A Letter to the Girl Faced with a Mastectomy

To Whom This May Concern,

Hey!  My name is Meghan and this time last year… I was preparing for my tits to get chopped off!  Okay, I guess that wasn’t the BEST introduction, but it is 100% true! April of 2016, I underwent a double mastectomy after 12 rounds of chemo and pending 30 radiation treatments following my diagnosis of stage 2B breast cancer.  I have been through it all my friend, and since i’ve already been there and done that, here are some tips,advice, and what to expect in the next few months to come…

The Mastectomy.  

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Okay, plain and simple… its freaking scary.  It sucks going into any cancer journey, but when the treatments begin to take away every last bit of the “old you”, it hurts.  Emotionally, then physically. My first bit of advice is to celebrate! I am all about throwing a party, and what a greater celebration than becoming cancer free? Legit the cancer filled tissue/ tumor is about to leave your body… and your beloved boobies are simply a sacrifice for your life!  Even if it’s as simple as buying yourself a cupcake, lighting a candle and making a wish. This event shouldn’t be a funereal or even somber in nature, but instead a bright, sparkly, vibrant, celebration of life and BOOBS!

For me, my Tata to the Tatas celebration was the first step of closure with the process of my cancer journey.  It turned this very difficult and life changing moment into a positive, fun, and joyous occasion. Of course we has a boob cake and cupcakes, a massive bra for everyone to sign, it was fun and goofy, but also so meaningful. It was a chance for my family and friends to be apart of my journey, soend time with me, and get a fee laughs in before a major surgery! I mean, you dont ever truly know what is going to happen during a surgery… so if something were to happen, I was atleast going out with a banging celebration!

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Make sure to take one last photo of your precious boobies. I can almost put money on the fact that later on, there will absolutely be those days that you look down at your new chest and try to remember what the old twins used to look like. Even something as stupid as a nipple.  I wonder all the time what mine used to look like, what color or size they were— it seems so dumb but this is the post mastectomy reality.  In the day and age where mastering the “selfie” is of utmost importance… DO NOT forget to invite your boobies into the photo;)

 

 

Surgery day…truthfully, I was scared shitless as I was on the stretcher ready to go back to have my boobs lopped off! As I exchanged hugs and kisses to my family, this was the moment that I broke.  I was hysterical. It is completely normal for fear, anxiety, and yes DEATH to cross your mind.  My advice is, take a deep breath and hope for the best, it is all you really can do! I sort of kept it in the back of my mind that this is what I had to do to live and get the cancer out of my body, that helped too.

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Nerve block for pain management- because i’m allergic to pain medications

Next,  Expect pain.  I mean, you are having surgery… and everyone is different. The best way for me to describe mastectomy pain is tenderness, stretching, and sharpness.  Initially you will most likely have pain pills, and if your not allergic like me and can take them… DO!  Your body will heal quicker the less pain you are in because your body will be able to relax.  If you can’t take pain medicine like me, you will be completely fine with extra strength Motrin.  The pain is moreso a burning, pulling sort of feeling.  You are going to be most limited because you won’t be able to really use your arms the way you are used to. Do not be like me, take a bath when your home alone (without the water touching your chest of course) because you WILL get stuck. It is nearly impossible to get up and out of a tub without using your arms, I dare you to try this pre- surgery… take my advice and do not do it! BUT remember,  after surgery you have to keep moving!  This may be the therapist in me, but I was up and peeing on the toilet as soon as they got me to the doorway of my hospital room.  REFUSE the bed pan, get your butt up and MOVE, thats how you are going to heal.

Ps: Go out and get some comfy front opening pajamas– (wal mart has geeat button pajama sets) I pretty much lived in them for a few days until I was able to move my arms enough to get a shirt over my head. Or, just go topless, I did that a lot as well!
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You will have drains, lines, stitches, swelling, bruising, and exhaustion.  Your chest is going to look a bit Frankensteinish.  At first, you may not want to look down.  If you are like me… you may sneak peeks despite the doctors orders to leave the dressings alone!  I can tell you that I left the surgical tape along my scars for weeks, and quite truthfully… I was scared to take them off and actually see my scars because it made them real.  Take the time to adjust to your new chest, and remember the scars are a souvenir of your journey!

