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

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PROPHYLACTIC MASTECTOMY: HOW TO CHOOSE YOUR SURGEONS?

In the UK going private is the privilege of the rich and with a dad, and now a step mum as highly respected NHS Drs, not an option I would consider. Also, as much as everyone complains about the NHS, Brits don’t realise how lucky they are to have access to world class health care they don’t have to pay for.  But lucky or not, a free health service means you don’t get to choose your Drs. You may not like them, but you generally just go with it because Dr knows best.

In Australia however, unless you are going public, you get to choose your Drs. I found this fascinating at first. You mean I get to decide if this person gets to operate on me? But they have gazillion years of training and letters after their name, surly they know better than me? Who am I to decide?

But decide you can, so I thought it would be useful to put down a few bits of advice on how to find, and choose your surgeons to conduct your prophylactic mastectomy.

Location, Location, Location

I had some constraints in terms of who I could interview or audition for the role of chopping off and building my new tits. As my insurance covered me as a private patient in a public hospital, I had to find surgeons who operated in the public system. Not all of them do? Some of them only do private – so that was my first filter.  And it may sound stupidly obvious, but do they operate in the hospital you want to be operated in?  You may have heard about the best surgeon in the world, but if it’s Pete from The Real Housewives of Orange County, he’s probably not going to be much use to you if you live in Sydney.

Who does your hair?

If you want to find a good hairdresser, ask someone with good hair. If you want to find good surgeons, ask someone who likes their reconstructed boobs. And reconstructed is the key. Your mate, Gina, may have the best fake boobs, but if her surgeon doesn’t have any experience in building them from scratch, they are unlikely to be the one for you.

Wherever you live, there are lots of forums and support groups for high risk women considering prophylactic surgery.  Asking these women to recommend good surgeons is probably a great way to find good people and feel reassured that they have done a good job of this, at least once before.

In Australia Pink Hope have private forums on Facebook for the different states. Other forums on Facebook include Previvors, Young Previvors, Prophylactic Mastectomy and BRCA sisterhood. Aussies are pretty conservative and their chat is mostly chat, however the US groups are a bit more open and they may even show you pictures of their reconstructed boobs to prove how good they are. But you may want to decide whether you want to do this pre-op. However good they might be, they will look reconstructed and you may not be ready to face that before you go under the knife.

Respected colleagues

Another way to find good surgeons is through recommendations from other surgeons. I spoke to surgeons who I couldn’t go with because they only operated in private hospitals, but they recommended surgeons, who they rated, who fitted my insurance constraints.

Working together

Strangely, my step mother is a breast surgeon. Would I have wanted her to operate on me – no – a little close to home – but she was able to give me a great piece of advice in choosing surgeons. You want to a breast and a plastic surgeon that are experienced in working together, as a team. When the breast surgeon has done his thing he needs to seamlessly high five the plastic surgeon on his way in. They also need to be able to communicate with each other in your recovery so, you may have found an amazing breast surgeon, but if he has never met your plastic surgeon before, you may want to reconsider if he or she is the right choice for you.

Practice makes perfect

You may have found your ideal surgeon, but you want to do straight to implant and they’ve only done the procedure a handful of times in their career. Once you know what surgery you want, ask your surgeons how experienced they are in it. Surgeons have their specialities in certain procedures and will naturally lean towards conducting these so you also need to be careful that you don’t get pushed into a procedure you don’t want to do. If you want nipple sparing and your breast surgeon is pushing you to remove your nipples (or vice versa), it might be because this is what they are most confident and practiced in. Don’t feel pressured into changing your mind because it’s what your surgeon wants to do, not what you want to do.

Oooh sometimes, I get a good feeling

You don’t have to like your surgeon, but you have to trust them and feel as though they are the right people for you. Do you feel comfortable asking them what you need to ask? Do they answer you honestly? Do they do what they say they’re going to do? Are they clear? Are they responsive?

In short – do you feel like they are the right surgeons for you?  If your gut says no, trust it.  It doesn’t mean they aren’t great surgeons and they may be the ideal choice for someone else, but that doesn’t matter. This is very much all about you, so have faith in your judgement and you can be confident in making the right choice.

