Thursday, February 3, 2011

Back Under the Knife

So, it’s been a bit since my last post. I guess that was for several reasons. First, from the end of October to mid December we had visiting guests for almost 5 of those 8 weeks, the boys were off the whole week of Thanksgiving and 2 weeks for Christmas and we traveled for the holidays. In addition, after enveloping myself with BRCA-this, surgery-that, recovery-this, fake boob-that, I honestly just needed a little reprieve to focus on family and friends. It was really nice to not focus too much on surgeries and recoveries and just deal with normal life for a bit. Of course, that is not to say that my BRCA situation left my thoughts - just that I tried to put them on the back burner for bit.

Here’s a quick reminder of where I’m currently at in the entire prophylactic surgery process. Last April 23rd I had my skin-sparing, nipple-sparing bilateral prophylactic mastectomy with 2-step reconstruction. In the initial surgery, they removed all of my “normal” tissue and placed expanders underneath my chest wall muscle. I did not need the usual fills of the expanders because my plastic surgeon placed all 800cc under my muscle right off the bat (and, by the way, I’m pretty sure that’s not normal!). August 5, 2010 I had my exchange surgery, where they replaced the expander with an implant (silicone in my case). Best case scenario the exchange surgery would be the final surgery, but that is not going to be the case for me, nor is it the case for many women enduring these surgeries.

If I’m being totally honest and upfront, I wasn’t too pleased following my exchange. Only a week or so after, I already felt like the left side was still too low and definitely lower than the right side. Also, as I said in my previous post in August, the implants seemed smaller than my real breasts, but they are the largest silicone implant size. I suppose they could be larger if I wanted saline, but I picked the silicone because I liked the fact that they seemed to feel more “real.” So overall, I wasn’t exactly happy with the new rack (sorry to disappoint you Kir!). I think I also find it frustrating because people in general just assume they must be great because they are fake, but this isn’t like getting a boob job. This is under the muscle and with no other tissue there at all. My plastic surgeon noticed right away how the left side had already started sliding and we decided to wait it out to see how much it was going to fall and what the right side was going to do. Currently, they have both fallen quite a bit, lefty more than righty, but nowhere near the unevenness I had prior to the exchange surgery and they are a bit more durable, so a bra mostly fixes it.

Needless to say, I am going back into surgery; this time a revision surgery on March 4. My plastic surgeon is going to use more alloderm and extra stitches to try to create a stronger pocket that hopefully won’t give as much as has happened with the last two surgeries. I kind of feel like I’m being picky, but there is an empty sunken area above my left breast, especially if I raise my arm, because of how far the implant has fallen. They are both a bit too far over, underneath my arms again too. I feel very lucky that my plastic surgeon has done a wonderful job to make them look natural, so I hope she can fix them and still keep the natural look. Even with no shirt on, besides the scars underneath each breast I’m not sure how noticeable it is. My foobs don’t look fake.

There is another part that no one tells you about and for some reason you don’t think about it prior to surgery, probably because you have no idea really what to expect. But, because the implants are under the chest wall muscle, certain movements squish and deform the breast. For example, push-up like movements, like laying on the floor on your stomach and then getting up from that position, or bending, reaching down for something or raising your arm. It’s actually really strange, and I guess I’m already more used to it, but it’s kind of annoying and frustrating. I know I’m probably being pretty picky with this because in reality no one can probably notice this but me, but I’ve tried to be honest through this journey and share things that may be helpful to other women.

