August 22, 2022

I had a follow up visit with my plastic surgeon today. I fully expected to schedule my next fat grafting procedure. Not so.

I had been feeling lately like my left side implant was higher than it started out, but I figured it was just my imagination. Turns out it’s not. My doctor says that the late effects of radiation are causing my skin to continue tightening, which in turn is pulling up my implant. He figures it is about 2 centimeters higher than after my surgery. It’s probably why I keep feeling aches and shooting pains along my side again. The implant is pressing more on my nerves since there is no more give in my skin.

The biggest problem, however, is that the movement is taking away the inframammary fold my doctor created by pulling up skin from my stomach. If he must recreate it again at some point, he will need to take skin from my back. The alternative is removing the implant on the right and reducing the size. That will require moving the nipple we tried so hard to save.

For now, we just wait to see if the skin continues to tighten and I’ll see my doctor again in December. I asked about the muscle tightness I have under my arm still, and he thinks the radiation has impacted the muscle as well. I’m going to start massage therapy to see if it makes any difference with the tight muscles. Maybe it will at least give me a little more range of motion.

It was a disappointing visit, but my doctor reminded me that I’m now fully healed from my surgery. Plus I have no more restrictions, aside from waiting one more week before soaking in a tub since he finally removed the scab from the scrape on my incision. I’m thankful that all is not lost yet. It sounds like I’ll have options. And even if the skin shrinks more, my doctor assured me the implant won’t rupture. Thank goodness.

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.

December 2, 2021

It’s been a month since my radiation treatments ended, and I had a follow up with my radiation oncologist today. He says my skin is making a great recovery although the pink/tanned color may last a year. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but let’s be honest, a triangular shaped tan across my chest isn’t what ruining my sexy look. Ha.

Frankly, I’m just thrilled that it’s healing well and the pain is gone. I was talking to my mom today about how quickly time seems to be going now. While in the middle of my treatments, the days seemed SO LONG. Now that I’m feeling better, time flies. I know that’s typical. And it’s a great reminder that things don’t last forever. Sometimes good things end, but more importantly, so does the bad. I’m thankful every day I made it through the long days.

November 6, 2021

I love my friends. They always find a way to make me smile and I’m so thankful for that. What a sweet surprise on a day filled with cleaning and putting away the Halloween decor.

Have I mentioned I’m done with radiation? Still super happy about it. Even more happy because my skin is on fire—and not in the good way. I can’t imagine having more treatments now. And I can understand why major burn victims may need to be put in an induced coma. The pain from my localized area is enough to exhaust me. Why does this have to be under my arm where it rubs constantly? Why?

I think I did a bit too much today with my arms. This area felt like it was extra swollen, so I spent the evening on the sofa, reading a new book. But I’m glad I got things put away and the garage cleaned while the weather was warm. And I lasted a bit longer than 4 hours before I needed ibuprofen again. Maybe that’s a good sign.

November 4, 2021

I’m done!! I had my last radiation treatment today! This was me and Patrick.

I brought a box of small cupcakes for the staff and they gave me a “diploma” which was The Ten Commandments of Cancer Surviorship and a bag of items with special meanings.

On my way out I got a hug from the nurse who worked with me the most and even one from my doctor. When I got to my car, this song was on the radio. I couldn’t clap along since I was driving, but I absolutely was happy.

Finally, I got this delivery from my mom, with such a sweet message it made me cry.

I’m so thankful for this day that seemed so long in coming. I’m done!!

November 1, 2021

This is my last week of radiation. Woohoo! It’s crazy how quickly my skin damage has increased.

This is the worst spot under my arm which has just started to peel. My doctor today said that he expects all of my skin to peel eventually. He offered to write a prescription for pain medicine since it’s gotten pretty painful, as you can imagine. However, I don’t do well with those, so I opted to keep using ibuprofen. I’m hoping that continues to help.

The thing no one really tells you about radiation is how much it can tighten the muscles in the area. A lot of my pain is also from the tightness; it’s almost as if my ribs are bruised. I think part of it is that I don’t ever feel relaxed and that tension in my body doesn’t help. So I keep trying to stretch my chest and shoulder muscles regularly. I’m also getting sharp pains regularly along the side that I’m assuming is the surgery nerve damage I was warned about. I’m only guessing (because I forgot to ask my doctor today) that it may be more noticeable from the muscle tightening.

It probably goes without saying that I’m so thankful that this is my final week. Thursday is my last day. And the nurse today said there’s a good chance that without the bolus accentuating the radiation, my skin may not get much worse these last few days. Three more days. I can do it. I can.

