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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!

It’s exactly two weeks since my exchange surgery and I went back to work yesterday. I’m so thankful that I traded in coconut shells for marshmallows but I’m still sore and have that pins and needles squeezing feeling.  I saw the PS yesterday and he said that I’m still very swollen and that I’ll be more comfortable as it goes down. I’m scheduled to see him in 4 weeks.  H0pefully, I lose some of this fluid soon.  I’m actually more uncomfortable today than I have been in the past week. I think being back to work, carrying things, and being on the go has done it.  Also, I’m tired!  After being home for Christmas break, recovering from surgery and getting over being sick, it’s exhausting getting up and 5:30 and getting back into the routine. I’m so happy that this journey is almost over!

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.

So, I’m back to work, busy as a bee,  and loving it. I have a great class this year and it feels awesome to be back to my “real life”.  My back has been sore since returning to work but last week I actually threw it out and was unable to sit, stand, or walk so I was out of commission for a few days. I saw the doctor and he realigned it but I still spent the weekend in pain. (My heating pad and tennis ball to roll on were never far away!)

I had a fill on Monday, bringing me to 630cc and while I’m sore from it and get twinges of pins and needle squeezing episodes, it’s not a constant pain. The PS is happy with my progress and while I’m not quite symmetrical, he said that it will be fine when I have the exchange. He had his trusty tape measure out and was measuring this way and that.

I saw the doctor for my back again yesterday and it’s starting to feel a bit better but I won’t be running any marathons anytime soon, that’s for sure. Hopefully, it’s healed soon and I can get back to business.

I’m 8 days post-op and still have my lovely accoutrement.. the drain.  This is the longest I’ve have one in, including after  the initial surgery.  My output is still up there so it looks like it won’t come out until Friday at the earliest or possibly Monday.

I’m not sure if Dr. M will fill me on that first visit or will wait a bit longer. I’m not looking forward to the pain (AT ALL) but I would love to be even on both sides as soon as I can. Around the house it hasn’t been bad but today I had to go to funeral and it was tough to find to something to wear. (With the drain in I can’t wear a sports bra so I couldn’t stuff the flat side.) Luckily, I had a blouse that had a lot of print and was very loose so although I could tell, it wasn’t glaringly obvious. Even if he doesn’t fill me to match yet, when the drain is out I can at least break out my trusty sports bra and bandana stuffing. Until then I’m the uniboob girl.

Physically, I feel fine and hope it continues through the fills. Of course, I’m  not ready to run a marathon but I’m not spending every minute on the couch either.. in fact I’m outside more than anything these days. Tomorrow, we’ll hit the bike path for the first time since surgery, but I’ll be walking instead of riding my bike or running. l hope that it continues once my fills start. I guess it’s a wait and see game. For now, it’s one day at a time and looking towards that light at the end of the tunnel.

This past week was absolutely gorgeous!  At 8 weeks post-op, I’m feeling GREAT and have been very active. I broke out my bike and rode 3 days on the bike path this past week. I’ve even been able to do a bit of running.  It feels so good to be myself again. Of course I’ll be out of commission again when I go in to put the expander back in on July 13th. It will stink to go backwards but I know it’s necessary to move forward and put it ALL behind me.

Meanwhile, I’m going to keep riding, running, working in my garden,  and doing this:
summer2010 043

I’ve been away from the computer a lot lately which in itself indicates that I’ve been busy with life!  My DD graduated from her college program and my DS graduated from high school over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been busy planning parties, cleaning, running errands, and working in the yard. We got the pool open and although the weather hasn’t been hot since, we’re expecting a nice weekend so maybe I’ll take a dip. I’ll end up wearing shorts, a tank and sports bra so that I can keep my stuffing in place but it’ll do.

I never posted what Dr. B. said about the vaginal bleeding but she did call me back and said that it was probably my body getting used to the new HRT. She said that it may happen again this month until the hormones level off but that should be it. What a relief!  I was dreading the thought of still having to have a monthly period despite having my ovaries out and going through menopause. There has to be at least one good thing about this whole thing!  Unfortunately, I’m bleeding again today (less than weeks from the last time) so I’ll need to call her if it happens again.

