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

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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

 

 

Day 8: What Happens After Drain Removal?

Yesterday was Good Friday, 8 days after my operation and 8 days in the wonderful Royal Hospital for Women.

The day started well as I accepted the ward breakfast for the first time since I’ve been here. This featured a very hard, yet tasty, hot cross bun. The reason for it being my first ward breakfast is partly because I’m an incredible food snob and also, I have started to combine my morning walk with a lush Campos coffee and nice sourdough toast and Vegemite – as opposed to processed white bread and instant coffee. Please don’t judge me.

Campos

I was still on a high from the removal of my right-side drain the day before. And despite the drain levels on my left side doubling from the previous night, the left-side fluid had turned very pale so I was confident that it was doing its thing.

Riding on my wave of positivity, I was about to embark on my first half-shower in 8 days, when I took a peek at my blossoming foobs (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Foobs).  After a slow start I’m pretty good with them now and have become increasingly familiar with them over the last few days. So imagine my surprise when my right boob looks like it’s got a blister on the side of it and feels like a water balloon to touch.

red_water_balloon

For the past week the many surgeons who come to visit me, breast and plastic, have stressed how bad it is if my smeggy bodily fluid collects in my breast cavity. The unwavering message I have taken from multiple conversations is fluid (or smeg), in breast cavity = bad!

So the only natural reaction from someone who’s still on a quite strong meds, has been cooped up in a hospital for 8 days, and has a dramatic disposition at the best of time is to FREAK OUT!

I ask my lovely nurse, who is a small women in her 60’s with an Australian accent like someone from 80’s soap opera, Sons and Daughters, seems a little concerned. However, when I ask her to call a Dr she nervously says we should wait until they come round this morning. Hmm, I have already mentioned how Australia officially closes on Good Friday and I imagine that applies to surgeons too, so waiting is not really an option I want to entertain.

Next step, call Mr F crying, saying my boob looks like a water balloon. He’s just woken up. Is not a Dr and is not really sure how to help me.

Destination number 3, go to ballsy, 20-something Irish nurse who’s been saying I should be allowed to go home since day 3. This is a good stop. She looks at it and says, don’t panic, I’ll call the Dr. Great response.

I sit and wait, cry a bit more, and eventually a plastic surgeon, who I have never met and looks around 23, arrives. My relief is minimal. My plastic’s team aren’t the warmest bunch, but at least I know them.

Child plastic surgeon (CPS) looks at my boob. I am holding my breath and waiting for the worst until he shrugs his shoulders and says… well, it’s quite normal for a bit of fluid to collect after your drain is removed. It will disperse over time.

WHAT?

This clearly wasn’t the answer I was expecting and I hate to say it, but work Trisha comes out to play. (Brief summary; work Trisha can be very nice, but she’s also quite pushy, doesn’t like to be taken for a ride and generally wants to know that people aren’t taking the piss. Sounds like a dream, right?) So I begin to quiz CPS on his diagnosis. I use words such as ‘with all due respect’, ‘please try to appreciate where my concern lies’ and ‘I’m sure you know what you know what you’re talking about, but please understand, I’ve never met you before.’

He clearly thinks I’m a bit of a dick, but reassures me that it’s not a lot of fluid. They could drain it out but that involves sticking a needle in my boob, which involves sticking a foreign object in there, which increases the risk of infection = the pinnacle of  this is a bad thing and something you don’t want to happen. OK. He leaves and the ballsy Irish nurse tells me that he is good and he’s older than he looks. She also makes a valid point that if he gives me bad advice and gets it wrong, his boss, my main silver-fox plastic surgeon, will be pretty peeved.

My lovely 2IC breast surgeon then comes shortly after that and confirms that he is not worried by the fluid. He then recommends I start applying Betadine to my bruised looking nipples, once a day. It makes them look more bruised in the short-term but I trust this is an effective way of keeping them infection free!

