Category Archives: Complication City

Long road of expansions ahead

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

The follow up appointment after tissue expander placement surgery was Friday. The drain output was not high, but too close to Dr. M’s threshold for removal (50mL), so we decided to leave it in until Monday. I Had an opportunity to see how the incision is healing. So far everything looks goodt. I have been arnica montana and have very little bruising.

Low healthOverall feeling OK .. as long as I stay on my med schedule. Slowly trying to ween off of it, but not in a big hurry. Last night I didn’t set an alarm to wake up and take meds at night. Well, my body woke me up at 6 with a not-so-gentle reminder that I just had surgery. That was not pleasant at all.

The prune juice, Smooth Move tea, water, pears, and other fruit worked their magic. I went #2 on second day of recovery, but still have a bit of bloating and discomfort. TMI? If you’ve ever had general anesthesia surgery, then you understand how important this is. If you haven’t, then I hope you never do! Pain meds, no food/drink after midnight, inactivity, and anesthesia cause constipation. 

At the appointment Dr. M removed my dressings, which means I can now take a shower. I’m excited to do that today. Reviewing an old post (Shower time) and gathering supplies while I wait for hub to get home and help. This time around I didn’t get any tape or glue on my incision. If you recall, it was a suture knot that caused my last complication and the removal of the implant. To avoid that scenario, Dr. M used a single-filament type of suture (vs. braided) and only placed sutures and knots where absolutely necessary.

I also found out that my tissue expander is filled with 100ccs. We are filling all the way up to 550ccs, so that’s a long way to go. I start the expansion process six weeks post-op and will be getting fills every other week. In the past I have done 50ccs per fill, but may be doing a bit more this round to speed things up a little bit. Looks like July 23 may be just right after all.

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So it goes

It has been two years since I had my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. January 22, 2013 was the day. At the time, I expected the breast reconstruction process to take somewhere around six months. Well, two years later I am uniboobin’ it once again and it will be at least another six months before I will have my next (last?) exchange surgery.

So it goes.

This process has not been easy. I’ve hit a couple of significant snags, but I still say this: I WOULD DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN. Knowing what would come my way, if I had to go back in time and contemplate moving forward, but not being able to change anything, I would make the same decision and do this all over again. I won’t lie, I have had bad days. They don’t come often, but they do. On those days I choose to take a deep breath and focus on the big picture and the positive. I consider the reason why I made this decision in the first place. I said NOPE to breast cancer and I would do it all over again. I choose to accept and look forward. So it goes.

Attitude


Here’s a recap of my procedures:

  • 01/2013 – Prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with tissue expander placement
  • 09/2013 – Exchange surgery
  • 10/2013 – Infection and left implant removal
  • 04/2014 – Expander placement and revision surgery
  • 09/2014 – Exchange surgery
  • 10/2014 – Right implant removal

In just a few days, on January 27, I will have surgery #7. During this procedure, Dr. M will be placing a tissue expander on my right side. Over the coming months I will again go through the expansion process until I reach 550ccs. My exchange surgery is scheduled for July 23. I feel like I’m a surgery pro at this point. The coordinator from the hospital called today and we very briefly talked about logistics of the day of surgery. She remembered talking to me before and admitted I received the condensed version of the spiel. Fine by me. I know the drill by now. I’m ready to go! Last thing to do is review my handy dandy surgery prep checklist and gather a few items.

Will I have a drain again? Will everything go OK? Will I have any more complications? I hope not, but if I do … so it goes. Shit happens. We deal with it, because we have to. Happiness (or misery) is in the heart, not in the circumstances.

You’re up

I got the call. Woo hoo! I got the call that made my day. It really made my month. There has been a cancellation and an earlier spot is available on Dr. M’s calendar. I’ve been bugging the Patient Care Coordinator for a few months now and have been at the top of the cancellation list, so the spot is all mine. My next surgery has been moved up to January 27!

That’s only two weeks away! I am ecstatic. Thee months into the six month wait, but I’ll take it!

During this surgery we are going to be placing a tissue expander on the right side, where we had to deconstruct after the last incident in October. I also got the exchange surgery penciled in for July 23. I’m at the top of that cancellation list too and may be up sooner. There is a slight chance that I’ll go right to implant and not need surgery #8, but I’m not holding my breath.

That is all. Just this awesomely good news. 🙂

 

Prosthesis v2

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

After I lost an implant the first time, my husband and I were planning a trip to visit his family in the Caribbean. Prior to going on that trip, I got a breast prosthesis, so that we could avoid awkward conversations about my health with distant relatives; in Spanish, nonetheless.

no pantsWell, as you already know, I’ve lost another implant. On an average day when I’m running errands or meeting friends for lunch, I go as I am and don’t even think about it. Also, I work from home. No boob? No pants? No problem! 🙂 However, I will again be traveling in the near future, but this time it will be a trip to corporate HQ to show face and meet some new team members. So I got another prosthesis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shy about sharing my story (hello, blogosphere) and I am not embarrassed when uniboobin’ it, but in some close-encounter situations I don’t want to be focusing on and explaining my lack of mammary.

I made an appointment for a fitting at a local boutique that specializes in “image consulting.” Since I have gone up in size by 100ccs from the last time I needed one, it wasn’t as easy as just ordering another one. After a couple of tries, we found the right form to complement my current breast. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn close. I also picked out three new bras. My insurance provider covers the prosthesis as well as bras. In fact, they cover up to six bras per year (this varies, so check with your provider). Most boutiques and stores like Nordstrom work with insurance and even submit the paperwork for you.

