I’ve been searching for some information, an article, a post anything to tell me how to deal with the pain of these tissue expanders. Some days I wish they would just burst and give me some relief. The tightness of my skin is very uncomfortable and the pressure put upon the sutures also hurts but I am managing; although I’d love to be rid of that pain. It’s the size and placement of the tissue expanders that are causing me grief. Each expander now has 970cc’s of fluid inside so there is no “give” in them at all. They are filled to what feels like a bursting point…but the surgeon assures me that this hasn’t happened…yet!
The expander on my left side is positioned quite high in my chest and stretches to just below my collarbone. Sometimes the pain it causes feels like I’m having a heart attack but thankfully I know it’s just the pressure against my chest wall and pectoral muscle that is causing the sharp pain. On my right side the expander sits much lower and pushes against the sutures under my arm making them feel like they will rip open at any moment. It also, and this is by far the worst, pushes between two of my ribs causing terrible spasms and making it very hard to breathe.
Night time is the worst as I’m tired and just want some rest and relief. I’ve tried sleeping sitting up but that is not only uncomfortable, it causes me back pain too. I’ve tried a semi-sitting angled position but that “bend” in my torso pushes the expander into my ribs and causes the spasms. I’ve tried lying flat but the pressure of the fluid flat against my chest makes breathing impossible. I can’t really lie on my side as the expanders don’t bend or move and sleeping on my stomach is an impossibility.
Everything on the internet and in the literature I’ve been given talks only about the “slight discomfort” you may feel as the skin stretches and that taking an ibuprofen will help. More like a bottle of ibuprofen, fu#k. The literature also says that you won’t feel the needles plunging through your chest as your skin will be numb. WRONG! Although the pain is not as bad on my right side when injected the pain on my left is excruciating. This is because the metal port inside sits very high on my chest so when they push the needle through the skin and through my pectoral muscle I FEEL EVERYTHING!!!!
I have probably two more “fills” to go. I see the reconstructive surgeon next week. Once all the fills are complete, I will have to wait 4 or 5 months until they surgically remove the expanders and replace them with silicone implants. People ask me would I have gone through this had I known what I was in for? Yes, I think I would. But at least I would be better prepared for what was to come…which is months and months of pain and severe discomfort.
I want to have a reconstructed chest. I want to have some semblance of “breasts.” I want to be able to wear what I want and feel normal…whatever normal is supposed to feel like. Someone said to me that I should look at this process like childbirth. You experience a lot of pain but then when it’s over you forget how bad it was because you now have a beautiful baby. This is very true, however unlike the relatively short time that childbirth lasts, I will have had these tissue expanders in place for what will be more like the gestation of a baby…a total of 9 months before they are removed. The end result certainly won’t be the same as having a baby, but by March/April I will have a new set of twins.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.