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Ma-sex-tomy


A common question that I get in emails through my blog or DMs from women about to undergo prophylactic mastectomies is: Was it hard to be intimate with your partner after the surgery? It’s a wonderful question and I’m so glad I put off that vibe to people… to be a safe person to ask, because, am I ever!! I can only speak for myself. Everyone’s experience is tremendously different and I can’t stress that enough. Here’s my experience with the birds and the bees and mastectomies. 

It WAS something I was concerned about. When I made the decision to get my mastectomy I knew it was the right thing to do but I knew it didn’t affect only me. My husband would have to take on a lot of the weight of my procedure. I did wonder… “What would a mastectomy do to our sex life? Would I feel okay with my scars, my expanders, bruises, stitches and everything else? Would I have the confidence to feel sexy while in-between having breasts? When will I be physically able to? Would he be able to get into it and still love my body even though it was changing!?” Well. There’s not one clear cut answer. There are many phases through out a mastectomy and reconstruction process. 

I did a nude photoshoot with my body painted in gold to immortalize my breasts 2 day before my mastectomy. Tim and I bid farewell to them (tee-hee) and then the first surgery happened. Intimacy has many faces. Directly following the surgery when I couldn’t use my arms or be bumped ~intimacy~ became… my husband gently lifting me from bed and helping me use the bathroom, telling me that I was brave and strong, checking and unclogging my drain tubes that stuck out the sides of my body. Sex wasn’t even on our minds, the first few weeks were just so busy for him and so focused for me on healing and trying to get my strength back. So there was like a 3 week stretch of time that was just too much of a blur to even think about sex. So let’s get to the juicy stuff! Ha!

 It was all about communication. I was almost nervous after not having sex for a few weeks like “How do I initiate this!?” Turns out it was pretty easy! My husband was on the same page. We had been communicating our wants. In this phase we were both very openly saying how we couldn’t wait to have sex again! I was able to eventually masterbate and see how my body reacted to orgasming and that felt like a good step in the right direction to being able to be sexually intimate with my husband again. Once my body was feeling physically okay enough I was ready but I didn’t take my shirt off. I wrapped my chest up tight to avoid bouncing/painful jiggling and it went great! Friendly reminders to keep hands off my chest were crucial, and positions that didn’t require too much arm strength for a while and we were set! After a few times and my bruising  and swelling fading away and feeling in my groove I was ready to take my shirt off and just own my body the way it was. My husband didn’t bat an eye, told me I was beautiful and sexy and it wasn’t even some big dramatic production. It was perfect. (For me.)

So much of sexiness is simply how you feel about yourself. It shines out from inside and I was able to accept my breasts in their transitional state for what they were and they made me feel even more badass. It was a deep level of love and sacrifice that we each had to go through with this process and it only made us stronger. 

If you’re not ready, give yourself time. It will be better for both of you if you wait until you can really enjoy it and don’t rush yourself. This is all about you! Not your partner’s pleasure but yours at this point. It’s not selfish, it’s important for your health. Your physical, mental and sexual health. They’ll understand. If they don’t and if they’re pressuring and guilt tripping you… I’d highly suggest telling them to go “sexually intercourse” themselves and never come near you again. That’s a different blog post entirely I suppose. 

Today with my new silicone implants all systems are go! I’m 3 months post surgery and don’t experience any discomfort. My husband can grab them and play freely! I have dramatically decreased physical sensation at the moment but the nerves will regrow. I believe the rate is anywhere between one centimeter to an inch per month. I feel confident with my appearance and my husband sees me through magic love eyes so that really truly helped us stay bonded and intimate through out this process. 

Communication and a positive mental attitude and looking at yourself lovingly in the mirror are all very helpful things while navigating mastectomies and a sex life! Don’t be ashamed of your body. Be amazed by it. Go look at your boobs right now, mastectomy or no mastectomy- everybody- go to the mirror and say “Damn those are some cool boobs. They’ve been through so much. (We’ve all had our boob battles… gravity, breast feeding, weight loss or gain) Like, “What’s up warrior boobs!?”  Strength is sexy. Whatever you want to say. Probably not any of that ha. It doesn’t matter what you say just say it with confidence and love and believe it! Embrace yourself in this moment and know that you’re gorgeous. Look at yourself with magic love eyes. 

