July 11, 2022

I’m calling a moratorium on white shirts. The last few I tried on had very faint stains on them, most likely coffee. I threw one out today. Then just before I left for my doctor’s appointment, I changed into a cute one in an attempt to feel cooler. Thankfully, it was stain-free. After my exam, I put my shirt back on and noticed—in the exam room mirror—a spot on my shirt. Somehow, I got a stain without eating or drinking or doing anything other then sitting. What the actual heck. I’m a mess.

My feet were hanging about a foot above the ground. This was my entertainment.

To be fair, I did have to wait almost an hour and 45 mins for my plastic surgeon who was running behind. Maybe I fell asleep and someone spilled something on me. But the big news is I no longer need to put silicone tape over my incisions. Apparently, it’s breaking down my skin a little in spots. And the sore (my doctor called it an ulcer) isn’t too bad yet, even though it’s bigger than it was. I now need to cover it with gauze and leave it be. I can’t even tape the gauze. If it’s not healed by next week when I go back in to have stitches removed, then I’ll need weekly checks on it. I’m hopeful it will heal.

I got most of my other questions answered. The hard spots I’m beginning to feel are from the fat grafting; I can massage them to help soften them up. The tight muscle in my neck is from the implant pulling on it; eventually it should feel better. The pain along my side is most likely from nerves damaged from radiation, not from the surgery. That should also get better. Once my ulcer is healed, I can stop wearing compression bras, but I can’t swim or soak in a tub for several more weeks.

I’ll probably need more fat grafting in a few months to the area that was too thin for him to work in much before. I mentioned that the skin felt so fragile there that I was worried I would damage it if I scratched too hard. He said I probably would. EEK! He suggested going back to using Vitamin C/E serum on my skin to help with the healing. Man, that radiation may have helped save my life, but it did no favors to my skin.

However, I’m really thankful that things are healing well overall, and I’m so close to being completely done. In a couple weeks I can wear a bra that won’t squeeze my ribs. Each week I’m feeling more like my old self. That’s a good thing.

June 27, 2022

I made it through my first day back to work. It was a bit bumpy, but my 3-month oncologist visit broke up the long day. At least there, all was well. My blood work is good, I’m not pregnant, and the nurse found a spot of my stomach that wasn’t hurting to give me my hormone injection.

When I go back to the cancer center now, I am reminded of how far I’ve come. That’s why I am not really upset when my doctor is behind schedule and I have to wait a bit extra, like I did today. I sat in the waiting room full of people, some in wheelchairs, a lot without hair, most looking tired, and I was really grateful I was the patient who only needed a quick run through of my blood work and the last of my shots. And I don’t have to go back again for three months. Soon that will become six. One day, I’ll just be someone who had cancer years ago.

Today I’m thankful for being another three months post cancer.

June 20, 2022

I saw my plastic surgeon today for a follow up. He explained again what he did and where he took the fat from. I’ll go back on Friday to have my bandages replaced with silicone tape. Everything looked good; he simply cautioned me not to lift more than 5 pounds and to wear my sports bra 24/7 for the next 6 weeks.

I was able to take the bandage off my stomach. He went through my belly button for the fat grafting, so I really expected to see a lot of bruising around it. It’s mostly bruised inside, so that wasn’t too bad. My hand looked worse. I’m guessing they broke a blood vessel there.

I’m thankful things are looking well. I’m still tired and sore, but I’m able to move a little bit better today.

June 17, 2022

I’m so grateful to have my surgery done. Yay! We made it to the hospital by 5:30 am as directed, and they brought me to the surgery room around 8:00. In between I saw 3 or 4 nurses, the attending anesthesiologist, the anesthesiologist who would be in the room with me, and my plastic surgeon.

When my surgeon came in, he marked me again with Sharpies of different colors. Since I couldn’t see it, Patrick joked that he was just playing tic-tac-toe. Haha!

