Post-Exchange Surgery Milestones (as agreed with my surgeon)

goals

It’s two weeks out from my exchange surgery that swapped my rock hard expanders to squishy boobies so I thought it was a good time to let you know how I was getting on, as well as share with you the mini-milestones I am working towards in my recovery.

Healing wise I am pretty good. My wounds look good and I’m massaging the stiches and boobs with a good deal of cocoa butter. I have some nerve pain in my left arm and my left side feels more delicate than the right. Apart from that I feel fine and am mobile as a go cart. I’ve been walking every day and am now back on the cross trainer (minus the arms). Apparently I can drive when I feel comfortable, but I’ve tried twice and I don’t feel ready yet – I need two hands to move the gear stick in and out of reverse and parking is a bitch.

As well as this, I am eagerly working towards a few more milestones. Obviously if you are reading this at a similar stage in your pbm journey, here is the disclaimer….. I am not a medical expert (although my Dad is a Dr, apparently that doesn’t qualify me). This is the advice from my surgeon based on my circumstances. Please consult your surgeon on when you can do, what you want to do, following your surgery.

Right, back to me:

2 weeks post-surgery:

–          Walking

–          Cross trainer – MINUS ARMS

3 weeks post-surgery:

–          Running

–          Spin class

5 weeks post-surgery

–          Ride my bike – yey! (I did ask my surgeon why I could go to spin class at 3 weeks and not ride my bike until 5 weeks. He explained that I could fall off my bike. I didn’t tell him that in the week before surgery I’d fallen off my bike twice… and I’d only been drunk on one of those occasions).

–          Yoga

6 weeks post-surgery

–          Hoping to take off this massive, asexual surgical bra that I’m spending every waking and sleeping moment in since the op. I’m so excited I’ve already ordered this beautiful brassier from M&S, which may or may not be the right size http://www.marksandspencer.com/Rosie-Autograph-Padded-French-Designed/dp/B003ZKVKGU?_encoding=UTF8&mnSBrand=core

I do have a few more than this – like when can I ever do a press up again, or can I do a body pump class and get my muscles back – but they can wait.

How exciting!

xxxxxxx

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Where the hell have you been?

 where-are-you-now

 Well, in short, probably at work…!

But as some of you know, I have been quiet for a while. So I thought it was time to a) write and b) tell you how I’m doing. So, why haven’t I written…?

Work:

The overriding reason why I haven’t written is work. It has literally taken over my life in the last 2 months and my time-off post-operation seems like an age away. I like my job, but there are aspects that make me wonder how long I can physically do it for.

At times work can be so busy – from the moment you get in to the moment you leave you can honestly not stop – no time for Facebook, other people will get your lunch and you often forget to pee until your bladder starts prodding you, threatening to burst. In busy times this ridiculousness can start from 7.30am in the morning, through to 11pm at night and into the weekend.  This week I was writing emails on a cross trainer at 6am in the morning – I was another person I would generally refer to as a complete idiot.

The pressure can also be so intense. I work in a service industry of sorts (Public Relations) where you are tasked with meeting very high expectations set by other people. This can mean that the volume, nature and direction of your work load are out of your control and constantly changing. Combined with the fact that in PR, regardless of how hard you work, the outcome you want is not guaranteed means your anxiety levels can be at a constant high.

Finally, the last element of pressure can come from managing the team. I’m relatively senior and the welfare of my team is often my primary concern. This is great if they are doing well, but if they are not it involves having difficult conversations pretty much every day. Difficult conversations in a high pressure atmosphere is a fertile environment for tears – lots of tears! My team work really, really hard, but regardless, sometimes I still need to have difficult conversations that may upset people. These don’t sit easily with me and I regularly come home hating myself; conflicted between trying to a good job, but also being somewhat responsible for other people’s stress and unhappiness.

Don’t get me wrong- none of the above is a shock. I’ve done this gig for 10 years and am a big girl. I know what I do. But when the shit hits the fan I shut down. Social arrangements are non-existent, along with my relationship with my boyfriend.

Taking a respite from my tits:

The other reason I’ve been absent is that for the last 9 months to a year all I have talked about is my tits. Yawn. After a while this gets BOR-ING!

My last 2 fills were pretty painful and the day after my last one I got on a plane to Bali to go to a wedding.  This physical break has allowed me to take a metaphorical break from the subject of my artificial mammaries.

