It was such a relief to get drain tubes removed, and being told I no longer needed to wear compression garments on my torso. I still needed to wear the Steri-strips for another week or so to help keep the incision from widening but I was beginning to differentiate what pains and tightness were from drain tubes, or scar pain or muscle tightness. My main focus was understanding what symptoms are temporary or what is my new way of operating.
I had no idea if my incision would stay puckered, or if my chest will remain concave. I worried that the mild lymphedema I was experiencing in my chest was going to get worse or not. Everything was so different, and I didn't know what was normal or what was not. At this stage, my overall complaint was extreme tightness. It felt like wear an extremely tight bra, one that was three sizes too tight, only you can't ever take it off. Night and day my skin and muscles were WAY TOO TIGHT. I got no relief. I was hoping it wasn't like this the rest of my life. So I turned to the Internet to search for answers.
I found a couple of websites by YouTube Physical Therapists who specialize in Breast Cancer Therapy. They were Godsent. They provided just the information I needed at just the right time. They gave basic stretching and movement exercises to help with healing to do at 2-3 weeks, and then after 4 weeks, stretching can intensify. One interesting fact I learned is that scar tissue doesn't have to remain painful and stiff, that if you can manipulate the scar tissue, you can progress to rolling the tissues and loosen things up. That can even be done years later, but obviously better if you can start early. If you want to explore, I'd recommend videos on scar tissue by Jen Mckenzie, Physical Therapist and Breast Cancer Specialist who goes by The Breast Cancer Physio. Another is Kelly, who goes by the Cancer Rehab PT.
So, I started small and light and over days progressed to firmer rolling of the tissue. Within three days of beginning that therapy, that extreme tightness began to feel lessened. I was hoping that if I worked hard, I could make some progress understanding that I still have a long way to go. But that was the difficult part, not knowing if this was a stage of recovery, or if this was the way things will be.
I didn't know. But what I did know is that I'd do everything I could to get answers and keep the healing moving on.
I'm working on it.