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!
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.
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.
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.
10/13 Everything was coming along beautifully with my healing so I got to come home today. I’m feeling pretty darn great considering that I just had my breasts removed! It is hard dealing with my physical limitations, but that is all temporary. I am in good spirits and couldn’t be happier with the way everything went. My husband is a natural in the caretaker role and he truly has stayed by my side every step of the way to make sure I am not dizzy or going to fall when I have to use the restroom. He’s been emptying the drain tubes attached to my ribs and measuring my body’s output. I think he’s excited that I’m not being my ‘strong independent woman self’ right now and he gets to take care of me. I deal with pain very well and it all feels pretty moderate. Nothing hurts when I stay still. When I have to get up to pee or empty my drain tubes, that does hurt quite a bit. I constantly feel a heavy pressure on my chest, and occasionally get a sharp pain where the incisions are. My body may hurt but it’s not the end of the world. It’s all for a very very good cause. I brought my breast cancer risk down from 89% to 2%. I’m so happy that I did this. Recovery mode will be over before I know it. Update: having the hiccups is absolutely awful right now. My whole body shudders in pain when it happens. However i can only drink out of long straws because I can’t lift a drink to my mouth. A necessary evil.
10/14 The first night at home down. I had amazing sleep finally! I can’t really sleep solid because every few hours I wake up from the pain but I handle that and go right back to bed. My cat, Mr. Man, is having the hardest time with this. He is such a snuggler and his favorite place to sleep prior to this was on my chest. Tim and Matt understand why I need my physical space and know that I’ll be ready for snuggles asap….Mr Man has been extremely offended about being locked out of the room at night. All in all we’re getting into a groove. I have a cool bed situation with a little lap desk, lots of books and snacks. I can’t get out of bed by myself. I can’t put that pressure onto my body so Tim lifts me up and tucks me back in. He gets the husband of the year award, no contest! I have been getting care packages from my amazing friends and family. So many flowers and people coming over to water my plants and cook for Tim & I while we just maintain. It’s truly amazing and I couldn’t feel any luckier about this whole situation. I feel very full of love and I think that is why I am healing so well.
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.
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.