And strut your stuff! 

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My new breast friends

Miss Zumstein’s bakery spoils me!
Wow. Where does the time go?? I haven’t really had any downtime to write since my last surgery, apologies! I had my final surgery on January 31st. It was a race against my insurance lapsing and we pulled it off at the last possible second! Whew!!! Once again my surgeries went smoothly and I healed quickly. Getting the silicone implants in & my Fallopian tubes out was an absolute walk in the park compared to the double mastectomy. I didn’t take so much as a tylonel and I was (cautiously) on a boat and admiring the Portland Light Festival at OMSI just 3 days after surgery. I think my body was just really used to healing at that point and went to work quickly. Having the best plastic surgeon ever (Dr. Zegzula) didn’t hurt matters either.

Pink fizzy wine, this amazing cake and fun office decor still can’t really express my gratitude for my doctor!!
The feeling of getting those engorged expanders out and having actual breast shaped implants put in was amazing. Chest expanders push you to the limits of comfort, both physically and emotionally. Being the open book that I am I was down to share my appearance with people throughout the process. When I would have my friends look at and feel my chest expanders they always had a look of uncomfortable shock at the sight of them. I’m so glad to say that those days were temporary and that they are over now! To be honest I did expect to feel somewhat altered and never quite myself again after this. It’s a huge procedure. That’s not my experience at all. I feel so comfortable and so much like myself… but dare I say… perkier!? My pre-op breast size was 27D. During my recent fitting at Nordstrom’s I was shocked to discover that they are a 30DDD. They really don’t look that big and I think my frame carries and balances them nicely. I was a 32DD before ever being pregnant so I’m just closer to my original size and it doesn’t look unnatural at all. A recent shopping experience to seek out a bikini that won’t leave me with any nip-slip incidents at the beach. This shows the proportions of my new breasts well. They sound big, they are big but they don’t look plastic or ridiculous.

My mind is blown at how far this procedure has come since my grandmother’s unfortunate and tragic experience with her double mastectomy. I am so thankful for the progression of science and the progression of women’s rights….to be allowed to discuss my breasts with all of you without judgment.              

 I can’t even believe this experience is over and went so incredibly well. As you can tell it was a wild ride. My implants still need to settle into their final resting spot but that will take a few more months. This collage shows my pre-op breasts, my immediate post mastectomy beasts, then my chest expanders, them fully expanded and marked for surgery. My breasts right after the final surgery and then my breasts today. I kept my nipples, hence the roses. Wouldn’t want to arouse and or offend anyone on my mastectomy blog. (Eye roll so hard)

As for my Fallopian tubes- that was a quick procedure to recover from as well, I just felt crampy for a few days and had neck and shoulder pain, which is common. They went in through my belly button and got them out and my risk of ovarian cancer is drastically reduced… (as is my risk of pregnancy WHOO HOO!!)                                  I would do this all over again. It’s been a wild ride and I’m just so happy this chapter in life is over and I can live a long, happy and healthy life with my beautiful family. 

Seriously, they’re the very best. I couldn’t have done this without them by my side. They showered me with love and support. I feel like the luckiest person alive. Alive and well thanks to my amazing team of doctors, friends and family. This experience has truly been a huge blessing. Thank you everyone! xoxo

Onward and Upward in the Journey 

There hasn’t been too much to report on my mastectomy adventures as of late. I had been in a groove of getting my weekly expansions but I had my last saline injection two weeks ago! It feels like a huge relief and a big part of the journey accomplished. My expanders are at 390ccs and I will be getting size 410 silicon implants put in in February. I am so excited to heal in the meantime and I am looking forward to trading these rocks in my chest for some luxurious fluffy pillows! This surgery In February will be a piece of cake compared to the mastectomy. No drain tubes, no overnight stay… I’ll be getting my Fallopian tubes removed as well to eliminate my ovarian cancer risks. I will then get to live a completely healthy and worry free life! Sometime, down the road, during the year that I was supposed to receive my cancer diagnosis, I will just be chilling on a beach with Matt and Tim somewhere, completely worry free! This genetic testing is like looking into a crystal ball. I feel so proud of my choice and so happy with this journey. Endless boobie love and support from my amazing friends has made for really smooth healing.