Other than that.. life is just moving along and I’m getting stronger every day. Too bad it’s only to start all over again on July 13th. Once again, I’ll be taking one day at a time. Until then, I hope to get my bike out and hit the bike path while I can and enjoy being able to be active.

I went to the PS yesterday and Dr. M said things are healing well and I’m on the right track. He asked how I was doing and I told him that I was starting to freak out about the time frame for the surgery because of school. Because my co-teacher has been transferred to a new building, I feel that I really need to be there to open up the class and start the year.

Right away he was very firm in stating “We’ll do whatever you need to do.  It’s all about your schedule.”  He said that he usually likes to do the fills as fast as possible because the expanders are so uncomfortable and he wants to be able to take them out as soon as he can. But, he said, we can fill extremely slowly and I asked if it was possible to do some fills over the summer then suspend filling for awhile so I can start the year.  Once again, he stressed that he would work around my schedule and do whatever I want.

I also asked him about the swelling that I get when walking and he assured me that it’s got nothing to do with the lymph system and it’s nothing to worry about. I really didn’t think it was but just wanted to make sure in case there was a problem.

So, I feel more at ease today about school.  The “plan” is that I’m going to go back in September and take it slowly but of course I’ll need to see how I make out after the surgery. If I’m in agony like I was the first time around and need pain medication to get past the muscle spasms I obviously won’t be able to work. If that’s the case then I’ll try to bite the bullet, fill quickly despite the pain, and try to have the exchange ASAP then go back when it’s all over. It’s not what I hope will happen but at least I’m going to try to make it back.   It just feels better to have some options.  Naturally, one thing I’ve learned is that you can plan all you want but ultimately, you have to go with the flow because some things are just beyond our control.

Comfy sports bra stuffed with a bandana 😉

Things are loosening up. 4 1/2 weeks until surgery.

Last night it hit… tears that wouldn’t stop.  I think it was getting that pap smear news and knowing that I have yet another procedure to go through.  All in all, I’ve been very strong throughout everything: the loss of my ovaries and breasts, the menopause, the seemingly endless complications, 4 surgeries since October and at LEAST 2 more on the horizon (expander on July 13th then exchange), looking at this body with only one breast mound and a concave, ugly reminder… Last night it all came crashing down.  I was so uncomfortable trying to watch TV and I kept stretching to relieve the tightness in my chest,  and putting the afghan on and off in response to my hot flashes and chills and I had just had it.

I went to bed thinking about how one year ago, none of this BRCA+ stuff was even on my radar and my life was just normal. I was active and healthy. I felt 27 instead of 67… I still had two beautiful, perky “girls” and a body that was still capable of bearing children.  I know that I made the right decision in testing and having my surgeries but every now and then the armor falls and I feel sad and grieve for the body that once had….. Last night (and today) was just one of those times. I know better days are coming. I know that this is just another “bump in the road” as Dr. M. says. I know all of that but I’m tired of this….   I look forward to not having to stuff one side of my chest, not being in a state of constant tightness and pulling and not having to sleep on my back,  and being able to regulate my body temperature for a full day for a change.  Sorry to be such a bummer.. but I’m human,  I’ve just about had it  and I’m sad….

I’m getting stronger every day and with the left side deflated and the right side non-existent, I can actually forget for a time what’s going on.  Of course, the minute a spasm hits or I reach across my chest to grab something and my arm brushes against it, I remember.  What I’m getting at is, because I’m healing and getting stronger every day in anticipation of my July 13th surgery, I’m not in pain and can get on with my life.  I’ve found just the right size facecloth to fill the right side of my sports bra to make it pretty even with the left so while it’s much more comfortable to be braless, I can look fairly normal going out in public and it’s not completely uncomfortable.

I really wish everything would be done before it’s time to go back to school in September because I think it’s important to be there at the start of the year but I’ve learned that It Is What It Is and I just have to go with the flow… Right now, I’m just getting better and living each day to the fullest. 🙂