Choosing a Breast Friend: Post-Reconstruction Support
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and all eyes and ears are on the subject. From music videos and celebrity public service announcements to sponsored walks and galas, fall is the time to shine a light on the leading form of cancer affecting women. As a board certified plastic surgeon, I see women battling breast cancer year round and am honored to play a part in restoring their bodies.
Breast Cancer Awareness Month and campaigns such as BRA Day have done wonders for educating women on their options after mastectomy. Breast and nipple reconstruction can be a crucial part of the healing process, helping them to regain confidence and improve quality of life. Many of my patients report that breast reconstruction was the final step in feeling “normal” again.
While reconstruction can be a very positive and fulfilling experience, it can also be an overwhelming and emotional one. It is common for women to experience feelings of anxiety or depression along the way. This is why I encourage my patients to choose a “breast friend” for support during the entire process.
Choosing a Breast Friend
When you schedule your consultation, start thinking about someone close to you who will be available to offer support throughout your breast reconstruction journey.
When deciding on your breast friend, it is important to choose someone who:
- you trust with your physical and emotional health
- is patient and accepting of potential mood changes or periods of anxiety
- is willing to keep their schedule flexible and open during your recovery period
- understands your surgical aftercare needs, including caring for surgical sites
- will be proactive in their support
I recommend including your chosen friend, spouse, or family member from the outset. Ask them to come along to your first breast reconstruction consultation; having your support person present will help put you at ease, and you’ll have another set of ears to assist in retaining important information. Your breast friend can also ask any questions they may have.
After your procedure, it is important that your breast friend is available to pick you up, get you home safely, and remain with you for the initial recovery period. Breast reconstruction is performed under general anesthesia, so you may experience disorientation, confusion, or drowsiness and will need help available for the first 24 to 48 hours following surgery. You may need support with food preparation, personal hygiene, dressing yourself, and taking care of your surgical site.
If your surgical plan requires staying in the hospital overnight or for several days after surgery, I still encourage you to include your breast friend. Waking up alone in an unfamiliar environment can be an unpleasant experience.
Most women experience a period of emotional ups and downs after breast reconstruction and the value of strong emotional support during this period is immeasurable. Having a breast friend to comfort you, remind you of what’s been accomplished, and keep your eyes on the goal can bolster you and help you process feelings. Speaking with counselors and breast cancer survivors also helps, but immediately after surgery, patients are likely to feel most comfortable with someone they know personally.
At times where you need support that your breast friend is unable to offer, communicating with other women who have experienced breast cancer and reconstruction may help. There is a large support network available. Finding a support group, either online or locally, often provides a sense of community and togetherness during a time where you may feel alone.
If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer, or have already had mastectomy performed but are unsure what to do next, contact me today to schedule a consultation. Together we can discuss options, review your goals, and develop a plan that suits your individual needs.