At least you’ll get new tits!

used-boobs-for-sale

I read this article the other day from one of my new previvor friend’s web sites entitled ‘What Not to Say to a Previvor. http://www.mydestiny-us.com/what-not-to-say-to-a-previvor.html

Before I go on, a Previvor is essentially me. Someone who minimises their risk of getting cancer by making pretty bold choices, like getting their boobs chopped off.  In my own small bubble I may be unique, but there are loads of us and they are pretty amazing.

Anyway, I digress. I found this article and boy I wish I’d had it before my op.

Some of you reading this will have been in the situation where you heard what myself, or someone you know was about to do and…. you didn’t have a clue what to say. I get it. I like and need to fill spaces myself. Silence is an opportunity to talk.

And for those of you who have told others about your decision? It’s tough. I had a practiced monologue that accompanied my informing people about my decision to have a prophylactic mastectomy. It laid down the facts about my testing, then what BRCA meant and what my risk factors were (including statistics) and then, and only then did I tell people I was getting my boobs chopped off.

As you’ll see in the article, there are many things that people say, and you may have heard or used some yourself. The main one I got early on was what Lisa lists as ‘saying nothing at all’. I call this, ‘the face!’ It’s ‘the face’ that verbally says nothing but visibly says….”I can’t comprehend what on earth you are doing or why and wait, you don’t actually have cancer and hang on, I feel incredibly uncomfortable now, I wish you hadn’t told me this and … oh, swallow me whole.”

If this sounds familiar, I do describe this with a heap of sympathy and empathy and no judgement.

The other point from the article that most resonates with me, is ‘at least you’ll get a new pair of tits’ (or something more eloquently put).

Now I’m a glass half full person and yes, I will get a new, shiny pair of bazookas, but this statement does grate a little. And it’s not as bad for me as it might be for some women. I’ve never had boobs big enough to define me or my body image. However for some people their sense of self is very much wrapped up in their breasts. So this statement is probably the worst thing you can say for a number of reasons:

–          The other day me and Mr F were looking pictures of non-mastectomy, augmented breasts and wowsers, they are so pretty. They appear symmetrical and they are a lovely shape and I swear the nipples point up to where a guy’s eyeline will naturally be, winking like diamonds. You see, real breasts act like bubble wrap for implants. They cushion them, they keep them warm, they allow everything to jiggle a normal amount, and they make the process a whole lot easier.

–          I would pay a significantly smaller amount of money for a normal boob job.

–          I wouldn’t worry that my nipples may drop off or may not make it.

–          I wouldn’t have drains attached to my body for weeks trying to make sure that the empty cavity where my breast was is fully healed and unlikely to get infected.

–          There would be less chance of infection and my body rejecting an implant. I am in a good place now, but this could still happen. If that was the case I’d have to walk around with no boob/s until my body was significantly healed enough to start all over again.

–          For many women scar tissue may be an issue which means the final product will look less than perfect.

–          I would be up and running a whole lot quicker as someone probably wouldn’t have cut open my pectoral muscle and chucked some balloons underneath there, prohibiting my arm movement.

–          I might still be able to breast feed.

–          However good the result, they will look like false boobs that are so firm, no man should ever attempt moterboating them for risk of brain injury.

So what about the partner of a woman who is prophylactically getting her boobs off? Well I’m afraid the same also applies for similar reasons to the above, alongside the following:

–          This is going to be a really tough time for the bloke. I’m sure he’d be OK with his partner not having new boobs in order to avoid the worry, the stress, her moods, the upheaval to daily life etc.

–          Regardless of how shiny and new they are, emotionally his partner may struggle to accept these new boobs.

–          He may get really weirded out by the new bazookas and not find her as sexy as he used to.

So look, I think you get the picture.

However, as I was saying, I get it, you need to say something. So, here are some things you can say when someone else tells you similar news that makes you feel equally as uncomfortable (p.s. this may just be my preference so apologies if you offend someone as a result of my advice):

–          Wow, you’re actively embracing your risk of getting cancer and are and taking life by the balls, telling it to look out! (feel free to paraphrase).

–          I know you’d rather have your own boobs and not have to go through this, but I guess yours will never ever sag ever again? (For me this one’s OK. One of my boobs, small as it was, had started to look like a foot coming from my chest)

–          I have no idea what you’re going through. Good luck man, I’m here if you need me.

