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

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

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

No news is good news

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

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

One year on: How are my boobs?

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

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

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

One year on: What can I do?

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

One year on: What else has happened?

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

Wrapping up

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

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

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

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Post-Exchange Surgery Milestones (as agreed with my surgeon)

goals

It’s two weeks out from my exchange surgery that swapped my rock hard expanders to squishy boobies so I thought it was a good time to let you know how I was getting on, as well as share with you the mini-milestones I am working towards in my recovery.

Healing wise I am pretty good. My wounds look good and I’m massaging the stiches and boobs with a good deal of cocoa butter. I have some nerve pain in my left arm and my left side feels more delicate than the right. Apart from that I feel fine and am mobile as a go cart. I’ve been walking every day and am now back on the cross trainer (minus the arms). Apparently I can drive when I feel comfortable, but I’ve tried twice and I don’t feel ready yet – I need two hands to move the gear stick in and out of reverse and parking is a bitch.

As well as this, I am eagerly working towards a few more milestones. Obviously if you are reading this at a similar stage in your pbm journey, here is the disclaimer….. I am not a medical expert (although my Dad is a Dr, apparently that doesn’t qualify me). This is the advice from my surgeon based on my circumstances. Please consult your surgeon on when you can do, what you want to do, following your surgery.

Right, back to me:

2 weeks post-surgery:

–          Walking

–          Cross trainer – MINUS ARMS

3 weeks post-surgery:

–          Running

–          Spin class

5 weeks post-surgery

–          Ride my bike – yey! (I did ask my surgeon why I could go to spin class at 3 weeks and not ride my bike until 5 weeks. He explained that I could fall off my bike. I didn’t tell him that in the week before surgery I’d fallen off my bike twice… and I’d only been drunk on one of those occasions).

–          Yoga

6 weeks post-surgery

–          Hoping to take off this massive, asexual surgical bra that I’m spending every waking and sleeping moment in since the op. I’m so excited I’ve already ordered this beautiful brassier from M&S, which may or may not be the right size http://www.marksandspencer.com/Rosie-Autograph-Padded-French-Designed/dp/B003ZKVKGU?_encoding=UTF8&mnSBrand=core

I do have a few more than this – like when can I ever do a press up again, or can I do a body pump class and get my muscles back – but they can wait.

How exciting!

xxxxxxx

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

MyBoobs2

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?

Where the hell have you been?

 where-are-you-now

 Well, in short, probably at work…!

But as some of you know, I have been quiet for a while. So I thought it was time to a) write and b) tell you how I’m doing. So, why haven’t I written…?

Work:

The overriding reason why I haven’t written is work. It has literally taken over my life in the last 2 months and my time-off post-operation seems like an age away. I like my job, but there are aspects that make me wonder how long I can physically do it for.

At times work can be so busy – from the moment you get in to the moment you leave you can honestly not stop – no time for Facebook, other people will get your lunch and you often forget to pee until your bladder starts prodding you, threatening to burst. In busy times this ridiculousness can start from 7.30am in the morning, through to 11pm at night and into the weekend.  This week I was writing emails on a cross trainer at 6am in the morning – I was another person I would generally refer to as a complete idiot.

The pressure can also be so intense. I work in a service industry of sorts (Public Relations) where you are tasked with meeting very high expectations set by other people. This can mean that the volume, nature and direction of your work load are out of your control and constantly changing. Combined with the fact that in PR, regardless of how hard you work, the outcome you want is not guaranteed means your anxiety levels can be at a constant high.

Finally, the last element of pressure can come from managing the team. I’m relatively senior and the welfare of my team is often my primary concern. This is great if they are doing well, but if they are not it involves having difficult conversations pretty much every day. Difficult conversations in a high pressure atmosphere is a fertile environment for tears – lots of tears! My team work really, really hard, but regardless, sometimes I still need to have difficult conversations that may upset people. These don’t sit easily with me and I regularly come home hating myself; conflicted between trying to a good job, but also being somewhat responsible for other people’s stress and unhappiness.

