Post Surgical Booby Report

Yesterday was another SL (Silver Lined) day.  With my new Silver Lining Seeking Syndrome, finding SL’s gets easier and easier every day.

I had check up appointments in Los Angeles with both my breast surgeon and my plastic surgeon.  Both surgeons were very happy with my healing progress.  Yipppeeeee-do!

One of the post-surgical side effects of a double mastectomy and reconstruction is arm immobility.  In other words, it is taking a tremendous amount of painful stretching to get motion back into my arms because for the past five weeks, my arms have predominantly been at my side (as instructed by my impressively conservative plastic surgeon).

My plastic surgeon warned me against stretching too much too early (because everything is held together by just a few stitches). Ok.  Got it.  No ripping these stitches out.  Not if I can help it!

It is only now that he is encouraging stretching. Well, let me just tell you that stretching = OWIE!

The right side (where the sentinel lymph node biopsy was done) is the most sensitive.  It just occurred to me that I should explain what a sentinel lymph node biopsy is. Might make more sense.  DUH.

So, let me back up a little bit: The lymph ducts of the breast usually drain to one lymph node first, before draining through the rest of the lymph nodes underneath the arm. That first lymph node is called the sentinel lymph node.

The sentinel lymph node is the lymph node that helps sound the warning that the cancer has spread.  Unfortunately, my FBC has indeed spread, thereby making it “invasive breast cancer.”  F-bomb.

Axillary-Dissection (

Because they found cancer in my sentinel lymph node, they had to take out quite a few other lymph nodes to see just how far it has spread.

There are two SL’s here:

  1. The cancer is limited to the one sentinel node.  It could have been much worse. However, this does mean that I have to have the biggest, baddest, most ass-kicking of all chemotherapy regimens (will explain that later).
  2. The cancer was limited to my right breast.  I elected to do a double mastectomy and reconstruction because there were questionable precancerous spots in my left breast.  Additionally, when cancer appears in one breast, the chances that it will recur in the other breast are high enough that I decided that it was better to eliminate all risk of worry about when or if it would come back.  Felt like a very good ROI.

OK, so now you understand why I have been so sore.  My left arm is making very nice progress. My right armpit, however, feels like a wadded up piece of super glued metal.  Can you super glue metal?  Well, hopefully you get the image.

I have had several people recommend engaging a physical therapist (PT) to work on the stretching.  Others have said that PT can do more damage (considering I still have small stitches still holding everything together). Some surgeons encourage moving much more, much earlier. Others (like mine) encourage waiting.

All of this to say that at EVERY point in this process, there are always multiple, conflicting opinions to navigate. F.U.N.

Research must be done and intuition should be trusted.  Even if you are not in healthcare, intuition is a very powerful tool in decision-making at every step of the process.

The angel who is doing my reflexology who is also a pilates instructor happens to know A LOT about post surgical stretching. SL! I am going to focus on doing my stretching with her.  Oh, and she brings this magic juice that tastes like dirt, but makes me feel really really peaceful after I drink it.

So my focus now is arm stretching (see image below).  Though this will be full of owie’s, being able to stretch is a step in a GREAT SL direction.  So, bring it on (though I will NOT wear leg warmers!).

Arm Stretches (

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  1. Stormy says

    Dear Hollye ~

    Take courage, soul sister! I am one of 4 sisters who have had,,,and have recovered from breast cancer. Three of us got it in our early 40's and had bilateral mastectomies. (I was just remarried when mine was discovered..and he stayed. We just celebrated our 28th anniversaary. One sister had it in one breast in her 60's. WE ARE ALL STILL HERE and range in age from 66 to 73 now. Do whatever you have to do to beat it and you can be around to become an older and even wiser woman…guiding others through their difficulties with your courage and humor. GOD BLESS YOU and give you strength and peace through this life challenge!

  2. Cameron says

    Magic juice that tastes like dirt but makes you feel at peace reminds me of the I Love Lucy Vitameatavegamin episode. Maybe we all need to drink some of it? SL thoughts from "S"