To be honest I think I needed it. There comes a point when over-talking and thinking about one thing for so long becomes counter-therapeutic. So stop I did.

I’m also not sure how I feel about my boobs and how they will look post exchange. I like them at the moment.  They are 400cc and nice and round. In tight tops they look sensational and they are pert as hell. However, they are nowhere as big as I would like them to be. Dimension wise they might be, but how they sit, they feel small. Then I keep on hearing how my exchange implants will sit differently and smaller. Well I don’t really know how I feel about that.

So while I am processing my expected disappointment, I’ve not really felt I’ve wanted to verbalise what’s going on in my head.

How am I doing?

Apart from my A4 moan above I am absolutely fine. Those who know me will know I like a winge so please don’t read too much into the above.

It’s two months before my exchange surgery and in preparation I am back on my healthy straight. I am cleaning up my diet again (it’s mostly pretty good – when I say cleaning up I mean I won’t be drinking 5 nights out of 7) and bringing yoga back into my fitness routine more regularly.

I have also started acupuncture to try and ease my stress levels and get my body back in balance again.  I have only done it twice but loving it.

I’m really looking forward to the exchange – perversely as I’ll have some time off work – and also so I can live a life where my boobs are not the most interesting thing about me.

Anyway, that’s me. How the hell have you lot been?

Post-Op Follow-Up with Silver-Fox Plastic Surgeon

progress

Yesterday I had my first post-op appointment with the silver fox, plastic surgeon.

I had no expectations for today and quite frankly, just expected them to look at my baps and be done with it.

We arrive and the lovely nurse cleans my stitches. We take off the plaster on the recently butchered, artist formerly known as the total eclipse of the nipple (TEOTN) and all looks well. We give that a clean too and that was pretty much it.

However, what the appointment lacked in activity, it made up for in information. So here goes:

–          I can shower! My current washing routine involves me inserting one leg in the shower, removing it, inserting the other leg in the shower, removing it and so on. The ability to have a full on shower without the aid of ‘bath in bed’ wipes is amazing news.

–          As soon as I feel comfortable, I can drive. The nurse’s quote was “as soon as you can be sure you won’t run over a child because you’re worried your boobs hurt then you can drive.” OK, kids over boobs. Got it!

–          I have been told I can go on a stationary bike. I took this to mean that I can go to a spin class. Mr F said that I have grossly misinterpreted this sign-off and there is a big difference between a stationary bike and sweating my new tits off in a spin class. I have another appointment on Monday. I can wait that long to check.

–          Oh yes, I have another appointment on Monday. Filling station number 1 (the process in which they make the new boobs get bigger). I didn’t think they’d start so soon, especially with TEOTN, but it soon begins. I already have 100 cc of saline in there so, come next week, it will be 150 cc on each side and I will be back to my 17 year old rack, once again (I was a late developer).

  • For the inquisitive among you, here is a short and pretty straightforward video about how the plastic surgeon goes about filling your expanders with saline. I’ll explain more next time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esHztsX-uFE

So this may not seem like an exciting appointment, but for me it was ace. Oh, and silver-fox plastic surgeon has a new beard. It really suits him.

silver fox

Establishing Routine In Recovery

Routine

Those who know me, and those of you who don’t will probably have guessed, I’m not a person who finds it easy to sit still.

Before I left London I had a pretty full on job, with a decent commute, a busy social life, I taught seven fitness classes a week and trained for a marathon. I left the country to try to chill-out, which relatively, I think I’ve achieved. Even so, I still have a decent social life, I exercise 5-6 times a week and I have a pretty full-on job, in PR.

For those of you who are not familiar with PR, it is a job that has no completion. Your to do list will never be done, many outcomes you desire are out of your control and it was recently voted one of the most stressful jobs in the world.  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2256652/Want-easy-life-Dont-firefighter-PR-exec-enlist-military-reveals-new-ranking-stressful-jobs.html

I do urge some caution as this story was probably developed by people who work in PR. However, with this reputation it successfully attracts stress junkies like me, who may moan about being busy, but don’t know what to do if they’re not.

It is in this context I present myself to you as a patient in recovery. It’s probably obvious that I don’t like to sit still and left to my own devices and my mind will run riot. This is why, now I’m home, it’s important for me to set some sort of loose routine. Each day I have committed to do 3 things to help focus my mind, give my day some sort of purpose, and to help track my progress; Meditate, walk, and stretch / exercise.

