Stick a fork in me…. I’m done

I know it’s been ages since I last wrote to you guys and after all the support and kind words you have given me over the last year, I figure you deserve to know what the hell has been going on for the past three months.

In a nutshell, I have come to the end of my booby journey. I have said goodbye to my shot-puts of expanders and now have squishy boobs which are now mine for the foreseeable. But a few things have happened running up to this point so I will do my best to give you the abridged version to date.

The spaces in between

I last spoke to you about 2 months before my exchange. I had my last fill at the beginning of June. We over-filled my 350CC expanders to 400CC, I jumped on a plane with a couple of pain killers and a big glass of wine and recuperated in sunny Bali.

I had my exchange surgery booked in for 3rd of September and all fills were done. You’d think it would be an awesome time full of anticipation and optimism. I didn’t find that to be the case. Instead I found this time in between to be one of limbo – Catholics might call is purgatory but I’m not that dramatic…. You’re not done so everything is still on hold and all your plans are “after my next operation.” You have some idea of what size you might be, but no idea what your final bad boys will look like – the pessimist in me decided they were going to be small and shit. And nothing happens. After all the planning and the focus and the adrenaline you build up in preparing for your mastectomy…. NOTHING HAPPENS.

I realise this is life, but I’m a person that thrives on a project. Like it or not, the mastectomy was a project of sorts. I’m not proud of myself but this time between the last fill and the exchange surgery, I have not been the best version of myself. I have been a little defeatist, I have been unmotivated, and I have been a bit of a misery.  I mean on the surface I’m absolutely fine, but I have not been the motivated and optimistic person I can be quite proud of at times.

The days before the exchange

I cried a lot. This is not unusual, but in the 2 weeks and especially days before the op I was a bit of a sensitive soul. I cried one morning because my bike had a puncture – I knew it wasn’t a bit deal but clearly something was playing on my mind. I went out a lot too – clearly I was avoiding thinking about the things on my mind.

The Monday before my operation on the Tuesday, just to help me along the way, I had one of those days from work where I think Valium should be prescribed to all staff as standard. One of my team made a mistake that put our company and our client in the media (a bit like a celebrity caught sniffing coke), so I spent the day crisis managing the situation – speaking to lawyers, mitigating the issue with clients and managing the team. By the time I finished my work at about 10pm and came home, I felt I couldn’t breathe. Having kept it together all day I cried as soon as I got in the door.

This then didn’t help my mood when I woke up. I was miserable and didn’t talk much. Cried without crying, I didn’t want to go and I was convinced my new boobs would be small and shit. My F had a great time…

We get to the hospital and despite being private this time I wait for 6 hours to go into surgery. As I am being wheeled into theatre I tell my surgeon to keep my boobs as big as humanly possible. Oh, and to remember to remove the mole on my face – Two for the price of one. He makes me no promises.

I wake up disorientated but welcomed by Mr F and a burrito.

The morning after

I wake early and in a much better mood.NO MORE OPERATIONS IN 2013! Silver Fox Plastic Surgeon (remember him?) comes to see me and asks what’s up? I tell him I’d like someone to remove the catheter from my hand and then let me go home.  He says YES! YEY…..!! He also tells me he managed to insert 440CC implants.

I had a little peek in the first day and just saw a lot of bruising and what look like very normal breasts. I put my bra and my strapping back on and went about my business.

So what do they look like?

I am now four days post-surgery. I’m not on any medication anymore and my stiches don’t hurt. My cleavage is bruised, but some of the swelling seems to have settled.

Now I have had time to get used to them I am starting to like them. I’m a small C (I was a small B) and can’t wait to start buying new underwear. I’ve already spent about 3 hours on www.marksandspencer.com. They are a decent size and they feel great. I no longer have to read a book in the shape of an L inserted in-between my breasts, moving the book to a backwards L as I move to the next page. I can hug people without hurting them and me and as Mr F says, they are no longer comedy boobs. Or, if you like, Tori Spelling’s boobs in 1997.

I’m also feeling much more optimistic. I can look forward to going on holiday (and sitting by the pool in a surgical bra). I can’t wait to get my health back on track, drop a few KGs and start running again. And I’m going to sign up to do a course to train to become a life coach – hey if we can help others thanks to our own ridiculous life experiences, then why not.

Anyway – Mr F would kill me if I put my naked puppies on the open internet so here is me in my attractive surgical bra.

