Talking to Your Girlfriends About Breast Reconstruction
Because breast reconstruction surgery is major surgery, a strong support system can be invaluable – before, during, and afterward. Your girlfriends may be a key component of your support network. What you tell your friends about your breast reconstruction may vary, depending on how comfortable you feel discussing sensitive details about your body, as well as how much you’ll need to rely on them for help.
Breast reconstruction after mastectomy is becoming an increasingly common procedure in the United States. Approximately 101,600 women undergo breast reconstruction each year, and if you are diagnosed with breast cancer, you may become one of them. If you do, you may need to turn to your network of friends for support. Remember: You’re not alone on your breast cancer journey, and the people in your community are there to provide support and comfort.
You may find yourself wondering: What do I want to tell my friends about my breast reconstruction? The simple answer is, whatever feels right for you. Even if you do feel comfortable talking to a girlfriend about your breast reconstruction, you don’t have to reveal every single detail. Only share the information you feel comfortable sharing. Your comfort level may vary from friend to friend, too. You may feel more confident sharing more details with one particular friend than another.
Don’t be afraid to make certain requests or set some guidelines. There may be times when you appreciate some gallows humor, but there may be times when you’d rather just hear a few positive words of encouragement. Additionally, if you don’t like to joke around about your body, ask them to refrain from making light of the matter. And if there are times when you want to talk about anything except breast cancer, mastectomies, and breast reconstruction, let them know that, too. Many friends will follow your cues, but you may find that it’s easier just to be forthright about what you need from the start.
Your friends might not know very much about breast reconstruction surgery, unless they’ve undergone reconstruction surgery themselves. They may not fully grasp the finer details of the recovery process, including the typical timeframe for recovery.
It’s important for your friends to know that you’re not going to be ready to resume your typical routines right away. It takes a while to heal. In fact, research suggests that some women continue to experience pain and limited motion after undergoing breast cancer surgery for months after the procedure. In general, many women who undergo breast reconstruction can begin returning to their normal activities 6 to 8 weeks after reconstruction surgery. Let your friends know that it may be a little while before you’re ready to join them for anything more strenuous than a walk or a lunch date. After your surgeon gives you the green light for resuming regular exercise, you can start planning more adventurous outings again.
Your friends may be looking for ways to help you – so let them. During the post-surgery recovery period, you might need someone to help you with the grocery shopping, household chores, or yard work. Ask your friends if they can help you out with some of those activities while your body heals and you regain your strength.
A few tips that might help you if you’re shy about asking for support:
- Be specific in your requests, because people don’t always automatically know exactly what kind of help you may need. For example, if you’re temporarily having trouble raising your arms above your head, ask a friend to help with your hair care.
- Ask if they can help out with your kids, since your children may be feeling a little anxious after a parent undergoes major surgery, and you might not be able to be as present or physical during your recovery.
- Experts often recommend bringing along a loved one to a medical appointment, so enlist a trusted friend to come with you for moral support.
- Ask a friend to set up a meal calendar and share it with others who want to bring you some food; that way, you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to have for dinner each night.
You might also consider letting one or two close friends run interference with others who want to help. That way, you can focus more on recovering and getting back to your full strength.
If you have any friends who’ve already undergone breast reconstruction, you might ask them for advice. You may feel more comfortable talking about your own situation with someone who’s gone through it before.
Don’t know anyone who’s had reconstruction surgery? Breast cancer survivor groups may be a possible resource. Your breast surgeon may also be able to connect you with some women in your area who’ve undergone mastectomy and breast reconstruction.
It’s natural to feel uneasy and uncertain if you’re having breast reconstruction, but reaching out to trusted friends who are willing to listen and help can make you feel less alone during the process.