Tag Archives: reconstruction

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.

Survival of the Nipplest

I just got home from a follow-up appointment with my plastic surgeon. Last Tuesday, she grafted my left nipple into place and today, after dramatically removing the dressings that have been on the whole week, she said, “It’s pink!” and that she was optimistic that the graft would take, though she can’t say for certain just yet that it will. I am feeling good – after all the devastation after my mastectomy with my skin that wasn’t surviving, it’s nice to have some hope that my chest will have a beautiful future. Also, my port is OUT and the scar from its insertion has been cleaned up and looks fantastic. Low-cut shirts, here I come!

Coincidentally, I also received a note from my insurance company today that they will not cover the hyperbaric oxygen treatments I received back when we were trying to save that dying skin. I guess it’s true what they say, just in reverse: when one door opens, another door closes.

In other, extremely exciting news, MY HAIR IS GROWING BACK! You can see a bit of fuzz in this picture, but this was about two weeks ago and now there is quite a bit more hair on my head. I have a defined hairline, and it’s getting darker and longer almost daily (at least that’s what everyone tells me). Eyebrows are pretty much kaput, though, but I’ll take what I can get. More pictures will be forthcoming (as soon as I can locate the USB cord for my camera).

Finally, I wanted to share yet another article inspired by the movie 50/50 – have you seen it yet? It’s about comedy and cancer, and while it jumps around quite a bit (I had a hard time following it, but that might be because I had one of my fave TV shows Hoarders on in the background) it’s a worthwhile read.

Reconstruction

I guess I should mention I had surgery on Tuesday. Nothing huge, but my port was removed and I had some work done to my left breast, that pesk that didn’t heal properly after my double mastectomy so it’s taking a couple extra steps to get it looking normal before I can get my implants. With all that happened this summer, a small surgery didn’t strike me as big news. In fact, it felt pretty routine – being in the hospital, putting on the gown, getting my blood pressure checked, answering all the “Are you pregnant, how much do you weigh, when’s the last time you had anything to eat or drink, etc.” It was all very nonchalant, which in some ways scares me, because surgery should always be taken very seriously (especially by the surgeons who are coming at me with sharp objects).

I kept telling people that, after chemo, surgery is almost welcome in my life. Not so much for the act of surgery itself, but for what these surgeries represent: reconstruction. Getting put back together. Getting a beautiful, new chest that I can flaunt on our Hawaiian vacation in January, along with a short hair-do and the anticipation of a year that won’t revolve around cancer.

As I said, the surgery consisted of a port removal, which I am thrilled about. I own a lot of scoop-neck and v-neck shirts, and it was so hard to hide the darn thing. Plus it made me feel like there was an alien poking out of my skin, and the scar was wide and ugly (though they tell you that it’ll be “no more than a couple centimeters”, right on your chest where everyone can see those couple centimeters make a big difference). On the sound advice of my parents, I asked my surgeon to take out the port instead of the interventional radiologists who put it in, and I am hoping that means a much cleaner and less noticeable scar. I still can’t say yet as it’s covered over with a bandage.

On my breast, the plastic surgeon cut out my nipple, which was right above the fold, ┬ámuch lower than it should be, and grafted it into place to match my right side. It’s all still under bandages, but I’ll see things on Monday when I have a follow-up with the surgeon.

Luckily, I’ve had no significant pain – took a couple Percocets Tuesday after the surgery because the port removal incision hurt, but haven’t taken anything since. And I’m glad to have this time off work, too, because work has been crazy and will be crazy for a couple more weeks. I just have to make it through this year to January!

A note about my last entry: I hope I didn’t sound full of myself. I’ll admit, I felt pretty badass when they approached me to make the video. Yes, I thought, my story will make great fodder for a documentary: young girl, dead mother, unfortunate genetic predisposition, bald, etc. And a small part of me wanted to do the documentary for myself – to talk about my experience and have things on tape so that I never forget. But even more so I wanted to show that young girls do get breast cancer, and they can get through it. For all the doctors who said to other women, “You’re too young, come back in 6 months.” For all the young women who felt alone and that all the others in the support group didn’t understand the unique issues that young people deal with. For anyone who didn’t want to hear, “But you’re so young” and “How unfortunate” and “You’re going to get through it and live a long, happy life”. That’s who the video (and this blog) is really for.

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.