I promise to speak soon.  Lots of love xxxx

MyBoobs2

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The Power of the Carrot

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I’m a pretty motivated person when I want to be.

When I was 7 I was told I might be held back a class, away from my friends, because my reading wasn’t very good.  So, I learnt how to read overnight and became one of the best in the class. At 13 my mum told me I could have a cat if I got a good report card. I surprised both my mum and all my teachers and moved up a few sets to deliver my mum the best report card she’d ever seen…from me at least.

A lecturer in university told me I wasn’t astute enough to get a 2:1, so I worked my butt off and got one of those 2:1s to put in his proverbial pipe to smoke and when an ex-boyfriend said that my wanting to become an aerobics instructor was “just another one of my fads…” I qualified within 6 months.

But you see, this motivation always comes from either a carrot presented to me before I decide to beat myself with a stick, or baiting, which in my books is someone waving a carrot in my face telling me I can’t eat it.

Some of you have heard me say that the time before my operation was one of the most focused and effective periods of my life. I was healthy, productive, calm, happy and organised. But then the carrot was; if you chop your boobs off you might get to live longer and spend the rest of your life with your nice boyfriend – PRETTY FAT CARROT!

But how do you draw on the power of the carrot when there really isn’t one, or it’s just buried a bit too deeply?

At the moment my boyfriend and I are applying for our Permanent Residency Visa to give us a few more rights as almost fully fledged citizens of Australia. Better (and cheaper) healthcare provisions, the freedom to work in a café, or simply not work without worrying about getting kicked out of the country, and freedom from worry every time a client gets twitchy feet or cuts their budget. Pretty big carrots, yes, but not massive or immediate, so I have been struggling to harness my inner motivator and get everything I need together to lodge my forms.

However, in the absence of an immediate, pressing or aggressive (cancer related) carrot I’ve decided that what I need to do is pick myself an imaginary carrot.  You may know this as a ‘goal’ or ‘deadline’.  I have until my exchange surgery on September 3rd to sort my shit out and get my forms lodged. It’s not rocket science and I’m really not revealing anything you guys don’t know, but a goal shared is a goal half way reached I reckon.

 

 

 

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?

THINGS THAT ARE DIFFERENT SINCE HAVING A MASTECTOMY: #6 SHAVING MY ARMPITS

Well, it’s not so much shaving my armpits, but more, how much of my armpit I can shave.

When I lift my arm to trim my under-hair my expander pops out like an angry soccer ball and constricts 1/3 of my armpit. It’s a section just above where my drains were and it’s nigh-on impossible to get a razor in the crevice.

This leaves me with a patch of hair, not dissimilar to a little goatie beard.

Any suggestions for removing hair from small places, (that isn’t laser- too near the implants, or nose clippers- too humiliating) please send them my way.

Goatie

Things that are different since having a mastectomy: #5 Pumping up tires

When I was a little girl my brother would make tunes in the sound of farts via his armpits. I thought this was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen and was unbelievably jealous.

However hard I tried and closely I copied his actions, I could never make the same sound via my armpit.

Fast-forward 30ish years and I decide to take advantage of Sydney’s amazing autumn day by going for my first, post-op bike ride.

Any road-bike rider worth their salt knows that pumped up tires = a good ride. My poor bike had neglectfully been sitting in my work for the past 3 months and both tires were in need of filling.  So obviously the first thing I decide to do before getting back on the saddle is pump up my tires.

The motions and process of pumping up the tires is the same, albeit a little tougher than it was pre-mastectomy.  The main difference was the sound my armpit made, every time I inserted more air into the tire and my expander made contact with my pit.

Yes…it was the sound of a child-like parp.

So you see, child-hood dreams really do come true.  As long as you wait long enough and decide to get both your breasts removed…

If this is just a creation of my warped upbringing and imagination and you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is some kid on the internet mastering this skill:

On the TV

So as promised, here is me, talking about Angelina Jolie‘s BRCA mutation and mastectomy, as well as my own experience as a carrier of the BRCA2 mutation, on TV. 

Please don’t judge my initial stuttering or how my chest gets blotchy towards the end of the interview. I also apologise in hindsight to the reporter for seemingly arguing with him about the statement he makes on whether people would get on a plane if there was an 80% chance of it crashing.  It’s clear I haven’t actually listened to what he is saying and just respond how I want to. But look, that’s the key to effective media relations and a tactic politicians use all the time so I’m not too worried about it. 

