Tag Archives: HBOC

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.

2015_1_31 front

The day after

IMG_2641Yesterday was the seventh surgery of my breast reconstruction. I was a little worried, because of the snow, but it was just a dusting for us, so it still happened.

After three months uniboobin’ it again, I got a tissue expander on the right side. I don’t know yet how many ccs were put in with it. I will find out at my follow up appointment with Dr. M on Friday. The procedure took a little over two hours, as there was some scar tissue that also needed to be cleared away. I got a drain :(. Boo! This time it is not coming right out of the middle of my armpit, but rather on the side. Not complaining about that one. Armpit drains are no fun at all!!!

Yes, I am in pain today. It’s not as bad as initial TE placement after the PBM, but it’s not far from it. Staying on top of the pain by setting alarms on my phone and sticking to a schedule. Also popping Arnica Montana to minimize the swelling and bruising.

I tried to get ahead of the post-op constipation and started downing prune juice Monday. Have been eating lots of fruit, veggies, granola. Also drinking a lot of water, green smoothies, and Smooth Move tea. Fingers crossed that I go soon. No a fan of the bloating and discomfort. Got another pair of compression knee highs as well as the tread socks as hospital souvenirs. I’m sexy and I know it! Today I’m just lounging in bed, reading, Facebooking, and loving my BFF, the backscratcher.

IMG_2640

What’s next?

We wait six weeks for the body to heal and then start the expansion process. Once I find out how much was put in, I’ll have a better idea of how long this is going to take. I typically do 50cc expansions every two weeks. When we hit 550ccs I wait another four weeks before exchange surgery. Right now that is  scheduled for July 23, but I may be able to go sooner again. We shall see!

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. 🙂

 

Pinking of the NFL

I am a big fan of Spike’s Ink Master. It is an elimination-style reality show, where tattoo artists compete for $100,000 and a feature in Inked Magazine. On one of the final episodes last season, artists did post-mastectomy tattoos for breast cancer survivors. There were some beautiful pieces in there! Episode highlights here.

This season there is also a breast cancer-related episode and it airs tonight (November 18 @ 10pm EST on Spike). DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers appears as a guest judge. He talks about his mom and her four sisters who all died from breast cancer. The artists are designing a piece to honor DeAngelo’s family. What he doesn’t say in the previews, and I’m not sure if he mentions in the full show, is that his mother and her sisters all carried a mutated BRCA1 gene, which they inherited from their father, DeAngelo’s grandfather. He and his two sisters are negative for the mutation.

What does this have to do with the pinking of the NFL? I don’t watch football and don’t follow the athletes at all, but I have noticed that there’s an awful lot of pink out there. I did not know DeAngelo’s story or that he is largely responsible for the players of the NFL wearing pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. His mom was the inspiration behind the idea for players to start wearing pink cleats five years ago.

Breast cancer has affected me to my core. I’ll never forget the loss of my family members. But it also allowed me to use the platform I have in the National Football League to bring awareness all over the country. -DeAngelo Williams

In the BC and HBOC worlds there has been a lot of talk around awareness (aren’t we all aware?), the love or hate for the month of October (aka Pinktober), and pinkwashing, but that’s another topic for another day. I am just sharing the previously-unknown-to-me sotry of the pink in the NFL. Are you going to watch tonight? I am!

Related articles:

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.

2014_11_13

 

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

One day at a time

It has been almost a month from the day my right implant was taken out. Since then I have had my drain removed, celebrated my 34th birthday, ordered another breast prosthesis, developed a seroma, had a poking stitch pulled out, scheduled my next surgery for April 9, 2015, had my bi-annual ovarian screening ultrasound, and went to a Boobvoyage party for a friend getting ready for her PBM (which is today), among many other things. It was also breast cancer awareness month, which meant lots of local events representing FORCE and supporting our community. It has been a busy month.

Today, just like any day, I am thinking of my mom. But on this day, I am overwhelmed by grief. It is one year since she died.

I am sad she is not here to celebrate the birthdays, offer her support, or be on the other end of the phone or Skype conversation to share even the mundane little things in life. I am sad that my dad lost his best friend and soul mate. I am sad that my sister is probably feeling the same things I am and that my nephew lost his loving, caring, spoiling-him-rotten grandmother. I am sad that my mom is not here to live her life and take part in ours. I am sad that my family has been so deeply affected by cancer and suffered so much loss. I am sad and still hurting.

Each and every day I think about and miss her.

Fuck cancer!

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

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

They say that Ovarian Cancer whispers. It is a silent killer. The symptoms are often attributed to GI issues (bloating, abdominal pain, difficulty eating, going to the bathroom often), there is no reliable screening method, and it is hard to find in its early curable stages.

My mom experienced these types of symptoms. By the time doctors took a closer look, they discovered ovarian cancer in advanced stages. She lived for a little over a year. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about and miss her.

Ladies, please educate yourselves about the symptoms and risk factors associated with ovarian cancer. Has anyone in your family been diagnosed with ovarian cancer? How about breast cancer under the age of 50? Male breast cancer? Two members on the same side of the family with any of these cancers: breast, ovarian or fallopian, prostate, pancreatic, or melanoma? These signs may point to hereditary cancer. If you suspect the cancer in your family may be hereditary, it is important to consult with a genetics expert. Find one here.

Ovarian Cancer Fact Sheet