was.

My pectoral muscles do not enjoy exercising and often tire easily.  They retaliate by multiple spasms.  These spasms come with absolutely no warning.  They are sharp and they definitely stop me in my tracks.  At times, they take my breath away with the pain.  These spasms usually do not last long, often leaving as quickly as they came.  However, when there is one spasm, there will usually be three to four to follow – similar to the aftershocks of earthquakes.

The one thing I never read, or was informed about, was the fact that the surgery will change the contouring of my armpit.  Typically, this is not a top concern for me, but it is definitely something to be aware of.  I also lack a lot of feeling in the armpit.  The concern to me is the ability to feel.  I cannot feel the new contour of my armpit when I’m shaving, and I need to pay more attention when I do so I will not cut myself.  I have also had to change the way I hold my razor to accommodate the new change.  A major bonus is never feeling the ticklefest my daughter provides, a side-effect I am all too pleased to possess but my daughter is not.

These are definitely side effects that I can live with, and have managed to overcome over the past two years.  However, these are also long-lasting side effects that I really didn’t know about.

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