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*Something that was a life saver to me was my drain dolly or shower pocket!  My friend ordered one for me from Amazon, it is 100% worth the money.  It lays comfortably around your neck to hold your drains, I was even able to use it to keep them up when I bathed. Some people have more than 2 drains though, thats when you may want to get creative! I couldn’t really find anything that I thought would work for very cheap… until I decided to use my noggin.  Thats when I decided to buy a beer belt.  I found a super cute one on amazon for a few bucks and brought it with  me just in case I had 3+drains— lucky for me I came out with only two, but this is a good hack if you don’t want to spend 20+.00 on a “drain” specific item.

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If you have friends and family who are willing to help, teach them how to empty your drains, for me that was the greatest help.  Or how to shoot you in the stomach with a needle if they make you do blood thinner injections.  If not, you can do it! Pretend its a dart and JUST DO IT! Don’t pause 😉 Oh, having meals prepared ahead of time is also a great recommendation.  One of the BEST things during my recovery from my mastectomy was hiring a cleaning lady.  It sounds so ridiculous and I hate to admit it but the extra help was so so sooooooo greatly appreciated and needed at the time.


Now is the perfect segway into my recommendation for scars, healing, and skin care. You 100% must make a plan ahead of time if you want your scars to heal beautifully. Of course drinking tons of water and eating nutritious  foods helps. I will make recommendations, however please clear everything with your doctor! What worked for me and I say it all the time, it literally saved my life, is RxCanna Care. Following my mastectomies, I used their canna cream around my newly diminshed breasts— around the surgical tape and not near my drains. Once drains were removed and tape was taken off, my doctor recommended me to use lotions to promote healing. I waited until my scars were healed (with no drainage or open areas) and I began loading up with canna cream! This CBD based lotion is filled with natural healing properties and I swear that is why my mastectomy scars healed so beautifully!


Expanders and Fills.

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Boy I bet you cannot wait to get those plastic balls off your chest! Bet you didn’t know that sleeping on your back was so hard either! I remember it all too well. I bet you cant sleep on your stomach, or even your side right now because of how uncomfortable the rocks on your chest make it.  Well, one thing I did find that made sleeping a little better was purchasing a maternity pillow (I bought a Snoogle).  I was able to manipulate it so my shoulder was supported and my boobs sort of hovered in like a nest— sounds weird but it was the only way I found comfort as a habitual side sleeper the last 26 years of my life!

When someone hugs you, you probably arch a little so they dont get poked by your pokeball titties. It is completely normal to look in the mirror and give them a quick squeeze and wonder what the heck your doctor really slipped under your skin. Each fill is probably more and more painful, well for me it was atleast. Take a tylenol 30 minutes before a fill— and look into reiki or hypnosis I kid you not, it took away my pain to the point I could actually sit up and breath without being in horrible pain following my fills. For me, the expanders were one of the worst 8 months of my life!  You will be in constant discomfort and it won’t go away until they are out, so your just going to have to wait… sorry thats the honest truth:( *Rxcanna care CBD oil also has pain relief!

Breast Reconstruction

 

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully!  If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Remember this is NOT a boob job… the difference between breast reconstruction vs. a beauty boob job is the simple fact that the surgeon is building a breast after taking off all your breast tissue.  I like to picture it as a sand castle.  Its a lot easier to build a castle on top of a hard form than with just sand and water when it tends to crumble.  Same sort of thing with breast reconstruction.  NOT every breast reconstruction will come out “good”.  There are a kazillion complications that could occur.   Please start with researching your surgeon.  Feel comfortable with your surgical plan, ask questions, and be an active part in decision making.

I know you want to know about whats most important… thats size! The bigger the better is my motto, however with breast reconstruction this is a difficult subject.  Plain and simple, Expect smaller boobs.  If you get greedy and force your surgeon to place a larger implant, there is a high chance that the surgery will have some sort of complication.  Listen to your surgeon.  Tell them your wants and needs and meet in the middle. Its all about compromise, ive learned.