Don’t get me wrong- none of the above is a shock. I’ve done this gig for 10 years and am a big girl. I know what I do. But when the shit hits the fan I shut down. Social arrangements are non-existent, along with my relationship with my boyfriend.

Taking a respite from my tits:

The other reason I’ve been absent is that for the last 9 months to a year all I have talked about is my tits. Yawn. After a while this gets BOR-ING!

My last 2 fills were pretty painful and the day after my last one I got on a plane to Bali to go to a wedding.  This physical break has allowed me to take a metaphorical break from the subject of my artificial mammaries.

To be honest I think I needed it. There comes a point when over-talking and thinking about one thing for so long becomes counter-therapeutic. So stop I did.

I’m also not sure how I feel about my boobs and how they will look post exchange. I like them at the moment.  They are 400cc and nice and round. In tight tops they look sensational and they are pert as hell. However, they are nowhere as big as I would like them to be. Dimension wise they might be, but how they sit, they feel small. Then I keep on hearing how my exchange implants will sit differently and smaller. Well I don’t really know how I feel about that.

So while I am processing my expected disappointment, I’ve not really felt I’ve wanted to verbalise what’s going on in my head.

How am I doing?

Apart from my A4 moan above I am absolutely fine. Those who know me will know I like a winge so please don’t read too much into the above.

It’s two months before my exchange surgery and in preparation I am back on my healthy straight. I am cleaning up my diet again (it’s mostly pretty good – when I say cleaning up I mean I won’t be drinking 5 nights out of 7) and bringing yoga back into my fitness routine more regularly.

I have also started acupuncture to try and ease my stress levels and get my body back in balance again.  I have only done it twice but loving it.

I’m really looking forward to the exchange – perversely as I’ll have some time off work – and also so I can live a life where my boobs are not the most interesting thing about me.

Anyway, that’s me. How the hell have you lot been?

GETTING TESTED FOR THE BRCA MUTATION

Since starting this blog and especially since Angelina’s BRCA mutation and subsequent prophylactic mastectomy hit the news, there has been more interest from friends and family who might be considering being tested.

The process isn’t necessarily complicated, but there are things that I discovered along the way, that you might not read in a manual or that your Dr will tell you. With this in mind I thought it would be a good idea to outline what I did (and should have done) when I got tested for the BRCA mutation.

I will say that this is my experience and my experience in Australia (with a bit of the UK health service thrown in). This is not a definitive guide and I have listed reference points at the bottom of this article where you can go for more information. If any Aussies want to tell me their experiences I will continue to update this post to make sure it’s relevant.

Before you do anything, sort out your admin

Before you think about getting tested it’s worth sorting out certain things you may not have already and may need further down the road.

If you don’t have life insurance, it’s probably a good idea to sort that out before you get tested so a positive result isn’t taken into consideration when calculating your premiums, or working out whether or not they will insure you.

More important than this, GET DECENT HEALTH INSURANCE.  I cannot stress this enough. I had some health insurance, which meant I was somewhat covered when it came to my operation. But my poor level of health insurance affected some of my decisions, including what hospital I could choose and what surgeons were available to me. Also, as a non-permanent Australian resident, as I am, you also need health insurance, otherwise you won’t be eligible for any rebate under the reciprocal Medicare agreement.

You need the health insurance before you get tested otherwise the BRCA mutation or any surgery resulting from a positive result will be seen as a predetermined condition and your insurance company may not cover you.

Know your family history

In order to qualify for testing, you will need to demonstrate why you might be eligible i.e. you have high incidence of cancer in your family. You will be asked this from the start and then time and time again if you do test positive and decide to undergo surgery.

Speak to your family members and find out who in your family has had cancer, what cancer they have had and what age they were diagnosed.