Meditate

meditate

I talk about meditation a lot on here, but I’m not a person who finds it easy – and generally I will cry it off if I can. I know lots of people say ‘I physically can’t meditate’. This is essentially bollocks. I find it difficult, but I taught myself how to do it and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

I first started mediating during my testing  for the cancer gene: BRCA. Combined with being made redundant, looking for a new job, moving house and temporarily breaking up with the love of my life, I thought I might have a nervous breakdown. I swear meditation saved me from this and I emerged from this period stronger and more cantered than I think I’d ever been.

So now, it’s more about keeping me balanced. I have a lot of time to think, so softening that for a bit helps me keep focus. And by that I mean, not looking at my boobs and imagining loads of stuff is going wrong with them, or convincing myself that my nipple is still going to fall off, or that a sneeze = infection.

I am using these meditations from Oprah and Deepak at the moment – because for a short time they are free, but they are pretty good, and not too long!

Walk

Walk

As a self-confessed exercise junkie, I have been surprisingly OK with not going to the gym. Being perpetually tired and stuck in hospital helps. However, since I have been home I have committed to going for a walk each day. There’s a park round the corner and if I go first thing I can reward my return with a cup of coffee.

The commitment helps my day have some kind of purpose, and going just a little further every couple of days gives me the feeling of progress.

What’s more, early autumn in Sydney is my FAVOURITE time of the year. It’s sunny but not too hot and, touch wood, it doesn’t rain as much as it does in Jan and Feb.

Stretching / Exercise

I call this stretching  / exercise as it’s really not exercise, but ‘exercises’ to help me get the strength and range of movement back in my arms.

My prophylactic, nipple sparing mastectomy with expanders involved the surgeon inserting the expanders underneath my pectoral or chest muscle, which protects the expanders, and in turn, will need to stretch as they expand, ready for the implants.

If you can imagine, the pain feels as though you have done 100,000 press ups, morning and night. This then means you use your arms less and so your range of movement invariably becomes a little more limited.

So doing the exercises each day is important. Again, it provides purpose, but they also stretch out my very bruised and tight Foobs and as the exercises become a little easier each day, I have another way of measuring my progress. The hospital gave me some exercises while I was there as well as a DVD called‘Strengthen Your Recovery: Pilates program following breast cancer surgery’. It’s really very good. And whilst I can’t wait to get back to the spin studio, it is a great resource for aiding my recovery.

 

Preparing for the Chop

DietandMedicine

In approximately three and a half weeks I will undergo surgery to remove both my breasts. Whilst I have tried to educate myself on what my body is about to go through to the nth degree, I’m pretty sure I have no idea how I’m going to feel.

I have always been pretty obsessed with my health and grateful for what my body can do.  From climbing trees as a child, dancing as a teenage show-off, teaching aerobics in my twenties to running marathons in my 30s.  So it goes without saying, the fact that the operation is going to stop me from doing pretty much anything for at least 2 weeks, and any form of physical activity for around 6, is a difficult prospect to face.  I realise that by having a preventative mastectomy, I’m potentially giving myself an extra 20 years, so it’s of course inconsequential.  But something I know I’m going to miss, all the same.

My boyfriend is also a little worried about the effect that lack of physical exercise and activity after the operation, will have on me.  He is well aware of the positive combination between my physical and my mental health.  The better I feel, the better equipped I am to deal with life’s curve balls.  And let’s face it I’m about to get a cannon ball fired in my direction.

So as the operation looms ever closer, my aim is to get my body and mind as strong as possible. The way I see it, the stronger and healthier I am, the better I will cope in the run up, I’ll be less stressed, and ultimately my body will recover better after the op. I’m not going to be an obsessive clean eater, but I’ve given up drinking for 4 weeks before the date – which also means I won’t miss the odd gym session thanks to a hangover, I’ll keep my diet healthy and I’ll meditate at least 3 times a week. So whilst I’ll miss drinking the beautiful wine that me and my boyfriend have accumulated from wineries throughout Australia, it’s a small and essential price to pay.

Countdown to the Chop – Healthy Checklist

–          No booze

–          5 x gym classes a week (including at least one core)

–          Meditate at least 3 x a week

–          Get lots of sleep!

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Images sourced from Lorna Jane, Pinterest