New Boobs (Exclamation Point?)

My exchange surgery was a week ago – meaning I no longer have those hard expanders and instead I have squishy new silicone implants. I say this so nonchalantly, yet, 9 months ago it felt like I would never reach this point. The exchange marks the official “end” of the initial steps of my journey:

  • Mastectomy – check.
  • Embryo storing – check.
  • Chemo – check.
  • Reconstruction – check.

From here on out, anything that happens is either cosmetic or recurrence. Technically, I am completely finished with this cancer experience.

But am I jumping for joy? Not so much. For the first couple of days after my surgery, I felt like crying (and I did a few times). I was disappointed with the new boobs. Though I myself asked for them to be smaller than they were naturally, I felt (and still feel, to some degree) that they were too small. Where did my larger-than-expected chest go? Why do I no longer look like the girls in the Victoria’s Secret commercials? Dammit, why did I give that up for the “convenience” of having a smaller chest?

Everyone (including me) was so excited about my exchange. My friends want to throw me a boob party. “Can’t wait to see your new boobies!” It’s a lot of pressure to live up to, and I guess I thought I’d walk out of the recovery room already looking like a Playboy bunny. It’s just not so. These funbags need time to settle into place, and if, when they’re settled, I’m still disappointed, then I’ll think about next steps. Going bigger, perhaps, or fat grafting. Whatever happens, it’ll have to wait a couple of months because I’m eager to get my real life back and make 2012 a different year.

And, the larger issue here is probably that I’m finally mourning the loss of my boobs. I never got to do it back in April after my mastectomy, because I was still in survival mode, worrying about fertility and impending chemo. Now that all that’s over, I’m thinking, “Whoa… my boobs are gone?” My whole body has changed – as my whole life has changed. I’m coming to the realization that things will literally never be the same as they were before March of this year.

On two better notes, the silicone implants are dreamily soft, squishy, and natural feeling. And they are shaped great, despite the small (to me) size. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry looking at me on the street would have no idea these were implants. Save for my scars, they probably wouldn’t even be able to tell looking at my without a top on.

And I want to share a painting that I bought yesterday at a local DC art fair. It

Corks, Coasters, and Sugar Cubes, by Phyllis Dillinger (artcure1.com)

caught my eye at first because it was my favorite color, green, but I wasn’t totally sold. That was, until I spoke to the artist and learned that she began painting after her sister died of ovarian cancer and she donates 50% of proceeds from her art to ovarian cancer or breast cancer organizations, it seemed like destiny. And I am now the proud owner of this abstract beauty.

Advertisements

Creating new cleavage

Today was my first tissue expansion! It was actually kind of a “yay” moment amidst all my anxiety about starting chemo (Thursday… eek). For those of you who don’t know, during my mastectomy, the plastic surgeon implanted expanders under my chest muscles. Throughout the next couple of months, these will be gradually expanded so that my skin and muscle stretch enough to make room for the real silicone implant, which I’ll have inserted after all my chemo is finished. That’s called the exchange operation – when the temporary tissue expanders are swapped for the real implants.

Because of the revision I had to have a couple weeks ago, my surgeon had to take down the left expander to almost nothing, and I was quite lopsided. But today, she filled the left side with 120 ccs, almost 2/3 of the way to matching the right side!

Yay for being a little less lopsided and a little more womanly. Yay for being so healed from surgery that my surgeon is okay with expanding me. Yay for not even feeling the small pinprick of the saline tube needle, which was inserted into a port on the expander so the saline could be injected in. Yay for not feeling much tightness or soreness at all, at least not yet. Yay for preemptive Tylenol.

And yay for this article, which totally excites the singer in me: Cancer charity gets funding for choirs after proving the pyschosocial benefits

When it Pours, it Monsoons

The results from my biopsies are in. They have been in for a while, actually, but the last time I tried to share my results on WordPress, I got an error message. Figures. Apparently WordPress does not want me to share the following with the world, but I am doing it anyway:

I have cancer.

My biopsy returned news of malignancy in my right breast, and the ultrasound shows a tumor around 2cm in size. The cancer is also invasive, meaning it has broken from the duct where it started. Invasive ductal carcinoma. Has a night ring to it, no? The radiologist started one of her sentences with “Your cancer…”. My cancer. What the hell?

This was not supposed to happen. I am only 25 years old. I was supposed to learn I had some fat lobules or whatever it was that people my age have. Not breast cancer. But I couldn’t be that lucky.

I found this out on Monday the 21st of March, and in the week and a half since I’ve known, I’ve basically gone through all of the stages of grief. I have been angry at my body for betraying me in this way. I have been terrified and pondering my own mortality. I have been depressed, feeling like I have nothing to look forward to in life anymore. I have felt guilty, like there was more I could have done to prevent this, and that I’m letting down my family who already had to deal with my mother’s breast cancer, which ended up with her dying when I was merely 3 years old.

Today, I’m actually feeling okay. My decisions have been made and my course is planned – as much as it can be for now. I will have a double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants. Between the mastectomy and implants, while I am being expanded, I will go through chemo. It is weird to type this like it’s no big deal, and I would love to share my thought processes, but I’m not trying to write a novel here.

What I can say is that my mind is made up and I am at peace with it. I honestly hardly even entertained the idea of a lumpectomy or unilateral mastectomy. I just knew in my heart that this is what I wanted – I. Do. Not. Ever. Want. To. Have. Cancer. Again. It’s that simple. With this gene my chances of a second cancer are nearly 65%. To that statistic I say, “Screw you.” It just makes sense for me to prevent this from ever happening again.

When I first got the results that I was BRCA 1+ positive, I thought mastectomy was crazy and drastic. But I am no longer a previvor. I am now a cancer patient, and if all goes well, I will be a cancer survivor. I’d like to keep it that way for a long time.

I guess this means a lot for my blog – it’s no longer just about wearing my BRCA genes, it’s now also about being a 25-year-old with breast cancer. Whoop-dee-doo.