I’ve noticed that lately I’m a lot more aware of these appendages on my chest, which have no feeling, and my surgeons continue to remind me “are not breasts” even though they look an awful lot like breasts, and when you touch them, they kinda feel like breasts. But alas, they are not breasts, in that they do not have any of the fatty breast tissue in them. That was all taken away when I had a double-mastectomy to remove the last bits of cancer in my system – December 17, 2014. Although I don’t remember much of that day (I was wheeled into the operating room at 8am), I shall never forget it.
Lately, I seem to be much more aware of the numbness in my fake breasts. I’m particularly aware of the area where my new breasts brush up against my upper arms. My upper arms can feel that something is there, but the breasts don’t feel the upper arms. So it all just feels kinda wrong. I actually caught myself bumping into a cupboard in the kitchen today – the cupboard door made contact with my breast, so I didn’t feel it.
I’m also numb in a large portion of the front of my stomach – where the donor tissue was taken. I have a scar that goes from one hip bone to the other. I can feel the outside 2 or 3 inches of the scar – the part that is actually over my hipbone, but I cannot feel the middle of my belly. In some ways, I’m feeling like I’m loose more feeling rather than gaining it. That more of me is numb now than it used to be. I’m also starting to feel some pain along the incision in my belly. I’m particularly aware of it on the part of my stomach between my new belly button (which is pretty cute BTW) and my stomach incision. The pain comes and goes – and it is not bad pain – in that I don’t need to take any meds to block it – it is an awareness pain. I find that rubbing my belly helps – perhaps it is a way to help the brain make the connection between the new nerves and the physical location of the sensation. I don’t know, I just know that when I get that feeling along my belly, it is eased by rubbing.
I’ve also had a couple of times where I’ve had an itch on my not-breasts. This is really difficult to manage. The itch feels like it is coming from the skin on the breasts, but I don’t have any sensation there – which means that scratching it does nothing. It is horribly frustrating – it is an itch that cannot be scratched.
One of the times when I am most aware of the numbness is when I go for a swim. I find myself hesitating going out to the pool – in part because it just feels really weird. I am thankful for my reconstruction surgery – such that I can wear the same swimsuit I wore before my mastectomy, and I don’t need to worry about prosthetics. I’m afraid that prosthetics would have been one too many sources of inertia that I’d never actually get to the pool. As it is, I can spend a good hour between the time I decide I’m going for a swim and the time I actually get my swimsuit on and walk out to the pool (thankful that I don’t actually have to go any further to swim or I’d never actually get there).
So tonight, with my ankles unhappy with me, I was happy to hop in the pool (rather than biking or walking). It was weird walking in. There were kids playing in the pool, so I tried to walk in (one hand on the railing so as not to lose my balance) without making funny faces as various parts of my body first get exposed to the cool water (the pool was pretty warm tonight, which made it easier). I recall from before, that stepping into the pool involved a shock at the belly line and again at the booby line – that is, when the water first approaches the belly and the breasts respectively. I no longer get that shock – the impact of the cool water on my belly and breasts just isn’t there. If the water is cold, I will eventually feel the coolness in my bones/flesh – but I don’t have that direct cold sensation on my belly or breast skin.
One thing that being in the pool does, is it helps me figure out what I’m feeling and what I’m not feeling. I recall when I first started to get neuropathy, that I found swimming to be an odd sensation. Climbing into the pool highlighted that I couldn’t feel the water on my skin. I could feel the coolness of the water, but I couldn’t feel the actual water. Similar to how rubbing my belly when it hurts helps my brain figure out where those new nerves physically are – hopping in the pool helps me appreciate the boundaries of my numbness.