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OMG!!  I’m done. 🙂  It’s been 7 months since my exchange and I decided it was time to finish up with areola tattoos. I was firm in my decision that I didn’t want to have nipple reconstruction because I definitely didn’t want to have “headlights” that were always on. One of the positive aspects of having the surgery is the fact that I don’t need to wear a bra. I certainly don’t want to have to wear one just to cover nipple erections! So.. my plan was to just get 3D tattoos.  I wasn’t really in a hurry and was getting used to just seeing a bare, Barbie boobed chest so I thought I could just take or leave them…

I decided to go ahead and schedule the tattoos now because my PS said I was free to do it. An impending insurance coverage change spurred my call to the tattoo artist. I also wanted to have them healed by the time I go on vacation in a few weeks because I don’t want to be restricted from swimming in a lake if they weren’t healed yet.

Well, I went for my appointment and I must say, I was completely flawed at what an emotional thing it was for me. I didn’t think I missed seeing a “normal looking” chest but apparently I did more than I knew. I broke down and cried quite a few times and was overwhelmed with emotion. She did such a wonderful job and was completely caring and understanding. Her work is so good that I still can’t believe that this is nothing but ink!

When I opened the shower curtain the other day and caught a glimpse in the mirror I broke out in a huge smile seeing what I look like right now. It almost makes it easy to forget what this journey has been like and what I’ve been through… complications and all!

I’ve still got some visible scars and have ongoing muscle spasms but omg… I feel so beautiful and normal! I keep peeking at my chest and am totally amazed.  What do you think?!

3D Nipple Tattoos ROCK!!

Here we are, one year out from my PBM surgery and while I’m not completely done with the reconstruction process I’m becoming more like me each day. Had I not run into so many complications along the way, I would have been done months and months ago but in the whole scheme of things, it’s only been one year of my life. I’m back to working out and moving forward. It’s been quite a bumpy road to get to this point but I still have absolutely no regrets about my decision.  For me, eliminating that 87% chance of developing breast cancer, and the quality of life that I’m enjoying with peace of mind has been the right choice for me.

For some women, surveillance is the right choice and I respect that. For me, however, I know that I’m a “what if” type of person and I would never have forgiven myself for gambling and losing. Also, the stress of the mammograms and MRIs would make me insane. Granted, it hasn’t been easy, especially from a physical standpoint, and just because I have no regrets about my choice doesn’t mean that I didn’t shed many tears over the past year and a half. I was devastated when I learned of my BRCA+ status and went through all of the stages of grief during that process. (My siblings and children have still not been tested yet, so while it’s not something I think about daily in terms of my own health at this point, it will certainly be brought to the forefront again when they are going through it. My biggest prayer is that my children and two brothers are all negative, then none of them will be placed in the situation to make the decisions that I had to.)

As I stand right now, I see my plastic surgeon again in June, then I will talk to him about 3D nipple tattooing. I have no desire to have protruding nipples as I am quite enjoying not having to wear a bra if I choose not to. My favorite undergarments these days are Daisy Fuentes Seamless Camisoles from Kohl’s. They have just the right amount of stretch and are very comfortable. I’ve also gained quite a bit of weight during my 6 surgeries in 14 month stretch so right now, priority number one in my life is to get back in shape. Summer will be here before I know it and unlike last summer when I had one expander and one flat side and needed to stuff, I can actually wear a bathing suit this year. But.. there is no way I’m doing it at this weight!  It’s time to really live my best life!

I made it!! I’m on the other side. I’m 3 days post-op but unfortunately, I’m sick.  I had a fever of 102, chills, wheezing, and coughing so I visited the doctor yesterday. He took a chest xray and so far has ruled out pneumonia but they’re waiting for bloodwork results to check for flu. I was a wreck when I developed the fever as I got nervous about post-op infection. Cellulitus is one word that I’m terrified of!  So far, things look good. I’m sore and although I don’t have drains, I’m leaking from my incisions in the inter-mammary fold. Dr. M said it’s ok though and is nothing to worry about.

I’m wearing a sports bra 24/7 for now to keep things towards the front and it’s a bit irritating on the incisions but it’s do-able. Right now, I’m just soooo thankful to have marshmallows on my chest instead of coconut shells!!  Below are some initial pictures. I’m still swollen and don’t have any cleavage because of the swelling but it looks good. More importantly for me though, is that it FEELS good!  I’ve been dying for this relief for months!

Immediately after surgery 12/21/10

post op 12/21

Showing Implant exchange scar across chest with revision in inter-mammary fold to remove excess mastectomy skin. (Yes, I had very large breasts!) Also, slight revisions in front to remove puckers from prior necrosis surgery.

I’m in my final weekend with expanders!!!  Tomorrow, I have errands to run and last minute Christmas prep things to do, then… Tuesday morning, I report to the hospital for 6:00 AM.  I’m so anxious to put this phase behind me!  I’ve honestly not been really thinking much about it though for the past week because my dad took a fall, has some broken bones and has been staying with me so that I can care for him. I’m a bit worried about what will happen after my surgery because I won’t be able to help him get up for awhile. Once again… one day at a time! I’m just so thankful that the date that has been circled on my calendar for months is finally here!!

Cold and stress kill me!  When I’m cold or tense the coconuts seize up and it feels like I’m wearing a barbed-wire bra.  Thankfully, the surgery date is right on the horizon and I’m very anxious for the exchange to be over. I’m thinking that it will always be a weird feeling having the implants under the muscle, especially when I flex,  but at least it will be soft and I will no longer have this contraption digging into my armpit. The right side has especially been uncomfortable right from day one and is the one that I had removed and replaced due to the infection. The left has been in place since February and is sitting more in the front while the right is under the armpit more.

