Thursday, July 29, 2010

47. what its like - epic post - pictures at the end.

today has been an emotional day. i am in quite a bit of pain from my last fill 2 days ago. i didn't take anything for it because i thought i was going to be babysitting. i didn't call them to find out if i was because i was hoping i wouldn't have too. they never called to confirm or let me know i wasn't so i popped in a movie and cried.

experiencing a low level of pain all day takes its toll. i am not normally a weepy person. i think this process is starting to take its toll on me and i know i have been putting on my game face for the past 4 months. i know there are emotions to deal with, but i think subconsciously, i am holding off until i am complete with my final exchange.

i find myself thinking about different things and i am surprised. it's strange that i won't (or most likely won't) get breast cancer. i've lived my entire teen and adult life figuring i would get it. it's almost scary that i won't get it because breast cancer is all i've known and i had braced myself for it. but, it's exciting to hope that i will live to be an old lady.

i am starting to think about exchange surgery. there are fears that go along with it. i have fears that i won't be satisfied, or that my implants will flip around in my body. i mention the latter because my left expander has rotated counter clockwise quite a bit. the port used to be located at the 12 o'clock postion in my left areola, and is now located at the 9 o'clock position, just outside of my areola.

i am glad my fills are now spaced 4 weeks apart. i think the end is going to be difficult, and i have to prepare myself for that. the expanders are digging into my ribs, and when i get up from a laying down or reclining position and inspect the foobies, i have marks on my chest like i am wearing a bra...but i'm not wearing one! it also feels like i have the too tight bra on again that i experienced the first few weeks post surgery.

i hope my body will adjust quickly to this new increase in size. i have almost been set back to the point that it is difficult to open my pill containers, so i have transferred them to the easy off lids again at the pharmacy.

this process is also taking it's financial toll. i tried to go back to my regular job last week as a cosmetic merchandiser, but i couldn't handle the demanding hours, long travel times, and moderate lifting. i had to disclose my medical situation to my company and apologise for not being able to be dependable during our busy time. fortunately, they understood. hopefully, they won't replace me for this contract, but instead, lighten my load and keep me close to home.

i am currently relying on the government for assistance, but all they offer is $36.00 per month for living expenses after my rent. that doesn't even cover my monthly hydro bill, let alone groceries. i have been doing a bit of babysitting on the side to make a bit of extra cash to make ends meet, but i am starting to fall behind and want for certain things like fresh vegetables. i have gone to the food bank twice now and it's not a fun place to they don't cater to my lifestyle of whole foods and high intake of fruits and vegetables.

fortunately, the government assistance covers all my extra medical needs, like prescriptions, and travel reimbursements to appointments. i asked yesterday about a clothing allowance since i am starting to outgrow all my shirts and of course bras, and they said they would cover that.

my grandparents have also been really supportive by giving me a $100.00 allowance each month to help out, and they have me over for dinner often. oma also dropped of a delicious potato salad the other day, and after my appointment on tuesday which they took me to, they took me out to dinner.

things are really difficult, but i also see that God has helped me make all my ends meet even when things have been tight and felt desperate. i just wanted to mention that as a single person, mastectomy does take a financial toll and you need to be prepared for this. you need to ask for help. you need to rely on resources that are available. you need to financially prepare before hand and try to get a bit of savings going into it.

if you get stuck, don't be afraid to ask for help. i live in Canada, and i have received support from several local churches where i live, the food bank, and the YMCA. if i hadn't asked, i would have no electricity, and at times, no food. the united way and the salvation army has paid for my hydro for the past 6 months. i also received grocery vouchers from the catholic church and the YMCA helped me partially furnish my apartment making sure i had a bed in my spare room leading up to surgery in case i needed family to stay with me. (if you read my first or second post, you will see why i was in financial crisis going into my surgery.)

wow...the past 2 years have been the toughest 2 years of my life - except for the year and a few years after when my mom died. i am really happy that i am over most of the hurdles i have been trying to overcome. i really had too much to deal with and wonder how i managed.