Huge, unexpected and unpredictable changes happened in my career during my recovery as well. The bad news: Exactly one week after my procedure, the spa I was working at completely exploded. There was a natural gas leak. Thankfully no one was hurt. The building was a total loss however. I decided to put it at the back of my mind and not worry about what in the world I will do after recovery for work. I focused my energy on healing instead. Dosha Northwest. I’m so glad my Dosha family is safe & sound. 

The good news: During my weekly visits to the plastic surgeon’s to begin my breast reconstruction I just always felt so welcomed and that everyone was naturally and genuinely so kind and caring. One day during a routine fill I was asked if I would like to work at the office as their aesthetician. To say that this was an incredible gift and a blessing is an understatement. I had no idea how I was going to return to work, knowing that I had an upcoming surgery and would need more time off. I didn’t even have to explain my situation to them, they have been with me every step of the way and they will be the ones performing my next surgery. It couldn’t be any easier. I had my first day of work with them last week and it went really well. (Aside from a minor fainting incident… they had me in bed, shoes off and a juice box in my hand in seconds it seemed! I am in very good hands, my coworkers are the best) A minor hiccup and funny story mostly, the rest of the week of work has gone without incident. It feels great to be back into my groove. I really love my job. Healing comes naturally to me and I love getting to share that special energy with my clients. My boob journey has been pretty amazing. They are clearly psychic as saved me from an explosion and they gave me the opportunity for this new and exciting direction in my career. I can’t wait to see what my magic boobs have in store for me next. I’m just along for the ride.

This is the view from outside of the Portland Plastic Surgery Group building. It’s amazing.I would absolutely love to be your skin care specialist. We can work together to achieve all of your skincare goals. You can schedule a consultation with me at the Portland Plastic Surgery Group number: 503.292.9200 xoxo

Expanding my horizons, and my breasts…

It has been a minute since posting…I’ve been feeling better… which led to a bout of stir-crazy-ness which led to me overdoing it so here I am back in bed. Rest is important. I swear I will find that special balance between resting and cabin fever. Let’s catch up. My pre-reconstruction process of my mastectomy has begun. In the past few weeks I have received two saline injections in my breasts, through a magnetic port under my skin. Having magnetic breasts is pretty cool and I will miss this part about having expanders… this was taken right before my first post-surgery expansion.

Breast expansion is a process over a few weeks to a few months of filling my temporary saline implants to my natural size. After that, my body heals from the final expansion for about 4-6 weeks to let the skin recover. Then I’ll have my second surgery to put the silicon implants in and I will also be removing my Fallopian tubes at the same time to eliminate my ovarian cancer risk. (And finally be done with it all hooray….eventually…one step at a time.) The expanders as I have mentioned before are quite hard but the silicone implants will be very natural feeling.  A needle and little rubber tunnel is attached to those tubes and I get about 120 ccs of saline in each breast at a time.

My expanders are placed behind my pecs and boy do I feel it with each expansion. That muscle is SO not in its home and it knows it and is yelling at me today. That makes this healing process feel much more like a circular journey. I get an injection every Wednesday. Wednesday is fine, it really doesn’t hurt, I just feel a tightness. However, Thursday is a bitch. Pardon my French, but today is a Thursday so you’ll have to excuse me. Thursdays consist of just trying to stretch & relax the muscle and riding through the discomfort until it passes. Each expansion is more painful than the last, the fuller my saline spacers get. I have about 3 more injections to go. I’m already feeling happy with the way they look. If you didn’t know everything I’ve told you and the process I’m going through, you would have no idea that I recently underwent a double mastectomy. It is amazing how far this procedure has come. I was prepared to lose my nipples, look unnatural and just accept it happily and completely because I evaluated my options and it would all have been absolutely worth it. That has not at all been my journey. Everything (knock on wood) has been going incredibly smooth. My doctor said that I was healing  as well as it could possibly get.  These are my breasts today, after my second expansion. As you can tell my cat is still not coping well with the fact that he can’t sleep on my chest. He’s desperate! My allergies have improved greatly since this new rule… Bonus! 

