Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tips For Dealing With Hypersensitive Skin After A Mastectomy



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Approximately two weeks post-surgery you should start to notice overall improvement in the way you feel physically. Everyone is a little different of course. I took 3 weeks off from work following my bilateral mastectomy because I felt weak and crappy. Being relatively athletic and a go-go-go type of person I expected to return much sooner but the extra time helped me bounce back more quickly in the long run. If you have a cool boss like I do and/or can afford to get help with your kids, I highly recommend giving yourself a longer break.

Ironically, just when you do start feeling better...BOOM! New problems will arise. On my 10th day post-op, I started to experience a painful burning sensation on my chest, armpits, and sides, which made me literally rip my shirt off the minute I was safely inside the privacy of my own home. The feeling was unbearable; even the thinnest, most delicate piece of fabric grazing against my skin caused tears.

See that image above? Yeah...that was me.

This sensation doesn't happen to everyone but if it does happen to you: relax. During your surgery dozens of nerve endings were cut and basically they're just starting to heal and reconnect. It's totally normal and actually a good sign that you're on the mend. Your body is working.

Here are some tricks to handling the pain:
  • Start touching yourself! Applying pressure against the tissue expanders interestingly will feel great. Press and hold rather than moving your hand all over.
  • Tap your upper chest with your fingertips with firm, rapid movements. This will help to distract your attention away from the burning sensation. The effect is sort of like not being able to reach an itch in a difficult place. If you think of something else, the itch usually goes away because you've forgotten about it.
  • If you can handle it, stand under a firm spray setting on your shower. In the beginning, this hurt way too much for me but eventually this was one of the best techniques to relax my jittery nerve endings. Similarly, let the harder spray beat down on your back which will have both the distracting effect with the added benefit of a relaxing massage. My neck and lower back were in agony for several weeks post-op.
  • Blow on your chest. Pucker up and angle down!
  • What about ice? You should apply ice with extreme caution. As weird as it sounds, while you are experiencing this burning sensation, you simultaneously have very little feeling on the surface of your skin and can easily get freezer burn without realizing it.
  • Wear button-down shirts if you're in the company of others and can't be topless. You can at least undo the top few buttons and open up your neckline. For me, as soon as all clothing was away from the area, I felt some relief. (You can also strategically work in some blowing on the down-low.)

You can find information on this issue as well as some more tips for managing the pain on the breastcancer.org website.


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