Or simply, ask questions.  I love questions as it’s all about me and gives me a chance to spout off all the new information about BRCA, hereditary cancer and prophylactic mastectomies that I have worked so hard to acquire.

Good luck with social minefield. Hope this helps? x

social minefield

 

 

Filling station #1: 150CCs

petrol_station_attendant_2

Before I got my boobs chopped off and no one really understood what or why we were doing this, Mr F told people that they’d make my boobs bigger via a pump inserted into my body. His plan was to secretly pump my new Foobies up whilst I slept so he could finally admit, for the first time in 3 years, that he was actually a boob man and wanted to go out with a girl with gargantuan breasts.

I’m not sure how many people actually believed him but it gave him a good laugh.

Inflatable boobs

So as we discussed last time (https://imgettingmyboobsoff.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/post-op-follow-up-with-silver-fox-plastic-surgeon/) yesterday was my filling day. I hope you watched the video I posted as this will help walk you through today’s process of pumping up the Foobs.

I woke up on filling morning and popped a couple of Panadol. I used to be someone who would only take pills under extreme circumstances. In my mind, pills = weakness. So what if I’m up all night with crippling period pains. Oh right, yes, it’s a silly approach. That’s why now, prevention is the name of the game and the trick is to take the pills BEFORE the pain.

I went for a walk and did my stretches before jumping on the bus to the hospital.

I arrive at Silver Fox Plastic Surgeon’s office and am ushered into the lovely nurse’s room. Before I sit on her dentist chair and take of my top I spy what I think is possibly the biggest syringe in the world, full of 50cc of saline. Oh, I see. That’s going into my chest? Got it!

big syringe

Nice nurse looks at my artist formerly known as total eclipse of the nipple and is pleased. It really is just a small, partial eclipse now with a tiny, tiny, flaky yet healing scab. Good news. I also ask whether it will pop out again at some point? She informs me it will. This is good because as well as being a little flaky, it also looks like it has been steam-rolled into my new Foob.

steam roller

Silver Fox Plastic Surgeon walks through his adjoining doors. His beard is slightly shorter. Still looks good.

He does his little magnet thing on my boob to line it up to the  incision site on the expander under my pec and draws a little blue, X to mark the spot. He then points an incredibly long, yet thin needle towards my chest, informing me it will sting just a little. It kinda does but it’s not too bad. I then have an odd sensation of my baps getting bigger . Again, not painful, but a little odd.

Less than 10 minutes later I’m done and I actually have visibly bigger boobs. They say that more than a handful is a waste, and yes my hands are abnormally tiny, like a carnie, but I now have more than one of my handfuls. Mr F made a good point; imagine you could have done this as a teenager!

Silver Fox is off on holiday next week so my next appointment for expansion is in two weeks’ time. Just enough time to get used to these new bad boys. A new rack every two weeks. I could get used to this…

Shopping for a post-mastectomy bra to wear during the expander process

multiplebras

We’ve chatted before about whether you need to wear a bra after a prophylactic mastectomy. To save you reading through my previous musings, I will summarise my findings. Do you need to? Not technically, no. These bad boys, especially during the expander phase are rock solid and won’t be going anywhere. Could you if you want to? Yes, of course.

However, as is often the case, the real questions don’t come until after the event. I know I don’t want to be splashing out on fancy lingerie before I get my final Foobs. I’m a little cheap and what’s the point, they’ll change size each week? But as I prepare to head back to work very soon, the following concerns have arisen:

Wearing a bra post-mastectomy: The real questions!

–          To pad or not to pad? Or to put it more succinctly, do I want to wear padding to go back to work so people can’t see how little my current boobies are? Or do I want to just show my baps as they are, regardless where I am in the expanding process?

–          Do my nipples show through some of my clothes?

–          Do I want my colleagues to be able to see my nipples?

To pad or not to pad?

Padded Bra

I was given a bra in hospital. It’s a decent one by Berlei that does up at the front. Yes it’s beige and extremely non-sexy, but it was free. It also comes with generous pads that are much better than any of the rolled up tissue paper I used to use as a pre-pubescent teen.

But do I want to pad my bra? Mr F thinks I do and I’d have more confidence when I go back to work?

For me, I don’t know if I give two stuffs? Surprisingly enough I’ve been pretty open about what I’ve had done, so people aren’t expecting me to return with a full rack. So returning wearing humungous padding feels a little disingenuous, as though I’m denying what I had done.  I also think it would draw more attention to my chest than not having anything.

