Tag Archives: Tissue expanders

Updates galore

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

Mother’s Day sucked

This was the first US Mother’s Day without my mom, who had ovarian cancer and died in November. Last week was rough. May 8th was World Ovarian Cancer Day and May 11th US Mother’s Day. Seeing everyone posting photos of celebrations with mom was really difficult. I know many of you reading this understand, because you have also lost your mom.

nope2BC is a success!

I spent the weekend doing my best to occupy myself with other things, such as painting, moving furniture, and shopping. I finally did something with the spare room that has been empty since we moved into this house seven years ago: it is now my crafting room.

Etsy logoDid I tell you the FORCE jewelry fundraiser lead me to start my own business? Yup .. nope2BC – Saying NOPE to Breast Cancer. Come see and Like on Facebook. I am making and selling cancer awareness themed jewelry and donating all proceeds to FORCE. I opened an Etsy shop and have also participated in a few local craft fairs and art expos. Over $1,000 has already been raised, which is way more than I expected to make in such a short period of time. I am ecstatic that it has done so well! I have another event tonight and many more coming later this year. I have lost count!

Recap of my reconstruction journey

Moving on to an update of where I am in the breast reconstruction process. First, I’d like to recap my journey for those of you who recently started reading this blog:

  • 01/2013 – Prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with tissue expander placement
    100ccs @ PBM, necrosis on left breast, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, fills delayed for two months, lost left nipple tip, expanded up to 550ccs
  • 09/2013 – Exchange surgery
    550cc expanders > 350cc Mentor round, smooth, high profile, silicone implants
  • 10/2013 – Infection and left implant removal
    Necrosis scar tissue broke down, hole developed, infection followed, implant had to go
  • 04/2014 – Revision surgery
    300cc tissue expander on left, swap to 450cc implant on right
  • 08/2014 – Planned exchange surgery

Expansions are a go

Five weeks after my most recent surgery I finally had my first expansion. We added 50ccs to the expander on my left, for a total of 350ccs. Our goal is 550ccs, so four more expansions to go. My exchange surgery is scheduled for August 19. We are going to be cutting it close with only about four weeks between last expansion and exchange. If I wuss out again and need to lower the expansion volume, I will have to push the surgery into September. Just two days after the fill, I am sore, but it is no surprise. Next expansion: May 30.

2014_5_16

Here we go again

Got the pre-registration call from the hospital today. Here we go again. I am two weeks away from going under the knife for the fourth (and hopefully last) surgery in this process. Almost six months have passed since I had the last surgery during which one of my implants was removed due to an infection (see: Houston, we have a problem).

Pre-op

My pre-op appointment is on Monday, March 31. I’ll be doing standard lab work and discussing the plan for my upcoming surgery, including:

  • QuestionNipple symmetry – the left nipple became necrotic and I lost just the tip when the scabs came off. I want to snip the tip of the right one to match. What’s worse than two erect, awkward nipples? ONE!
  • Pocket closure – the pocket on my right side is too low, so during this procedure I’d like it surgically closed up a bit at the bottom.
  • Increase in size – since we are going in there on both sides anyway, I’d like to achieve what I originally declared as the right size for me, which is 450ccs (350ccs now).
  • An implant, not a tissue expander – this! More than anything, I just want to be done.

I have my fingers and toes crossed that I will wake up with an implant and not another expander! Obviously, I don’t want any more issues, so if an expander it is, I’ll suck it up and just deal with it. I’m pretty sure I will have at least one drain. <sarcasm>Yipeee.</sarcasm>. Time to whip out the good ol’ checklist and start getting ready.

Exchange surgery aftermath

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

Easy peasyIt has been five days since the exchange surgery that swapped out my rock-hard tissue expanders for soft and squishy silicone implants. I must say that as I was told beforehand, this surgery really was a breeze compared to the original prophylactic bilateral mastectomy I underwent in January.

My husband took the day of surgery (Tuesday) off from work, but I was home alone the next day and onward. I spent the majority of that day napping, but was pretty mobile while awake. As I already mentioned (see: From the other side), I didn’t experience very much pain. Took my last Norco right before Wednesday’s follow up appointment, during which my drains were removed. This time around it hurt like a b#%$@! I’d say around an 8.Pain Scale

The second follow up appointment was on Friday. This is the day I started driving. During my appointment I got my handy dandy medical device ID card. I’m flying internationally in two weeks, so I’ll make sure to have it with me, but I hope I never have to use this thing.

Kinesio tapeDr. M removed the ACE bandage and bra to examine the girls. He agreed that righty is hanging lower than lefty and used some kinesio-type tape to mold it into the proper position. I was told to continue to wear a tight bra and return on Monday morning.

Hubby was out of town the whole weekend, so I spent it home alone taking it easy. I had to keep reminding myself that even though I feel 100% fine, I’m not. I was wrestling with a pickle jar earlier and finally thought: these pickles are good, but a complication-free recovery is better and had my veggie burger sans pickles. It was still yummy.

The reveal

WARNING: NSFW / graphic content below.

Saw the PS this afternoon for my exchange surgery follow-up. Some great news and some not so awesome. First, the good news: the hemovac/pancake drains have been removed. Woo hoo!!! Buh buy, I hope I never see you again!

In other news: during this appointment I got to see the girls in their full glory for the first time. They are smaller than what I was expecting, even with my over-compensation when declaring what the perfect size would be. We discussed doing 400-450ccs and over-filled to 550ccs to accommodate this volume. The implants I have are Mentor round, smooth, high profile silicones in 350ccs. I was very adamant that I did not want to be able to rest a drink on my bosom. Well, I definitely got the natural slope I wanted. No “shelving” in sight!

