Happy Boob-A-Versay! One year after my mastectomy

Hello, did you miss me? I’m really sorry it’s been so long, but I promise, I’ve not had much to say… not on the topic of boobs anyhow.

However, today is my Boob-A-Versay! What’s that I hear you cry? One whole year since I decided to chop my boobs off, even though I don’t have cancer (please refer to previous posts for the rationale and to ensure I’m not crazy).

No news is good news

For those of us involved in online communities of high risk women making prophylactic choices, you often only read about when things go wrong with surgery. It’s not surprising really. So few people understand what you’re going through and you’re more likely to reach out and share your bad experiences, rather than the good ones. But that’s why these communities have been set up in the first place and they are an absolute God send.

However, for every bad experience shared, there’s a load of good ones that are gratefully and quietly held dear. And that’s pretty much what I have been lucky enough to go through, and why it’s been so blummin long since we talked. However, on my Boob-A-Versary I wanted to share my positive update to help reassure anyone out there thinking about, or about to embark on prophylactic surgery that it can be a relatively stress free process, and the world’s greatest gift.

One year on: How are my boobs?

In a word, they are great. I have gone from a 32B to a 32D (Mr F calls it the world’s most traumatic and expensive boob job – I promise you that it wasn’t the reason). They look good in clothes and even better in a bra. My scars are still pretty visible, but only if I lift my arms up and they could be better, if I could be bothered to massage them more; I get bored.

The artist formerly known as the total eclipse of the nipple is now only about 75% nipple and a bit wonky on top, but it doesn’t bother me in the slightest and I treasure it like a war wound.

I see my plastic and breast surgeon every 6 months, but other than that, the constant trips to the hospital have subsided.

One year on: What can I do?

Pretty much anything. 2 months after my exchange surgery, in November, I was signed off to do any exercise. After a good burst before Christmas, and an indulgent trip to the UK in between, I have been going to boot camp 3 – 4 times a week. And word up ladies with muscles for boobs, I did 100 push ups on my toes last week. Ace!

One year on: What else has happened?

I won’t bore you too much, but here’s the here and now in a snapshot. You may remember I talked about signing up to become a life-coach.  Well I did. My course is up and running and it’s awesome. And Mr F… remember him? Well the most wonderful and supportive man who was by my side every step of my boob chopping journey; he only went and proposed didn’t he!  Of course I said yes and we are busy planning two weddings for this September.

Wrapping up

So that’s it really.  I probably won’t write to you for a while. Like I said, I really don’t have much to talk about and I’m even getting to the point where I barely think about the bad boys any more. What I will say is that last year was one of the best years of my life. I’m so proud of myself, so unbelievably lucky and grateful for this precious gift my mum wasn’t lucky enough to even consider.

If you are a high risk woman and are considering prophylactic surgery, I promise it’s not all scare stories and there are women who have positive experiences with very minor, if any complications. I hope my experience can help give you the encouragement to make the bravest decision of your life.

To the rest of you, thanks so much for your support and love.  I couldn’t have done it without you x

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Everyday Things That Are Different Since Having A Mastectomy: #2 Cockroaches

I live in Australia so cockroaches are just something you have to get used to. It’s not because you’re dirty, or don’t clean, it’s just one of those things. So imagine my (boob) pain when I had the pleasure of spotting my first post-mastectomy cockroach crawling on the sofa arm, NEXT TO MY HEAD.

Yes, gross isn’t it. And for me, painful. (because I jumped  about 10 feet off the ground and I don’t know if you are aware, but I just had a serious operation?)

Now imagine my disgust, and yes, (boob) pain, when after we fumigated above and beneath the sofa, and I sat down, the said cockroach crawled  all over my back…!

That is all.

Oh no. p.s. My boyfriend told me off for reacting too much.

Cockroach

Infection = Bad: The last 48 hours

Boy. That’ll teach me for being bored. A lot has happened in the last 2 days (days 9 and 10) so I’ll cover everything in bullet form so this doesn’t become biblical. Before I do here’s a quick synopsis to bring you up to speed.

In a nutshell:

Some of you will remember my right-side drain leaked on Day 6, we tried to save it, but it looked like it was on the way out so we removed it on Day 7.

I woke up on Day 8 to find my right boob had swollen up and felt like a water balloon.  I freaked out because I’ve repeatedly been told fluid in the breast cavity is bad, fluid can lead to infection, infection = bad! Ultimate consequence, removal of the expander that is sitting behind my pectoral muscle, we have to wait until it heals, we can then run this show all over again.