i am in a good place now, and despite the pain and tough day emotionally, i can honestly say, i am happy. this is something i have noticed recently in the past few months, and not something i have ever been able to say and experience before. life is good.

i want to share my procedure with you from this past tuesday. my best friend elaine met up with me and my grandparents and accompanied me to my appointment. i brought my professional camera along and she expertly took pictures and they turned out fantastic.

she remarked at how accommodating my plastic surgeon was and also how friendly the nurse and 2 residents were. i feel blessed to have come in contact with such great people who are so genuine and interested. i would like to dedicate a post to my plastic surgeon at some point because he has made this whole journey more enjoyable than not. i actually look forward to my expansions and don't experience any anxiety leading up to them. i will leave that post till after my final surgery though when we are both happy with my results and i can share more information about him.

on to the pictures!

this is me in the day surgery room about to disrobe from the waist up. the foobs are already looking huge, but wait and see how much bigger they get after the fill!

i've got my lovely green hospital gown on. one size fits most. but not me. i drown in it!

my plastic surgeon feeling the expander. i assume he is checking to see how much "give" it still has and the position of it. i'll ask next time.

the mood is always light and sometimes humorous. i am sure i am laughing at a crack i made or a crack my best friend made. i am one of those people that cracks a whole lot of jokes under pressure. i am actually quite funny and laughter is the best medicine!

expansion is not all fun and games. ultimately, you do feel alone at times and lost and overwhelmed. i feel this picture captures some of that. i sometimes find a place outside of myself to get through it. on a different note: look at those rock hard foobs! they don't move or get lost in the armpits. they stay right where they are, even lying down.

i also wore my army boots, because i wanted to be tough girl. i had a feeling that this expansion was going to be harder than the others and geared myself up for it that morning. i was right.

the tool in the p.s.'s hand is a magnet used to locate the port where the needle will be inserted to fill the expander. the expander has shifted since my last visit, so we were surprised to find the port in a new location.

locating the port on the right side.

both ports are marked with an 'x'. the marker doesn't wash off easily and is often there for a week or so. a bit annoying because you can see the marker on my right breast when i am wearing a tank top.

the resident is sterilizing the entire breast area. the p.s. says this isn't necessary, but it is hospital policy. the p.s. says you really only need to sterilize the injection sites, but rules are rules. i like that he follows policy even though the stuff is cold and drips into my hair.

as you can see by my face, this is painful. once the needles are in the port and they start filling, the feeling of pain goes away. i am grateful for the pain, because it means my body is regenerating sensation.

out of the 5 fills i have had, only one other time i had both of them filled at the same time. it doesn't matter to me either way, but i am a little nervous when a resident is assisting.

even though my team makes expansion as pleasant as possible, it is still a stressful experience. you can tell by looking at my neck that i am completely tensed up.

there were a total of 2 residents, one nurse, my p.s., my best friend elaine, and myself in the room. that was a total of 6 people. big party for a small room.

half of the saline has been injected into the expanders on both sides. 30 cc's to go. the process of injecting the saline into the expanders once the needles were inserted took no more than 60 seconds.

the areas are wiped down and a bit of pressure applied to prevent bleeding. the nurse then adds round dome band-aids. i will only wear the band-aids for a few hours and then removed them or else i will get hives. i have a sensitivity to adhesives in band-aids, surgical tape, and latex.

this happy smilely face says it all. i am happy to be done and very satisfied with my size. all my appointments end this way.

you can easily see the round dome band-aids.

they are so huge now they are starting to look funny. i look a little tired from the whole experience.

you can see how the band-aid shows with a tank-top. i had a button down top to go over this. it is officially too small for me after this appointment. most of my tops are.

i hope you found these photos enjoyable. i hope they are helpful and take away some of the mystery to those wondering how it's done. yes, some of it is painful and stressful, but in the end, it is worth it. i think if you have a good team of medical professionals like i do, it makes the whole experience worth while. i am glad that everyone has been so engaging and interested in what i have to say. my questions are always welcome and answered. i never feel like i am being rushed out the door. i've said it before and i will say it again; i feel like a human being. i am not treated like a number.

