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Top 3 things that surprised me about top surgery

life top surgery May 25, 2023
image of Renée in a phone screen with text "Top 3 things that surprised me about top surgery" next to illustration of Oliver the trans masc raccoon looking in a mirror

I had top surgery six weeks ago. Here are three things that surprised me about top surgery recovery:

1. Better sleep after surgery than before

I had a lot of friends who suffered from insomnia after surgery, but I have chronic pain. I've had chronic pain for 12 years or so and it is exasperated by stress, and I've always had a lot of problems sleeping. Before surgery I was naturally pretty stressed out. I don't know what happened in surgery in my brain or with my nervous system, but I had almost none of my normal chronic pain for about a week after surgery. I really thought I was going to struggle to sleep on my back because I'm a side sleeper, I sleep on my stomach, and I move around a lot when I sleep. But I just laid back every night after surgery, closed my eyes, and slept like a corpse for at least ten days. Now I'm back to sleeping kind of not great most of the time, but it was a nice break.

2. Getting my drains removed wasn't so bad

If you don't know, people who get double incision bilateral mastectomies typically get Jackson Pratt Drains put in so that fluid doesn't collect underneath the site of the surgery and you don't get swelling. They've been used in surgical procedures for a really long time, for 50 or 60 years or something like that. Basically they're a length of flexible tubing with a drainage end that goes underneath your incisions and then there's a bulb on the end. When you squeeze the bulb the fluid gets pulled out from around the wound. It's a really elegant, genius little design. 

My mom took my drains out for me at home so we didn't have to go see a nurse or anything. My mom is a nurse, so this was something she could do. They're about ten inches long (the drainage end) and when my mom took them out we were kind of surprised by how long they were. What surprised me even more was that as it was coming out, it didn't feel like anything. I thought it would be painful or uncomfortable or, you know, an "uncomfortable pressure" as some doctors say, but it came out quickly and easily, and with almost no feeling. That was pretty cool.

3. Recovering from surgery was so much easier than I was expecting

I know this is not the case for everybody. I know it's a total lottery, how your recovery goes. I was prepared for the actual worst. I have a history of medical trauma, and as I've said, I have chronic pain. I've gone through a lot of things in my life health-wise. I was just so surprised by how much levity there was, how much shared laughter. I was having a good time with my mom, and I really didn't suffer at all. I was really, really surprised by that and so, so grateful that it was as easy as it has been. Touch on wood, there hasn't been any complications since. That doesn't mean there won't be complications going forward. I'm still taking it easy, but I was just so surprised it wasn't that hard. I just needed lots of rest, and that was it. Really. 

I'm also very grateful that I was surrounded by my mom and my friends and neighbours. I've received a lot of support, so obviously that contributes. But the actual physical part of recovering really was not as hard as I thought it was going to be!

You can learn more about my top surgery recovery in my private top surgery recovery feed!

Hi, I'm Renée! (they/them)

I'm a queer, nonbinary, and disabled singer, songwriter and gender-affirming voice teacher. 

I've been a voice teacher for over twelve years, I have four full-length albums out, and I have degrees in physics, jazz, and songwriting.

I love creating, I love figuring things out, but most of all, I love helping people.

Learn more about me

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