 

Taking over-sharing to a new level

JoliTweet

Today I went on national TV and talked about getting my boobs chopped off. I almost cried when I talked about my mum, and I now want to remove a mole I have on my face but apparently I did very well. I managed to get a plug in for http://www.pinkhope.org.au and am chuffed that I did my bit to get our story out and raise awareness of BRCA. I’ll try to get a clip and post it up here.

The other highlight was that Angelina Jolie ‘favorited’ my tweet to her. We’re so going to be BFFs forevs and evs.

Angelina; Helping Previvors find their place

me2

So it appears that I have more in common with Angelina Jolie than I ever thought possible. No, it’s not a gaggle of children, adopted from the far corners of the world. We’re both women who have voluntarily decided to undergo mastectomies in order to prolong our lives and reduce our risks of breast cancer. And like Ange, I also have a (better looking) version of Brad Pitt in my rock, Mr F.

Her letter to the New York Times about her decision to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy following her BRCA1 diagnosis is beautifully written. I applaud her for using her celebrity status to raise awareness and understanding of what it means to be a Previvor and the choices we have available. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice.html?smid=tw-share&_r=2&

Finding our place

Part of the reason I think that Angelina’s sharing her experience with the world is so important is because as Previvors, we’re a bit of a funny bunch that don’t neatly fit anywhere. We’ve not actually had cancer, but at the same time, face a different reality and decisions from your genetically favoured, Josephine Bloggs.

Not cancer enough

When people first found out about my decision to get my boobs chopped off many, very kind and generous friends offered to put me in touch with people they knew who had been diagnosed with cancer and had undergone a mastectomy.  I found this generous offer a difficult one to reply to, or explain.

Most Previvors will be too familiar with the heartbreaking effects of cancer and many will have lost more than one family member to the disease. But we haven’t actually had cancer. We’re the lucky ones who were given a choice and could take a part in somewhat guiding our fate. Many of us have no idea what cancer personally feels like and hopefully, if we follow the course of continued expulsion (boobs, followed by ovaries or Fallopian tubes), never will.  At low points, when things get tough during this experience, I often feel ashamed that this fact is not front of mind.

Our surgery follows a similar course, but aesthetically, physically and mentally, a Previvor’s journey is much more straightforward. We don’t have to endure chemo or radio-therapy and as a result, things are much easier.  So for me at the time, talking to a cancer survivor to help me come to terms with my experience felt a little insensitive.

Not quite healthy enough

For many of us, we’re not sick at all and could be living extremely healthy lives. However, we don’t fit into the genetically favoured crew either.

Imagine waking up each morning with the mindset that one day you’ll get cancer. Not maybe, but you will definitely get cancer? I’m not saying statistically this is the case, but there is a really high probability that you will and for me, mentally, it was definitely going happen.

Many Previvors have had to face their mortality from a very young age. I avoided mine throughout my twenties, but I was always running from it. For those who do face up to it, how young is too young to put the information you have been blessed with to good use?

You see, we have been given a gift. The gift of information and more fool us if we don’t use that information responsibly. If we are diagnosed with carrying a BRCA mutation and continue to smoke and drink too much alcohol, are we complete idiots? Should we never take the contraceptive pill because we know the risks? And if we don’t decide to get our boobs chopped off and we get breast cancer, is it our fault for waiting too long and not acting?

On the subject of breeding, am I selfish for wanting to reproduce the normal way and just hope for the best? Will I be able to forgive myself if I pass my faulty gene to my daughter who has to undergo a mastectomy in her twenties?  Will I be able to watch her make decisions about freezing her eggs just in case she doesn’t meet Mr Right before she has to have her ovaries removed?

I’m not playing my small violin and complaining about it, it’s just, we don’t quite fit here either.

The Previvor crew.

Thank goodness for my crew, the Previvors. Like any group of people, we’re a disparate bunch spread all over the world and our stories are all different.  Some women are happy to share their experience along with their post-op booby pictures, and others aren’t. We’re all at different stages in our lives and being BRCA positive has different implications for each of us. What we do share is a huge level of compassion and a willingness to be there for each other. We are all, in our own ways, pulling together to form a strong community. To be there for each other and help others understand us too.

So thank you Angelina, for helping more women like us find our crew and know they are not alone. As well as helping the rest of the world understand where we fit too.

COMMITMENTS TO HEALTH: PROGRESS REPORT

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Last week I made a couple of commitments to help me get out of my post-mastectomy fug and cheer the heck up.