So everyone leaves and I’m reassured (I’ve also triple and quadruple checked with my friend from Pink Hope http://pinkhope.org.au/and my step mum, who is also a breast surgeon), but still a little teary. It’s at this point the nurses urge me to escape from hospital for a few hours. They can clearly see I’m going slightly mental and losing the plot. So with more information and less tears I call Mr F and ask him to break me out!

And here I am, patient on the run, complete with name tag and smegggy drain bag at the beautiful Bronte Beach, Australia. One large skimmed latte, poached eggs and avocado on sourdough please. And order is restored.

Breakout

 

 

One Down One to Go: Expulsion of a Post-Mastectomy Drain Revealed

Well someone or something has to get out of here at some point. And if it can’t be me, it may as well be my right drain.

donald-trump-youre-fired

After Smeg-Gate yesterday, my fluid secretion on my right-side decreased a lot. Despite 4 Drs telling me it would come out tomorrow, the big honcho, plastic surgeon boss over-ruled them all and ordered it to be expelled immediately!

A couple of things you should know before I go on. Drain-Gate is still in full swing and despite the smeg from my left side becoming much paler in colour, the fluid levels are still pretty high. Even higher than yesterday. So I’m still quite upset about this as it means, as my Drs bugger off for Easter (I don’t know if they all are yet but I reckon they will), I am definitely here until at least Monday, maybe even Tuesday! 12 days! I wouldn’t spend that long on holiday in Port Douglas and I really like that place.

The other thing I need to warn you about is, what you are about to see is pretty gross. I’m not going to go on about it for ages, but the following pictures may upset you,especially if you are currently devouring an Easter Egg. You have been warned.

Expulsion of a Post-Mastectomy Drain Revealed

Low fluid levels… check. Hurrah.

Drain

Empty suction ball…check. Gross but yey!

Bubble

Part of the drain that was very much INSIDE my body – check out the stitch that was attached to my body to see how long it is. It’s about 6 inches. And a real 6 inches gentlemen, thank you very much.

innertube

And here, a little bit blurry, is the hole in my arm-pit where the drain resided. Apparently it closes in 24 hours. I said to my lovely nurse, “a bit like a tongue ring?”. She couldn’t confirm or deny this, and to be honest I’m 33, what do I know about tongue rings?

armpithole

And at the end of all this, I am left with this rather fetching drain bag, currently up for grabs to the highest bidder.

Drainbag

Oops, much better now: Day 4 Day and Day 5 Morning

Right, so you’ll be pleased to know, I am in much better spirits today. As I also was yesterday afternoon so apologies for that little dent in my spirits as I hit the wall of the Macquarie ward.

crazy

After pouring out my soul yesterday I had a nice visit from my two, no frills friends. This is not an insult to them or anything to do with their appearance. It’s due to the fact that they are two of my friends I know I don’t even have to speak to when they come or make any effort, so in short, no frills. They took me for breaky on the grass and we watched patients, hooked up to their IVs, puffing away on their cigarettes in the hospital amphitheater.

????????????????????????????

I am not one to judge, especially as when life throws you a hundred curve balls, sometimes a cigarette is the least of your worries. However, I am glad I knocked my once social habit on its head years ago. Especially as smokers have more chance of their nipples failing post-surgery due to poor blood circulation. (you may pick up that as well as bowel watch, I am also on my own private-ish nipple watch)

I then slept for a couple of hour’s yesterday afternoon.  The first time in the day, since surgery.  Bliss! Even on waking, with eyes full of smeg, I felt a heap better than I had that morning.

My two friends, northern K and German K came to visit in the afternoon. They brought with them a lovely zebra plant with the famous last words ‘you can’t kill this plant’… I have killed every plant that has been introduced to me in this way. Then more importantly, German K washed my hair and plaited it. This is important because:

I smell;

Wash

It’s been a good few days and I’ve only been able to wash with these wonderful, Bed in Bath wipes. They are essentially like baby wipes on speed. Massive! The packaging says, ‘for a complete bath’, which is a ‘complete lie’. Until the drains come out I can’t shower, so I have been festival washing any skin that hits the air. I still have the surgeon’s marker pen on my chest, as well as the black sticky marks where plasters have been. I have been wearing the same surgical socks for days, and whilst, as you know, I have been changing my pants daily (yesterday was luminous orange, today, turquoise) I am starting to hum. Thanks to the pesky drains coming out of my pits I can’t use deodorant and I’m too scared to try and shave them in case I catch something (small mercies that this is definitely wouldn’t be one of my breasts.)