October 27, 2021

Well, today I saw my plastic surgeon because it felt like my spacer had fallen on the non-radiated side, and I wanted to make sure that wasn’t abnormal. After waiting over an hour because he was in a procedure that ran overtime, he came in with a med student. I’m pretty sure she must not have seen radiated skin too often; she seemed uncomfortable seeing me. In fact, even the nurses seemed uncomfortable looking at me. One of them gave me a blanket as I was waiting because they keep it so dang cold in those offices. She tried to drape it over my shoulders but finally gingerly handed it to me instead, saying she didn’t want to hurt me. It wasn’t like I was sitting there topless either. I guess the triangle of very red skin peeking above the neckline gives it away.

At any rate, my plastic surgeon has a much different take on my skin than my radiation oncologist. He wasn’t pleased in the least. I got a lot of tips on skin health, including the urging that I drink collagen-infused protein shakes twice a day. Apparently, I can worry about losing weight later. He also said the radiation is melting the stitching across my incision, and if it pulls apart any further, I need to see him right away so he can put in another stitch or two. We then talked about a time frame. I knew that I’d need to let my skin heal for 6 weeks after radiation before seeing him again. But he said with the amount of damage I have, we will also have to do my fills slowly. He thinks it will be a full 6 months before he can do my final surgery where I have my spacers swapped out for the final, soft implants.

Friends, I cried the entire drive home. I barely made it to my car before the tears started. Six months? Another six months with these uncomfortable spacers reminding me of this stinking “journey”I never wanted to be on? UGH. Remember at the beginning of the year when I thought my timeframe had all of this completed by Christmas? Silly, naive, optimistic me. Then I readjusted my thinking to be ok with Jan, maybe Feb. Now we’re looking hopefully at April. I hope it’s not an April Fool’s joke.

So…where’s the gratitude today…Well, my ride home was only 10 mins, so the crying didn’t last that long. I also reminded myself that I have 6 more radiation treatments to get through, and they are targeted differently, so the skin across my incision will now be spared. Hopefully that part can begin healing. My doctor said not to worry about gaining weight, so I’ve been given permission to be my pudgy self. Oh! and the reason for the visit–the fallen spacer–was a non-issue. It’s just my skin on that side relaxing as expected and readjusting the spacer underneath. If I’m honest about it (what else can I be at this point?!) that side does feel better than it did a month ago. So maybe I’ll get used to things after all.

October 26, 2021

I saw my radiation oncologist today since I wasn’t able to see him yesterday. Yesterday the radiation machine needed servicing so my treatment was moved to a later time spot, and he wasn’t available for a skin check. Even though I hate to say it, my doctor was right. My skin got a lot redder than a week ago. It hurts, especially where my skin rubs under my arm. There were some small blisters there I was worried about that broke prior to today’s appointment.

My bright red underarm

While things look intense, my doctor says that my skin is actually looking pretty good all things considered. He suspects it will start peeling soon in some spots.

Tomorrow starts my “boost” week where they will focus the treatment deeper than it has been. That means the sides of my breast will get the main skin effects. I’m grateful that the skin across my scar will be somewhat spared, but I’m cringing at the thought of my armpit getting worse. Gah. If you see me over the next few weeks with my arm in the air, just wave.

October 23, 2021

I’ve been really tired the last few days. When I had trouble sleeping yet again last night, I shut myself in the guest room, much to the pups’ dismay. They love sleeping on the guest bed, but I wanted to try to sleep in, and I knew I couldn’t if they were with me. When they realized I was there at 2 am, I heard them pawing at the door. It took some resolve not to give in, but I didn’t. And I stayed in bed until 9 am, which is at least 2.5 hours past normal for me, even on the weekend. Then after we ran some errands this morning, I was once again exhausted and took a nap as soon as we got home. I’m hoping it’s radiation fatigue and nothing else going on.

I’m thankful for being able to get some rest when I need it. Even if it’s just relaxing on the sofa with this guy.

October 19, 2021

I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m uncomfortable at night; it’s hard to find a position that brings sleep quickly. I want to lay on my side SO bad, but it’s still hard for any length of time. And last night, the dogs jumped into our bed at 2:30 am. After Barley stuck his paws in my face, I kicked them both out, waking Patrick up in the process. I don’t know what prompted their early sneak into bed, but it didn’t help. I was awake from 2 -4 am, after getting to sleep about 11. That seems to be my pattern lately.

So this morning was tough. I was crabby and emotional. Stupid breast spacers. Stupid radiation burned skin. Stupid 7 am start to my job. When Patrick returned from his office hours at the college, he could tell I was having a hard time holding it together. He asked what he could do to make it easier for me today.

I’m thankful that he notices and wants to help. I’m thankful for the yummy pot roast dinner he made today, and the equally yummy Manhattan he made for me tonight. And I’m thankful that he doesn’t judge me for periodically losing it.