This quiz will help you determine whether you are at high risk, and shows you some of the questions your Drs will be asking to determine whether you are a candidate for testing. They include a family or personal history of breast cancer before the age of 50, incidence in two or more relatives, breast cancer in a male relative, cancer in both breasts or twice in the same breast, breast cancer and Ashkenazi or Eastern European Jewish ancestry and ovarian cancer at any age.

http://www.inheritedrisk.com/inherit-risk-cancer/

If you have not had cancer but think you may be at risk, find out if anyone in your family has tested positive for the mutation and request a copy of their pathology results.

If no one in your family has been tested, but you have surviving relatives who have had cancer, you may want to request that they get tested first. The reason for this is a little complicated but this extract explains why quite succinctly:

Genetic testing for mutations in the ‘cancer protection’ genes is complex. First, the mutation has to be identified in a family member who has or had the cancer.  This is called a mutation search and may take considerable time.

Second, and only if a mutation is found, other family members without cancer can be tested to determine if they have inherited the faulty gene. This is called predictive genetic testing (see Genetics Fact Sheet 21)”

http://www.genetics.edu.au/Information/Genetics-Fact-Sheets/Cancer-Genes-and-Inherited-Predisposition-Overview-Cancer-Genetics-1-FS47/view

My Dr explained it by saying, looking for a gene mutation is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But if someone gives you a map – in the form of your relative’s genetic mutation make-up – it makes it easier to determine an accurate result.

Speak to your Dr

To get the process in motion, I first went to my GP, explained my family history and that I wanted to talk to someone about testing. They referred me to the Hereditary Cancer Clinic in Randwick but your Dr will refer you to the best place for you.

Armed with my family history, my uncle’s pathology results and the name of the clinic where he was tested, the Drs at the Hereditary Cancer Clinic were able to put the wheels in motion.

Before you sign a piece of paper and give your blood to be tested, the clinic will ensure you have talked to a genetic counsellor.  They aren’t like normal counsellor in any way shape or form.  Their job is to ensure you have enough information about testing, what a positive result means for your risk, its implications and the options that are available if you do test positive.

Then when you are sure you sign a piece of paper and the testing process begins.

It takes about a month (if not less) to get the results. Mine was longer as they were getting my uncle’s blood from the UK and the NHS didn’t make this very easy for them.

Get some support

As a lot of you know I am a stubborn person who is determined to do everything by myself. Looking back I wish I’d sorted my support system a lot sooner. I have great friends, but you need people who get it. It didn’t help for me that I broke up with my boyfriend and got made redundant couple of days before I got my results.

Pink Hope are the Australian charity that helps women with both support and resources and I have met amazing people through them who told me things I needed to know, but would have never asked.

Other Facebook groups I’m a member of are called Previvors and the BRCA Sisterhood group.  These are closed groups and you may have to explain why you are qualified to join. I would say, these groups are brilliant, but I am glad I didn’t join these particular groups until I was ready to have my preventative mastectomy. Culturally American groups are very different from Aussie and UK groups – we are a lot more conservative and less likely to share so honestly, or visually. This is brilliant for when you’re going into surgery, but at the BRCA testing stage I’m not sure how helpful it is to see women’s reconstructed breasts. The ‘freak-out’ potential is a little too much.

I started seeing someone professionally following my diagnosis. I only went a few times but I do think it was useful to help try to process everything.

Results day

Take someone with you and get them to drive you.

Despite having broken up with Mr F a couple of days before the test, he was the person I wanted to come with me.  Go figure huh.

Just having someone there immediately after helps avoid those feelings of despair and the opportunity to overthink.  We went and had a lot of wine and spoke about everything other than my new BRCA status and our relationship.

A positive result

Remember throughout all of this, you may not test positive.  But if you do, it’s not a death sentence. You need to remember you don’t have cancer and chances are, you may not get it any time soon. Take your time deciding what you do next and like I said, lean on everyone you can for support.

