Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recovering From Mastectomy, Part II

Up until 2 weeks ago, it had been about 35 years since I had regularly gone bra-less and that's because I had not yet developed a reason to.

It is an odd experience to go bra-less in public for the first time in 35 years. It's a self-concious experience. But you know, nobody probably even noticed. And likely no one  noticed that I had only one breast. But I feel like a hippie.

Half a hippie?

Even after two weeks, it's a little weird. It is still incredibly uncomfortable to wear a bra, mostly because I'm swollen and sore underneath my arm right where the bra hits.

The "sunburn" feeling on my suture/scar area is lessening, though.

I've been doing my physical therapy almost everyday.

But I feel like I'm making absolutely no progress. I think that is because of something called axillary webbing syndrome (AWS).

It looks like this:

image from http://www.vodderschool.com/treatment_of_axillary_web_syndrome
 That's not my arm. I did take a picture of mine intending to post it, but I was too freaked out about my inability to get a clean shave (more about that later in the post) to share the picture, but it looks just like this. If you can't figure out what is wrong in this picture, just raise your bare arm above your shoulder and look in the mirror at your armpit. Then look at this picture again.

You will not have that cord popping out in the middle of your arm pit, and you also won't feel a pulling in the bicep, elbow, and/or lower part of your arm, where the cording connects to other muscle tissue. Some women with the AWS even feel it in their wrists.

I've been reading about this issue just tonight, and I'm freaking out. I will be calling the nurse practitioner in the morning, just so that she and the surgeon know about it, but I already have an appointment with my physical therapist on Wednesday. Apparently, the only treatment is physical therapy, including stretching and "scar release" (Yikes! What is that?).

This is a self-diagnosis so far, but I'm pretty sure I'm right.

So, about that 'not shaving' thing. After lymph node removal, it is recommended that the patient not use a razor to shave under the arm of the side that the lymph nodes were removed from. For me, that's the right. In addition, the use of anti-perspirant is verboten. I assume it's from the aluminum used in anti-perspirants, but I'm not sure. No razors because nicks may increase the risk of lymphedema (chronic swelling) in the affected arm, one of the most common (and for me, dreaded) side effects of lymphectomy.

10 years ago, when I had my lumpectomy, the scar from the lymphectomy was so minor, so not near my "hair patch" (ewww, did I just write that, let alone think it?), and so very well healed after just a few weeks, that I continued shaving with a razor. But I did not wear anti-perspirant. Or deoderant.

Do you know how few deoderants are just deoderants? VERY few. I found one brand, and it only had one scent. And it was men's...Speed Stick, I think. Finally, about a year or so ago, I discovered Tom's. Why it took me so long, I'll never know.

Yeah. 8+ years without using deoderant. I hear ya'...gross.

But really, I learned that if I shaved frequently, washed frequently, and laundered my clothes well, I had no problem with odor. But all that diligence (and by "diligence" I mean the shaving frequently) is tiring. Hence, the onset of a search and the discovery of Tom's.

But with this scar, even with "just deoderant," I'm not supposed to apply anything to the affected underarm, probably ever, but certainly not until the scars heal/close.

Because of this, a few days after my mastectomy, I ordered an electric razor so that I would not run the risk of nicking my skin on the affected underarm. But with that cording, I can't get a clean shave. And it's been over 95 degrees every day for more than a week now. And hair traps moisture. And moisture plus heat equals bacteria. And bacteria equals odor. Body odor.

I stink.

But only under one arm.

I. am. sick. of. smelling. like. a. men's. locker. room.

Trust me. I wash under that armpit daily. Sometimes two or three times a day. I change shirts during the day.

It doesn't help much.

Who would have thought that this would be the worst part of a mastectomy?

Am I blessed or what!?

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea. That sucks! What about those "deoderant stones" that people sell? Are those a possibility? I suppose you're not allowed to use Nair or Neet or anything for hair removal. What about going to a dermatologist or salon and having one of those permanent hair removals? Might be expensive, but in your case, worth it! Is that a possibility? Just so you are more comfortable? Ah, the joys of womanhood. Hang in there, my friend!


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