Holy smoke! One month ago I had my breast reconstruction surgery! They say time flies when your having fun… I’ll say having boobs again is pretty fun (according to my hubby anyways 😉 My foobies are officially in place and my expanders are hopefully burned into smitherines exactly where they belong for causing me so much pain and discomfort! I have dreamed of the day for this past year of when I can finally sleep on my side again… FINALLY, its beginning to look like its in reach! I’ve had smiles, and tears, pain, and a lot of changes this past month. So, lets start from the beginning of my boobie reconstructive journey…
The days leading up to my breast reconstruction, I had one pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon, blood work, and a physical. Surprisingly, I didn’t have as many appointments as I had hoped and looking back on it now, I wish I asked even more questions because I love my surgeon but in a way I wish I was more part or could have made more decisions for myself in regards to my foobies. Basically, there are so many options and i’m not sure my surgeon picked the very best for me… but this is exactly why im writing this blog! To help the ladies behind me time-wise in their journies.
John came to my pre-op appointment, my doctor looked at the “damage” radiation has caused to my skin, and we talked about my foobies (fake boobies if you havent caught on already). The biggest thing we discussed in my pre-op appointment was type of implant. We got to feel the difference between saline and silicone, and I’m pretty sure that was Johns favorite part of this entire journey thus far (men and boobies…) I will go a little bit more into Implant types in my next blog, this ones all about me and my journey!
So, my surgeon decided that “gummy implants” a silicone mixed implant would be the best option for me because of the damage my skin has from radiation. So lets stop right there. What is this “damage” they keep describing? So, if you ask me, my skin looks pretty damn good! I used the magical treatment from rxcannacare all throughout radiation, I have no discoloration, no scaring, and to me and my eyes, my one tits skin looked much like the other. The “damage” these doctors are talking about is in the elasticity and basically on the inside. The integrity of skin post radiation is tighter and thats why sometimes the expander going through radiation looks like it shrinks… dang gravity right!
Anyways, this is one big reason that breast reconstruction is much different than a traditional “boob job”, lets remember my original breast tissue is probably burnt up by an insinuator and probably dust particles somewhere by this point. So the whole point of breast reconstruction is basically to make a woman feel more womanly. They build lumps that look something close to natural boobies. For me, its simply to make me feel somewhat “normal” again and to leave my cancer in the past… hopefully forever.
The day of my surgery, I truly was hardly nervous at all. Oddly enough, the butterflies that are typically circling my stomach before any of my procedures had fluttered away, and I was just so excited to finally have BOOBS again! My dad, mother in law, and best husband in the whole wide world, woke up bright and early to head to the hospital and prepare for my surgery. It was a freezing cold morning, I remember running into the hospital after my dad dropped me off at the front door with a spirit hood on my head trying to look a little cute considering I couldn’t wear makeup (even though I always sneak on some concealer because my dark circles are soooo awful and I know im always going to take pre-op/ post-op pics).
I checked in at the receptionists, and waited in the waiting room with my fam by my side. The waiting room was actually pretty crowded, and there was the cutest little girl waiting for her surgery, I believe her parents told my dad she was getting tubes put in her ears. She was so wide awake, it was adorable. I finally got called back and had to do all the normal pre-op stuff including peeing in a cup to check for the kazillionth time that im not preggers, then get an IV placed, then answer a kazillion questions, then meet with my doctor finally!
I had John sit in the back with me to keep me company for most of the time because my dad gets super freaked out in hospitals, so he’d rather stay in the waiting room until i’m ready to head back. I had to make sure my anethesiologist had a good plan for my post-op pain management because of all my allergies. Turned out, finally some messages were relayed appropriately and there was a handwritten note from anesthesia about the “plan”. Thank God…
My plastic surgeon Dr. White finally came back and we talked about what was in store for the day. As soon as I saw him, my first words were something along the lines of “go big or go home” followed by a smile of course ;)…. basically I needed to make it a point (like I do everytime I see him) that I want freakin big boobs! His response is always the same, a laugh and something along the lines of “you girls…”. He took a peak at my expanders and sighed at how much work he had to do on my right (radiated) side because my expander had slipped through the stitches and was very much in my armpit. He drew on me like a canvas, had his plan in his head of course, and was on his way.
Not long after seeing my doctor, I said my goodbyes and was off to the OR! I actually got to walk back into the room with the nurse. Of course, immediately after getting into the OR, I felt the urge to pee. I then realized (as I was carrying my IV bag) that they had been pumping me with fluids the entire time I was waiting, no duh I had to pee!
The OR rooms are a weird and freezing cold place. It has lots of tools, lights, a creepy table in the middle, and nurses that look super sterile! I looked to the right and there was a table of implant boxes. As I made small talk to the nurses, I once again “jokingly” made it known that I wanted the largest implant he could shove in.
Going into surgery with my expanders at 360cc my doctor was planning on placing an implant from 360cc- 470cc of which of course I was praying for those 470s! Bigger the better is my motto. But come on, I’ve already been through so much, give me to titties that I’ve always dreamt of, GOSH! They had me climb onto the operating table and I truly dont remember very much more until I woke up all bundled up in the recovery room getting yelled at by a nurse for itching my nose and eyes after waking up from anesthesia. Turned out, once again I was having a minor allergy to some sort of medicine. I remember Dr. White walking by and saying “how do you feel” and all I could focus on was how itchy I was.
