Tag Archives: breast cancer

We’re getting there – third expansion

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.

Exchange surgery

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!

Fills 2013_4_27

100 + 50 +75 +75 = 300ccs

They’re back – second expansion

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

Another expansion done! We added 75ccs to each expander, for a total of 225ccs/side (pic below). I am now just a tad over my size before the prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in January.

I decided to speed things up a little bit – rather than doing 50ccs per expansion, we bumped it up to 75ccs. So far, so good, but it has only been a few hours. The worse of the pain the first time hit me when I woke up on the day after the fill. I felt like I was back in the recliner the first week post-op. I popped an ibuprofen, did some stretching, and moved on with my day. The pressure eased as days passed and I was back to “normal” within a week. Well, here we go again. I imagine it will get worse with each fill, but we shall see.

Breast Reconstruction Guidebook Figure 7.1For a recap of why/how the expansion process works, see They’re growing or check out the video below, which was shared by fellow PBM-er Trisha on her blog I’m getting my boobs chopped off. By the way, if you haven’t noticed, I list a number of blogs on the right side of the page under Relevant Sites & Blogs. Check them out! Most of those ladies has also undergone a mastectomy; some proactively and some after a breast cancer diagnosis.

fills-2013_4_12

100 + 50 + 75 = 225ccs

Source of Figure 7.1: Steligo, Kathy. Breast Reconstruction Guidebook: Issues and Answers from Research to Recovery. Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012. Print, third edition.

Breast cancer and diet, continued

As I mentioned in a previous post, Breast cancer and diet, I subscribe to the daily video from Dr. Greger (NutritionFacts.org). This week, he posted a series of videos about fiber, flaxseeds, and breast cancer. I just can’t keep these to myself!

A clinical study explored lignans/flaxseeds and thier effect on tumor growth (comparing it to Tamoxifen). Consuming flaxseed muffins over a period of five weeks made tumor cell proliferation go down, cancer cell death go up, and HER2 score go down. That’s amazing. The little ol’ ground flaxseeds I put in my morning oatmeal can do this!

Similar positive effects are linked to fiber. A study out of Yale on pre-menopausal women concluded that a higher intake of soluble fiber was associated with a significantly reduced risk of breast cancer – 62% lower odds. For younger women that goes up to 85%. Whether it’s the fiber directly or the way it interacts with other nutrients in your body, it doesn’t hurt!

Check out the short videos below to learn more.


Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Clinical Evidence

Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Survival: Epidemiological Evidence

Flaxseeds & Breast Cancer Prevention

Fiber vs. Breast Cancer

Recovery photos

I have finally added some photos! Check out the MY PHOTOS page.

CameraA couple of days before my prophylactic nipple-sparing bilateral mastectomy I took a “before” photo of the girls. Since then, I have been taking daily pictures to document my journey. Take a peek to see how I’ve been doing during my recovery thus far. The pics are of my nude torso, so NSFW/graphic.

Resource highlight

My Destiny

While there are countless resources online available to those who are preparing or have already gone through a mastectomy, there area few that stand out. The My Destiny Foundation is one of my favorites. There is an unbelievable amount of information on this page: from lists of questions to ask potential surgeons, to information about BRCA mutations, to recommended FaceBook support groups, to tips on how to communicate the decisions you make to others, and so much more.

The site is run by two wonderful ladies who have been through it all: Lisa Sousa and Kim Richardson Emery.

My Destiny is an online community designed specifically for women, by women, who are at a high risk of developing breast cancer. We bring women together, provide accredited information and support, increase awareness and provide women financial, social, and emotional support that are undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy to reduce their risk of breast cancer!

Visit MyDestiny-US.com to tap into one of the great online resources for women considering a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.

PARP inhibitor study

Research update

FacingOurRisk.orgA study on PARP inhibitors for advanced breast cancer is now open at many sites across the US and Internationally! You can help if you:

  • Have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation
  • Have confirmed metastatic breast cancer
  • Her2neu negative (or Her2neu positive and have received previous anti-Her2neu therapy or are ineligible for anti-Her2neu therapy)
  • Have measurable disease

Learn more about the study, on the FORCE website.

Free webinar

FORCE will also host a free webinar: Updates on PARP Inhibitor Research.

Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Time: 12pm -1pm ET
Speaker: Susan Domchek, MD, Executive Director of the Basser Research Center for BRCA
More infohttp://www.facingourrisk.org/events/webinars/index.php#upcoming

While you’re at it

Help FORCE and Celebration Health by participating in a survey about long-term follow-up healthcare for preivors and survivors. This will provide important info about long-term health concerns for women with BRCA and other hereditary cancer syndromes.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/hbocsurvey

Post-op exercises

Check out this awesome video from Casey Eischen, BS, CSCS, CPT, CES, Health/Fitness Expert and Nutrition Coach, providing levels 1 & 2 of a great exercise program for women who have undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. More to come!

Exercises to Recovery from Phophylactic Mastectomy/Reconstruction

2/1: Check out a more recent post about exercise and nutrition: Foobie Fitness

Happy 14th Birthday FORCE

Happy New Year/Happy Birthday FORCE

FacingOurRisk.orgFORCE – Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered just celebrated its 14th Birthday! FacingOurRisk.org is an amazing site that I have spent many hours reading through. There is a message board, local group finder, lots and lots of articles and other resources, a photo gallery, info about studies and clinical trial, and so much more. If you haven’t yet visited FacingOurRisk.org, check it out!

Breast cancer and diet

I subscribe to the daily video from Dr. Greger (NutritionFacts.org), who is a nutrition expert. This week he posted a few videos related to breast cancer.

Studies suggest that eating 5 plain white button mushrooms per day may be sufficient to suppress breast tumor growth! Consuming soy and green tea also provides protection against breast cancer (contrary to some thoughts on how soy/isoflavones effect hormonally-sensitive cancers – see related articles below). Don’t forget collards and carrots. Watch these short videos for more info.

Many articles and videos available from NutritionFacts.org as well as multiple other sources support the fact that a plant based, whole foods diet (read: vegan) is not only good insofar as prevention, but could also be curative. This applies not just to cancer.

If you haven’t yet come across and watched Forks Over Knives, I highly recommend that you take the time out of your day to do so. It is a feature film that explores the foods we eat and what effect they have on our health.

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.”

Related articles

Genetic testing for BRCA mutations

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that belong to a class of genes known as tumor suppressors. Mutation of these genes has been linked to hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. – National Cancer Insitute

A woman’s risk of developing breast and/or ovarian cancer is greatly increased if she inherits a deleterious (harmful) BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation. – National Cancer Insitute

Having a BRCA gene mutation is uncommon. Inherited BRCA gene mutations are responsible for about 5 percent of breast cancers and about 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers. – Mayo Clynic

My mom, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in June ’12, just got the results of her genetic tests. The news is good, in that there were no mutations detected, however the test looked for only three mutations/variants on the BRCA1 gene (300T/G, 4153delA, and 5382insC). Only three out of hundreds of different types of mutations that have been identified! And the test only checked the BRCA1 gene. I’m inclined to chalk this up to the fact that she’s in Europe and maybe genetic testing isn’t as common practice there as it is in the US, but nonetheless I am dumbfounded. She has submitted another blood sample with a request to run a more thorough analysis.

This made me take a closer look at my own negative BRACAnalysis test results. The tests done were: BRCA1 sequencing (5-site rearrangement panel) and BRCA2 sequencing. The narrative explains: “there are other, uncommon genetic abnormalities in BRCA1 and BRCA2 that this test will not detect. This result, however, rules out the majority of abnormalities believed to be responsible for hereditary susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.”

So … what now? As far as further testing (BRACAnalysis Rearrangement TestBART), I’m not sure that it is necessary. Per Myriad: “there is, on average, a less than 1% chance that BART will identify a mutation in a patient who has already had a negative result from Comprehensive BRACAnalysis.” I’m going to wait and see what my mom’s results are. In any case, this doesn’t change my decision to move forward with the prophylactic bilateral mastectomy in January, but creeps back another variable thought to have already been checked off the list.

Side note: In this blog, I’m only addressing my choice to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy to reduce my risk of breast cancer. I am conscious of our family’s history with ovarian cancer. That is another topic for another day. At this time, I have decided to keep a close eye and wait until I hit menopause to seriously consider an oophorectomy.

Update 10/16: Mom’s second genetic test results, which also checked for PTEN mutations, were negative. I gave blood for BART anyway and my results were also negative.