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 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 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!

September 1, 2021

Today I got my final bandages removed. My appointment was with the nurse, but my doctor showed up anyway jokingly saying he couldn’t resist. I think he was curious about the incisions, which he claims are healing well. He also decided to add saline to the side that wasn’t fillable during surgery to start evening me out. After some discussion about upcoming radiation, he said he’d like me to come in next week as well to add a little more. Once radiation starts, we will probably stop filling until treatments are done.

It feels so much better having the bandages removed. Less pressure. However, I’m not sure I was fully prepared to seeing the incisions as they are. I was expecting something more delicate but these look angry and red. The skin is folded a bit too, which must eventually stretch out. It’s funny. Of course, the process of the surgery was explained to me ahead of time. I even did my own research. When my doctor did the markings before surgery, he told me what they meant and where the incisions would be and how the stitches would be underneath and eventually dissolve. But I didn’t ask what it would look like post surgery. Or during the fill process. Or even once it’s all done. I guess I just wanted the cancer gone and trusted that my plastic surgeon would put me back together. Now that I’m at this point, I have questions and I’ll know what to ask at my next visit.

It’s been 9 months since my cancer diagnosis. I’m thankful I’m so far along in this whole process and healing well. And I’m thankful that I trust my plastic surgeon, even though things look a bit dubious at the moment.

August 25, 2021

Yay!! My plastic surgeon took out my drains today!

I will say that getting them removed was really something. I had two on each side, so two nurses worked together to take them out at once. After they clipped the sutures, they grabbed both and pulled in one long motion. All four at once. Patrick was watching and said each one was at least 12-18” long, and I could feel every twist as they came out. It burned but wasn’t really painful, thank goodness. Just weirdly uncomfortable.

While they took off the binding on one side, the P. Surgeon wanted to leave the other side intact for another week. Even so, he gave me the ok to shower again. BEST. DAY. EVER. Well, ok, best in a couple weeks. And I showered as soon as possible once we got back home. Because I could.

I saw my plastic surgeon in the afternoon, but I had an appointment with my general surgeon in the morning. He explained how his portion of the surgery went, giving us an anatomy lesson in the process. Did you know breast tissue typically extends up to the second rib and has to be peeled off of the chest muscle during a mastectomy? And that there is a visible difference between tissue and muscle? The upside to knowing this is that the area that showed positive margins for cancer was where the tissue and muscle met. That means my tumor was right to the edge of my breast tissue, and according to my surgeon, it wasn’t like the tissue extended into the muscle.

Now, since so much of this cancer stuff gets overwhelming and confusing and scary, I like to ask a lot of questions during my visits, sometimes repetitively, and without fear of sounding stupid. Yesterday I asked my oncologist if the only way cancer could spread is through the lymph nodes. He said yes. And then through the blood. He assured me that my breast cancer could not just move directly from my breast tissue into my muscles.

My takeaway is that there is a good chance my surgeon really did get all of the cancer, and any microscopic cells left behind should be eradicated by the upcoming radiation. I’m thankful for that. I’m also thankful that both my surgeons had the same reaction to how my healing is progressing —an almost surprised happiness. I think it’s because there was worry about adequate blood flow to one side. It was deep purple after surgery but today it’s almost bruise-free. Their reactions and explanations helped ease my mind about how things are going.

Today it’s going pretty good.

July 12, 2021

Last week, I left two messages for my surgeon’s office to see how scheduling was going. I got a call back on Friday saying they were waiting for the plastic surgeon’s office to call. Today I called the plastic surgeon’s office and was told they were waiting on pre-authorization from my insurance company. So…I called my insurance company and was told the paperwork submitted was pending because it was missing codes. Thankfully, the woman at the insurance company was helpful, and after I explained what the surgery was for, she figured out codes and said she’d push it along so I’d get an answer from them by Friday.

Then I got a call back from my surgeon’s office this afternoon saying that the plastic surgeon’s office told them that they’d be doing the reconstruction part separately instead of coordinating, which was not what was explained to me. So I called their office again, saying I was confused since delayed reconstruction was never part of the conversation. She promised to talk to my plastic surgeon and call me back, which she did. He agreed to coordinate, and if schedules didn’t line up well, then they would have to delay. Finally, I called the surgeon’s office back.

Schedules lined up on August 10. They still need to get it on the books, but I should get a confirmation within a couple of days. It’s not ideal to wait another month, but my nurse coordinator agrees that waiting for one surgery is preferable to two separate ones.

While it was a lot of back and forth, I’m thankful to finally have a date to work towards!

