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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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.

 

 

 

ANSWERED: I’m not going to have any boobs – do I really need a bra?

Some of you may remember my post that asked the question, if I’m getting my boobs lopped off, do I really need a bra? http://www.imgettingmyboobsoff.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/

Despite having done quite a lot of research, at that point I did not have a definitive answer. So as I went to my last pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon, I was keen to get the answer.

I like my plastic surgeon, as much as anyone needs to like their plastic surgeon. He’s pretty straight up, honest and seems to have my best interests at heart. As a result, I trust him and that’s what’s important for me. However, am I going to invite him and his family over for dinner? It’s unlikely. Does he laugh at any of my ‘I’m a really positive patient’ jokes? No. Not even one.

I arrive at my appointment with my bra questions printed out on a piece of paper and wait for my cue…

Plastic surgeon: “So Trisha, do you have any questions?”

Me: “Yes, do I need to wear a bra after surgery?”

Plastic surgeon: “No”

Me: “Oh, I thought you might give me one?”

Plastic surgeon: “No”

Me: “Oh, I see. I read somewhere that I won’t ever need to wear a bra ever again?”

Plastic surgeon: “No, you don’t.”

Me: “I’m not sure about how I feel about that. I quite like wearing a bra.”

Plastic surgeon: “You can choose to wear a bra, but you don’t need to.”

I probably cracked a bad patient joke here and that was that. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit disappointed. As we have discussed before, whilst I haven’t been the best lingerie buyer to date, I was keen to treat my new boobs a little better. So I left with the answers to my questions, but a little despondent.

That was until I received a call a few days later from one of the breast nurses at the hospital. She was calling to introduce herself and let me know that she’ll be getting me a bra to take home with me from the hospital.  HURRAH!

She explained that whilst you don’t need to wear a bra, lots of women want to, and so they get you a bra for when you’re ready to wear one. What’s more, as I’ll have the chest of a prepubescent girl during the beginning of the filling process, they also give you some soft foam to fill the bras with to give you some shape and confidence until the new boobs come into play.

With the encouragement to go forth and wear a bra, regardless of whether I need one or not, I am ready to go lingerie window shopping again.

Post Surgery Bra Shopping

Before you start, this article is a good checklist for what you need to bear in mind when buying a post-surgical bra. http://breastcancer.about.com/od/lifeduringtreatment/tp/bras-camis.htm. Key points are, focus on comfort and look for wide bands on the shoulders and beneath the breast.  Underwires are a no no until your surgeon says so, avoid seams and choose front fastening, especially for the months immediately following surgery.

Across the pond, the great British institution that is Marks and Spencer, has pulled together a video lingerie guide to post surgery, which is good to watch before you buy anything:  http://www.marksandspencer.com/MS-TV/b/311612031?intid=emtv_2_42_1375671779001

They have quite a good range of bras, very reasonably priced, but their post-surgery ones do look a bit like my grandma would wear. It might be worth looking at some of their non-wired options, which are much prettier, for a bit further down the track.

I like this Carefix Post-Op Bra, Alice that I found on http://www.undiewarehouse.com.au (which has loads of options BTW). It does up at the front, is wireless and recommended for post-operative stage, immediately following surgery.

alice-_front_

Another one from Carefix that I found on Westfield is also pretty cool. Again it does up at the font, holds dressings in place and says it’s great for use in the recovery stage after breast augmentation, reduction, reconstruction, mastopexy, lumpectomy or radiation. Sounds pretty comprehensive to me? http://www.westfield.com.au/au/search?sq=post+surgery+bras

CarefixWestfield

This Berlei wirefree post-surgery cotton bra looks a bit ‘surgical’ and asexual, but I like Berlei and you can trust they’ll probably be good. It has both front and back opening and cotton inner pockets to accommodate prosthesis. http://www.berlei.com.au/bras/shop-by-range/post-surgery/

Berlie

Finally, another great site for Aussies is Zodee http://www.zodee.com.au/search/?w=Post+surgery. They start from just over $25 for a basic wire free bra, and go up to around $60 for something more special.

 

So I’m not going to have any boobs – do I really need a bra?