Resources

–          http://www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/34/2/49/51#.UZoFQ7Vgd2A

–          http://www.genetics.edu.au/Information/Genetics-Fact-Sheets/Cancer-Genes-and-Inherited-Predisposition-Overview-Cancer-Genetics-1-FS47/view

–     http://www.genetics.edu.au/Information/PublicationsBrochuresandPamphlets/Genetic%20Tests%20for%20Breast%20and%20Ovarian%20Cancer%20Decision%20Aid

–          http://pinkhope.org.au/

–          http://www.mydestiny-us.com/

5th Expansion: 350 CC and at capacity

EXLODING BOOBS

I had my capacity fill this week.  Come Tuesday and I was already nervous about this time round. 300CC had been tight and my boobs had never smelt so good as I repeatedly massaged cocoa butter into them through the day. Mr F finds this habit a little off-putting when I am in the middle of a conversation with him, but needs must. 

‘Pump me up’ Wednesday arrives and I jump out of bed at 6am to go to spin. By 9am I want my body to be numb to any external stimuli so I pop 2 Panadols. By 8am I am ready to get on the bus to the hospital and I pop 2 more. I proudly relay my strategy to the Silver Fox PS’s lovely nurse and she seems a little alarmed and tells me to prolong my frequency to every 4 hours. But SF PS isn’t too fazed.

So far, so good.  I can now physically feel the needle puncturing my muscle on booth breasts, it is very tight and it feels that the saline has been replaced by lead, but it’s OK… tight as hell, but OK.

metal breasts

Until about 1pm.

I’m so dosed up on Panadol that I shouldn’t be able to feel a sledge hammer coming towards me, but it’s not the muscle discomfort.  My actual boobs are fine.  The sensation is partly the feeling that I am in a vice that has been tightened just enough to let me breathe. But only just enough.  On top of this is a nerve pain in my back and arms that is similar to the back pain I felt in hospital when I had my Seroma. It’s so intense, and a pain that has no location it increases my anxiety and feelings of discomfort tenfold.

I like to think of myself as a pretty tough chick.  Which is part of the reason I was probably single for a good chunk of my late 20s?  I never admit I need help and I can do anything I set my mind to, all by myself! I know that if the pain is too intense I can call my PS and arrange to go get some saline taken out- but for me, that = regression and I am a big advocate of progress.

But by 3pm when I find myself sitting at my desk sobbing, I at least decide to go to the chemist.

He gives me PanafenPlus which is a combination of ibuprofen to stop inflammation and codeine for the pain.  He says I can also double this up with Panadene if I’m still struggling.

All this would be enough to deal with, but I also have a work event scheduled for this evening. I know my team are completely across things, but the owner of the company has flown in from Russia and it really doesn’t look good for me not to be there, so I call my client and let her know that I’ll just be staying until everyone sits down for dinner.

By the time I get there the Panafen has started to kick in and the pain is less intense when I’m actually doing something so I crack on and decide to stay for dinner.

This is when I sit down and have a glass of wine…

Now I’m really sorry, this isn’t very PC or clever or anything that a medical professional would advise to do, or anything I would recommend for anyone to do.  i.e. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS BASED ON THIS POST.

But wow, the pain suddenly became bearable.  You can see why celebs get addicted to painkillers and a nice glass (or 5) of Shiraz. For the first time that day I don’t feel the anxiety, the pressure or any pain.

Anyway, wino advice over. This extreme pain has subsided.  I am waking up in the morning with the feeling that my breasts have been left out in the sun all night and the skin has tightened up over my angry expanders.  I also can’t sleep on my left side as both yesterday and today I have woken up with pins and needles all down my left arm which doesn’t abate until the afternoon.

This coming Wednesday I need to choose whether I want to try and over-expand the expander. The capacity is 350 but SF PS says they could try to push it further. For the sake of slightly bigger boobs do I want a few more days of pain and the risk of getting on a plane to Bali that evening with a load of pain killers and a face full of tears? We will see.

#thejoysofbuildingbreastsfromscratch.

 

 

 

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

Purpose

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.

Signs I’m ready to go back to work

working girl

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….

ben-flajnik-bachelor-abc

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