Here it is. It is lightweight and comfortable. Looks good under clothing too.

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By the way, this is working from home with cats (not my vid, but accurate):

Yep, looking good

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

Yesterday was my one-month follow up after the removal of my right implant. It was also two weeks since the seroma was drained and small stitched pulled. Yep, looking good. The seroma is no more and the post-stitch hole has healed.

The only thing that’s wonky is the scar on the left side. It is sunken in as if stuck to something inside. I have not seen this before and asked Dr. M if I could massage this issue away, to which he responded that I could sure try. Worst case, he can fix it later. I had same reaction to that as my hub did when I told him: nope, not doing that. No more procedures unless absolutely, without question necessary to finish reconstruction.

My objective for this appointment was to get a thumbs up for surgery sooner than April. Right now I’m on the schedule for April 9th, which is six months after the removal. During this procedure we are going to be placing a tissue expander on the flat side. I got what I wanted and can do it sooner. Mandatory wait of only three months (January), BUT Dr. M is booked solid, so there goes that. I’ll check in with scheduling monthly for openings. Fingers crossed!

Later this week I have an appointment to pick up my prosthesis. Hopefully it will fit well. I’ll update once I have it. Until then, photos of my current state and the wonky scar:

2014_11_11  scar

Déjà vu

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.I can't even

A month after my last surgery, during which we swapped the tissue expander on left and adjusted pocket on right, I am again uniboobin‘ it. Déjà vu? Twilight Zone? Groundhog Year?

Yes, that is right, I have lost another implant. This time it is the right one. Everybody together now: WTF?!? DARN IT! I am really feeling dejected. I literally can’t even … (not me~>)

So what happened this time?

This was different than last year, but the outcome is the same, unfortunately. Sunday during my typical post-shower wound inspection, I noticed that there was a tiny inflamed spot on my right breast on old, already healed incision. It got a bit bigger by end of day. Monday morning I went in to see Dr. M. Both him and one of the nurses suspected it was an internal stitch trying to make its way out.

That’s not so bad, right? Just a little stitch. Dr. M advised me to do a warm compress three times per day and keep a very close eye on it. A couple of days later the area started bulging out and I could see yellow puss inside. Thursday morning I sent an email to Dr. M, with an update but I knew he was in surgery. Early afternoon I did the compress, which made the abscess open. After all the goo drained and the stitch knot came out, I was left with another hole. I knew what was coming :(. Went to see the nurse right away. She took cultures and started making calls to coordinate my surgery for the next day, during which I had the right implant removed, pocket cleaned out, and closed back up without inserting another implant.

So … here I am with one breast again AND I got another drain. Fun fun! I go in for follow up on Monday to find out what is next. This is like a rerun nobody wants to watch. Especially not me. Last year I had exchange 9/3, implant taken out 10/15, expander placed 4/10, exchange surgery 9/11, and this implant out 10/10. At this pace, it will take another year.

Enjoy the visual (kind of gross):

Abscess

Bra shopping

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

My exchange surgery was on September 11. We swapped out the tissue expander on my left and made a pocket revision to correct the implant bottoming out on the right. The follow up appointment was two weeks later. Everything feels and looks relatively good. Some twinges of pain here and there, but that is to be expected. As far as my results: small issue, but it’s still early as things will change and settle for a while. My next follow up is at six weeks.

Compression braI have been wearing this sexy little hospital-issued number almost 24/7 and was hoping to hear that I could ditch it. Well, I can burn that one, but I do need to continue wearing something. It should be wire-free, but have a tight band. I set out bra shopping this weekend and quickly became frustrated! The first two stores didn’t even carry a 32. I ended at Victoria’s Secret, where I should have started, but that was tiring too. It seems that out of the 23049814 bras VS carries, only a few are wire-free.

First tried on the Perfect Comfort Demi Push-Up in 32DD. Too much padding, I’m still spilling out (no DDD), and the VS girl didn’t know her shit – it has an underwire. I went home with two of the Sexy Tee Wireless Bra in 32D. It truly is wire-free and has no extra padding.

VS bras

photoUpdate: I also went to Nordstrom Monday. My location does not work with United Healthcare, but they offered to provide the paperwork and I can file it myself for UHC to review and decide on.

I didn’t mention this option originally, but should have. As Joyce wrote in the post comments, Nordstrom has fitters and works with most insurance companies for post-mastectomy bra needs. They will find the right bra and file paperwork for the insurance company to cover the expense. Appointment required.

I bought How Perfect by Wacoal in 32D. It is super soft! Love it.

The results

As I mentioned things are looking pretty good, but I do see a small issue: asymmetry. Prior to this surgery my right implant had bottomed out and was lower than the left. Now I am seeing the opposite, although not as much of a difference. I also have a sneaking suspicion that my right side is getting tighter, which may be a sign of capsular contracture, but I don’t want to panic just yet and continue to massage like Dr. M advised.

It is still early and things will continue changing. This may be a non-issue in a few months or it may be worse .. we shall see. In any case, I am just pointing out what I see now. I have not lost sight of the big picture and reason for all of this: I said NOPE to breast cancer! In the words of the wise Casey Eischen: “Prevention, not perfection.” 🙂 ❤

These things really don’t look like a D naked, but you know bras are like jeans: there are multiple ways to measure and it seems like every brand does it their own way. The bras I bought will serve for the next month. After that I hope I can go bra-free.

Reminder: Mentor round, smooth, high profile silicone implants in 450ccs.

2014_9_27 front

 

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