June 29, 2021

I mentioned yesterday that I saw my original plastic surgeon, but I realized I hadn’t explained what happened since I first saw him. A couple of months after my initial appointment, I got a call from his office saying that he was leaving the medical group and I would be referred to a different doctor. Rumor was something happened during a renegotiation of his contract. While I never heard any specifics, someone who is friends with his wife told me that he was disappointed and wanted to stay.

In the meantime, I was referred to another doctor who was fine, but not someone I was enthusiastic with. When I asked about the procedure, she didn’t offer options. She was rather adamant that the only method she would do was under the muscle implants.

Then I started hearing from nurses and other doctors that my original surgeon was working with another clinic in town, and I had the option to go back to him. Most seemed to be genuinely happy he was still around. When I pressed folks for an opinion (not really expecting a definitive one) the responses were the same. When I mentioned her name, they said she would be fine. I took that to mean that both were skilled but he was probably easier to work with.

In some respects, I was annoyed that I had to think about all this again. Not just which doctor to go with, but what procedure to do. There is not good data out there. Most searches bring up plastic surgery sites, which aren’t the most reliable, as they lean towards what the doctor prefers or is most skilled at.

So I bounced my ideas and concerns off my family and friends. Read what I could and also prayed about it. Today I let my general surgeon know that I’d be going with my original plastic surgeon, so they could work on getting surgery scheduled. Ultimately, I like that he suggested a procedure but said he would do whatever I chose because it was my decision. I’m thankful that I feel comfortable with it and things will move forward again.

June 28, 2021

Patrick and I were still rather exhausted today even after a regular night of sleep. What is it about just riding in a car that is so tiring? Although we did get out and leave by 5 am after a late evening at the wedding…I think I just answered my own question. At any rate, I’m thankful that I took today off work so that I could get everything unpacked and laundry done.

I also met with my original plastic surgeon today. He joined a different practice in town but still has rights at the hospital I’ll be going to. He answered some more questions I had and discussed his suggestion for surgery. I now have to decide if I’m going with him or the plastic surgeon I was referred to as a second choice. I need to do a bit more research on surgery options, but I am grateful to have a choice again.

January 15, 2021

Today was more difficult than I was anticipating. I had an appointment early in the morning to meet my plastic surgeon and go over reconstruction options. Although it’s not 100% necessary, I’m leaning towards a bilateral mastectomy. I really don’t want the worry that cancer could return in what I leave behind.

My plastic surgeon is nice. He specializes in this area and has his own family history of dealing with breast cancer, so he has an understanding of how overwhelming things can be. He mentioned more than once that I could call his office at any time with any question and that ultimately I was in charge of what I wanted. His explanations were thorough, his suggestions made sense, and he seems very capable.

I’m not sure what my expectations were. I expected that they may have to take photos. I guess I wasn’t expecting that they’d be taken in a room with bright lights and a backdrop, like class picture day. Standing with my hands by my sides, naked torso, turning at intervals while the female nurse photographed me wasn’t what I had imagined. I expected that the doctor would want to examine me. I may have even expected it when he took out a white eyeliner to draw on my body to show me where the incisions would be made. What pieces of me would need to disappear. When he turned me to the mirror so I could see myself as he explained what he would need to do, I didn’t expect to feel so sad. So vulnerable.

By the time we talked through the timeline, it finally sank in how long this process of being cured to being made something akin to whole again will take. Reconstruction won’t happen until all my treatments are done. Chemo will take until June. A mastectomy will follow and the recovery time is 6-8 weeks. At best, that take me to August. Radiation will follow…how quickly and for how long now will be a discussion with the radiologist next week. Originally, that was going to be many weeks. I suspect reconstruction will begin at best October, maybe November. The type of reconstruction my doctor suggested will be two-phased. If I’m lucky, I’ll start the new year with a new look.

It’s daunting and overwhelming, and honestly, I felt a bit sorry for myself when I got home. I was angry and tired and so damn disappointed again. And then you know what happened? Patrick reminded me that we’re in it together and we’ll get through it one step at a time. And then a friend sent me a funny text and made me laugh. And another friend texted saying she had left something at our front door, which contained among several things, coffee-scented room oil and bubble gum flavored lip balm, which is Ah-mazing. Then I grabbed some candy from the gift basket a friend dropped off the other day that I didn’t even tell you guys about because you would be SO JEALOUS of its awesomeness. And I realized once again how loved and supported I am and that’s all that really matters anyway. Thankfully, gratefully, I will get through this year.