What’s more, contrary to what most people think when they’ve seen me for the first time since the op, I’m not concave, or completely flat. There is some shape there and in the words of my friend, I just look like a sporty, small chested girl.

So, to pad or not to pad?

Nope. People can see the progression as and when it happens.

Do my nipples show through some of my clothes?

Yes, they really do. Seemingly more so now as the left one is in a permanent state of not erect (that function is now defunct) but not flat.  The right one is currently sitting underneath a bandage, which is also showing through clothes.

Do I want my colleagues to be able to see my nipples?

Hell no!

So what to do?

Well I found my solution yesterday in these very, tween-like cammi-bras from Ambra http://www.ambra.net.au/. They are soft, have no wires, will stretch as my Foobs grow, and most importantly, WILL HIDE MY NIPPLES FROM MY WORK COLLEAGUES!

They do look a bit like ‘my first bra’, which essentially they are, but they were tres cheap at $19.95 and are exactly what I need for now.

firstbra1

firstbra2

 

Things that are different since having a mastectomy: #4 Reaching for avocados

avocados

Have you ever noticed how supermarkets hide the ripe avocados at the back of the shelves, underneath all the other avocados?

No?

Neither had I until today when I thought I might dislocate my arm from its socket. You know, how you accidently used to do to your Barbie doll after you’d made her do a load of somersaults….no…? Just me then.

You’ll be pleased to know that a) my arm is still in its socket and b) I got the ripest avocado in the house! Go me!

Barbie arms

Things that are different since having a mastectomy: #3 Hanging out the washing

Washing line

I have never considered hanging out the washing an aerobic sport. If I had I might have done it more often.

I don’t really consider it a sport now, but boy, is it harder than it was before. Especially when you’re a short ass like me. I felt like I was on one of those torture machines used in medieval times to stretch people.

Well, if it helps me grow any taller, I might just keep doing it.

stretchingrack

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

Confirmation I did the right thing

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS GROSS DESCRIPTORS. DO NOT READ WHILST EATING BREAKFAST

Right Thing

Yesterday, I had my first breast surgeon appointment since my discharge from hospital. Part of me felt like there wasn’t really much for us to chat about, having just escaped 4 days ago. However, it came at a really good time. It was my first weekend on my own and on Sunday I had started to imagine a) there was fluid build-up in my right boob and b) my right nipple was definitely dead and about to fall off.

My sensible side realised that both of these options was unlikely but I was looking forward to getting some reassurance.

My post-op nipples

My poor post op nipples haven’t looked great. I have been assured this is perfectly normal and they do tend to get dinged in the surgery process, forming a blister or scab that will eventually drop off to reveal a healthy nipple.

My left nipple on my preferred boob (preferred because it was 2cm higher than the right breast, a better shape, was never biopsied and didn’t get an infection) had a little scab on the bottom of the nipple. In proportion it was a little like Tasmania to Australia, or Anglesey to Wales.

australia.tasmania.lg_

My right nipple however on my rubbish boob (rubbish because it was more saggy, had been biopsied, was home to an infection, and something else I’ll tell you about in a minute) was complete scab. Yes, my whole nipple was a scab. Imagine if you will a total eclipse of the sun. That was the scab on my nipple and the reason why I repeatedly believed it was about to drop off.

eclps12

A surgeon with a scalpel

I arrive at my breast surgeon appointment, take my top off, lie on the bed and the next thing I see is my surgeon going to the cupboard to grab a scalpel.

OK.

He goes back to my nipples. I don’t really want to look and I can’t feel a thing as all my nerves are dead so I ask him, “what are you doing?” To which he replies “oh just taking the scabs off your nipples”.

Oh well, that’s OK then.

The left side. Simples. Pops off with little persuasion.

The right side. Even before he goes to tackle the total eclipse of the nipple I’m feeling nervous. He takes the scalpel to the scab and assures me that the skin under the scab looks healthy and pink. Reassured by these words I decide to sneak a peak when he goes to get something else from the cupboard. URGH. My eclipse scab is lying to the side of my now, bloody right nipple. Vomit. Thank god he got a plaster and dressed it up because my stomach couldn’t handle any more.

Time bomb tits

Dressed and scab free we return to his desk where he gives me my pathology report, which is the analysis of my removed breast tissue.

Again, the lovely left side had no abnormalities to note.