The answer is I don’t know just yet.

bras

I’ve never really been one for fancy lingerie. Every once in a blue moon I will buy a pair of matching underwear, which very quickly becomes non-matching when I wear my new favourite bra 50 x more than the new matching pants. Much to my boyfriend’s dismay, I’m a little partial to big, comfortable pants and knowing I’m about to undergo a radical change in breast size, I have held off buying new bras to replace my existing ones that are pretty much falling apart.

However, I am a planner and so questions as to, do I need bras for after surgery and how soon do I need them, are currently on my agenda.

What I do know?

  • I know I can’t wear anything with under-wire because of the wounds and stitches
  • I know I should get one that does up at the front as I’m likely to have limited movement in my arms

What I don’t know (and this is the long one)?

  • Do I wear a bra straight away? Some sources say you do and that I’ll need to sleep in one for a while? Other sources say it depends on the individual and what the surgeon advises
  • Will the hospital give me a bra or should I have a couple ready for the hospital?
  • Do I need to get a bra the size of where my reconstruction will end up or do I go conservative for more support?
  • And the one that’s flummoxed me: Once all is well and I have a new set of boobs, do I need to wear a bra ever again? Christina Applegate, who was diagnosed with cancer and then found she had a BRCA gene mutation made this claim on Oprah and I don’t really know how I feel about it. http://www.oprah.com/health/Christina-Applegates-Breast-Cancer-Battle

Part of being a woman is wearing a bra and you never forget how happy, not to mention relieved you were when you could finally justify wearing one. And whilst I am a big fan of being able to go sans boulder-holder to the coffee shop on a Sunday morning, I’d don’t know how I’d feel about doing that on a daily basis. You never know, having my current boobies taken away from me, I may treat my new ones a little better and invest in something nice to carry them in.

Myself and Mr F are off to the plastic surgeon next week so I will endeavour to find out as much as I can.  In the meantime, I am impatient and love to be prepared, so I’m going to buy a couple… just in case.  I’ll come back and will show you what I decide upon and where I’ve found some good options.

Exercise

 

 

 

Questions for the Dr

Questions

On Thursday, three weeks away from the operation, me and Mr F are going to see my breast surgeon, Dr John Thomson at Randwick.  This is our chance to get more prepared for what’s about to come.

This is the first time Mr F has come to one of my appointments.  Not that he wouldn’t have if I’d asked, but to be honest, I’ve not wanted to waste his time with A LOT of appointments. So I went and updated him afterwards. But as this next next chapter effects us both hugely, hopefully, going to the remaining appointments together will ensure we’re on the same page and that we’re doing this as a team (for which, I thank my lucky stars, every day).

Now the hard questions have already been asked and answered along the way;  Do I think this is a good idea? Do I need to remove fat from my belly or back as part of the reconstruction? Do I want one operation or two? And do I want to keep my nipples?  Just a couple of small considerations… But with those out the way,  we need to ask the seemingly, simple questions.

Me and Mr F are pretty different people and we have incredibly different ways of thinking about things, so we’ve each both pulled together our checklist of questions to ensure we have as few surprises as possible in about 4 weeks time. Some are a bit frank, for which I apologise in advance.They also are pretty reflective of our personalities. I realise that some of mine may seem a bit futile in the grand scheme of things, but those who know me will understand I’ll be keen to be up and running ASAP.  I’ll report back in a couple of days to let you know the answers.

My Questions

  • What do I need to stop doing before the surgery?
  • How long will it be before I can exercise?
  • When can I walk? And then when can I ride a bike?
  • If I can’t use my upper body, could I do squats / use resistance bands?
  • What can I do early on to get movement back in my arm?
  • What do you suggest I do if I get my period in the first two weeks following surgery?
  • Am I able to go to the toilet alone?

Mr F’s Questions

  • What levels of bruising should we expect and what is too much?
  • What are the potential injuries that might happen during healing process i.e. minor tears or over stretching?
  • How best to stop any post op infections?
  • What things will she realistically be able to do and what won’t she?
  • What things will I have to help with?
  • What’s a realistic distance to travel and how soon after?