Let me know if anyone has any other suggestions for finding the perfect breast and plastic surgeons for your prophylactic mastectomy?

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

At least you’ll get new tits!

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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

 

 

Giving My Boobs the Send Off They Deserve: Boob Off Bake Off

Having a party to say goodbye to my boobs may seem like a strange idea to some people. But, I have spent 33 years making people uncomfortable, so when I had the vague idea of having a booby send off, I put any thoughts of other people’s awkwardness to one side.  Then I thought, if I did this to raise money for http://pinkhope.org.au, even if it makes people feel really uncomfortable, it will be for a great cause.

Originally I had big ideas for the Boob Off Bake Off – the amount of games that can be made better with the addition of a breast, are infinite.  First I considered boob darts, until the question of sharp implements, my friends, a lot of booze and my house came into the equation and that was canned.

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My boyfriend talked me out of playing ‘Hot Boob’. For those of you who are not familiar, this is where a group of people pass a prosthetic breast fillet around until the music stops. A bit like pass the parcel. However, we did feel the levels of awkwardness + organised fun would be a little too much.

chicken fillets

Pin the nipple of the boob was also on the cards. First of all we were going to get big nudie magazines and give people stickers, or ‘nipples’ to pin whilst blindfolded. Then it was downgraded to a big sheet of paper with boobs drawn on them where people had to find the correct place with a pen.  I know what you’re thinking, this sounds awesome.  Yes, but I got really busy and forgot about this. http://www.connect2mason.com/node/1177

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What my wonderful boyfriend did manage to do was make a giant booby piñata. I think this is a great addition to any party (boob related or not), so we’ll talk you through how to make one in a separate blog post. However, all you need to know for now is that he spent ALL week on this. He kindly tried to get me involved stating that couples who partake in arts and crafts together, will stay together… This was essentially a lie to get me to finish the thing. Which, I did by painting the beautiful monstrosity. Please don’t judge me on the colours, Mr F bought the colours so I worked with the tools I was given.

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More about the piñata shortly.

So, with grand plans scaled down somewhat, we got to the task at hand.  We decorated the place with pink balloons, pink cups and napkins.  If anyone was confused as to where they were going, we also mounted a plastic bust on our front door.

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I woke up ridiculously early to bake two different types of cupcakes.  Having contemplated how I was going to develop the nipple all week, I had the incredibly good idea to make them out of marshmallows and giant chocolate buttons.  So yes, they didn’t look much like nipples, but they tasted delicious. http://www.cookrepublic.com/recipe-archive/strawberry-jam-cupcakes

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Blessed by the good weather gods, our lovely guests started to arrive and soon our house was FULL of boob related baked goods. I was bowled over by the effort everyone went to, they not only looked great, but tasted unreal. The piece to resistance was this wonderful bust cake that I loved so much I hid it under the table so I can take it into work and ask people to pay to eat it.

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With a house full of cakes, combined with copious amounts of fizzy wine, our guests were bouncing off the walls on E numbers by 6pm.  Which, seemed like the perfect time for the piñata?

I warn you, please conduct this game with space and a safety barrier. I kicked off proceedings, but was a bit of a wimp and passed the stick pretty quickly.  My friend’s boyfriend then took over and whilst he only made a dent in the left breast, he almost took out my frangipani tree out as well as 10% of my guests.

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Mr F then had the job of destroying his beautiful creation to release the contents of Celebrations and Ferrero Roche left over from Christmas.

I had a great day and even allowed myself a few glasses of fizzy. The celebrations continued until 11.30 (which is about 2 hours after my pre-operation curfew) until the hard core guests continued into the night and I retired to by bed.

We raised around $600 for http://www.pinkhope.org.au and my current boobs are grateful for their soiree.

If you are in a similar situation and can face it I would strongly recommend throwing yourself a booby send off (you can even do it once they’ve gone if that’s easier to stomach). Does it make the situation easier to deal with? Not really. Does it make light of the mammouth undertaking I’m about to take. Yes, kind of. Was it a lot of fun in a very serious time? Yes, and if it raised a little bit for a charity that has been incredibly important to me, then brilliant!

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