Wow, I feel like I sound like I’m complaining and being whiney… I really apologize for that because in reality I do understand how very fortunate and blessed I have been with regard to my surgeries. I have had very minimal complications/problems and I know women who have practically been through hell and back. This is not an easy process, and even though we all hope ours will be as easy as possible, I think we all know it can only go so smoothly. I mean look at what we are putting our bodies through – physically, emotionally, psychologically. It is a permanent change – it cannot be undone, no take-backs. This was and wasn’t an easy choice as I’ve described previously. With up to an 87% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer it felt like I was just waiting to get cancer, not wondering if I was going to get it. But it is not an easy choice to remove a healthy part of your body. Especially parts that, let’s face it, make you feel like a woman. Do I regret my decision to have the prophylactic surgery? No, not one bit actually – despite the tone of this post. I have had an immense amount of relief since my first surgery. I used to worry during self breast exams that I must be missing “IT” and the cancer was there I just wasn’t checking my breasts correctly or didn’t know what cancer should feel like. I’d worry during and after my screening tests (MRI’s, mammograms, and ultrasounds) that the technicians or radiologists might not take something small seriously enough because of my age. I’d think to myself, “But do they truly understand my risk? Something they think is insignificant in a normal 30 year old (or younger) may actually be very important to pay attention to in me.” I know that sounds a little paranoid, but I watched my Mom go through breast and ovarian cancers at young ages and to be honest, I think cancer is somewhat ingrained in my head as a death sentence. So, overall even though at the moment things aren’t perfect [and the natural ones were,… NOT! :)], I would still make the same choice all over again. I feel a bit guilty like I’m being a little picky, but my family has been amazing at helping me feel better about that. First, my Mother-in-law has said “If you have to go through all of this, you might as well be happy with the results.” And I thought, “You’re right! It sucks to go through all of this, so I should at least be able to feel satisfied with the results!” So true! And then my sister-in-law compared it to having a baby – She said to think about it as if you had a baby and the labor and delivery were smooth and easy, but your friend had are really difficult, painful delivery. You wouldn’t feel guilty that yours was easy just because your friend’s was hard; you would feel blessed that yours went so well. And that clicked in my head. So, I am going to stop feeling guilty for having few complications throughout my surgeries and be more thankful for my countless blessings.

If you are still reading this – THANK YOU! Thank you for hanging in there with me through my whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. I just had a lot to share and catch everyone up on since it’s been so long since my last post. I truly appreciate all of the support!

Until next time, here’s to venting, blessings and uneven silicone…oops I meant silicone! :)


  1. Yay! An update! I totally agree with your MIL - you absolutely should be happy with the results after all you've gone through. What you describe as bothersome to you would bother me, too. Even though you don't love them yet, I'm still hoping that sometime soonish you will. :)

  2. Thank you Kir! You are always so thoughtful and supportive! I appreciate you reading. I hope you are doing well. Love ya! :)

  3. I didn't read this as whiny in the least bit. You're just telling us what you're going through. So I was thinking, what if during your next surgery they also did lipo and used it for fat injections around the implant? That'd give it a more natural look, and should provide some cushion for the implant, making it more comfortable. Just a thought..

  4. Thanks Teri - that means a lot! I'm glad it didn't come across whiny. I'll ask my PS about the fat injections...I bet that would help where the sunken area is, although it would be nice if she was just able to fix it this time so that area doesn't happen again. However, let's just say I would have plenty to use and pick from if needed! :)

  5. I'm a little late in reading...:)

    I find that you can be so honest comforting. You are one strong woman. Not that this is anywhere near what you are going through, but when I had my brain surgery I had to choose weather I wanted my own dura, or bovine and if I wanted titanium or polymer. I chose my own dura and polymer. I wanted natural, I didn't want a cow, or metal in my head. It is the choices we make that make all the difference.

    So I toast you in the choices you have made, to the new surgery...may it be the easiest! And to being super! You Rock Tracy! So glad to have reconnected! Love you! Amy

  6. Made me cry to know something I said may have helped a little. I love and miss you so much! My boys are so lucky to have you as their aunt!

  7. Amy,
    Thank you! You are always so kind! Please don't downplay what you have been through - it is WAY more than anything I have had to deal with. I am so in awe of your strength and positive attitude. You amaze me and I am so proud of you! Love you! :)

  8. Joy,
    Sorry I made you cry! I really appreciate you listening and helping me feel better. You truly helped me have a different perspective on things! Love your Joey and can't wait to meet Joshua! :) Hope you are feeling well today! Love you so much!