Before the op I worried about how attractive my boyfriend would find me sans boobs. I hadn’t taken into consideration this might be mainly because I’m gross. A fact, which Mr F confirmed last night.

Bowel watch:

Day 5 and there is still no sign. This is now, the main question anyone is asking me. My pain is well under control, and so it seems, are my bowels.  Victorian control! Despite laxatives, multiple walks round the car park, stomach massages and a couple of squats, there is no movement. My stomach is so swollen it is now more prominent than my deflated chest. However, whilst I’m still able to breathe and not in pain, I’ll resist the urge to double dose on the laxatives.  Do not fear – I’ll keep you updated.

Drain gate:

Whilst it’s a bit minging, I fear it’s difficult for anyone to really understand what I mean when I say I have drains coming out of my armpit, so see below for a graphic visual. These lead into the cavity of my chest, where all the potentially cancerous tissue and fat has been removed and where my expanders are currently sitting behind my pectoral wall.

drain1

Blood coming out of the drains is a good thing because if blood collects in the cavity I have to go back under to open up my wounds again and the risk of infection is high. Also, as the Dr’s keep saying, it’s better out than in. However, before I can go home, and essentially before they can start filling up my expanders and giving me new boobs again, the drains need to run dry.

drain2

It is this area that is causing the delay. My right side is doing OK and the volume of blood and serum that collects in the bag each night (that they change at 12am) is decreasing. My left side on the other hand remains pretty heavy and the blood is darker. There is nothing wrong per se, as long as it’s draining out, but it does have to do its course before I can continue with mine.

Infection = bad! Especially with expanders as if this happens, they have to remove them and it could be a while before the reconstruction process can begin.

Day 5

So a day 5 begins my aims are as follows:

  • Walk
  • Read – I usually love reading, but have been too hyper until now to settle down with a good book
  • Meditate
  • Keep on an even keel…

Crash: Day 3 and Day 4 Morning

kind

They warned me that day 2 would be crash day. The day when all the drugs wear off and you realise the enormity of what you’ve done? Well for me that was day 3. Although depending on how you look at it, if you count surgery day as just being surgery day, yesterday could well have been day 2.

On paper yesterday was good. I got up in the morning and did my exercises – congratulated myself on being so strong and threw in some squats. My friend, Kiwi A, came in the morning and we had coffee and breakfast outside on the grass. My two friends, D and S, came straight after at the same time as my boyfriend, with another coffee (this may have been too much), and stayed til 1pm. As they left I saw them out with a walk round the car park with Mr F.

I returned to my room, had a peek at my chest, fell asleep and was woken by two new friends, M and L, who brought me nice pants from Peter Alexander in an egg carton – ingenious. I went for another walk round the car park before greeting my lovely friend, E, who brought a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. E and Mr F stayed until about 7pm. When they left I repeated my exercises, watched the Real Housewives of Miami and went to sleep.

However, extract things from paper and this was not the entire day.

Boob Watch:

I did look at my boobs. They are not as bad as you’d think. My left nipple looks OK and my scars are really tiny. However my right nipple looks bruised and sore and my overall impression was that I looked like action man.

I called Mr F and cried. Bless him, everyone else sees good Trisha, he on the other hand has the one that can only cry with him. Besides, what can you say when your girlfriend calls you up and says she looks like action man?

