About the author: In February 2020, Courtney was was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 35. Both her mom and father’s sister are breast cancer survivors multiple times over, and because of their histories, she had been in a high-risk breast cancer screening program for 10+ years. Read her story down below.
My routine MRI was grossly abnormal. There was a 2 centimeter mass in my right breast and a significant area of enhancement in my left breast. I was told that I would need bilateral biopsies which would be scheduled within the week.
Due to my background as a nurse practitioner, I knew what I was looking for when the ultrasound tech put the probe on my breast. The second I saw the mass, I immediately knew it was malignant. It just looked invasive. The best way I can describe it, is like there were tentacles coming out of the mass invading the surrounding tissue. And of course, that’s exactly what the biopsy results showed - invasive lobular carcinoma. It was ER/PR+ HER2 negative. Biopsies from my left breast showed lobular carcinoma in situ. After meeting with my surgical oncologist, I scheduled a double mastectomy with expander reconstruction to prepare for implant exchange surgery in the months to come.
There honestly isn’t really a great way to prepare for a double mastectomy. I’d seen my mom go through countless surgeries during her treatments, but I still wasn’t exactly certain what types of clothing I would need or items that I would be able to find comfort in as I recovered. Then COVID-19 hit andeverything changed. The virus spread like wildfire through the US and around the world. My husband and I would watch the news at night and both of us just became overwhelmed with anxiety as we saw stories of cancer patients all across the country having their chemo treatments cancelled due to the pandemic. I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to move forward with surgery - and surgery was the one thing that would shape my future treatment. I felt like I was completely out of control and having an understanding of what my treatment would be would give me some type of control over the situation. It was fleeting.
I coped by sharing my story on Instagram (@np.courtney) and connecting with other young women who were going through or had been through breast cancer before the age of 40. They had so much insight on what to expect, and how to navigate treatment with young children.
In April 2020, I successfully underwent a double mastectomy. I woke up with 4 drains - 2 on either side. I was prepared for post-op pain, but the thing I wasn’t expecting was the tremendous pain from the drain sites. Why is it that the drains always exit the body right where the band of the surgical bra lays? Couldn’t someone design something that made this less painful? Or couldn’t the surgeons place the drains a little lower so they wouldn’t chafe on the drain exit sites? There had to be a better way!
It was after sharing my story (and my discomfort) that I discovered Care+Wear. A representative from the company reached out via Instagram in advance of my exchange surgery and asked if they could send me a surgical recovery bra. When it arrived, I was thrilled to see that the sides of the band had a slot for the drains to exit without pressing on the skin. It was a night-and-day experience from the first post-op bra I had. The amount of post-op pain that I experienced was so much less simply because there wasn’t all that added pain from the drain sites.
I’ve had 6 breast surgeries since April 2020. Some would say that could make me an expert... not sure if I would call myself that, but I do feel that I’ve had enough experience with recovery to make recommendations. Now when women ask me how to prepare for breast surgery, I always suggest the Care+Wear surgical recovery bra. The adjustable straps, front closure, and drain holes make all the difference.
I’d love to connect with you, follow me at @np.courtney and reach out to me if you ever need a recommendation, have a question for someone who has been there or simply need to talk to someone who gets it. I’m here for you.