For the record, I’m pretty sore. I’m wearing a compression wrap around my stomach. My throat hurts, but the nurse said that could be a side effect of the ant-nausea patch behind my ear. Overall, it’s the incisions that really hurt, especially when I try to sit up or twist.

Aside from the compression wrap, nothing else is covered, so I can see the results He made them look fairly even. And they’re no longer hard. Another yay!

Once again, I’m also grateful for my friends and family for thinking of me today .And for Patrick for taking care of me. Their prayers and well-wishes helped my mood. I even got some surprises and my mother-in-law funded dinner!

These Bundt cakes, mmmm.
Notice what is written on the balloon! These came with some other, related stuff that made me laugh.

June 15, 2022

Well, it’s less than 2 days to my surgery, and I’m starting to think about it. I’m always nervous before surgery (who isn’t??) but this time I’m also excited about it. So long, rocks! I cannot wait for my chest to feel normal again. Or as normal as it can be considering it will still be implants.

Things I’m looking forward to after a year:

Laying on my stomach. Getting a good massage because I can lay on my stomach. Breathing normally. Maybe getting a full stretch out of my left arm. Wearing shirts that fit properly. Wearing shirts with stripes that don’t zigzag weirdly across my uneven breasts. Sleeping on my side. Holding something against my chest. Giving really tight hugs. Bending over without pain. Jumping jacks.

Just kidding on that last one. I don’t care if I can do jumping jacks again.

I’m trying to focus on the positives with this surgery and not on what makes me nervous about it. But today I was talking to someone who asked if I was going to be ok on Friday. Um, yes. I’d better be. And don’t jinx me like that. I told Patrick that if something crazy happened and I died on the table, my plastic surgeon better finish up. I’m not going out without great boobs. I’ve waited too long.

Probably the biggest thing that makes me nervous is not knowing what to expect afterwards. Since I’ll also be getting fat grafting, I’ll have some pain/discomfort from the liposuction to my stomach, but who knows how much. Or what my stomach will eventually look like. And although my plastic surgeon discussed how he would pull up some of my stomach skin to help create the missing inframammary fold on my left side, I just can’t visualize the outcome.

There are still a lot of “what ifs” rolling around in my head, yet my gratitude for finally being at the end of this long path is going to win out. It’s going to be fine. Maybe even good. Or great. After all, I have a lot of things I’m looking forward to.

June 1, 2022

I saw my plastic surgeon today for my pre-op appointment. He was running behind, but I talked extensively with his nurse about my upcoming surgery. Even though I’ve seen him numerous times and know the plan, I still had a list of questions, like what kind of implants and how much recovery time.

My questions are answered. Smooth gel implants. Four hour surgery. Incisions below my breasts. Hopefully no need for drains. About a week recovery but that will depend on the fat grafting. Both the nurse and my doctor agreed that this surgery should be much easier to recover from than my last.

My doctor also drew on my again while measuring for implant size, all the while explaining what he plans to do and why. He also explained why I may need bigger implants or different sized ones. The spacers are hard, and the implants will be soft, which means they take up space differently.

At this point, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to feel like to be rid of these miserable spacers. I hope it feels like nothing actually. I would love nothing more than to not think about my breasts again. I’m grateful to be so close to being done!

May 24, 2022

I got an email from my plastic surgeon’s office today with my pre-surgery paperwork. None of it reassuring. It was the risks with fat grating. Risks with liposuction. Risks with surgery. With anesthesia. With medications and smoking. No Tylenol, no vitamins, no alcohol. Yikes. I’m not going to lie, reading all of got me feeling a little nervous.

On a positive health note, my last screening (colon!) came back fine, so that’s finally off my worry list. And I got my second Covid booster today. Now I can focus these next few weeks on staying healthy and getting through my reconstruction surgery next month. I’m so thankful I’m almost done.