Eventually, they let John and my dad back into the recovery room as I went into convulsions from feeling so cold. My lovely nurse stacked me up with a kazillion heated blankets and that was enough to make my dad head back into the waiting room. Supposedly, the nurse told John and I slightly remember this happening… once I woke up from the anesthesia, the first thing I asked was how big were my boobs of which the nurses response was “you got the ones you wanted”, and I lifted up my arm and squealed “yes”! Totally something I would do!
After waiting until I was stable enough for discharge, With the help of John and my nurse I got out of bed and walked to the bathroom to pee, again… After that, they had a wheelchair waiting for me just because I was still a little unsteady on my legs from the anesthesia, and I was free! I truly dont remember much about the drive home other than being really cautious and yelling at my dad everytime he hit a bump or hole in the road.
I got home and they got me comfy on the recliner and my healing began. I slept a lot of the afternoon away. But as I woke up, shockingly I wasnt in all that much pain. I am allergic to most pain killers, so basically I was just taking extra strength motrin. After all my surgeries, for the first few days my hubby makes sure I take my pain meds exactly when Im allowed because I am often on such a low dose compared to other people. I must say, this surgery the pain was much lower than expected.
My surgeon placed steri-strip tape across my incisions and I came out of surgery in a compression bra that was front opening. I realized that much of my pain was coming from the bra being so tight, so the next day I switched into a front opening sportsbra that I purchased two sizes larger than my old boobs post my mastectomy. That following day was the first time I got to see my new foobies and the center between my two breasts were quite swollen. I also had a lot of bruising on my right breast predominantly all of which my doctor said was normal, even after I sent them pictures for more reassurance.
As the days went on and the swelling went down, my doctor said I didnt even have to wear the sports bra. I did wear it religiously for about 2 1/2 weeks, in a way I felt like it gave me more support and took away some of the discomfort. A week into my recovery, I had a little accident where I tripped and fell down my basement stairs. I ended up landing right on my butt, however due to protective reflexes, my arms stretched out and I immediately felt a pull or tear-like stain of my right pec. I immediately was in hysterics, i could have sworn I fucked up my surgery:(
The next day was the day before Christmas Eve, and I put a call in to my surgeons office even though I knew my doctor was already away for the holidays. The fellow informed me that these surgeries are actually very stable, and as long as I dont see increased swelling, redness, or bleeding from my incisions, I should be good. Thats all well and fine, however I swear since that fall, my already messed up right (radiated) side has been very tender and painful.
The only other thing I noticed post-op was once odd bruise on the right side of my right foob. I sent my plastic surgeons office a pic of it the day after surgery, and again told the fellow that it just didnt look right. Heres my advice to all my pink sisters reading this, when in doubt DO NOT google, DO NOT web md, and DO NOT listen to people with complications that are wayyyy uncommon because it will drive you crazy and you will think your dying. Basically, I came to the conclusion through self diagnosis obviously, that I had necrotizing fascitis and my foob was going to fall out because of the flesh eating disease.
After many sleepless nights, examines in the mirror, pep talks from John, and text exchanges from my pink ladies, the holidays had come and gone and I finally had my first in person follow-up with Dr. White! I was so nervous because the odd bruise had now turned into a blister-type raised bruise however by the time of my follow-up it looked like it was actually healing. Just FYI: I did not have any abnormal redness, swelling, heat, or drainage around my “odd” bruise… however, I was concerned and kept bugging my doctor because I am my own advocate… so if you do have something odd after surgery, open your mouth and demand answers even if they shrug you off.
My follow-up appointment was finally here, and I had a lot of concerns I wanted my doctor to clear my mind of. One being pain and discomfort that I was still having (even though some other girls say their pain instantly went away after expanders were removed), two my necrotic bruise that I believed I was dying from, and three my lopsidedness and concern for capsular contracture (which doesn’t typically occur until later in recovery however Im convinced I have it already ;)— I hope you get by now that I web MD and google wayyyy too much;)
The appointment started with a visit from a plastic surgeon fellow who did a quick assessment then prepped me to take out my stitches Even though they were done internally, I was told that plastic surgeons dont tie knots on the end so they leave long tails sticking out to decrease scarring and discomfort so they had to cut the tails off in order for the rest to dissolve inside. I literally am the biggest baby, because even though I hardly have feeling of my chest, I was still feeling pinching and was whining hahaha, you’d think I never had surgery before! ;0)
Then entered my plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael White! He walked in and I immediately opened my gown literally like super woman wooshhh and it was open… and I explained how Im diagnosing myself with a capsular contracture, necrosis, and basically I’m dying! Don’t worry everyone, to my surprise… I am NOT dying and actually he is very pleased with my healing! He did see how my right (radiated) side is a little higher but he “says” in about six months we will have a more realistic view of what adjustments may have to be made.
One month progression of healing
Where I am today
Today, I am hardly in pain and only have minimal discomfort at night when I try to sleep on my side. I am able to sleep on my side when I position myself the right way with a pillow, so that makes me super duper excited! I am yet to go bra shopping because I really want my right boob to fall a little more. I am also most uncomfortable around my bra line. I pretty much don’t wear a bra at all these days, and if I have a tank top with a built in bra… I typically find myself either adjusting it a million times a day, or cutting them out!
I have days that I look at my chest and I feel really self conscious and upset, but then I have days where I put on a shirt and see a little cleavage and I get really excited. Basically, my foobies are not real boobs, and I guess thats why I don’t really feel uncomfortable sharing my photos and advocating for mastectomy survivors everywhere. My scars tell my story, and I am so blessed for all my doctors for taking such amazing care of me!