WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.
Fill number three is done. We added 75ccs to each expander, for a total of 300ccs/side (pic below). It is about the same on the pain scale as it was last time – nothing initially, but feeling pressure the next morning. I continue to slather these things with cocoa butter oil with vitamin E to keep the skin soft and prevent stretch marks. So far so good. If you missed the scoop on the first two fills, see: They’re growing and They’re back.
Since I still haven’t decided just how big I want to go, while I was in for the fill I checked in with my plastic surgeon to get his feedback (I trust that he has an eye for these things). Another 150ccs or so will be just right based on my body size and shape. Ultimately, it is up to me how many ccs will be the sweet spot, but I do agree that we’re not there yet. So we are going to continue the fills until I’m happy. What then?
Once the desired size is reached, there are two more 50cc fills done. As you see in my photos, the tissue expanders are kind of boxy and sit high up on the chest wall. The additional expansions are done to overstretch the skin and muscle, so that when the final implant is placed it has a more natural shape. When the expansions are done, we wait four to six weeks before we move on to the next step.
When we’re done will all of the fills, including the overfilling step, an exchange surgery is performed. This is an outpatient procedure during which the plastic surgeon exchanges the tissue expanders for saline or silicone implants.
I asked how far out they are booking surgeries for Dr. M and quickly realized that I need to get something on the books STAT. The first available date is September 3rd. That is over four months away!!! My (sarcastic) thanks to Dusky, my rebel left nipple. Had I not experienced necrosis (see Tissue necrosis), we would’ve started the expansion process about two months sooner. What can I do about it? Be grateful that necrosis was as bad as it got.
Current plan: three more 50cc expansions + two 50cc expansions to overfill = 550ccs. Here’s to a Dolly Parton-esque summer! Not sure if this is good or bad. Thoughts? I’ll be celebrating my last expansion with July 4th fireworks. On this day last year, I was struggling to enjoy myself while hanging out with friends at the beach. I didn’t get the call that was supposed to come on July 3rd – the results of my biopsies. I spent July 4th entertaining thoughts of tumors, cysts, breast cancer, chemo, and worse, rather than enjoying fireworks and my friends. It was a really bad day. What a difference a year makes.
Anyway, watch my boobs grow!
Looking good! I can’t get over how much more natural your breasts look with expanders than mine did. I’m assuming that’s because mine was used differently just to stretch my skin so it was placed over my pectoral muscles. I know they come in different shapes, too and perhaps my surgeon had his reasons for choosing one shaped like a piroshky. I also had to wait longer for my TRAM due to tissue necrosis. I had ischemic tissue twice in the same area, once after my mastectomy and the second time after the tissue expander placement. Apparently, it is unusual for this to happen with the latter surgery. That, plus my plastic surgeon’s lack of mental filter resulted in his exclamation, “I’ve never seen THAT before.” This is not one of his most helpful statements.
In any event, 5 months seemed like it was going to be a life time but time passed more quickly than I anticipated. Now it’s been nearly 7 weeks since my TRAM surgery. Righty is still swollen but it is subsiding and I am looking less googly eyed each week.
My favorite thing about the expanders? It’s the signed “medical device” card you get so that you can get through airport security!
Thanks! I hope that they continue to look somewhat normal through the rest of this process. I’m glad that the changes are positive and things are improving for you. Aside from how things are looking, how are you feeling? TRAM flap recon is so much more traumatizing than the expander/implant route. I didn’t realize that a TRAM flap was still offered for reconstruction with the option of the DIEP flap out there.
Airport security? Have you had trouble while traveling? I haven’t thought of that!
By the way, congrats on the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Your blog is awesome!
I am feeling fine. Yes, I had a pedicled TRAM and I believe that it is still the most popular TRAM procedure. The free TRAM (DIEP) has a significantly higher failure rate, is a much longer surgery, and longer recovery times. I looked at the research comparing the methods as the DIEP is supposed to have better long-term outcomes because it does not sacrifice muscle. I did not find the evidence to be very compelling in light of the downsides. (As a researcher, I also found the plastic surgery literature to be generally lacking.) Plus, my surgeon who is the breast reconstruction guru of the greater Seattle area only does pedicled TRAMS. He recommended the procedure to me as he felt I was a particularly good candidate—I had non-irradiated tissue and I had just the right amount of belly fat, not too much and not too little. I tell you, when he first excitedly squeezed my belly, it was so pleased to complimented for a change!
I was prepared for incredible pain and although it was much more painful than a mastectomy, it was not nearly as bad as I had expected. In fact, I was doing well enough the day after surgery to go home. I took Percocet for the first three days and then just Tylenol on the 4th day. Within 2 1/2 weeks, I was walking three miles a day again though more slowly than before. Now I am able to walk at the same speed.
Last but not least, although it is still swollen, it looks damn good and as a middle-aged lady, I appreciate the tummy tuck.
P.S. As far as the airport security question, no I didn’t have trouble because I didn’t try to fly any where. I was given the card by the plastic surgery nurse. The cards were made by the manufacturer of the expander and have a little picture of it on the card. And yes, if you are planning to fly any where you’d probably be wise to ask your surgeon’s office for a note since the expanders have magnets in them.
There more you know … thank you for clarifying. 🙂
Wow, your recovery was pretty speedy. Three miles per day so soon after the surgery is really impressive. You are a tough cookie to be off the pain meds so soon too! I hope things do keep getting better and better for you.
So sorry, I didn’t even see before that you’d complimented my blog. Thanks so much!
Ugh, I don’t know why I am having so much trouble with WordPress today. I didn’t even see your last reply. Thanks so much. I was not in good physical shape before I was diagnosed. I had nudged my way back into the obese range, was eating too much, and not exercising. Cancer was a loud wake up call and I think that all of the work I did on my health prior to the TRAM helped with my recovery. The medical recliner I rented with it’s power lift feature was also very helpful during the days I had trouble getting myself up from a sitting or lying position. It was helpful after that just for my own comfort as lying flat was hard on my abdomen for a few weeks.
I just had my tissue expanders replaced with nice, squishy silicone implants on Monday. I had 450 cc implants put in – same size as you are planning. The plastic surgeon says that I am now the size I was before my mastectomy, but I am definitely bigger. (But not too big. I am very happy with them.) It’s so nice to have squishy boobs again, and be rid of those expanders. (“Boxy” is a good word.) You are wise to scale back to 50 cc’s at each filling from now on. I did 100 cc’s each time, and it got increasingly painful, to the point where I was in agony for four days with the last one. (Even with Norco.) If I had it to do over again, I would go more slowly. But I am done! Yay! Sending positive vibes your way.
I can’t wait for the squishies, Deborah! Thanks for the positive thoughts and feedback about the fill amounts. Ouch on having to take Norco due to the pain!!! I was thinking I should speed things up if I could handle 75ccs, but now that my exchange is in September, what’s the point of rushing, right? Nice and easy does it.
That’s great that you are very happy. Congratulations on being done!
Time will pass before you know it and you will have the new boobs in place…. It is truly fascinating watching this process..
Thanks for the encouraging words, Helen. ❤ I know I'll get there soon enough.
I LOVE that you give us photos. I find so much info but no photos or photos of ONLY the bad stuff or ONLY the good stuff. Awesome stuff!
Glad that you’re enjoying the peep show. 🙂
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