The expanders are temporary…The scars are permanent. Learning to cope

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Well this may(may blog helpful advice to anyone facing this or helpful ways for people to help) be my last blog post until my exchange surgery scheduled for March 23rd,2017. I am hanging in there mentally and physically and hoping to return to work part-time this coming week. This last week I have been in a funk, like complete funk. I haven’t wanted to get out of the house, I haven’t done one load of laundry (I am a neat freak) and just didn’t care for a while. I had another hard cry the other day and I think it helped, its been hard for me to look at the scars not only across my breasts but on the side where the drains were and on the side of my breasts, they are forever a reminder. I do have complete peace with my decision but still makes its hard to adjust and never anticipated this much emotional repair.

My tissue expanders have a mind all of their own. I am told this is normal but as of right now  I have a hate relationship with them. I am in constant discomfort, they are lopsided which is noticeable in a t-shirt and this really messes with my mind. I can layer clothing but this is Oklahoma one day its freezing and the next its 75 degrees and I am a hot natured person! I am even more self-conscious around people I know because I feel like its human nature and naturally people  will look. Maybe I should just wear a sign that says “Yes, they are lopsided and I am aware!” haha. Again, maybe it’s all in my head and people truly look past my breasts? I don’t know all I know is how I feel.

I am  filled at 800ccs which is the biggest expander and implants available. I am done with fills!! Yeah!! Those suck, the nerves start to regenerate and wake up and it made me fatigued and nauseated. I still every now and then get nerve pain that feels like you are getting electrocuted. I am numb as mentioned before but hurts like heck and feel like my skin is raw, I am told this won’t go away as long as I have the expanders. The first month is the worse so that part is behind me. I was cleared to wear a bra to help push more to center, I am wearing a sports bra which helps with making more even, but I am a lacy girl and ready for my pretty lacy bras again (if I choose to wear one! Perks of implants I can go bra less!) Anything on my skin is sensitive so it hurts and will take some time to adjust yet again. Again, minus the chemo and radiation I had a full head on double mastectomy just because I didn’t have cancer doesn’t mean I escaped the pain. 

I was cleared at 6 weeks from my hysterectomy to  well dr words “make whoopee.” Glad that’s all healed and all but yeah “no thanks.”  We did switch hormones and that has helped tremendously, no more nausea and headaches, I noticed a difference in 2 days. I still am emotional and cry all the time, but I am told it takes at least 3 months to level.Fatigue and insomnia also  have to level out, so again we wait. I am so glad that I had both surgeries done at the same time, it is a relief not to have another major surgery ahead of me. I had great doctors! Did you know that when you have a complete hysterectomy  you have what is called a “cuff?” (don’t worry i didn’t know either)  the cervix is attached to the upper part of the vagina so when they remove that there is a hole so they have to make a “cuff” to hold all your intestines in place, so I will have yearly checks to see if that is all still tight and in tact. See how remarkable the human body is?! But man my poor poor body! 

I will see PS again in March and we will discuss what size he believes we can achieve and what type of implant and get all the details sorted out. I was so upset and devastated that when I met him the first time that he said he couldn’t promise me that I could be a full C cup, honestly at this point I don’t care! (I am not trying to be vain I am broad shouldered so that cup size fits my body type naturally )I just want it all to be done and these things out. Insurance said we could do surgery at the beginning of March but do to a trip to NYC we had already planned we are waiting until we come back, 2 days after in fact! So yeah me I get to go to NYC rocking the expanders! The exchange surgery is outpatient with a possibly 2-3 week recovery and drains againšŸ˜Ŗ but am told a walk in the park compared to what I have endured thus far. 

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This is the progress from the fills. I had fills at 2 weeks post (top pic) 3 weeks (middle) and 4 weeks (bottom) so you can tell cleavage wise the difference.
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side view… not to shabby.. again its harder for me to look at I think..
 