February 10, 2022

I saw my plastic surgeon again yesterday. I didn’t write about because I was hoping I’d get more information today, so I could fully process what we discussed. As I’ve mentioned, our main goal is to get the radiated side, where the skin has shrunk/tightened so much, to stretch out enough to create an inframammary fold–the droopy bottom part of the breast. Right now, the spacer has just created an awkward mound. Thus far, the plan has been to overfill that side, then remove some of the saline, then overfill again until there is some elasticity in the skin to allow the implant to naturally fall. I fully expected to have another fill yesterday and bear the uncomfortable pressure again for a few days. However, my doctor has a new plan.

He wants to move forward with the fat grafting surgery, where he will liposuction my midsection, fill in the spots around my breasts that need extra padding (the chemo port left behind a big sunken spot), do a slight tuck on the radiated side to pull the stomach skin up and help with the fold, and put in the final implant on the right side. Then we will continue to fill the one that needs to stretch a bit more. His thought is that studies are showing fat cells actually help the radiated skin improve elasticity and discomfort, and having the final implant in on the other side gives a better comparison goal. The downside is that I’ll need yet another surgery to put in the final implant on the left. Sigh. At least it would be a quick one.

The kink in moving forward with this plan is that I have my vacation with my family coming up in a couple of weeks. So instead of leaving in all the saline of my overfilled side, he removed some. Ok, he removed a lot, so that I could actually get these suckers into a bathing suit. Instead of the uncomfortable pressure, I’ve been getting used to feeling the spacer move around a bit again. Now I won’t see him again until March, at which time he will refill, measure me, and then schedule surgery. It’s a double-edged sword that he has a very good reputation for both his talent and his compassion because now he’s really busy. What I was hoping to find out today was how far out surgery may be since he couldn’t answer that yesterday. I’m still waiting.

In the meantime, I’m thankful that my doctor has been thinking of ways to improve my outcome. And I’m thankful that I had some of the overfill removed, so it’s more comfortable and (somewhat) natural looking for my upcoming vacation.

January 26, 2022

I finally saw my plastic surgeon again tonight. My appointment was moved twice because he had emergency surgery or a procedure to do. It’s frustrating to keep moving things out further and further, but at this point, I’m really at the mercy of his schedule. And the last time they bumped me, I insisted they put me in the schedule every two weeks preemptively. I figured if he’s getting that busy, I needed to secure the appointments I could up front and hope I don’t keep getting rescheduled.

Tonight we started the overfilling of my small side. Holy buckets of saline. I wasn’t expecting another 2 full syringes full. That side is SO full and big right now. And hard. It’s like a block of wood sitting right on my already tight arm/chest muscles. I told Patrick it gives me a weird sense of claustrophobia. Like when you’re trying to pull one arm out of your coat and it gets stuck sort of behind you and you can’t quite free it. It’s something I can’t move and restricts my muscles. And the plan for my next appointment in two weeks? Add more. Yikes.

But on the upside, it’s another appointment done. I’m thankful for that. And my doctor said my skin is really tolerating the stretching well, which is great considering how badly burned it got from radiation. I’m grateful for that, too.

December 31, 2021

Well, here we are. December 31. End of this very long year. And my final lesson is one that’s been repeated a lot in different ways. We don’t get unlimited time. Not during the day, not during the year, not during this life. It’s something we all know, logically, but cancer has a way of making it personal and emotional.

I’m a doer and a helper. I need to feel like I’m contributing towards something meaningful. I like to be creative. I like to talk and research and write and teach. I also like to dress up. And I’ve done very little of any of these things this year. Sure, the cancer made it somewhat hard. But if I’m honest about it, I didn’t do a lot of it the year before either. I’m working on it though, and I plan to continue because it’s not just about doing what make me happy, it’s focusing on what gives me purpose.

I’ve written this blog daily this year because I needed to be intentional on finding gratitude during the difficult days. And I’m so thankful I did. It was important for me to find the sometimes small moments that got me out of my head on the hard days. And looking back, I had a lot to be thankful for. So many friends and family members supporting me. Such great medical care. A job that allowed me to be flexible with location and time. A husband who really took care of me. Pups that made me laugh. Cancer treatments that cured me. And in the middle of all that, I gained a son-in-law. I’m grateful.