They were to;

–          keep my stress levels to a minimum, stop sweating the small stuff and meditate once a week

–          go see a Dr about my painful periods, and

–          be grateful

This week I  have;

–          been ridiculously stressed and not particularly easy to work or live with. I have been impatient with people, snapped at a few others and upset one person (in my defence, I wasn’t mean. I just had to have a difficult conversation with someone, which was upsetting. Still, it’s not nice to see someone upset as a result of something you’ve said)

–          not mediated once. I worked late on the night I was going to go to meditation class. Viciouscircle.com.au

–          I got my period… It didn’t hurt for two days then BAM. In hospital after the op the nurses would ask me to rate my pain levels on a scale of 1 to 10. I always replied that it was less than my period pain. Mr F has very little sympathy for me as he says I get them every month and know they are painful so I should a) be used to this by now and b) be more prepared and take pain-killers before the pain comes

–          Been miserable and full of ugly self-pity

Progress report? Must do better.

I have all weekend to rectify this situation.

Jobs to do before Sunday evening;

–          Meditate before the end of Sunday if not today? Maybe go to yoga? Whatever, just chill out!

–          Cheer up and stop feeling sorry for myself that I work so hard and woe is me… (Read- smash up my tiny, scratchy violin)

–          Take painkillers repeatedly and think about making an appointment at the Drs at some point before the end of June

–          Smile

I’ll let you know how I go.

 

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

inspirational blogger

The only award I have every received was a highly commended certificate for my handwriting at a St. David’s Day Eisteddfod in primary school.  Those of you who know me, and especially those who work me will know that I have the most appalling hand-writing known to man. I blame my Dad who has passed on his Drs scrawl, combined with a flamboyant and creative mind. Anyway, I think they made a big mistake.

So, it is with great humility and pleasure that I accept what I believe in my first ever, legitimate recognition with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

One of the brilliant things about bogging has been connecting with people from all over the world in similar situations to myself. My very first ever blogging friend was Mogatos who writes, Saying NOPE to Breast Cancer http://bilateralmastectomy.wordpress.com/2013/04/25/very-inspiring-blogger-award/. Her blog is brilliant and very informative and she has been a great support to me over the last few months, including very kindly nominating me. She’s also a couple of months ahead of me in her journey so she gives me a bit of a heads up as to what to expect.

One of the conditions in accepting the award is to tell people 7 things about yourself. If you know me you already know I am a massive over-sharer so it’s difficult to find 7 I won’t have already shared, but here goes:

–          I am 34, female and live in Australia. I grew up in Wales and class myself as Welsh

–          I can only say a few, rude phrases in Welsh

–          I have 3 tattoos. One is my mother’s name written in Thai, one is a set of stars that I got done in Selfridges in London and the last is now a splodge I obtained from a questionable establishment in Swansea

–          I’m a pretty good singer. I don’t really sing any more but I used to a lot and won lots of beer T-shirts in university Karaoke competitions. I even won a ‘pager’ in the days before everyone owned a mobile phone

–          I starred in a reality TV program when I was 19. It was on Sky 1 in the UK and it was filmed over 2 weeks in Malouf. This is all you need to know

–          I love coffee so much and my morning cup, in a nice coffee shop whilst reading my kindle is my favourite part of the day

–          My mum was and still is my absolute hero and I can’t believe how much I still miss her 12 years since she died

OK, there are probably a few more than 7 facts there.

The other condition is that I have to nominate other bloggers and tell them about it. So my nomination goes to Lissie Bendy who writes about her journey with breast cancer at 37 on http://shittytittiebangbang.com/. Lissie’s humour and courage is incredibly inspiring and I love her Shittietitttie Chemo Cuts Reveal Challenge. The challenge inspires people to make positive changes in their life and share their commitment with others. Every time ten people share their commitment, she gets a new haircut. And despite sporting new locks that would challenge the best of us, she always looks sensational. http://shittytittiebangbang.com/2013/04/08/the-shittietittie-chemo-cuts-reveal-challenge/.

So along with my nomination, here are my commitments to make positive changes in my life.  I commit to keeping my stress levels to a minimum, to stop sweating the small stuff and to meditate at least once a week in order to achieve this. I will go see a Dr about my really painful periods to put my mind at rest rather than worrying about it. And finally I will thank my lucky stars every single day that I was able to take at least a little bit of control over my future and will so enjoy this life I have to its maximum limit.