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Week one.. to week 6.. see how uneven they are?  But what an improvement! This is 800cc filled.. The left one actually needs to come down some and need to massage  daily to help break up some scar tissue. But those scars, man it will take some time. I remind myself this is nothing what the final product will look like. I am amazed at the human body and that we can reconstruct. He will nip and tuck all the extra skin, I have stretched well and he has faith I can be a C or possibly D cup.
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Normal looking in a sports bra but oh so painful against my skin!
 

Never in million years did I ever think I would have to battle something like this. It has taken all my courage, all my strength, all my dignity, all my faith and being this honest and transparent in my blog has been out of my comfort zone. I have learned that I am not defined by my breasts, no one is. I am not defined by my appearance  I am still working through this internal struggle and learned we hide behind clothes and smiles,  my friends and family still love me the same, and I love myself just taking some time to adjust. Once I get the implants it’s still a process, it won’t stop March 23rd. They will have “settle” we  possibly have to do some nips and ticks and some fat grafting (since I don’t have any tissue of my own you can sometimes see the outline of the implant so they will inject with your own body fat to fill in the gaps) so that’s a process and painful I have heard. Implants aren’t even permanent, they will need to be replaced probably atleast once in my lifetime, still debates on how long they last. I lost all feeling and won’t gain that back, so it’s my own skin but completely numb. Luckily my scars will be slanted enough that when I wear a swimsuit or Vneck shirt they won’t show. If you are reading and facing this journey please talk to your PS about this, don’t let them cut straight across. 

The third surgery is the nipple reconstruction but honestly I think I am going to say screw it and go to New Orleans and have Vinney Meyers do the 3D tattoos (they look freaking amazing!). I mean if I have perky boobs that I won’t have to wear a bra if I choose then why add headlights? Ha! And FYI nipple reconstruction includes taking some of your vajayjay….Hmmm yeah I think that has been through enough!! In the meantime as it takes a year to get in to see him and have to wait 5 months after implants anyways I will use some temporary tattoos, that way I can play with colors, shapes and sizes.. hmmm.. wonder if I can like add jewels or something šŸ˜‚šŸ˜‚ sense of a humor… A MUST! 

Some of my immediate family has been tested since my diagnosis and we have one confirmed positive and waiting more results,so they will start their own journeys and I cried, I don’t want anyone to have to endure this! I will be here and that was one thing that I cried more about was I wished I has known someone personally that has this battle in front of them. This is why I started this blog in hopes to give insight , did you really know what all a mastectomy entailed? I sure didn’t! Also, to help even if it was one person and  my girls, I will print this off and will have it for them if they have to go down this road. They have 50/50 chance of having it themselves, as a mom that is heart wrenching to think about, but I will not force anything or even the testing on them just knowledge and honesty until they make their own choices. I leave with this insight, all this is temporary.. the expanders, the implants, the physical  pain, the recovery, tattoos, sports bras and  life it self. What is permanent is my scars, my faith, my love, my family, my true friends and my emotions and my decision. Don’t take life for granted and be thankful everyday for what you have!  Thank you all for the support by reading and following!

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“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.”  Socrates

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Recovery and Reality

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This is the most intimate and most nervous post to date as the somewhat unknowns are over and well it is indeed reality. It’s the beginning of the new me.

I was so nervous the morning of surgery , we arrived right at 5:30am. In fact Nick got there early and I made him wait in the parking lot right up until the time. I prayed and walked in and checked in..OK this was it! This is real! We get called back into the pre op room, I get my gown and asked to change and give a urine sample, anyone else have a hard time making it in the cup? You would think as a woman and mother of 3 I would be a pro but nope I miss every time and pee all down the cup ha!

I changed into my gown and took off my bra for the last time, why did I even wear one? Ha! IVs were started and surgeons started coming in..I was amazingly pretty calm, the plastic surgeon came in to mark me and that’s when it hit ! I said goodbye to my entourage and held back the tears, they gave me some oral anxiety meds but I don’t think in time to take effect. Promptly at 7:03 they came to wheel me off to the OR I said goodbye to Nick and still held back the tears.

The OR is cold and so overwhelming, everyone keep asking me how I was and was very friendly I get transferred to the operating table and I remember seeing my name and all my info on a whiteboard and thats all she wrote…I was out!