My current temporary spacers look semi normal, but they are strange. They are rock hard and sutured into place inside of me. So…they don’t move. I can’t move them at all. Not even if I try to nudge them. No dancing or running amuck for me for the time being. I am definitely looking forward to the permanent silicone implants! However, I can stretch my arms out like the letter ‘T’ now and touch the back of my head. Progress! My arms are no longer t-rexing exclusively. Although I do find myself naturally shifting to that position when I have to go out in public. It’s a protective stance. I keep my arms up so no one can bump into me. If a bus or a train is too crowded I have to let it pass, because I can’t lift my arm up to hold the rail. There are a lot of little things here and there that make it a little tricky to navigate the world but I’m out there giving it my best effort. As for my healing process, my nerves are starting to heal and let me tell you….It is a strange sensation when they reconnect. It’s electric. It can feel like little zaps, and sometimes feels like drops of water trickling over me. This is really awesome and amazing because it means I am getting some of my feeling back in my chest. I will never have all of it back, but getting some nerves back is a huge win for me! When I take shower I always check the temp before hopping in because I can’t feel the temperature on my chest, but my body still reacts. My nipples get hard in the cold, or when they are touched even though I can’t feel it. It’s all really interesting! Yesterday marked my 4 week anniversary since my mastectomy and it’s been quite the month. One part of me is like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it’s already been a month!” While the other half is saying, “Wow I can’t believe it’s only been a month….” I will be transitioning back into the working world soon. I hope my arms get the memo when it’s showtime! Well. It’s time for me to do my new Thursday post-expansion ritual of chest exercises and muttering obscenities. ‘Till next time! Xoxo.
 This is just a picture of me appreciating the beautiful walk to my last doctor’s appointment. The weather has been killing it. That is all.

Hello outside world!


10/21

Today I had my first post-op doctor’s appointment. I have been feeling like I am healing beautifully and pretty fast but now I finally got to hear the real deal from the doc. She was in agreement with me. When she looked at my chest she smiled and clapped and said they looked amazing. (I will always accept this response when removing my shirt please!) The swelling has gone down so much. I am still pretty bruised up and my breasts are going through their rainbow kaleidoscope of color changes phase in different places as they heal. I trust her completely as she is a breast cancer survivor and knows this from the inside out. I gave her my drain tube paper where Tim and I have been measuring and writing down the output, frequency and color when we emptied my drain tubes over the past week and a half. She read over it and said that I could get my tubes removed right then and there! I was so excited! They’ve been hard to sleep with and just exist with in general. Not painful in any way… just tubes hanging out of my body…. ’nuff said. The removal process wasn’t painful at all. They cleansed my skin and removed the sutures holding the tubes in place and then she said to take a deep breath. The tubes were very long and kind of coiled in each breast. (Like a snake! Previous post connection) It was an odd sensation to feel the tube loop around and slide out but it really didn’t hurt. She did the other side and showed me the length of the tubes. I wish I would have taken a picture. Those babies were way longer than I expected. She bandaged up my side and told me to watch out for any weird lumps on the side, as it could be a little pus pocket, and sent me on my way. I sashayed into the world tube free! My friend gave me a ride to the doctor so we decided to get brunch to celebrate. At brunch I thought I was feeling incredibly sweaty. I felt drips going down my arm. I peeked into my poncho and realized I was covered in blood! Darn it. We got some napkins from the hostess and I dabbed up the blood off of my undershirt and stuck some napkins into the side of my mastectomy-camisole, over the saturated bandages and kept on brunching and having a nice time. I never got dizzy or anything, my body would have been releasing all that into the tubes anyways. It just needed a moment to realize that it was my body’s tissue’s time to start absorbing the blood. It’s all good now. I popped an iron pill when I got home to be safe and I’m feeling fine! It apparently did take a lot out of me to be in the outside world though because I slept for hours when I got back home. I have to keep reminding myself to take it easy and step by step. I have an incredibly high pain tolerance and I feel so mentally on and unstoppable. It’s hard for me to slow down sometimes. I have to chill and heal so I am back in cocoon mode and reading and coloring and taking it easy. All movie/show/book suggestions will happily be accepted! Thank you!

