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.

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!

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 8, 2021

I saw my plastic surgeon today. He says the way radiation shrank my skin means we will have to overfill my left breast to get it to match closer to the right. Apparently this will require overfill, removal, then more fill so the skin can stretch and relax. Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?

We didn’t talk timeline this time, but we did start the fills today. He was just going to fill the left side but I asked to add some to the right as well. I was hoping it would help alleviate the uncomfortable creasing that happens when the spacer folds on itself. Since it’s now more full, it does feel better. The downside is that it’s more obvious that my breasts are uneven. Thank goodness it’s sweater weather, so it’s easy to hide.

I go next week for another fill. If it goes well, my doctor said we’ll continue weekly. I’m hoping it might mean my surgery can happen sooner, but I’m not getting my hopes up. He did mention again that he will need to do liposuction on my stomach to fill in spots during my surgery. I’m not even offended that his statement meant I had stomach fat because, yay! He’s going to remove it! Bonus. I may need to rethink the size breasts I want because I have fat elsewhere he could use, too.

I kid, of course. I just want to look proportional when all this is done. And I’m thankful to have gotten this next part started today.

August 9, 2021

Well, here we are. The day before my bi-lateral mastectomy. I’ve been looking forward to and yet dreading surgery and my stomach has been doing flip flops since late yesterday. I keep remembering that stupid choking feeling I had when I awoke last time and pray that it’s nonexistent tomorrow.

It’s weird when you talk surgery with people. Everyone wants to share their experiences and/or thoughts about it. While mostly it’s to be helpful, sometimes it still backfires. These are some things I’ve heard recently: I wasn’t completely under anesthesia and could hear everything. I wonder if surgery makes cancer spread. Anesthesia makes me feel like I’m dying.

Um, thanks?

I’ve also had folks point out that mastectomies are a common procedure, which is true. There is some comfort in knowing that hundreds of others have lived through it. But I haven’t yet.

It’s a big deal. And not just because all major surgery is. It’s a big deal for me because this will change me. I’m having parts of me removed. Parts that are visible and somewhat defining and so natural that I don’t usually notice them. But the replacements will be something to get used to and will be unnatural for a while. I’ll have scars. I’ll lose sensation. I’ll have to think about them.

This morning I met with my plastic surgeon so he could do his markings on my chest. In four different colors of Sharpie. I look like an art project. But once again, he told me that everything would go well. His confidence was reassuring.

I know I’ll be fine. My desire to lose the cancer is stronger than my sadness at losing my breasts. I trust that my surgeons are talented and care about doing a good job. I’ll heal. I will get used to my new look. I know this and I’m thankful for it, even though I’m still a bit nervous today.

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.