Both the plastics and breast surgeons didn’t feel I had anything to worry about. The fluid wasn’t much, it would in all likelihood dissipate through my body in time, otherwise they’d drain it with a needle…

Got it? Now we can begin:

48 hours

Day 9

8am – 10am

  • I woke up and updated my Twitter and Facebook status claiming that today was a think positive day.
  • Nice breast surgeon from Manchester came to see me. He checked my right boob, said it was OK and unless I was in pain, to leave it. Looked at my left side drain and said if plastics were happy, I could go home today or tomorrow. IMMENSE!
  • My lead breast surgeon comes. He agrees with what everyone has said. Offers to overrule everyone and take out my left-side drain and discharge me there and then. I may be a bit bolshy at times, but I don’t like breaking rules so I say no. If it wasn’t for the fluid build-up in the right side I would have jumped at the chance and agreed.

12pm

  • Plastics team come to see me. They are less enthusiastic about the discharge chat, but agree that the right boob still looks fine and IF, IF, my drains are low enough tomorrow, I can go home.
  • I hit rock bottom, cancel my visitors for the afternoon, but head out to meet Mr F for lunch. There are no trips to the beach today, just up to my usual coffee shop around the corner.
  • Lunch – I cannot stop crying. Mr F has a rubbish lunch.
  • I come back and try to read but am too woozy so I got to bed for a couple of hours. Wake up shivering  Put some more clothes on and get back into bed. My chest is really tight so I loosen up my binder and try to go back to sleep.

6pm

  • Can’t sleep, still shivering, I feel sick and my chest tightness is becoming unbearable. I can’t breathe and I’m having sharp pains down my back.
  • I call the nurse and ask her to take my temperature. She does and it’s fine. However I can’t sit still long enough for her to take my blood pressure and run to the toilet thinking I’m going to be sick. No vomit.
  • My breathing and pain in my back becoming worse. My most matronly like, and Welsh, nurse tries to run an ECG but my back pain is too bad to sit still. She calls a Dr.

7pm

  • Before I know it I have 3 Drs in the room asking me questions. They have felt my right boob again and still don’t think that’s the culprit. I have blood taken from 3 different places. A 4th Dr comes, lots of questions, finally an ECG, and they take my temperature again. My heart rate is 100 beats per minute and my temperature is 39.3.

8pm

  • They want to take a chest X Ray and ask if there’s any chance I might be pregnant. It’s very unlikely, but this whole surgery thing has played havoc with my cycle so is there any chance? A minute one, possibly? I think I could maybe sue them if I am and my unborn baby is damaged by the X Ray radiation? So, I take a test… Not pregnant! Don’t worry; X Ray commence.

10pm

  • Cut a long story short, it is determined that I have some sort of infection, they pump a lot of antibiotics in me and my temperature comes down. By this point I’ve called Mr F to hospital from the pub. He is lovely, concerned and smells a little of beer.
  • I am shattered and terrified.

Day 10

8am

  • Wake up feeling better than I did, txt my friend who I had cancelled on to tell her about my infection, she calls straight away, I can’t stop crying.
  • She calls my ward and requests to break visiting hours protocol to come and sit with me.

9am

  • She brings me breakfast and sits with me to do crossword puzzles.
  • My nice Manchunian breast surgeon comes, he looks at my right breast. He’s not happy. The fluid has increased and my breast is red. He recommends we do an ultra-sound to determine how much fluid in there. We’ll stick a needle in to drain the fluid (remember, plastics don’t like this as it’s a foreign body, which also may risk infection).

10am

  • My Child Plastic Surgeon (CPS, who I now really like but I need consistency in my names so you know who I’m talking about) comes. He also thinks we need an ultra sound, but at the same time he is concerned. Wants another urine sample. I am forced to drink a lot, quickly, in short succession. I pee on demand and, sorry this is gross, but it’s boiling hot!

11am

  • CPS returns to say he has spoken to a plastic surgeon (not my main guy, but another guy who I don’t rate for reasons too long to discuss) who recommends that I go back into surgery, they open me up, remove the expander, clean out my cavity, sew me back up again and add another drain. I ask CPS what the chances are of this not working and me losing my expander – he says’ there’s a 15 – 30% chance I will lose it. CPS is clearly a glass half full kinda man, and I think he’s made up these stats.
  • The surgery can’t be until 5pm as my lovely friend just brought me breakfast.

