Tag Archives: mastectomy

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

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.

Ta Ta

10/12: The day I have been anticipating had arrived…surgery day! I felt so strangely calm. I just knew in my heart that I was making the right decision and I never second guessed my choice. I think that’s a great sign. I woke up and made everyone snuggle up with me extra hard while they still could. Tim drove me to the hospital and never left my side up until they wheeled my away for surgery. We checked in at 11:30 am and then it was nothing but paperwork and inserting needles and answering the same questions over and over again to the slew of nurses that kept coming in for various reasons. One nurse asked if there was anything special about me she should know and I responded thoughtfully, “I love cats and reading and I love tea.” Apparently she meant something more along the lines of if I needed a cane or other special needs things. Oops. I then asked if they had therapy animals and they confirmed that they did and they would be sure to have someone fluffy visit me after the surgery. Hooray! Finally it was show time and they gave me a shot of sedative and I said goodbye to Tim (not easy) and then we headed to the OR. My doctors sang me to sleep as they put on the anesthesia mask and it was really silly and calming. My surgery was about 5 hours long. They had to put a breathing tube down my throat because you can’t breathe on your own under anesthesia that long. (My throat is still sore from that.) Both of my surgeons were there, Dr. J who performed the mastectomy and Dr. Z who will be working on my breast reconstruction. They worked as a team during the operation. When Dr. J was finished removing all of my breast tissue on one side, Dr. Z came in behind her and inserted the spacer saline bags behind my pectoral walls. They worked in a circle and sewed me back up. My incisions are actually pretty small. They did not cut into my breast at all, because I chose to keep my nipple. This makes my risk about 1% higher of getting breast cancer. I figure if I get it at that point, it’s meant to be. The cuts are right under my breasts from about 6:00 to 9:00 on a clock face. I remember coming to in the recovery room with a few doctors and nurses standing around me, smiling and laughing. They all said that I was funny and sweet and they want to keep me and take me home. I have no recollection of anything I was saying to them. They wheeled me to the hospital room where I would be staying the night. I kept asking about Tim and how he was doing. I was so worried about his poor nerves while all this was happening! They finally got him after what felt like a million years and he came into the room with a giant stuffed dog and lots of hugs and kisses. He looked very relieved. Not too much else happened in the hospital. Lots of pain controlling medicines, lots of snacking finally! (You can’t eat for 12 hours before surgery. That may have been the hardest part of all of this for me! You can have my murderous boobs but don’t take my snacks away!) We had some classic horrible hospital sleep. Time stopped existing in there. I decided that instead of getting hung up over having these new scars on my body, to embrace them instead. The Bride of Frankenstein is a total babe, and she’s got stitches for days. So I humbly and woozily played tribute to her in the hospital with a black wig that I had painted white on the sides. They say laughter is the best medicine… I know I will heal faster than Wolverine because Tim and Matt are the silliest and most supportive team I could ever hope for.

👋🏻Boob Voyage👋🏻

Photo Cred: Ali Bonomo
I am getting a preventive double mastectomy. I have a family history of breast cancer. My grandmother passed away in her early 30’s due to this dreadful disease. When I heard about the debut of genetic testing to see if you carry the BRCA2 gene I signed up for it right away. I was the first patient of my doctors that had come back with positive results, which was no surprise to me. I got tested only to confirm what I already suspected. I was in my early twenties and just shrugged my shoulders like “Oh okay, good to know!” And kept living life as usual, because I had that classic invincibility that every 22 year old has. The years pass, a few lumps here and there. All biopsied and benign thank goodness. Now however, as I am approaching 30 I realize that I have been given a gift of knowledge with this genetic testing. Am I really going to sit with what I know about my BRCA2 genetic mutation and just continue to carry on as usual? No, not anymore. It’s insulting to women who didn’t have the chance to beat cancer in it budding stages or before it even formed. It’s insulting to my grandmother, who if given the chance, would have done anything to save her life and raise her children. It’s up to me to take this information and be proactive in living a long and healthy life. What I’ve learned in my research about my diagnosis and family history is that I have a calculated risk of an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. That got my attention. Additionally, since I have this mutation if I WERE to develop breast cancer, my cells would actually be resistant to chemo therapy, meaning that i would have to accept the most aggressive form of treatment right away. I decided that I needed to do the right thing. To accept this gift of information and get a preventative double mastectomy. This procedure lowers my risk all the way down to 1%. I like those odds much better. In this procedure one doctor removes all of my breast tissue. All of it, cells are small and if one stays behind and mutates then I could still develop cancer. Another doctor will have the duty of rebuilding my breasts from silicon, rendering my breasts not deadly at this point. I made some appointments and the doctors confirmed that I was making the right choice. The doctor who will perform the double mastectomy is a wonderfully nice and comforting woman. She radiates intelligence and kindness and I immediately felt great about moving forward with her. She looked at my charts and informed me that getting mammograms wasn’t enough and that I should be getting breast MRI’s instead, due to my dense breast tissue and BRCA2. The more you know! I then made an appointment to meet my plastic surgeon, who would reconstruct my breasts. Upon meeting him I had another intuitive hit that this was exactly the person for the job. We geeked out on the science behind implants and how the body reacts with them and I could tell by his enthusiasm for what he does that my new breasts would be a work of art! He took my measurements. I am currently a 27D. I was informed that due to my small build and the fact that my breast had recovered from the effects of breastfeeding rather well, that I could keep my nipples! This was really great news, and not an opportunity every woman gets in this procedure. I feel so relieved to get to keep that part of me. I was told that I could choose any size of breast implants that I wanted, but I want to be the same me so I am choosing to remain at a D cup. At this time I am processing everything but ultimately I feel great about my decision. I have known about my risks from a young age. When my grandmother passed away she left 3 children behind, one being my 12 year old mother. I have an 11 year old son and I won’t let breast cancer take me from him. I have the choice to take action and I am. My mother identified all of her life as a Motherless Daughter and definitely used her experience to spread awareness about this disease. I am grateful for her honesty and openness to share with me. My husband is being incredibly supportive, as always. Everyday I fall in love with him all over again. His strength and love make me feel strong enough to take on anything. I have a few upcoming appointments and a “Boob Heaven” party to plan. I’ll keep you all updated as it all unfolds. Thanks for joining me on this journey. Ultimately my goal is to share my experience in a positive light, to show that this procedure is a celebration of scientific advancements in the world, a celebration of life and living and a celebration of one of the best body parts ever!
My grandma Judith, pictured here while very pregnant with my mom.