Bowel Watch:

Despite drinking 2 glasses of prune juice, walking around A LOT and having A LOT of wind… (sorry – oversharing) I still haven’t been to the toilet since Wednesday evening! I wouldn’t mind if I didn’t feel so very, very full and swollen.  Bearing in mind I’m only eating 2 meals a day and avoiding the 3 servings of white bread they are giving me in here. By the time I went to sleep last night I was struggling to breathe I was so expanded.

So of course I called Mr F-Therapist and cried, again (man going out with me is ridiculously rubbish), and he told me to ask for some laxatives.  I didn’t and went to sleep – until I was woken up to change my drains at 12pm and the nurse offered me some.

Midnight Caller:

I was then awake (as I have been at this time for the last 3 nights) and got a txt from AF to see if I was a) asleep and b) OK.  This time I blame him as I txted I was fine and he insisted on Skyping. It was at this point I cried, again!  Long story short he cheered me up and I managed to go back to sleep.

Morning has broken…

Got woken up to take pain killers this morning. If only pain killer could make me sleep and go to the toilet. Saw that my drain incision in my left armpit had leaked… cried… you realise this is again, right?

So look, I know, I’m shattered. I haven’t slept for 3 nights, some people took my boobs away and I still haven’t been to the toilet. I just feel a bit bad as I have been this positive poster girl for how to react when you wake up flat chested and my current emotional state makes me feel like I’ve duped you all.

Game plan

Today the game plan is to sleep as much as possible. I have been for one walk already and I’m determined the next one will push me to the toilet. Finally I’m going to give myself a break.  All this positivity is really hard work and despite what my many self-help books and Pinterest mantras may say, it’s alright to feel like crap from time to time and I’m allowing myself that indulgence for day 4.

kindess

Hospital Fashion

I am currently in hospital, not hiding! Despite not having any breasts at present, I’d still like to make an effort to look as nice as I can. So ladies and gentleman, with the help of my very talented photographer, Miss H Pike, I bring you, HOSPITAL HAUTE COUTURE:

Massage Socks:

massagelegsAmazing. You get these pre-op and they keep them on for about a day and a half. They massage one leg at a time and stop you from getting DVT. If only every Easy Jet or Tiger Airways plane had these installed.

Compression Socks:

DVTsocks

If you act really healthy and show you can get up and walk around, they take the amazing massage socks away from you and give you these compression stockings. They do the same thing, just nowhere near as cool.

Rabbit Eye Mask:
eyemask eyemask2

They wake you up all the time here, especially during the first night, so the reality is you need to sleep when you can and this pretty thing helps.  It also doubles up as a head band and hides greasy fringes that can’t be washed for a few days. Find it at the Aussie King of night-time apparel, Peter Alexander http://www.peteralexander.com.au/shop/en/peteralexander.

Drain Bags:

drainhandbags

I was wearing these as bracelets on my wrist, until again, I got more mobile and they gave me some floral bags to carry them in. Not very attractive but I guess they are better than exposing the plastic sacks containing the contents of my arm pits?

Comfy, Brightly Coloured Pants from Bonds:

pants

 

Avid readers will remember that I wanted to start each day in hospital with brand new, brightly coloured pants so I could begin the day in a positive fashion. Today I opted for purple and white stripes bikini briefs, brought to life with this shocking pink band. http://www.bonds.com.au/womens/underwear/hipster-bikini-244.html#80=3313&142=778

Armpit Cushions:

pitbags pitbags2

 

The breast nurse left these for me. Not quite worked out what they are for. I think they make sure your drains don’t rub? I dunno, they are purple and shiny though so that’s nice.

Adult Baby Onesie:

OnesieI can’t really get anything over my head, so what better than this button up, adult onesie from, you guessed it, Peter Alexander. The pockets are also deep enough to carry my drain bags,which is supper helpful when getting in and out of bed to travel all of 3 feet to the toilet. http://www.peteralexander.com.au/shop/en/peteralexander/pastel-stripe-onesie

Knitted Bunny Headphones:

earphones

This was a present from work. I haven’t used them yet as I have been too busy pressing the morphine button and blogging about ridiculous topics to pass the time, but they go with the ensemble and people love them! http://www.shop.cottonon.com/shop/product/knitted-headphones-bunny-pink/

OK, that’s it from the hospital fashionista for now.  Hope you enjoyed my style tips from the surgical catwalk.

