Keeping Self-Esteem High During Post-Mastectomy Recovery


Post-mastectomy recovery isn’t only about your physical recuperation. It’s equally important to take care of your emotional state and keep your self-esteem high.

Our surgeons and the staff at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction want to remind breast cancer survivors that, even though life after a mastectomy can be trying and difficult, a good sense of self-worth will keep you going.

During your post-mastectomy recovery period, you are faced with many decisions, especially concerning breast reconstruction. All the questions in your mind may cause you stress and lower your self-esteem.

Not to worry—in this article, we’re sharing our tips on how you can keep your self-esteem high during recovery.

If you have questions about breast reconstruction, please don’t hesitate to ask one of our surgeons.

Focus on what makes you happy.

Placing emphasis on positivity doesn’t have to be grandiose. To stay in a positive mindset after your mastectomy, think about the activities you love to do, even if these things are “small.”

Here are a few of life’s little wonders that you can be thankful for:

  • Conversations with friends.
  • Sitting down to enjoy coffee.
  • Sneaking out for an afternoon at the movies.
  • Redecorating your house.
  • Sleeping in for no reason, other than the fact that you can.
  • Warm days on the beach.
  • Walks through Charleston’s Historic district.
  • The thrill of a new book that you can’t put down.

We suggest keeping a journal—write down what you’re grateful for from the past, in the present, and what you will love in the future. It’s amazing how focusing your consciousness on gratitude will shift your mindset and improve your self-esteem.

Remember that you are more than your breasts.

A mastectomy doesn’t just change you physically; it takes its toll mentally and emotionally.

Many women feel as if a vital part of them has been taken away, and their self-esteem suffers as a result.

If these feelings aren’t resolved, they can lead to depression and other issues. It’s important that, if your self-worth diminishes, you recognize it and know you can find help. Your family and friends will be an ideal resource, and your doctors should also be there for you

You can also improve your mental state and improve your self-esteem through reflection. Simply place the focus on what you like about your personality and your appearance.

Think about all your talents and the good you’ve done in the world. If you’re having trouble coming up with examples, here are a few instances to consider:

  • The last time you talked with someone during a tough situation.
  • How you’re willing to help others, even if it’s a small task.
  • All the nice things you’ve said to the people in your life.
  • How you’ve made someone feel better about themselves.
  • The gifts you’ve given.

Allow yourself permission to grieve.

A mastectomy does create a sense of loss, and it often provokes the same feelings of grief as losing a loved one.

You may feel denial or anger, which is perfectly normal. Allow yourself to experience those feelings instead of minimizing them or holding them inside. Talk to a close friend or family member. Journal your experience.

If you feel the need for a grief counselor, ask your doctor or religious professional for a referral.

Whatever you decide, find someone you feel comfortable with, and don’t be afraid to express yourself. The more issues you bring out in the open, the better you’ll feel.

Consider natural breast reconstruction.

Many patients look at natural breast reconstruction as their chance to finally have the breasts they’ve always wanted.

These women become very involved in learning what the surgery entails and what their options are. In fact, reconstruction often improves our patients’ self-esteem because their new breasts signal a new beginning, which is exciting and empowering.

Our surgeons at The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction—and our staff—will ensure that all your questions are answered. Our goal is to be as helpful as possible during this process and help you make the decision that’s right for you.

One of our most common questions is about when breast reconstruction should take place.

Our happiest patients are those who choose to have reconstruction at the same time as mastectomy, which reduces self-esteem issues. Note that breast reconstruction planning and timing is based on the type of cancer, pathology, oncology recommendation, and the patient preference.

If you have any questions, reach out and ask our doctors.

Post-Operative Care: What to Expect and Helpful Tips

Post-Op Care and TipsOur team often receives questions on the healing process and post operative care after breast reconstruction surgery. We strive to provide our patients with the information to ensure they achieve the most optimal surgical experience. For today’s Ask The Doctor post, we are sharing with you some tried-and-true steps and tips we have to help our patients improve their post surgery recovery and healing time.

After Surgery

Family members will receive periodic updates during your surgery.

Following the procedure, you will be moved to a special unit in the hospital where you will be connected to monitoring equipment. There, nurses trained in post operative care of breast reconstruction will monitor you at all times.  Family members can see you during visiting hours.

You will also receive an informative sheet that discusses your specific information and post-operative care.  This likely will include information concerning drain care; it is very important to monitor flow from the drains in a 24-hour period. This guides us on when to remove them.  You will also have a kind of thermometer on your chest, which monitors the flap.  Other specifics and information will be provided in your post-operative packets.

As You Heal

Family and Friends:
Support from loved ones is very helpful. But understand that comments they may make during your recovery can cause you concern. Remember this: We will tell you honestly how you are doing and what we expect your result will be.  Please trust in our knowledge and experience when we discuss your progress with you.

You will heal! How quickly depends on factors your genetic background, your overall health and your lifestyle (exercise, smoking, drinking, etc.). Many people believe the surgeon “heals” the patient.  No person can make another heal. Dr Craigie and Dr Kline can facilitate, but not accelerate, the healing process.  But you play the starring role, so your cooperation is key.

You may find swelling of your new breast and abdomen (DIEP) or buttock (GAP) to be troublesome and your clothes may not fit.  Be patient, this swelling will gradually subside and you will feel better in a few weeks.  There will be a certain amount of tightness in the area where the flap was taken from.  This will slowly relax in a few months.

Following Instructions:
Another way to improve healing is by following the instructions given by Dr. Craigie and Dr. Kline’s staff.  We believe “the difference is in the details” and strive to achieve the best possible results for you.  It is imperative that you act as a partner in this process — not a passive participant.  The instructions are designed to give you the best opportunity for healing without delay or surprise.

Click here for a complete list of post surgery healing and recovery tips and instructions.

Have questions about post operative breast reconstruction? Or questions in general? Contact us today!