46. Fill #5 - 3.5 months post-op

I had my 5th fill yesterday. It went really great, however, I am quite sore today. I received 60 cc's of saline in each expander and I can tell that I am really being stretched now. My muscles in my back were sore and the expanders are definitely digging into my ribs. I am taking percoset again for pain.

It is late, so I will be short on words. Enjoy the pics. I think this is the size I want to next 2 fills will be the overfill of 100 cc's. I am currently at:

Left Side: 340cc's
Right side: 360 cc's.

Look for another post in the near future, as I had a friend come with me to document the procedure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

45. just had to share this - inspirational and empowering

beauty and the breast project

i so want to be a part of this! all of these women are absolutely stunning. the photography is captivating! i feel completely empowered and inspired to look at myself differently.

thank you beauty and the breast project. i hope you keep updating with more beautiful portraits.
(click on the portrait link at the bottom of the page - not just the homepage)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

44. 3 months post op pbm

wow! i can't believe it's been 3 months since my mastectomy...and yet, it feels like a long time ago.

i am mostly 100% pain free, however i do notice a bit of achy-ness when the weather is severely humid. and we have had a lot of that...43 degrees Celsius the one day. that translates to 109 degrees Fahrenheit!!!

fortunately, on the hottest days, my friends and i escaped to the lake and floated in bliss keeping cool and drinking lots of water. the first day we went to the lake i was really cautious and swam with a noodle. the second time we went, i surprised myself and attempted to dive off a raft and swim! success! i still have expanders but am able to swim! i don't have much endurance yet, so i always made sure my noodle was close by.

i would like to comment that this past month i have noticed that i am happy! i am happy! i can't believe it. i guess living under a shroud of fear for the past 2 years took an immense toll. i mentioned before that i was in counseling and i also took part in an 18 month behavioral group therapy program but i think the fear of breast cancer prevented me from grasping the new concepts and adopting them fully to my lifestyle.

with the immense weight of breast cancer lifted, i noticed early on post surgery that life was different--better. i noticed my new behavioral tools kicking in and i have adopted a new way of dealing with stressful and difficult decisions. the world is no longer bleak. i don't feel alone. i have so much hope for the future.


here is my CAN and CAN'T Do list for 3 months post-op. keep in mind that i am still in expansion phase.


1. swim (i can probably tread water for about 5 minutes, do the breast stroke, and back stroke.)

2. dive off a raft (and still lose my bottoms!)

3. jump off a raft to try and "touch bottom" of the lake

4. run

5. drive standard - a.k.a. stick shift

6. french braid my hair in 2 braids like the dutch girl that i am


1. chin ups (i thought i could do this last list, but i started to attempt it but it didn't feel right so i didn't force it.)

2. wear a bra for more than a couple of hours (it gets too uncomfortable)

3. sleep on my stomach - since my last expansion i am too large to sleep comfortably on my stomach. i still get a good nite's rest though by sleeping on my sides

4. feel confident with a man with my shirt off in an intimate situation (yeesh...i know this will come in time as the scars fade and the final surgery is done...but what a mood breaker. i refused for them to be touched...they feel so freakish. i am sure he would/and was fine with it, but i was just so damn self conscious and didn't make for a very enjoyable experience. lights off...nuff said.)

i also wanted to mention that i have a little fear. i fear that my permanent implants won't look as good as my expanders...cuz let's face foobs are looking pretty stellar! i really like the projection i am getting and how they look straight on. i also have great cleavage. i know my surgeon will be using the mentor high profiles, so i really shouldn't worry...but i can't help it sometimes. i will be sure to mention that i like the look of things and hope that we can maintain it with the final surgery other than correcting a bit of unevenness and bottoming out. i think he is going to raise things up a bit ever so slightly and i know he is a perfectionist with attention to detail.

hope you enjoyed my post and found it informative!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

43. progression

I threw this together over the past few days. It was more work than I thought but I am sure it will be appreciated. I plan to do progression views for the left and right side as well when I get a moment but right now my life is crazy busy and I fear I won't get much of a chance to update this blog over the coming two weeks. I will try my best though.