Post Double Mastectomy Emotional Recovery: The First Few Weeks at Home
After a double mastectomy it is important to give yourself time to heal both physically and emotionally. Physical recovery time from a double mastectomy can vary from person to person, but it typically takes 4 to 6 weeks (1) . While you are dealing with the very real physical healing from a major surgical procedure, you will also be coming to terms with a flood of emotions that may hit you once home.
Every post mastectomy journey will be different; allow yourself time to go through this very personal emotional recovery.
THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY TO FEEL
It is common to feel overwhelmed by many emotions including sadness, confidence, grief, happiness or even fear; you may even waver between all of these emotions.
Caitlin Kiernan wrote on the Today show blog, “By the time I was declared cancer-free in October 2014, I was a totally different person. Returning to “normal” life wasn’t seamless. I didn’t look the same and I didn’t feel the same. There were moments I felt so disconnected from myself”. Infinite Beauty’s Chief Executive Officer Roberta Lombardi had her self confidence taken away post-mastectomy and wondered “Will I ever be the same? Will I ever feel the same?”
Always remember that there is no right way to feel. There is no singular emotional path for all who have had a double mastectomy to follow and your emotions are uniquely yours.
Do not face this alone or feel guilty about seeking support. Your family members may feel helpless in how they can best contribute to your recovery so allowing them to do every day tasks such as meal preparation or to simply provide comfort can allow them to feel useful. You may also seek professional support to talk through your feelings (Columbia University’s Global Mental Health Program states that “Up to 65% of people undergoing certain types of surgeries experience depression” include a mastectomy).
All of these roles can provide a reassuring presence and a beacon of encouragement during your emotional recovery.
SOME DAYS MAY BE BETTER THAN OTHERS.
Allow and accept whatever emotions you may feel on any particular day. While one day you might be incredibly positive, yet another you might feel anger or grief. You are not alone in these emotions following a mastectomy and your feelings may fluctuate. This is important to remember during low periods; consider a peak of optimism might be right around the corner.
Understanding and expecting that your emotions will change throughout the recovery process will allow you to accept each emotion as it comes and in turn that it may waver. Accepting the unpredictability will give you control over all the emotional changes.
KNOW THAT YOU WILL FEEL BETTER.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will feel better. You will get there.
It can be frustrating to lose your sense of normality and routine. Try to be patient with yourself and the recovery process. Erika Lewis who underwent a mastectomy writes, “The road to recovery was a long one for me. But just when I was wondering if I'd ever feel fully human again, my body surprised me. No matter how heavy your body and your heart may feel during the mastectomy process, know that one day you will celebrate your success.” This can be the single most encouraging thought while going through your emotional recovery, that essentially, you will get through this.
At Infinite Beauty we offer women who have battled breast cancer the opportunity to reclaim their sense of self and feel strong and beautiful. Learn more about our story here.
— S. Young, Contributor to Infinite Beauty