Time to Train…Post Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy

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I still remember sitting in the hospital 4 weeks ago and wondering how I might work through the recovery process after my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.

When I say ‘work through’, I’m not referring to the emotional side of things, because after 10 years of knowing I would eventually be sitting in hospital recovery from this surgery, I am very stable in this area.  What I’m referring to is the physical recovery.


There were many variables to consider.  So many that had I even bothered to start processing them in my head, I might have sent myself into some sort of overwhelmed and panicked state.  In the end, I made a conscious decision to just ‘let it be’, which to be honest, is not normally my nature.

You see, if you have read some of my earlier blogs, you would know that I’m a little OTT when it comes to being organised.  Everything is either on my to-do list, scheduled into our calendar or emailed to myself so I don’t forget.  There’s not many things that I forget or miss and it’s not because I mental superpowers, it all comes down to writing everything down.

I’m a little old fashioned, I still use a notebook and pen, but this person has it well and truly sorted with a tattoo’d template on his/her arm!!


You see it’s just normal to me to have my gym and training schedule as recurring appointments in my calendar, I’ve been doing it for years.  In our house, both AM and PM sessions are up for grabs and with both Leigh and myself keen to keep fit and use exercise as our ‘time out’, we balance it well by having it all scheduled into our shared calendar.

One of the first steps I took to just ‘let it go’ was to remove my training regime from the calendar.  The last thing I needed daily while recovery in hospital, was a calendar reminder to go the the gym, jump on my bike, or head out for a run.  I applied the ‘ignorance is bliss’ philosophy to this one and it worked perfectly.

I still remember being in my hospital bed and my surgeon saying that by 4 weeks post mastectomy, she was confident that I could jump onto a wind trainer to do some cycling.  I thought this was fantastic news and my only worry was whether my foot would hold up on a wind trainer just 19 days after being surgically pinned.  I was the model student, ensuring that I pretty much did ‘nothing’ when I arrived home, under Dr’s orders of course.

As recovery continued to process perfectly, I decided to take a visit to the Kosama gym I train at on the eve of my 4 week anniversary post surgery.  I was there purely for a stretching session and despite spending an hour doing nothing more than slow and steady stretching, I felt amazing.  I decided at this time that I was going to brave the Tri Alliance wind trainer session the next morning, exactly 4 weeks after my surgery.


I hobbled in, moon boot and all, ready to see whether I could even get on my bike without any foot pain.  In my mind it was just a given, I was going to train, it wasn’t a big deal whatsoever and other than the excitement of seeing some of my training buddies for the first time in 4 weeks, it was just another training session.


Needless to say from the look on my face, it was fantastic!!  I loved the energy from everyone else smashing out a hard session, I gained confidence as more and more time passed and by about half way through, I realised that I was pushing pretty hard and feeling fantastic.  I was so excited to make it through that I decided to volunteer the home garage as an alternative training location for the Saturday morning cycle session.

Before I knew it, we were planning to complete a 3 hour wind trainer session at 5:30am the very next day.  Now I won’t lie, I did momentarily wonder whether I’d just overcommitted by agreeing to participate in this killer set, but in the end, I thought about one of my favourite sayings that I remind our young girls of regularly…….

Henry Ford

On a quick tangent, if you haven’t read Watty Piper’s book, The Little Engine that Could, it’s a MUST READ in life, for yourself and everyone you know.  After reading this book 100’s of times in my life so far, you can imagine how ‘over the moon’ I was about 12 months ago when I learnt that it had been made into a movie.  The DVD is a MUST see, even featuring the voices of Whoopi Goldberg, Jaime Lee Curtis, Alyson Stoner and Corbin Blue.  AMAZING!!!!!


So with the ‘I think I can, I think I can, I think I can’ chant playing over and over in my mind, a 3 hour wind trainer session it was!!

Now I should point out that a 3 hour wind trainer session in your home garage isn’t usually something that people ‘volunteer’ to do, especially when the session entails a detailed minute-by-minute set from the Head Coach of your triathlon squad.  We all joked that he would have loved putting a hard set like this together, he’s a bit of a sadist (in the nicest possible way).

I printed off the details so we wouldn’t lose track along he way and before we knew it, there we were, all three of us rolling our legs over in the 30 minute warm up.  We laughed and had a great time looking outside at the non-existent rain clouds that made this session happen in the first place!!  We even had a visit from another triathlon training buddy who lives locally when he rode up the driveway to say ‘hi’ on his way to a leisurely ride.


If you clicked on the image above for a closer look, you can clearly see that we’re all pretty happy.  This was definitely an image taken early on during the warm up.

Before too long, the musical tunes became our motivation, we talked less, pedalled more and started to really embrace the set.  A few hours later and the look on our faces really changed…..


This is the sort of image a coach wants to see when he sets a solo session for his athletes.  Heads down, focused looks on those faces and a LOT of sweat.  We were all absolutely saturated, we could have filled a small bucket with the amount of sweat we were wringing out of our clothes after we finished.  The side-by-side comparison photo says it all…..what started with smiles, ended with satisfaction that we succeeded in getting through.

Windy session

While mentally these sessions are tough, I must admit that I was probably on a bit of a ‘high’ the whole way through.  Mainly because I was feeling just so very appreciative that I had two amazing ladies beside me, sharing such a gruelling session with me, just 4 weeks after my surgery.  I was also feeling physically strong, with no pain in my foot, or my chest area.  We rode down on the tri-bars for virtually the entire set, it kept me stable and it wasn’t until just before the last 5 minute ‘all out’ effort that I began to feel a little fatigued in my legs.

We all celebrated with a dip in the pool, where our bodies and minds really appreciated what we had just accomplished.  We were each very spoilt by my super-dooper husband who went to the local coffee shop to pick up some amazing coffee for each of us, which we drank in the pool accompanied by a delicious ‘breakfast’ prepared by our two girls,  consisting of an apple each, along with some Cadbury chocolate buttons.

I did wonder momentarily where they got the idea that chocolate was a great breakfast food, but to be honest, it really didn’t matter.  The gesture of them preparing a tray for us was just wonderful and I think they secretly included the chocolates for themselves, because I don’t think I actually got even 1 choccy button!  We all spent the next hour in the pool playing games, watching the girls do dives, handstands, tricks and laps.


It was only when I tried to play the game ‘Marco Polo’ that I remembered I’d just had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.  You see I launched myself into the deep end trying to avoid being caught, but when I tried to do a freestyle stroke to power away from ‘Marco’, I couldn’t get my arm all the way around. I still have limited mobility when it comes to ‘arm swings’, so I was left bobbing around in the deep end and had to ‘scull’ my way to the side of the pool.

I laughed to myself, reflecting just how powerful the mind really is.  Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, either way you’re right!!

A 3 hour wind trainer session in a home garage just 4 weeks after a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and just 19 days after having my 5th Metatarsal operated on and pinned into place!!

Thanks to some fantastic company, great tunes and a killer set….