The good old days

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

It has been over four months since my most recent surgery (March 1, 2016) and three and a half years since I had my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. As I’ve said before, I have no regrets and am glad that I made the decision to undertake this journey. The last few years have not been easy, but it has all been worth it!hood

Things look great! I would even dare to say they are perfect (see photo below). Of course, there are little things here and there; we are our own worst critic. For example: I lost part of my nipple to necrosis, which resulted in loss of pigment, so I’ve been considering a 3D nipple tattoo to fill that in. In all honesty though, after the complications I’ve dealt with and how long this has taken, I am ecstatic about the outcome!

I’m in a great place in all aspects of my life:

  • This is all finally behind me and I’m happy to say I’ve had nothing but love and support from my husband, family, and all those around me (including you!).
  • On a personal level: hub and I are about to celebrate 10 years of marriage and 20 years together, we’ve traveled a bit this year and will be going to Ireland as well as the motherland to see my family in September AND the FORCE conference in Orlando in October, I chopped off some of my long hair and am slowly making my way to blonde (I love it!), and I lost the 15 pounds I gained over the last three+ years.
  • On the work front: I love my job, which allows me to work from home, and I’m about to dive into a really exciting business opportunity (more details later).

It’s easy to say things are great when they really are great, but if you’ve been reading my blog for a bit, you may know that I’m a firm believer that your attitude really is everything. My anthem has been These Are The Good Old Days by PinkEven when they were shit days, they were still good days. I had the chance to say NOPE to breast cancer

Throughout this process, I’ve remained positive and never lost sight of my “why” for doing all this, which was to greatly reduce my risk of developing breast cancer. Although we are BRCA mutation uninformed negative, cancer has been plaguing our family. My sister was just 29 when she died from the disease (I’m 35). My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and died just a little over a year later. My aunt is in remission from colorectal cancer. I’ve been discussing a salpingectomy with my oncologist and will most likely have that procedure before 40 (stay tuned) followed by an oophorectomy after 50. At the end of the day, I am glad I made the decision to be proactive. I will continue to closely monitor my health and make decisions that best address and mitigate my personal risk.

Because “these are the good old days and I think I’d like to stay” – Pink.

The results



This is what it’s really like to get a mastectomy

Recently I was contacted by a reporter asking whether I’d be willing to participate in a piece on what it’s like to have a mastectomy. Would I share my experience and story? Of course, I said yes! My goal is to put it all out there with the hope to help others in some way. There were a number of women who also provided feedback for the article that was published on Check it out!

logoThis Is What It’s Really Like To Get A Mastectomy

After being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 40, Ann Marie Otis, now 44, had, as she says somewhat jarringly, her breasts “amputated.”

It’s not a term most of us would choose to describe a double mastectomy, but she’s not wrong. After all, an amputation is the surgical removal of an extremity; a mastectomy is the surgical removal of a breast. Thinking of the two procedures as one in the same could drastically change our perception of breast cancer treatment.

Read more

Another one behind me

It has been over three years since I started this process. On January 22, 2013 I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to greatly reduce my risk of developing breast cancer and started breast reconstruction. Since then, I had a few complications, due to which the process took much longer than planned.
On March 1, 2016 I had my 9th surgery. Fun stuff!

Honestly, at this point, I’m tired of talking about it (and feel like my friends and family are tired of hearing about it too). I figured I should at least tell you boys and girls, since it is part of my process and well, this is what the blog is for: to document my journey.

What I thought was my last procedure was in July 2015, when we swapped the expander on my right with an implant. After that surgery, I received IV antibiotics for a month (see post: PICC life). Things cleared up and three months out I went on vacay to Mexico, where I finally was able to wear a bikini without an expander! I enjoyed being done and was very much relieved.

Shortly after, I noticed a bit of a divot above my right side. At the time I thought: no biggie, things take time to settle and it wasn’t really that bad. Over the next couple of months, the divot got deeper and the implant dropped lower. By January I knew that the implant had bottomed out and surgery was the only way to fix it. After consulting with my plastic surgeon, I scheduled the procedure. Over the next two months I went back and forth on whether I would actually have it. On one hand, I was displeased with the outcome and did not like seeing it in the mirror; on the other, I have experienced multiple complications and was afraid of the possibility of more issues.  I had it. The PS did a pocket revision; easy surgery and super easy recovery.

465t377Although the tone of this post may not be entirely positive, I am in a good place. I feel great and still have no regrets about having the PBM. Somebody told me that it wouldn’t be easy and they were right. Totally worth it, though. However, I won’t say I’m done, because I’ve already declared that a couple of times and was wrong. We shall see where this goes. So far everything looks good.


Do you know that most insurance providers (in the US) cover post-mastectomy bras for women who have undergone a mastectomy? There are limitations, deductibles and co-pays still apply, and you might have to jump through some hoops. More info below photos.

I get six bras and six camisoles per year under my current plan. I recently visited a local mastectomy boutique for a fitting and left with four Coobie bras, two Anita bras, and two camisoles (+ third on order). I will return in the spring when Amoena releases new colors and styles to pick up three more camisoles. The experience was relatively hassle-free and since I already met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year, they were all covered at 100%.

IMG_0202 IMG_0204 IMG_0203 IMG_0206 IMG_0205 IMG_0201 IMG_0200 IMG_0199

How does it work?

I started by calling my insurance provider to check level of coverage and to request a list of providers. Post-mastectomy bras are considered medical devices (the code is L8000), so I got a list of places that sell all kinds of devices, which didn’t really help. Then I contacted a local mastectomy boutique: 1. to ask if they work with my insurance provider, 2. determine what I needed to do before I came in, and 3. to make an appointment. I provided my surgeon’s contact information and my insurance details. The boutique reached out to my plastic surgeon and obtained the required prescription and details. They also contacted my insurance provider and secured pre-authorization. A week later I got a call that all was set. They really made it easy.