 

Day One: Surgery Day

blogger

Mr F has told me that I’m only allowed to write a very short blog due to the fact that since I have come out of recovery, I have not stopped and have been bouncing off the walls.  So as he’s been amazing and I need him to do quite a lot for me, I am going to listen to him and limit this blog post to the highlights of today:

  • 5:50am: Alarm call – read messages on Facebook, cried
  • 6:45am: Got to hospital, paid $270 to get a room on my own – it’s more expensive than a posh Travelodge (p.s. I don’t actually have my own room at the moment despite this – but can’t be bothered to write about it)
  • Get changed into my gowns, me and Mr F debate whether I should wear pants for surgery or not. He wins, I put my pants back on
  • Go down to theatre and sit on a bed. About 3 mins later it’s time for Mr F to leave. This is much sooner than we thought. We say our goodbyes, he looks more worried than me. I am wheeled off
  • Starting to get hooked up when my plastic surgeon comes down to tell them he hasn’t marked me up yet.  I walk to a little room, protecting my modesty at my derriere, conscious that I wore terrible pants today. He marks me up with those really toxic pens that people in Merthyr Tydfil use on the weekend… The drugs begin
  • 8am: I’m back and a very charismatic, Maltese anesthetist comes to pump me up. He’s shouting at people to get all number of drugs and, before I know it, unknown substances are pouring into my body, via my hand
  • 08:10am: In the theatre, it’s freezing! It is now that I have a little ‘ARE YOU KIDDING ME’ moment. I have been the most positive patient in Randwick all morning so this is a contrast.  Have a pep talk with myself, which is aided by the anesthetic.  We debate whether I’m going to Miami or Cardiff… I choose Miami … OUT COLD
  • 12ishpm: Wake up in recovery and want to see Mr F. They won’t let me leave until my heart rate goes up – it’s at a worrying low level – I inform them that I am incredibly fit and so my resting heart rate is amazing, and low. After a while they buy this and move me to the ward
  • 3pm: Mr F is waiting for me, he expects me to be woozy, I’m high as a kite and so excited to see him.  Have my first glass of water in 17 hours. The water goes through the gas tubes in my nose
  • I have a support bandage on my chest – looks like one of the boob tubes I was fond of wearing to Astoria when I was 17. Two drains coming out my armpits. A morphine button to my left – ACE
  • Mr F sets me up for any eventuality – WI Fi hot spot, iPad, Heat magazine, mobile phone, laptop

  • 5pm: I get a little Hangry. It’s been 20 hours since I’ve eaten anything. I also start telling Mr F that for breakfast tomorrow I’d like a skimmed latte with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast. He sighs – this is going to be the cue for when I push it.  Note to self, don’t piss off the carer
  • 5:45pm: FOOD! Chicken soup (reminds me of uni), small cheese sandwich, vanilla slice and a cup of tea. Mr F has a sandwich and half the vanilla slice
  • I crash for a second. Food had made me realise pain.  I cry for 2 seconds, press the switch of pain relief love, am happy again
  • 6:30ishpm: I decide to write a blog post. Mr F is not that impressed. My breast surgeon comes to see me. He is impressed, for him, this is a positive thing. He’s going to check on me over the next few days to see if my nipples look like they’re going to survive… Good luck nipples!
  • 6:45pm: I tell Mr F to leave as a) I want to write my blog post and b) I feel bad, he’s been here a while and has done at least 48 patient duties – which he has excelled at I might add
  • Mr F goes to leave and I start crying. Oh

And here I am. Nearly 12 hours with no boobs and everything is OK. I feel like I’ve done one million push ups and my range of movement is really limited, but my head is good and at this moment in time, there’s no regrets.

Back tomorrow. (p.s. this blog aint short, sorry)