Praying Mantis Terminator

10/18

 Just waking up at 1pm…. haven’t done this since high school! Sick leave does have it’s upsides…
I have been having dreams heavily featuring snakes since my surgery. I’m pretty sure this represents my physical and energetic transformation as snakes often shed their skin. I’m shedding and rebuilding myself in a major way. I think the snakes are reminding me to stay grounded too, since they dwell on the earth. Another side is that snake venom can be poisonous, and that was true of my BRCA+ breasts. It may also stem from sleeping with my drain tubes and not wanting to bend them in any way. In any case I am feeling a connection to my slithery pals right now.  (This snake is my old pal Egon)

I had my first minor recovery hiccup. The drain tube from the side of my left breast was not draining. I tried “milking it” several times as suggested but it wasn’t helping. I really didn’t want to have to call the doctor so my husband and I sanitized our hands and a bobby pin. We were able to scrape out plasma from the tube that had totally been blocking off the suction and flow. I had been feeling dizzy all day and I think it was from my breast not draining. It was kind of a long process and my husband definitely touched chunks of my plasma…. I’m trying to brainstorm ways to show my gratitude to him for all of the incredible things he has been helping me through. So far all of my ideas pale in comparison to the level of amazing that he is. 

10/19


My personal mantra of the day: I am beautiful. I love my body. I love my scars. I love everything this spacesuit has gone through with me and I’m ready for the next adventure. I am currently a praying-mantis terminator and I am loving this stage of my growth. I can’t really lift my arms beyond this position but I can walk around without getting dizzy or off balance now. Tim and I went on a date to the movies last night to celebrate the one week mark of my mastectomy. It was nice to get out of the house and get fresh air but still keep it chill and not push myself too hard. I’ve been wearing a lot of ponchos and capes lately to hide my drain tubes and pose as a normal member of society. (?) Tomorrow is my first doctor’s appointment post-operation. I am hoping that she will okay getting my drains removed, as they have not been putting out very much blood or plasma. One week is a really short time to be hoping to get the tubes out, but that’s where my terminator self comes into play! I’m feeling pretty strong. I’m eager to to get permission to wiggle around like my manic self again. All I can do is wait until tomorrow and see what she says… The swelling in my breast continues to ease up every day. I have my temporary spacers in until we do the breast reconstruction. I will be getting some saline injected into them soon. The spacers are hard, like really hard. They do not feel like boobs. Thankfully my permanent silicon implants will be soft and more natural to the touch. I don’t really know what to expect. I feel like my boobs have taken on a life of their own and I am just their hostess and I’m kind of just looking forward to what they will do next. Crazy kids!One week post mastectomy. 

In the groove

10/16 I woke up feeling the most sore I have felt. My local anesthetic is empty now. It’s nice to be more aware of my body’s pain and posture and everything. Matthew is home today! He stayed the night with his dad when I was being hospitalized. Then he came home for a quick kiss and to check in and then he spent the entire 3 day weekend at his best friend’s house. I wanted him to be as heavily distracted as possible. I think it was best he came home today after we’ve already gotten a pretty good routine down. I think he would have worried too much and felt powerless those first few days. Today I also got to remove 2 of my tubes myself. Not my drain tubes, but my local anesthetic tubes. These tubes were so much longer than I expected. I felt like a magician doing the never-ending scarf trick. It was painless, just an odd sensation. The only painful part about it was taking off the tape that held it in place. My breasts are a bit less swollen today, still a little bruised. They’re doing great and looking great for being four days post mastectomy. My spacer bag is filled with saline to about a small B cup, I would say, just to keep the skin from growing shut. My doctor’s don’t believe in wrapping so the just taped over the incisions and I’ve been able to watch my breasts heal. It’s interesting. I will get my first saline injection in about 2 weeks to start building them back up to where they were pre-mastectomy. For now I’m just going to take things day by day. Minute by minute really. I can walk around fine but I need help getting in & out of bed. I have to keep my elbows in because it hurts to move them but my arms from my elbows down are totally functional. I’m pretty much just T-Rexing around the house. Everything has been going smoother than I ever could have anticipated. I’m not going to rush myself or push myself harder than I should. I am prone to doing just that. Tim has done a great job of reminding me that he is here to help so I don’t have to pretend like everything is fine if it doesn’t feel fine. I’m learning valuable lessons in love and life here people.