Read about my decision to get nipple reconstruction and the procedure here
As I got closer to my two-week appointment after my nipple reconstruction I was more and more eager to get the dressings off and see the results. The dressings hadn’t really bothered me after my previous surgeries, but this time there were really annoying me.
I was feeling great. By about the third or fourth day after surgery I was feeling just as I had before the surgery. I had not expected any pain at the site of the nipple reconstruction because I do not have any feeling there, but I thought the incision from the replacement of my left implant might be sore. The first couple of days it felt like I had a big bruise there and pulled a little if I really stretched out my arm or lifted something, but those sensations were soon gone.
I had seen plenty of photos on line of just after nipple reconstruction. I actually make a point to try to look at as many photos as possible before each surgery to prepare myself for what I would be seeing. (I hope my photos will help you with that too!) So I knew this would not be pretty!
I was therefore not surprised to see that my new nipples were huge. It’s a bit confronting at first, but I also know that they will eventually shrink to about 50% of the current size. My nipples are also still full of stitches. My surgeon decided to leave them in rather than remove them, telling me they will likely fall out by themselves over the next few weeks. If not, he will take them out next time I see him. The stitches have been a great source of amusement as I joke about my “hairy nipples”.
My right side is clearly healing a lot quicker than my left. The incisions are looking neater and less red. I still have a lot of purple on me, which I am assuming is the texta my surgeon used to draw the shape during surgery. I can see that it is slowly diminishing though, so I hope in the end it does all disappear. If not, I keep telling myself it will be covered by the nipple tattoos.
Talking about tattoos, I did briefly have a chat to my surgeon about them, but the conversation did start with him saying “next visit we will talk about tattoos” so I didn’t get much information this time. I was able to confirm that the lady he recommends is from Pink Lotus Tattoos and that all going well I will be able to start the process three months after surgery – so late November/early December. I have seen others say they were told they had to wait 6-12 months, so while the process won’t be completed by the end of the year (multiple visits are required) I won’t be too far off.
Now that I can see these huge nipples, the next thought turned to which bra should I be wearing? My surgeon wants me to stay in the soft post-surgical bra (this one) until the next appointment. And he has given me some gauze with a hole cut out in the centre to sit over my boob inside the bra to give a bit more protection and stop the nipple getting too squished flat.
To be honest I am finding this set up a little uncomfortable and annoying. The bra has a tendency to ride up a little and drag the gauze up with it, so my nipples are no longer in the hole and are getting squished anyway. I feel like I am spending half my day checking and adjusting everything, because with no feeling in my boobs, I can’t actually tell what is going on without looking. I’ve swapped to a different bra (one not recommended by my surgeon but just from Target) which is a little better, it doesn’t ride up so much.
I feel best though without a bra altogether. My surgeon would probably have a conniption as he has been adamant all along that I need to wear a bra 24/7 to let everything heal in place. I figure now that mostly everything should be healed enough. My only concern is my new left implant, but I think the risk of it moving is fairly low. After all, that part of the surgery was as simple as taking the old one out and putting the new one in.
While I can’t be too sure about if there is any swelling left, it does all seem to be gone and my left side is now looking much more comparable in size to my right. They are never going to be exactly the same – I mean, who even has natural boobs that are perfectly symmetrical anyway? Previously the left looked a little ledge-like on the top of the implant, but now there is more fullness in this area. If I choose to show off my cleavage in clothes (and since I now have some I just might lol), at least now they will look the same there.
I had just one more question for my surgeon before I left – but this time it was unrelated to my nipples. This would be my last appointment before I pass the one year anniversary of my diagnosis. I wanted to know how I would be monitored going forward. I was not surprised to hear that it would simply be a physical examination each year. I will only get scans if I feel a lump or have some other symptom. For the next five years it will be my surgeon who does this, at the same time he will provide me with my prescription for the next year of Tamoxifen.
I’m not too sure how I feel about this. While I am not upset about the actual scans, there is always that little voice in the back of my head saying what if it comes back? That will never go away. Having annual scans would bring that fear right to the forefront each time. But is that worse than not having scans and not knowing if there is an issue? I don’t know the answer to that.
So for the next few weeks it’s being careful with my nipples as they heal. I’ll update you all as soon as there is anything new to add.
EDITED TO ADD: After leaving you all with those not-so-pretty photos above, I thought I should come back and show you what my nipples look like once they have had a few months to heal. The first photo is about 6 weeks after surgery, the bottom three photos were taken a bit under four months after the surgery.
I included the clothed photo because I know a big concern with nipple reconstruction is that the nipples are always “on”. Mine are quite soft so it doesn’t take much to flatten them when wearing thicker clothes or a soft bra. I don’t have an issue with them at all.
I am now also booked in to have my nipple tattoos done in early January 2021. While I will need a second sitting a couple of months later, I am really looking forwards to starting this last part of my reconstruction.
Want to learn more about my experiences? Try these posts
- My Bilateral Mastectomy with Tissue Expanders
- What to Take to Hospital for Breast Surgery
- Taking Tamoxifen
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Where does the skin for the nipple reconstruction come from?
Literally right there on the breast. A flap is cut, one side still attached, it’s twisted into shape and sewn up again in the same place.
When I had mine done, they harvested rib cartilage during my DIEP procedure and stored it on my hips. When I had my revision surgery, which is when they also constructed my nipples, they removed the rib cartilage and used them to form my nipples. I freaked when I work up…they were so long I swear I could press the buttons in the elevator with the. My doc said they would go down, and they did. I always look happy to see people, 😉 but they are not ridiculously long anymore.
They did a great job!!