It is odd not having feeling on your chest

It is odd not having feeling on your chest. This is something that surgeons have a nasty habit of forgetting to tell you. My surgeon certainly didn’t say anything about this lack of feeling. I’d read about it, so I thought I was prepared, but really, I wasn’t. On one front, the lack of feeling is a good thing – it means you don’t feel the horrible wounds as they heal. But, on the other front, it is completely disconcerting. I can understand not feeling implants, as they aren’t a part of your natural body, but when you do a flap reconstruction, they are part of your body, and yet you do not have feeling.

Imaging what your face feels like after going to the dentist for a filling. You know the side of your face is still there, but it does not have feeling. I look down and I can physically see that my breasts are there. I can touch them with my hands. I can feel that they are warm. But most of my front (breast area and belly area) are numb – just like after the dentist – only, I don’t know if my body will ever grow nerves in these areas. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel that area again.

I first noticed this lack of sensation when I was carrying a box up from the car. The box was light but bulky. I noticed that when I held it, I had no sense of where my body was. I couldn’t tell how much pressure I was using with my arms, because I didn’t have the sense of response to the pressure in my chest.  It was very weird.

I was reminding of it again when I did a chair massage at Stanford on Friday. They have massage therapists that give free chair massages to anyone who is waiting. This was the first time I’ve had the time to do it. When I climbed into the chair, it occurred to me, that leaning forward was going to produce the oddest of sensations. I did lean forward into the chair, but I found I had to visually check to see. I didn’t have the the sensory cue that I was leaning against something.

I was chatting today with a women who has implants. One of the challenges she has is that they make her hyper sensitive to both hot and cold temperatures. It is worse than having nothing, because, instead of having living flesh she has saline implants against her chest wall – which get cold or hot very easily. This was one of the reasons why I didn’t want implants. I had heard that they can be cold (and really an issue as a Canadian who someday will again experience living through winter), but I had not heard that they can also get hot. That would make Ottawa unbearable much of the year! Since I don’t have implants, my construction is living flesh, they feel warm to the touch – just like the rest of my skin. It occurs to me now, that I’ll need to be extra careful about frostbite – as I won’t feel them getting cold. I won’t have the cue to warn me that I need to do something. This is one reason why many plastic surgeons don’t recommend underwire bras after surgery. If the wire were to break through into the skin, you wouldn’t know it.

The impact of not having feeling is just starting to settle in. On Wednesday I will be 8-weeks post surgery, and will be allowed to lay on my stomach again (putting weight on my chest). This matters because it means I can get a proper massage. But the whole idea of laying down on my chest is also rather scary. Without feeling, I cannot tell if there is something wrong. I just can’t feel it!

  • Becky

One Comment

  • I too was very surprised by the numbness I felt after my double mastectomy and diep flap reconstruction. I remember the first time I dripped water down through my new cleavage and felt it pool by my belly button on accident it was soooo exciting. It has been 2 1/2 years since my surgery and some feeling has returned. I was also surprised about how long my tummy felt tight like animal skin stretched over a drum. I am glad that it has relaxed and released some. I don’t know how they could have better prepared me psychologically. I’ve heard other bloggers say we are breasts amputees. The fact that our replacement breast tissue is our own skin fat and diep flap feels better to me. But sometimes my emotional response is very disconnected to them. They are not real breasts just replacement tissue. Cosmetically they look good under clothes but they are not satisfying to me cosmetically. I’m great full for them but they just are not the real thing. I really appreciate your honesty about you disappointment, it makes my ambivalence feel justified and heard. I am not alone and in good company. Thanks for letting me share and your topic choice for discussion.

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