So I spent the afternoon in a hyperbaric chamber at Capital Health System in NJ. If you had asked me two months ago, “Cara, do you think that, in two months, you’ll be diagnosed with breast cancer, have a double mastectomy, and spend two hours in a hyperbaric chamber breathing pure oxygen?” I’d have said, “Hell no.”
I guess stranger things have happened.
Basically, my plastic surgeon is not happy with how the skin on my left breast is healing. I have a very large area under my nipple down to my incision (which is at the bottom fold of my breast) that has turned a waxy white, kind of like a third degree burn. She described it as full-thickness skin loss, and in layman’s terms I think that means that the surgeon just removed so much breast tissue that my remaining skin is too thin to reconnect to a blood supply, so it is dying off.
I saw the plastic surgeon on Monday and she said she was still not happy and would like to schedule a revision surgery. I cried like a baby. I just felt like things were coming crashing down around me again. My surgery went so well otherwise and I was so disappointed that my skin didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to heal with no complications! I was also terribly frustrated to have this setback when I had already moved on to my next step in this whole breast cancer journey, embryo retrieval. Everyone says to take things one step at a time, and I thought the surgery step was over, so to have this setback made me really upset.
When I was done crying, though, I put things into perspective and realized it isn’t so terrible. I am cancer free. All negative nodes. My right breast looks great. I can handle some skin removal and perhaps having a lopsided chest for a while because my surgeon will have to take down my left side expander to let the skin heal. I can also probably do the retrieval at the same time. Deep breaths.
Back to the hyperbaric chamber – my wonderful father who will do absolutely anything for me suggested it and fast-tracked me to the wound care department at the hospital he works at so I could see the vascular surgeon about whether hyperbaric therapy would help my skin heal. The surgeon said he thought it would be beneficial, so now I’m making like Jacko and taking a daily ride on the hyperbaric highway.
Anyone else know people who have had this therapy after surgery? I read about it on one message board but I’d love to hear from others. Or just others who had to lose skin after mastectomy. It’s apparently pretty common and it is pretty traumatizing especially on top of everything else a breast cancer patient goes through.