11.30am

  • Mr F arrives with a Cadbury’s Whisper Easter Egg, which of course I can’t eat as I’m nil by mouth. My temperature fluctuates throughout the day and my chest is still tight, making it difficult to breathe.
  • I have a moment where I question everything and wonder what the hell I’ve done. I’ve mutilated my body on the off-chance I might get cancer, and now I’m about to go back into surgery which may or may not increase the chances of this whole thing failing?

6pm

  • I’ll be honest with you, I’m still not in a great place as we head into surgery. Just as we are about to go through the double doors into theatre, CPS tells me that he has spoken to my main silver-fox plastic surgeon and he doesn’t want to remove the expander and just wants CPS to open my right chest cavity, drain it and give it a good clean. Everyone seems really pleased about this and is implying I should be too. In retrospect I understand it’s a much less risky procedure.

8.30pm

  • I return. CPS says it went well and the infection had’t spread to my muscle and my chest expander. My temperature is down and I can breathe a little easier.

So, as I was saying, a lot can happen in 48 hours. What happens next is anyone’s guess. All I know is I’m going to sit very still, not move very far from my bed and hope for the best.

Time

About Me

me

Find me on Twitter: @boobschoppedoff

About two years ago, I discovered I had a genetic mutation, called BRCA2 that means I am predisposed to certain types of cancer. Figures say I could be 60 – 80% more likely to get breast cancer and 20 – 40% more likely to get ovarian cancer in my lifetime. What’s more the types of cancer often associated with this gene fault can often be aggressive and resistant to treatment. My mother was 43 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and 46 when she passed away, my gran died from cancer at the age of 50, as did my uncle from prostate cancer.

So as the saying goes, knowledge is power, and I am using the knowledge I have to try and prolong my life. In a few weeks I will undergo surgery to have a preventative mastectomy, which will reduce my chances of breast cancer by 90%.

This blog is my way of making sense of it all, for me, and anyone else who may stumble across this. I by no means see this as a medical guide for anyone, but it may give some insight into at least one option for women in the same situation.
knowledge is power

Recipes to Freeze: Lentil and Tomato Soup

Those who know me will understand what a wrench it’s going to be for me, both physically and mentally, not being able to exercise following the op in a week and a bit. What’s more, whether I should be or not, I am worried about putting on weight afterwards as a result of not being able to exercise, or having as much control over my food.

Now I know, I know, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t important.  I’m not stupid, and I wouldn’t be going through all this if I was. However, I’m already removing two things that very much define me as a woman. I think it’s going to be hard enough to face the world and feel feminine with no boobs, let alone face the world carrying extra weight, AND with no boobs!

With this in mind my plan is to make and freeze a load of food that I can eat when I get home from hospital. To save Mr F the hassle and my waist from cheese and butter. Having done my research, unsurprisingly, a lot of recipes for the freezer actually contain a lot of cheese, butter and pasta.  Three amazing ingredients that are sadly, not necessarily your friend when living a largely sedentary life.

So, with the help of Chef F, tonight I turned to my trusty Weight Watchers and made their low-fat, Lentil and Tomato Soup.

Lentil and tomato soup http://www.weightwatchers.com.au/food/rcp/RecipePage.aspx?recipeid=74811

Prep should take 15 mins and cooking time is 30 mins – EASY

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ¾ cup / 180g dried lentils
  • 400g whole tomato
  • 1 tsp chilly flakes (my addition)
  • 750ml vegetable stock

Instructions:

  • Combine the olive oil with half the garlic and put to the side.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the remaining garlic and the spices. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the lentils, tomatoes and stock. Increase heat to medium. Bring to the boil. (How easy is this)
  • Reduce the heat to low. Cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are very soft, stirring occasionally.

Dah dah!!!!!!

soup

I am a big believer that unless you are a chef, professional photographer or food blogger, regular people’s food generally looks like vomit in pictures.  Recall if you can any restaurants you visited in Spain where the menu bypassed language restrictions by simply taking pictures of their dishes.  It all looked like different shades of dog food…

So whatever you think this looks like, this tastes lovely.  And now I have 3 healthy meals ready to freeze and defrost as needed. I’ll report back with pre-freeze meal number 2 later this week.

freezer