Woke up in recovery and was confused and in pain! Oh the pain! I remember thinking the recovery nurse was handsome, hope I kept that comment to myself! They had a hard time managing my pain, I was in and out of it for 3 hours before I was moved. When I was moved to my room it was an 8 hr surgery and 3 hour recovery, long day for those that had to wait , it went fast for me! I am a hot natured person as it is and then my body was thrown into straight menopause, not a good combination. My room was so overwhelming hot! It pissed me off and I immediately let everyone know about it, the poor nurses and maintenance man! I HAD awesome friends that went to Home Depot and bought me a fan!! Life saviors and I needed my hormonesĀ Ā which there was a mix up and I didn’t receive the hormones until about 24 hours later.

I don’t remember much the first 48 hours, I was bandaged up and didn’t want to look. I was in so much pain! It took them a good day to manage the pain, I would have rather give birth without an epidural then go the pain again! I was released 2 days later and was so ready to go home, well I thought…

I could not get comfortable at all, the pain was unmanageable and these drains are such a pain! My sis was in town for the first 4 days and I don’t remember much at all! The first night I had woken up and went to the restroom, this process to even get up took a good 20 minutes, I couldn’t move at all! Nick was passed out as he hadn’t slept in about 48 hours. I needed his help and he wouldn’t wake up! I wallowed on the bathroom floor for 2 hours in pain and self pity, I decided for the first time to look and I bawled so hard. The reality was indeed reality and I looked disfigured and in my state of mind could not seeĀ  the light of the tunnel at all. The grieving process officially begun as the pain meds wore off.

Nick woke up and helped me off the bathroom floor, gave me some meds and held me and let me cry. You have to have so much support to go through something like this, and it affected him. There was no way in hell he found me attractive and I told him this to which he replied “I am in love with this woman named Kathy not her breasts” so I cried some more.

I had more range of motion than I thought and the drs thought I would have but I could notĀ move, my whole body couldn’t move, I stayed in bed for the first 9 days. I spent 2 days in self wallow and pity and depression. One day at a time and I am sure I was entitled to a few dark days, after all I felt like a monster and in constant pain. And again if you still think this was or is a “boob” job you are wrong.

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These are the drains that I had on each side to collect fluid from swelling. I got one on each side removed last week and hoping to get the rest gone tomorrow!

The drains are a complete nightmare, you can’t slept in any position other than your back and they pull and they hang well below your kneesĀ and well don’t get me started on fashion. They are drained daily and bandaged at the stich.Ā  And well here is my reality below.

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I had a skin sparing so I got to keep my own skin but not nipples. Skin was pulled from my side to help with the reconstruction. This is about 1 week post so bruising and swelling was down.

These are the expanders that are under my muscle and I have fills every week to recreate the breast, the expanders are oblong to help stretch the skin to make room for the permanent implant which I will get in March, yes another surgery.

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This is my breast that had the lumps removed, so ugly looking! The scar will always be there but will fade in the years come. Nipple reconstruction will happen 5 months after the implant surgery

The ugly ducklings that will become the swan, this is what I am living with for the next 3 months. My Plastic surgeon said that once the ROUND soft implants are put in they will look and feel natural and will not look like this at all!Ā The expanders hurt like hell! No way around it, they are hard as a rock and sometimes its hard for me to catch a deep breath. had my first fill and there is no feeling, there is a port that they insert a huge needle in and fill so many CCs each week and they do start looking more normal everyday. I have no projection as they are oblong so I still look flat. I am ok with my new reality, in fact I will show anyone that wants to see, I have no personal attachment to them right now.

 

I am doing good, I am still 3 weeks post and I get so tired easy and I over do it and boy do I pay for it! I am doing good mentally as well. It is hard and still the hardest thing to date but looking forward to all this to become a memory. I got a necklace that said “choose courage” I love it because it did take courage and I understand just how strongĀ I am now! I also understand that women are more than boobs, I am still me, I still have the same personality, the same sense of humor, the same heart and soul. I will admit I am looking forward to perky boobs and would be ok if I am considered a “MILF” šŸ™‚

I chose courage.