I go for my final consult and bloodwork this week then it’s final preparations for Christmas and surgery on the 21st!

I had my final fill yesterday and I’m now at 830cc.  It’s a waiting game now for me as *I* chose the surgery date based on my schedule and wanting to take the least amount of time out of school as possible. So, I’m going to be fully expanded and uncomfortable until 12/21/10.  I’ve been having a hard time over the last week as it is, even prior to this fill. I’ve been able to make it through the school day (barely) but by 8:00pm I can’t take the spasms and pins and needles any more. I usually end up taking a pill (either the prescription Ibuprofen or left over pain meds), take a hot shower,  then go to bed.

Unfortunately, the weather has officially changed to seasonable so I’m back to freezing at night because of the soaking sweats.  Although I’m on HRT, it doesn’t completely eliminate my night sweats and for the past week I woke up dripping wet and shivering because I’m cold.  In the summer, waking up wet wasn’t as bad because the air wasn’t so cold, but now, I’m dealing with that cold and wet feeling again…. Sigh… I’ve shed a few tears in the past week because my bed has become a torture chamber.

On a brighter note, although I’m extremely sore and uncomfortable right now, my PS is very happy with my results thus far. He feels that the left side is almost perfect, except for a pucker of skin that I have from the “trim” that I got to correct the necrosis issue two weeks post PBM. The right side is a bit too far to the side but he said that it will be fine when he does the exchange and moves the implant closer to the center. They look fine in clothes but feel like coconut shells and I’m  sooooooo anxious to swap them for something soft and squishy!

Countdown to Exchange: 49

I had a fill on Monday and I’m now at 730cc. I’ve got one more fill scheduled for Nov. 1st to put me a bit above the 800cc max and then  it’ll be a waiting game until Exchange surgery on 12/21.  Finally!  I’m uncomfortable but I’ve been keeping busy with work so it’s bearable. Nighttime is the worst and I’m really convinced that the fact that the expanders are under the pec muscle is throwing things off with my back. When I stretch and try to stand up straight I feel a pulling. All I know is, I’m anxious for it all to be over!  Fingers crossed for smooth sailing ahead. 🙂

It’s been one year since my life changed significantly. Sometimes I feel that I’ve aged 10 years in the last one. Menopause has not been fun, nor easy. I must say, I’m in much better shape in terms of hot flashes and sleep deprivation than I was right after the surgery though.  Back then, I was literally having 10-12 hot flashes an hour and was spending the entire night having sweats, then chills because I was soaking wet.  Since having my PBM, I’ve been on HRT so it’s been reduced to 10-12 a day rather than per hour.

It’s been a ride trying to find the right HRT and so far, this Evamist spray/Provera pill combo has been decent. I’m still having some hot flashes and night sweats but at least I’m not having a period like I did on the Climara Pro patch, for god sake!

As for the rest of what’s been going on, I’m at 630cc and I’m heading for another fill on Monday. I’ve been very uncomfortable this weekend and I think it has to do with being cold. When I’m cold, I tend to tense up and the chest clamps up and the coconut shells ache.  Also, my back/leg issue is still not completely right and I’m really feeling that it’s related to my expanders and the fact that they are under the muscle throwing everything off. When I try to stretch and stand or sit up really straight and tall, I feel the pain shooting down… sigh…

Other than that, I’m still very happy to be back to work and dealing with “real life” not just life as a BRCA+ person.

 

I’m nervous…. It’s Tuesday, August 24th and I’m away on vacation. I had a fill on Friday and it was my first on both sides since my expander re-do. I’m at 400cc on both sides and I’m sore as hell. I’m back to “wearing that barbed wire bra” feeling and to me, it looks like my breast mounds are getting red. It could just be the lighting, the fact that it’s my first real fill to tax the muscle and skin this time around or god forbid, it could be something brewing. I’m certainly hoping that the latter is NOT the case.  I swear, if I develop cellulitis again, I’m taking both expanders out and will think of doing something else.

I am scheduled to go back to work ONE week from TODAY… I can NOT have an infection. I can NOT miss more school. I can NOT  go through surgery again…..  <fingers crossed that it’s NOTHING>

2nd fill 300cc each

400cc 2nd time

I’ve been remiss in posting because I’ve been busy with other aspects of my life.. (That’s a good thing… it means that BRCA+ isn’t the most significant thing in my world, by far!)  Anyway, I had my drains removed and the PS filled the right expander to 200cc.  I’m now 290 on the left and 200 on the right. I’m still swollen though so in terms of size I’m almost even.  Shape, however is a different story.

Left 290, Right 200: First Fill, Round 2

Left 290, Right 200: First Fill, Round 2

Ms. Leftie is almost teardrop shaped as it has been since I had most of the saline removed just after the right expander removal surgery.  The skin and muscle had been sufficiently stretched to 710 then reducing it to 290 has left it very loose.

Ms. Rightie is very tight because it’s new and is also filling high.  So, while it’s technically a bit smaller, it’s riding higher and looks fuller. I’m certainly hoping that when they both start to expand again, they even out and that it’s not actually positioned higher. We’ll have to wait and see…

I’m pretty comfortable right now but I’m totally aware that I am 100cc less than I even walked out of PBM surgery at the first time around. I’m really hoping and praying that the expansion process won’t be as painful since everything as already been stretched once before.

Since I have to go back to school to start the year off in September and don’t have sick time left, I’m shooting for exchange surgery right before Christmas so I can heal over the break without taking much time out of school. Because of this, we’re back-planning the fills so the timing is right and I’m fully expanded for the least time necessary before exchange. By taking it slower and spreading it out, hopefully it will allow me to be as comfortable as possible for as long as I can so I can live life and work.

My next fill is 8/11 in which I should be evened up.