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There are TONS of different shapes, profiles, and materials that implants are made of nowadays— every person is different and you should always discuss ALL options with your surgeon.  My surgeon explained to me that the best material (for me) of implant would be a gummy implant which is a silicone mixed implant.  It is a harder consistency BUT this works for me because my implant is under my muscle and I there is less of a chance for rippling.  Saline implants tend to be jigglier and you can get easier cleavage however you most likely will see ripples because your skin is going to be thinner— remember, we don’t have breast tissue and fat like normal boob job candidates.

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My implants are also a tear drop shape.  These are a more natural looking option and literally look just like my old boobs.  They lay on my chest as a sort of ski slope style to give that natural feel.  For me, I actually would have rathered a high profile type implant where it would have more of a boob job/ barbie girl look however in years to come, and once i’m out of my 20s, I feel like these foobies will be perfect.I just want the big perky boobies, you know;)

Think CC’s vs. DD’s.  When you go for breast reconstructions, there really isn’t a way to say I want a DD implant.  Implants go by the amount of material inside the implant  or cubic centimeters.  Your surgeon will be able to provide you a better insight into size that may work for you.  I went from 360cc filled expanders to 470cc implants and i’m about a 36C bra. (pre-cancer I was a 34B). Remember size matters, but it isn’t everything.

Ultimately you want implants that aren’t going to fail.  If you are planning on getting breast reconstruction in the near future, here are some of my words of wisdom. Be upfront and truthful with your surgeon.  I can’t even count how many times I told my surgeon “I want BIG boobs”, “I want them bigger”… etc.  I felt annoying and selfish at times but HECK, this is my body and if i’m getting rebuilt, you better rebuild me right!  Most likely, you will not go into surgery knowing what size you are coming out.  My surgeon went in with 4 different sized implants, and lucky for me… I got the largest size;)

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Post-op day 1- significant swelling
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1 month post-op, assymetical due to radiation damage and tightness of skin/ muscle
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2 months post-op, starting to drop and loosen on the Right radiated side!

You will most likely not like what they look like when the bandages come off.  They will be colorful, swollen, and look smaller than what the final product will look like.  Even within the 1st month, my boobs changed dramatically! There is a phrase called “drop and fluff”—  and that is exactly what happens! Your implants will look like their sitting really high on your chest at first, as the tissue heals they will drop and look more natural.  You have to give them time to settle and heal.  They will puff out because the swelling surrounding them will go down and if there are imperfections, your surgeon can always do adjustments.  If you went through radiation, that radiated side may seem “crooked” for around 6 months! My surgeon will not even assess for revision until 6-12 months pass.

Don’t be surprised by a pretty quick recovery.  Once again, everyone is different… however plan to be back at work within around 2 weeks.  This surgery is NOTHING compared to everything you’ve been through so far. Literally they say it is instant relief once the expanders come out and I 100% agree.  I think I actually went out to dinner day 2 after my surgery! Now, I’m not saying you won’t be uncomfortable… because you will be for around 3 weeks, but week 4 its like BAM no pain.  I went from only being able to sleep on my back to week 3 sleeping comfortably on my side!  It is like eating dessert after months of dieting, ENJOY*

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Finally, I want to end this letter with a pep talk.  We all know that boobs make us feel feminine.  Breasts feed babies, cleavage looks sexy, and whether your mate is turned on by boobs or butts… well, you may be faced with a problem once they are gone.  BUT, we have to remember that WE are not just boobs! Whether you chose to go flat chested, use prosthetics, or don’t exactly get the outcome with breast reconstruction that you expected… please always remember that as long as your lungs are working, your heart is pumping, and your eyes open the next morning… You are YOU with or without your boobies.  Sure we all want to feel sexy and beautiful, but there are a kazillion things that make you beautiful… Go out and buy a pretty sparkly nighty and have some fun because YOU are a beautiful, sexy, survivor! Always #sparkleon

 

Sincerely,

Meghan, XO

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