Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Foot on the Other Side

Wow, sorry I’ve been MIA lately. It’s been weird since my surgery…my brain still feels a bit muddy. I don’t feel like I am remembering things all that great – although I didn’t forget my son’s birthday last weekend so that’s a start. I think my brain gets messed up easily with hormone changes. During and since my pregnancies I have noticed an inability to remember things as easily as I used to. Since my surgery I have felt a bit like that. I bought a new book prior to my surgery figuring I would have lots of time to read, except I haven’t really felt like reading and have only read about 80 pages of my book. It’s not something I was expecting to affect me following surgery. Hopefully it gets better and goes away soon. Needless to say, I haven’t exactly been able to wrap my brain around what to write about in my next blog. So, I decided to write about some of the issues that have been on my mind post surgery.

So technically I have one foot on the other side. I have my initial surgery behind me, but still have my exchange surgery yet to come. As a reminder, that’s the surgery that involves going back through the original incision site, removing my expanders and replacing them with silicone implants. It won’t be for another couple months still. One of the strangest things is to have the mastectomy finished. What I mean by that is that this was a long time coming. I found out about my BRCA1 mutation in April 2008 and from that moment on, I pretty much knew at some point I would be having a mastectomy. But I gave myself time. Time to think, ponder, research, discuss, soul search…you name it. So it’s different to be on the other side of things. Now instead of - I’m going to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy because my breast cancer risk is almost 90%; it’s, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce my risk of breast cancer to below normal population. “I’ve had a mastectomy.” Those words are still a bit awkward coming off my tongue. Not that I have any regrets, just that it’s almost surreal that all of this has already taken place. Prior to surgery everything feels like a huge waiting game. Waiting to see if you are positive for a mutation, waiting to discuss options with surgeons, scheduling appointment after appointment (whether for information, check-ups or preventative screenings), making well-informed thought out decisions, scheduling the surgery and then w a i t i n g for the surgery date to finally come. Now that the mastectomy is behind me, I can move forward with my life without constantly waiting for that breast cancer diagnosis.

It’s a very strange feeling physically, as well. I told my husband about two weeks post-op that it would be nice when I didn’t always “feel” my boobs. The expanders are behind my pectoral muscle stretching it in order to create a pocket for an implant to eventually sit. So the key word here is stretching. My PS apparently filled my expanders to the whopping 800cc that I was planning on being filled up to when all of my fills were complete. Normally, the expander is filled a bit during the initial surgery (my PS had originally said maybe she would be able to get 400cc or so in them at first) and then slowly filled every few weeks with usually 50-100cc each time. I guess since I did a skin-nipple-sparing surgery she wanted to fill out as much as she thought my muscle could take. Possibly in order to maintain the skin and not have it shrink and cause wrinkling and dimpling. Whatever the thought process, I am filled. There is a constant tightness and pulling on my chest, so I am always aware it’s there. It’s not something I could have imagined prior to the surgery. The expanders are also very hard themselves, so underneath a muscle and stretching it to its max makes the outer “interim” boobs feel solid, not soft and squishy like natural breasts. And it’s just a strange feeling. As my sweet husband keeps reminding me – it’s only temporary - at least the strange hardness, unevenness and outer “damage” that should be fixed by or healed before the exchange surgery.

I knew heading into this whole experience there would be unexpected outcomes, speed bumps, changes of plans and emotional and physical changes. However, everything I have to go through now is so worth what I am gaining – My LIFE. I can look toward the future and not feel like I am constantly waiting for a breast cancer diagnosis. I can know that I did everything in my power to protect myself from having to battle this terrible disease as so many brave, courageous women do. I constantly repeat back to myself the words my husband said to me right after my surgery, “You just saved your life.” He’s amazing and I love him so deeply for being my soul mate and knowing exactly how to help me through anything.

Here’s to a clear head, looking towards the future and silicone!


  1. What a great post. I'm so glad that you have a loving, supportive husband by your side reminding you of WHY you did this. I only wish that everyone going through a PBM had the same sort of support system we do, it's made all the difference.

  2. Teri, I am so glad you have a wonderful support system. I agree that it makes all the would be extremely difficult without loving family and friends. I wish there was a way to help those who don't have that kind of support. Hopefully they can find their way to the BRCA Sisterhood - there are so many amazing people on that site who are helpful and supportive. Still sending happy thoughts your way! :)