The good news is the drains came out Monday so I had my first real head to foot shower since April 6th. The not good news is that the tissue expanders are not comfortable, especially the left one. If I palpate under my armpit I can feel the edges of the expander which is freaky. Percocet helps somewhat but I’m guessing The Boob Whisperer is going to cut off my supply soon, thus, I’ve been cutting them in half and hoarding them like magic beans or something.
I’m getting my first “fill” or “expansion” on Monday. I was wondering how that actually works. I’m like, okay how do they get the saline into my boobs? I found a YouTube video that explained it. What happens is the expanders have a fill port that is built into the front of the device. This port is accessed with a needle through the skin. Expansion takes about one minute, and the amount of fluid that is placed is limited by the tightness of the patient’s skin. A typical volume for each expansion procedure is 50 cc’s of saline (an equivalent of 10 teaspoons). Or at least this is what the Internet told me. This is what the expanders look like:
When I googled images of “tissue expanders” there was a photo of what could only be a real live mongoloid (google it, you know you want to). But then I read that it’s actually a procedure. Apparently there are scalp tissue expanders that are used to stretch the skin so a bald area (like from a big scar or something) can be covered. I was like okay, no more googling. The photos of boobs with tissue expanders were kind of disappointing, they sit higher on the chest and do not look natural at all, like mongoloid boobs. But, ultimately the final silicone implants should look and feel much more natural.
These drains are becoming like new appendages. The Boob Whisperer said they can’t come out yet, not until each one is putting out less than 30 cc in a 24 hour period. Right now they are like 50-60 cc. I said “oh man you totally suck.” Luckily he has a good sense of humor. This has put the kibosh on my return to work on Monday. I can’t go in there with these gross drains. I must be producing an inordinate amount of fluid and I told my husband as we were driving home, it must be because I’m extra juicy. He cough-laughed and looked at me like “ew.”
I came across an article on Facebook recently about what not to say to someone going through breast cancer. I’ve seen a lot of these types of articles and I have to say I do not agree with most of the admonitions. One was “don’t offer prayers” (go ahead and pray but don’t tell the person you’re praying), another was “don’t tell me I look good” (when we both know I look like shit). I personally welcome prayers and anyone who wants to tell me they’re praying. Ditto if someone wants to compliment my appearance. I think there are so many “rules” out there people are reluctant to say anything for fear of saying the wrong thing. For me, I prefer it when you say what’s on your mind and ask me questions. I can’t think of anything that would be off limits. I had one coworker ask how the mastectomy actually works, you know, does he just slice them off? I showed her the scars and we talked about it. I’m sure there are others in my shoes who may prefer to be more private but I’d rather put it all out there. Whatever you want to know about my experience with breast cancer, chemo, baldness, radiation, reconstruction, etc., I will talk about it. That’s not to say that cancer is ALL I want to talk about, it’s not. And I don’t want to get all up in people’s faces about it. It’s just a part of who I am now and it helps me to be open and honest about it instead of talking around it like some pink-ribboned elephant in the room.
I saw the Boob Whisperer today and he said the drains can’t come out yet which I kind of knew because they’re still draining a lot. Which means more strategic showering. Ack. Sigh. I go back again next Friday at which point they either come out or I can’t go back to work. The good news though is that the wounds look good and the flap from my back that’s on my chest is pink and healthy. Also he said he can start filling the expanders soon. He anticipates 3-4 months to get them filled to the desired size. I can go in for fills as often as once per week.
Certain movements are still pretty painful. I read somewhere that the expanders feel like carrying around bowling balls on your chest. That is a pretty accurate description. My MacGyver husband gave me a camelpak tube for my cup of water on the nightstand because I can’t twist my body around. He also installed a hand held shower head so I can shower without getting the surgical sites wet. I have to hang the drains on the shower caddy hook thingy being careful not to get them wet, or my upper body wet, and then I wash my hair in the sink.
Today marks the one year anniversary of getting that phone call with my cancer diagnosis. I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in the last twelve months.
So it’s been two days since my surgery. Wednesday night I could not conceive that that I was not in a hospital with a morphine pump. That’s saying something when Percocet can’t get the job done. Thursday I was seriously questioning my decision to do this reconstruction. I could not move in any direction without feeling like I was being savagely stabbed repeatedly with a machete. I was feeling very sorry for myself, like after all I’ve had to go through I now have THIS. Just so I can look and feel normal. I don’t remember having this much pain after my mastectomy, but Tomas thinks I am probably just not remembering. Today is a new day however, and I feel much better.
I had my follow up appointment with The Boob Whisperer this morning and he took off the bandages. I told him I’d been cussing him out behind his back and he said he’s cool with that. He also said my wounds look as good as he could hope for. I saw the flap of skin he took from my back that’s now on my chest and it’s kind of freaky. Makes me think of how they replace a missing thumb with a toe, now I have my back on my chest. I have two drains like I had after the mastectomy, which hopefully will come out in a week. What also sucks is I can’t shower so I’m feeling pretty funky. Oh and my left arm and hand keep twitching involuntarily. I think this has been the most physically challenging part of my journey but I’m optimistic in the end it will be worth it.
I’ve been wondering lately if I’m considered a “breast cancer survivor” now and it appears I am. The National Cancer Institute defines a cancer survivor this way:
“An individual is considered a cancer survivor from the time of diagnosis, through the balance of his or her life. Family members, friends, and caregivers are also impacted by the survivorship experience and are therefore included.”
People often ask me if I’m in remission or cancer-free or even cured. Well there is no “cure” for breast cancer but the way it works is, right now I can say I have NED-no evidence of disease. Having said that, please know that statement doesn’t really allay any fears. When I get a headache now, thoughts creep in like brain cancer. And those thoughts lead to other thoughts like dying and my funeral (what songs do I want played and will people be crying?) and thoughts of all my stuff, and I think I should organize my stuff because someone’s going to have to go through it (do I have anything embarrassing anywhere?) And then I’m crying and feeling all dramatic. I know it’s macabre but that’s what I’m dealing with you guys.
I read that a sign of ovarian cancer can be frequent urination. Wait, am I peeing more? Should I keep track of my pee now? I went to the doctor last week because I felt like I was wheezing with a constant tickle in my throat. So for the two days I was waiting for my appointment I was thinking it could be lung cancer or thyroid cancer and then felt like a dipshit when I walked out with a prescription for Flonase. All I can hope for is that this state of constant hypochondria will ease up over time.
P.S. I came across this cool inspirational picture/sign/or whatever these things are called.