Some insurance providers work with stores like Nordstrom (appointment required). Those that don’t may reimburse after the fact. Also, stores carry different stock, so if you want Coobie bras, you may need to call around. Keep looking until you find a place that works for you. There are options. Nordstrom will even remove underwires for free (so I hear).

There are providers out there that post their policy online and you may see caveats such as “covered instead of reconstructive breast surgery” or that a breast cancer diagnosis is required. Don’t give up. You may still get coverage if your surgery was prophylactic and you chose to complete reconstruction. You could be asked to prove medical necessity though. The insurance department at the boutique will help you with this. However, if your provider does cover these, keep in mind that your deductible and co-insurance may still apply. Also, they may only cover “basic” bras, so no bejeweled magic lifting contraptions.🙂



I said NOPE to Breast CancerI never really worried or thought much about cancer … until my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28. At the time, I was 21 years old, naive, in college, worried about what plans I had for the weekend, and didn’t really grasp what that meant. More than ten years later, my sister is gone, my mom is gone (ovarian cancer), my aunt is in treatment for colorectal cancer, my other sister just had her own scare, and although I am BRCA mutation uninformed negative, I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and started the breast reconstruction process on January 22, 2013. I said NOPE to breast cancer.

Making the decision to undergo such a drastic surgery was both very difficult and extremely easy at the same time. It came after 10 years of vigilant screenings, when anxiety gripped me every six months as I prepared for my sonogram, mammogram, or MRI, anticipating the results to be the worst. When a screening discovered suspicious lumps, I knew that the time had come.

The reconstruction process was long, painful, and complicated (documented here on my blog). More than two years and eight surgeries later I can finally say I am done! No regrets. If I had to go through this all over again, knowing what complications were in store, I would make the same decision in a heartbeat.

It is not the right answer for everyone facing breast cancer and one that should not be taken lightly or made without research, consulting with experts/doctors, considering alternative options (screening, chemoprevention, holistic approaches, lifestyle changes), and understanding the consequences.

There are many resources out there that can help. The My Destiny Foundation and its Facebook support group has been there for me for the last three years, since the days I was making surgery prep lists and had lots of unanswered questions about my upcoming procedure and following recovery. The group is a family of strong women from all over the world that support each other, laugh together, cry together, and everything in between. Visit to learn more. If you need support, request to join the Facebook support group. See you there!

Beyond Awareness: Working to Improve Outcomes for People Facing Hereditary Cancer – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

This week we mark National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC) Week, and on Wednesday, National Previvor Day. This awareness campaign acknowledges the over one million people and families i…

Source: Beyond Awareness: Working to Improve Outcomes for People Facing Hereditary Cancer – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered

PICC life

nofuncityGreetings from NO FUN City

It has been four weeks since I got the PICC (peripherally inserted catheter). That’s how long I have now been on IV vancomycin. I have been cranky and frustrated.


Following my most recent surgery two months ago, I developed a spot of redness. The cause was a mystery. No fever, swelling, discharge, or open wound. An ultrasound didn’t tell us much.

Suspecting an infection, my doctor and I agreed that antibiotics were the way to go. Two different oral types didn’t help, so we moved to the big gun, vancomycin, which is a broad spectrum antibiotic often used to treat staph. I was willing to try anything to avoid another surgery and potential implant removal. Been there, don’t want to do that again!

PICC xrayHow?

The vanco would be delivered intravenously, so I visited the hospital’s intervention radiology department and had a PICC inserted into my upper arm. I was told I would not need to be hospitalized for this treatment and sent on my way. Later that day I had a delivery of supplies and meds (holy moly, it was a lot of stuff). In the late evening a nurse came to hook me up to my new best friend. I chose to have an electronic pump deliver the meds on a programmed schedule, rather than administering the doses myself. This meant I would be lugging it all around with me 24/7.

My fridge was full of meds and my dining room table became the supply station and the place where every couple of days I sat with nurses that visited me to draw blood and change dressings. Over the course of four weeks I had 79 infusions and 13 visits by 7 different nurses. For showers, I had to plastic wrap my arm and bathe using only the other one.


Initially this was a two week gig, but when the progress wasn’t satisfactory, we extended the treatment for another week, and then one more. Throughout I kept my doc updated via emails and photos. There were a few office visits in there too. My insurance covered all this at 100%.

Now what?

Although initially we saw improvement in the redness, a new spot developed in another area, and some days it was angry red and others not. Right now the spots are faint, but still there. After four weeks of treatment, we did a status check and weighed the options:

  1. Continue treatment
  2. Stop treatment and keep a close eye on it
  3. Go in there to get a tissue sample and send for cultures

At this point, I am not confident that what we are doing now is really helping, so we are going with #2. It is possible this isn’t an infection. We discussed this at the very beginning, but then it seemed like the best explanation. Since I had no open wound, we weren’t able to get swabs for cultures and I was not a fan of going in there as mentioned above. If this was an infection, the vanco would’ve nixed it by now. What exactly is going on, we don’t know for sure. It may be happening due to the physical stress on the tissue or some other thing we haven’t thought of. My body is weird … the various complications from the last three years are proof.

But for now, I am free of the pump and bag! To celebrate, I had lunch with friends and went bathing suit shopping for an upcoming trip to Punta Mita, Mexico. I can’t wait to lay on the beach and think about my next margarita instead of my next infusion. Fingers crossed that this will resolve over the coming days/weeks. It’s the last hurdle before I cross the finish line.