My rubbish right side however had a couple of warning signs. There was a 3mm fibroadenoma that I already knew about as I had a biopsy needle injected into 4 times it about 12 months ago. Fibroadenoma’s are lumps composed of fibrous and glandular tissue.” Unlike typical lumps from breast cancer, fibroadenomas are easy to move, with clearly defined edges.” OK, job done.

What was also there was an atypical ductal hyperplasia. My surgeon described this to me as “proof that it was on the turn.”

Oh, right. So I came home and Googled it and found this description. “Atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) is not breast cancer, but is considered a precancerous condition…  If you’ve been diagnosed with atypical ductal hyperplasia, your risk of developing breast cancer is 4 to 5 times the average lifetime risk.”

Wowsers.

Combine this with my BRCA2 stats and the way I see it, Rubbish right boob was just waiting to make its move. Whether that be in one year, 5 years or 10 and thank god it hadn’t started already. So no, I didn’t need confirmation that I had done the right thing, but with these odds even I’d place a bet and I can’t gamble for toffee.

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.

 

This Week’s Most Amusing Search Terms to My Blog

Smashy and Nicey

My blogging friend’s will know, it’s amazing what search terms drive people to your blog. As someone who works in marketing of sorts, it’s interesting to know that for all the effort you put into SEO etc. the strangest and most random terms will deliver new friends to your door-step.

So as we round of the week, in true chart count-down fashion, I present to you, my favourite search terms…

  1. ‘Send your friend boobs’ (if only it were that simple?)
  2. ‘Tasteful woman sitting topless, legs crossed’ (I’m not sharing my nudie shots, sorry)
  3. Intimacy hot boob play (Ha ha ha. How disappointed he/she must have been on arrival to my blog)
  4. Girls with more than two boobs (Again, this may have made life a little easier)
  5. Meditate on breasts (to help them grow?)
  6. I chopped off a girls breast (A little dark, but thought I’d include)
  7. Rate my chest (not just yet thanks, they’re really not looking their best…)
  8. I will show my boobs on Facebook (I can safely say I won’t. Ever!

 

What I did next? Celebrating my release from hospital

Freedom

This heading sounds a bit dramatic doesn’t it? But it’s genuinely how I felt.

On day 13 (yes, day 13 in hospital) I knew going home the next day was pretty much a sure thing. However, whenever Mr F tried to say something nice about it, I told him off as I’d been in this place before and boy is it heartbreaking when it doesn’t happen.

The tester for going home would be the levels of fluid in my re-inserted right drain. They hadn’t been high since I went back into surgery to clear out the infection, but had increased on Day 12 to 30ml, the cut off point for removal. Every night the nurses swapped my drain bags over to new ones at 12am. So on night 13 at 11.55pm I lay in wait for the nurse. 12am came; 15mls, Bam! I promptly fell back to sleep, safe in the knowledge I was getting released the next morning.

I woke up at 6am, like a kid on Christmas Day, washed and started packing. CPS came to see me at 7.30am and confirmed my fate. I apologised for being a bit mental during my stay. I think he appreciated it?

Discharge

Mr F came to the hospital as my bust out-apprentice and carried ALL my bags to the car for our trip to the supermarket! Some of you will appreciate the mundaneness of hospital food, and even with multiple takeaways from friends and trips to the cafes, all I wanted was clean, fresh food.

In my pursuit of clean food I underestimated how difficult going to the supermarket was, and I didn’t really do anything. Some items were just way too heavy to pick up and there are a lot of people in the supermarket.

Once we were done I was beat! But had my wonderful couch and head chef, Mr F to make me a lovely fresh chicken and avo salad for lunch.

Treating myself

Having any operation and spending any period in hospital, I believe, requires nice things to happen following discharge.

For me, I jumped on the internet and booked a spa weekend away for me and Mr F for a bit of relaxation and pampering. Apparently booking a champagne breakfast by helicopter tour, or wineries by horse and cart, was a little over the top. This trip is only allowed to be 40% romantic.

Then yesterday I went window shopping for nice clothes that are appropriate for someone who has just had a mastectomy. I really don’t think they have to be that different. I wasn’t big enough to be a cleavage hoochy mamma before so I just need to be a bit more wary of choosing higher cut tops and making more out of the bottom half of my body (I saw this amazing leopard print mini – I promise it won’t make me look like a bar-tender).

Finally I went to the hairdressers to get my birds nest excavated. I washed my hair 3 times in 14 days (14 days? But that’s 2 weeks? Yes) so the girl had her work cut out. With clean hair in check, I could resume my position on my sofa, congratulating myself on a day’s hard work.