2013_9_4And the not so awesome news: righty sits lower than lefty. When I had the expanders, it was the other way around: lefty sat lower than righty. The PS had to open up the pocket to make things even. I don’t know if too much tissue was separated or if it is just swelling or if that’s the void from the drain tube that will eventually close down a bit. This is pretty obvious when I put on a tank top. I didn’t really get a good look and notice this until I was at home, so haven’t yet discussed it with Dr. M.

Aside from the asymmetry and being smaller than I anticipated, I think they actually look pretty good. I like the shape, the amount of cleavage, and the natural slope.

From the other side

Thank you to everyone who sent their love, support, and best wishes for today! The exchange surgery was a piece of cake! Nom nom. 🙂

2013_9_3 post-exchangeWe started just after 9am and I was on my way home by 2pm. Dr. M removed my tissue expanders and replaced them with silicone implants. I didn’t see him post-op, so don’t know yet what projection and volume I ended up with. They are definitely smaller than the expanders and are not all the way up to my collar bones. Woo hoo! I haven’t messed much with the dressings and plan on leaving this up to Dr. M.

On the pain scale, I’m at about 2. Really feeling good. I took Norco, stinky antibiotics, and some Arnica Montana to help fight inflammation and bruising as soon as I got home and ate something. This time around the nurse gave me an anti-nausea, behind-the-ear patch. I do have terrible dry mouth, though, so I’m drinking lots of water and eating cough drops like candy. This also means frequent trips to the potty.

Drain reservoir

I am sporting a sexy hospital-issue bra and an ACE bandage as you can see above and dealing with two drains. Yes, this happened. The tubes exit my armpits causing me more discomfort than the chest pains! Once again they are the giant hemovac type reservoirs. I have a follow up appointment Wednesday afternoon, during which the drains are supposed to be removed. Less than 24 hours to go!

Show me the goods!

Only two weeks to go until my exchange surgery! I am so excited. Can’t wait to be on the other side of this thing. I’m looking forward to being finished. I report to the hospital at 7:30am, for a 9:30am surgery, on Tuesday, September 3rd.

Pre-op appointment

Met with Dr. M this afternoon for my pre-op appointment. Discussed a few more details, got my pictures taken, signed the familiar consent forms, got the don’t-take-these-meds sheet, had my blood drawn, and peed in a cup.

Here are a few of my final questions:

  • QuestionWill I be required to wear any type of bra (compressions or underwire) after the exchange surgery? Should I purchase something? No. If any type of compression is needed it will be via ace bandage and dressings or a mastectomy bra that will be issued by the hospital.
  • I have hypertrophic-ish spots on my incision scars from the mastectomy, should I use something special after the exchange to prevent this from happening? The lumpy scar tissue will be removed during the exchange surgery. Since the pockets are already created/expanded, there won’t be as much stress on the incisions going forward. Silicone sheets? That’s an option that will apply pressure to the incisions to keep them flat. We will revisit once they close.
  • What about this ugly, scarred tissue from the area that was necrotic? Depending on how much skin is loose/available after the implants are placed, we may be able to remove the chunk now. Otherwise, a skin graft from the hip area is an option, but that would need to happen at a later time.
  • And the most important question: will I have drains again? Yes. That wiped the smile off my face. Noooooooooooo! I was hoping I would never see a surgical drain again.

For my photo session today, I removed everything except my underpants. This is the third set of full body pics we’ve taken, but it was still weird. While standing on a pedestal I was thinking of this XKCD strip Lannis shared a little while ago and giggling. Where are my beads? I earned them!

Source: xkcd.com

So what size are you?

It’s strange how often I have heard this question. Yes, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, and yes, my boobs seem to be growing right before your eyes, but this question is not appropriate for watercooler chat. We’re not that chummy! How would you like it if I asked your wife her bra size? Kind of weird, no? Apparently not. If I had a Dollar …

Quest markerThe times I actually did answer this question, the only measurement I had was the volume in ccs. Unless you’re one of “us,” this don’t mean jack, so after yet another time I fielded this question, I decided to go on a quest and figure out exactly what the magic number was.

How I measured my cup size

A lot of women make an appointment for a fitting by someone who knows what they’re doing (usually Nordstrom lingerie department). I have not yet taken this step, because I’m not completely finished. Off to Google and the FaceBook groups I went. There seem to be a few different ways to do this. One of the ladies in a FB group, who is familiar with the topic, was happy to assist.

Bust measurement

Source: Jason Lee, RealSimple.com

Without a top, I first measured the underbust, which is the lower yellow line in the graphic = 29″.

Traditional sizing says to add 4″ if even number or 5″ if odd number.  Modern sizing rounds up to the next even number. We went with modern sizing, so that brought me to 30.

Then I measured at the top yellow line, which is the widest part of the bust = 36″.

The math: subtract the underbust from the bust. The difference is what determines size, with each inch representing one cup size. 1 = A, 2 = B, 3 = C, etc.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have our verdict: 30 DDD. Yes, that’s right D D D. I was shocked when we came to this conclusion. I still am. I was not expecting this at all. Having been wearing an A cup bra pre-op, triple Ds just seem ridiculous to me. I never had a number or letter in mind when thinking about reconstruction. I was of the mindset that I would keep expanding until things seemed just right. I hit that point at about 400ccs. Having read a lot of feedback of women feeling that they should’ve gone bigger, I told my plastic surgeon that the sweet spot was 450ccs. Since I’m getting round implants, we overfilled by 100 for a total of 550ccs. It’s at the overfill point that I measure a DDD, so this isn’t the final FINAL verdict. I will get a professional fitting a couple of months after my exchange, once things settle down. Stay tuned!

Here’s an interesting graphic related to cup size. A 30F on me is a 38C on someone with a larger ribcage/underbust. It’s all about body size and proportion.

Cup size and proportion