Booby Dysmorphic Disorder™

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Most of us who were small fry, pre-mastectomy, seem to want to be bigger post-chop. Never say never, but it’s unlikely I would have opted for a boob job BF (in the time ‘Before Foobs’), had I not found my deformed gene.

Some of you know my feelings about drawing comparisons between a prophylactic mastectomy and a breast augmentation. If wanting bigger boobs was my motivation, I could have found a load more pleasant means to get them… Eating lots of pies, chicken fillets and, if I really, really wanted them, a run of the mill boob job, which would have been a much more pleasant and less psychologically treacherous stroll in the park than the route I have chosen.

However, if I have had to have my boobs lopped off, one small payback is going to be the opportunity to increase the size of my love jugs.

I’m currently at 300CC in my expansion process.  This last fill has been the most uncomfortable to date. I wake up each morning feeling like my breasts might explode through my armpits and I have pins and needles where my bra straps would normally be on my back. They are also so hard I feel like I’m wearing a bra stuffed with shot-puts. (The irony is, and you can ask Mr F, I am very much not wearing a bra at the moment. Well, it hurts like hell! We now have a morning game where we anticipate how visible my nipples will be in the day’s choice of clothing… anyway, I digress)

My point is, even though they feel like the biggest breasts in the world, I currently have no real idea how big they are which is why I have diagnosed myself as suffering from Booby Dysmorphic Disorder™. Like the body version, I think my view of how big my boobs are, is pretty out of whack with how they actually look.

How big are my boobs?

I don’t know? But they are definitely bigger. I put on a shirt the other day and for the first time in my history (apart from when I’m carrying a little holiday weight) the buttons were in danger of taking out a few eyeballs. Then I also almost got stuck trying to get my sports bra over my Foobs, which was quite embarrassing as I was with a relatively new colleague. It was so tight that when I took it off my right boob was a squashed oblong (I swiftly reached for the cocoa butter and began to desperately massage it back to ‘normal’).

But as head to my final fill next week, I’m a little sad not to keep going. Maybe if they were squishy and pendulous they’d feel more substantial?  I’m also worried that when I make the exchange to the softer, more realistic implants, I’ll lose some of the fullness that my current shot-puts provide. After everything you go through, I really don’t want to feel ‘deflated’ (pardon the pun) with the final result.

But… will they look ridiculous? I’m only 5’3” and a UK 8 – 10. In reality am I modelling myself on Barbara Windsor? Who knows? I am suffering from Booby Dysmorphic Disorder after all.

Barbara Windsor

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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

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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

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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

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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.

The Good the Bad and the Ugly: 6 Weeks on in no man’s land

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Hello. Firstly I am so sorry it has been so damn long since I have written. I promise I will try to explain.

The good

I am doing alright. I have healed well and my arm movement is good. A bit stiff but good. My strengths is coming back and for all intents and purposes, I’m great.

I’m back at spin classes, had my first run this week and can do yoga if I so please.

I’m very much back at work and it’s honestly like I never left.

My boobs are slowly growing. I’m currently at 200CC each side and have another fill this week. My nipples are looking perky and healthy and whilst one side sticks out more than the other, all is good in the hood.

The bad

For all that is well I can’t say that mentally I’m in a great head space. Bear with me.

I’ve written before that the run up to the PBM was one of my happiest times of recent years. I was focussed and efficient to superwoman proportions. I easily knew what was important, didn’t sweat the small stuff and I of course, had an enormous sense of optimism.

Right now, I’m feeling like, “Oh. What now?” Or maybe that is the wrong way to put it. I just don’t know how I feel, and herein lies the problem.

Life is so back to normal that it really does feel as though I was making such a fuss of everything before. Because I’m visibly well, everyone else has seemingly forgotten about it too. Or at least has no reason to treat me otherwise. (or should they have to)

My social calendar is ridiculously full, both with obligatory work and personal commitments, and as there is nothing wrong with me it’s impossible for me not to go. But the thought of having to attend some of these things of makes me so anxious that I then withdraw at all other times.  I have said no to so many non obligatory invitations for coffee or drinks that I sound like a broken record and feel rotten every time I do.

The ugly

It was my birthday this week. Hurrah! 34.

Mr F asked me what I wanted. I said a ring (as in engagement) or a blender… I got a blender. I also got an amazing photo book of all my nudie photos and got spoilt rotten with flowers and a posh meal in a beautiful restaurant.

Despite having a wonderful birthday, I woke up on Thursday incredibly sad. You reach certain milestones in life and it’s OK that you haven’t done what you thought you’d do by a certain age. But this year it wasn’t. I have a good job and am accomplished in my career (with no desire to run my own PR agency thank you very much). I moved to the other side of the world and live in the most amazing country, in a fabulous house with lovely friends and an incredible boyfriend. And apart from getting my boobs chopped off, I am otherwise very fit and healthy.

But in my current state, residing in no man’s land, I felt I’d be in a different world by the age of 34 and would have a couple of sprogs and a ring or two on my finger. I do know that even if I’d done all this, life doesn’t work that simply. I am just struggling to stop asking myself the question, what next?

I’m a little ashamed I feel like this. Especially considering what an alternative life with cancer could look like, which is why I’ve struggled to metaphorically put pen to paper in the last few weeks.

Anyway, my commitment is to stop moaning, maybe look into taking out some therapy, and finding a new hobby.

p.s. It’s good to speak to you again.

Everyday things that are exactly the same since having a mastectomy: #1 Nipple Hair

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Before you think I’m disgusting or freak-like, let’s get one thing straight; every woman has nipple hair. Look I found an article to prove it. http://www.tressugar.com/How-Common-Female-Nipple-Hair-2431028

As for myself, it’s not as if I have a mane of hair keeping my areola warm. But there are a couple of stray suckers that I need to tend to from time to time.

Call me naive, but I did think that one of the few plus points of getting my boobs surgically removed would be to say goodbye to my nipple’s lashes.

It appears not.

Now bear with me. I’ve had all my breast, bar some skin and my nipples removed. Blood supply has been severely restricted, causing my poor nipples to cling on for dear life by their imaginary finger nails. The artist formerly known as total eclipse of the nipple, went so black I was ready to wave it goodbye.

What’s more, their senses are dead. The other day Mr F asked if I could feel my nipple. I put my hand to it and confirmed I could. It turns out that I could feel my hand with my nipple, but on closer inspection, I couldn’t feel my nipple with my hand.

I have created the most inhospitable environment known to nipples and despite this, the stray nipple hairs survive!?!

I guess no one really likes change do they.

 

Signs I’m ready to go back to work

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As the old saying goes, time flies when you’re getting your boobs lopped off. Or something along those lines. Whilst some elements of the last 4 weeks, such as hospital food, seem a lifetime away, it feels like only yesterday when I was waving goodbye to Mr F as they wheeled me into theatre.

But as I prepare to hang up my slippers, here are my top 10 signs that show I’m ready to re-enter the world of work.

  1. I am feeling better. Still get pretty tired, like someone has turned off the lights unexpectedly. But much better.
  2. My arm movements are pretty good and I’m lifting things, including my friend’s 18 month old daughter. I realise this wasn’t wise, but she reached up to me, my ovaries gave a little yelp and I instinctively picked her up.
  3. My day revolves around The Bachelor; Ben’s Season, and I already know that nasty Courtney wins, they are now broken up and my favourite, Kacie B made a fool of herself going back on the latest series.
  4. I am repeatedly purchasing clothes to wear to work despite not earning a wage.
  5. I have lots of new clothes to wear to work.
  6. The final episode of The Bachelor, where Ben chooses Courtney, airs tomorrow.
  7. My brain is the consistency of papier mache and I struggle to use the right words for everyday items.
  8. I find it hard to make it past 5.30pm before eating dinner.
  9. I should be able to go sans plaster on the total eclipse of the nipple by Monday.
  10. I’m fully back up to speed with Hollyoaks.

So that settles it, back to the grind on Monday.

But just to make doubly sure I’m good to go, I think I’ll head off for a luxurious spa and wine weekend….

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