April 11, 2017 by Julie Moon
I received an email last week. It’s really amazing to me how important the work of sharing your story is to people. This email really makes me so very happy. Just an email from a mutual friend who wanted to tell me about her journey. Yes, I have written this blog for my daughters…but I also write it for every woman who just needs some answers. Peace to you all!
Thanks to your mom sharing her experience with me and letting me know about your website, I am scheduled for surgery with Dr. Craigie on July 19th.
I really didn’t think I wanted to do reconstructive surgery. A double mastectomy and 4 rounds of chemo took a toll on me back in 2014. But after meeting with Dr. Craigie in November of last year, I knew I had found the right surgeon . I felt at peace after my husband and I talked extensively with him about the different reconstructive options available through his practice.
I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for your openness about your journey.”
Category The Journey, Uncategorized | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,friends,Surgery | No Comments
February 1, 2017 by Julie Moon
Today marks five years since my surgery. I jokingly called it my boobiversary yesterday. But it’s truly the anniversary of a bold decision. Five years free of worry, stress, concern and cancer. Honestly when I step back and think about it…that time of my life feels surreal. I hardly remember what it was like. I have flashes of my recliner I recovered in. I remember outfits that I wore that would conform to having drains. I had drains…oh my…I do remember that. I remember my mom showering me. I barely remember my children during that time. Every time I get ready to get in the shower though…I remember. There are some serious scars on my body. I have to constantly remind myself that the scars are worth it. And this year…it hasn’t been hard. Two of my friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer this year. I have to remind myself to thank myself….to thank science…to thank my brave surgeons…to thank my incredibly supportive husband. I’m so grateful for all of the pictures that pop up on facebook memories this time of year. One of the biggest things I learned through this experience is the importance of your village. There are dozens of men and women who stepped up to help my family during that time. It literally brings me to tears to even mention it because it wouldn’t have mattered how bold or gutsy or whatever I was…if I had not the support of my community I could NOT have gone through with my procedure. The quilt my friends all put together for me to take was literally one of the best gifts I have ever received. The bins outside my door that people just came and filled up with food FOR A MONTH. Friends who took my children so that I could rest….know that I think of this every time I see you. The Bozards who let me live at their home, aka paradise, for two weeks! Two weeks they fed me, loved on me and my mom and let me overtake half their house while recovering from a seriously major operation. And my mom…without her this would not have been possible. I am forever grateful. Forever. What a journey we are all on. To my friends and family…I love you. Thank you.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,emotions,family,friends,recovery,waiting | 3 Comments
November 10, 2015 by Julie Moon
I often have random strangers email me to ask about my experiences. It always makes me happy to be able to share my life with them. To help them through some decision making and to clarify what exactly did I have done? I had an opportunity recently and shared my experiences with one woman. She wrote me back last week and it truly made my day. Here is her email:
It’s M. I spoke to you a month or so ago about your experiences with Drs. Baron & Craigie. I’ve been down to Charleston several times and plan to have a single mastectomy with GAP reconstruction using Baron & Kline. (Kline had office hours the day I met with Baron so he’ll be the leading plastic surgeon and Craigie will be assisting.)
I thought I was mainly going because of the plastic surgery option offered there, but then came to discover how warm and capable Baron is. So now I have the utmost confidence in the entire team. When Baron asked how I came to find out about him, and I mentioned your name, he said “Oh yea yea, the BRCA gene woman”. So he does remember you.
I just wanted you to know how thankful I am for both your blog and your willingness to chat with me about your surgery. I was desperately looking for a reconstruction option that better suited me. When I did a Google search on “GAP flap reconstruction atlanta”, your blog appeared. Otherwise the options in Atlanta are non-existent. I genuinely believe God lead me to you. Your blog matters so thank you for continuing to keep it out there.
I’m naturally a little anxious about the whole process but it still feels like the right choice for me.
Thank you more than you know.
THIS IS WHY I AM OPEN ABOUT MY STORY! This is not the first, second or even third woman I have spoken to personally about my experience. This is how sharing your life can change other’s lives.
Category The Journey | Tags: blogging,BRCA,charleston,decisions,friends | No Comments
December 4, 2013 by Julie Moon
I kept meaning to post about my upcoming revision surgery and it all happened quite fast so here I am on the other side posting now. I found out that we had met our annual deductible for insurance and so I called Dr. Craigie’s office to see if we could quickly fit in a surgery before the end of November. I really wanted to see if we could do anything to create a nipple for the left breast. That nipple had not survived the first surgery and I really wanted something there to match the sides. I also wanted to see if he could do anything to help with the fullness I was missing on the right breast. I knew that this surgery was all about me feeling complete and completely put back together. I traveled to Charleston to see him on the 18th….there and back in one day is an all day adventure but I had to see him this day. We came up with a plan. My mom and I drove back to Charleston on the 25th, spent the night and got ready for an early surgery on the 26th.
What Dr. Craigie did was take a cone shaped graft of my right nipple and grafted that onto my left breast. Blows my mind to think about how this could even work but it did. He also harvested fat from my legs via liposuction to inject into my right breast. This was challenging because I’ve been so diligently working out for the past year and so he had to harvest from 6 spots.
I stayed overnight in the hospital and was discharged on the 27th (the day before Thanksgiving) with a compression garment that goes from my ribs to my mid shins. I had no drains and only one dressing over the grafted nipple that they actually stitched down in 4 places so it wouldn’t move at all. I also had a nipple shield that I have to wear to just keep any compression off the breast.
Overall I’m doing well. My legs are terribly bruised and very very sore. I’m missing being able to workout and take my weekly trapeze class but I am beyond thrilled with the results of the surgery. If you can handle the surgery the revisions are really so amazing and have done wonders. I can honestly say that without the revision surgeries I think I would be really struggling more with my decision to do this. I took some pictures of the bruising last night for those who might need to do lipo…it is painful. But, I am so happy to know that everything in my chest is 100% “julie”…and not man made. I’m like a transformer…just move my parts around to create a new look. HA!
Category The Journey | Tags: breast cancer,charleston,decisions,nipple,pain,recovery,scar,surgeon,Surgery,travel | 4 Comments
December 12, 2012 by Julie Moon
Today marks two weeks post surgery. This was my third major surgery for 2012. My mom jokingly calls this one my barbie surgery because this was the one where we fixed all the scars, cavernous hips missing large amounts of tissue and recreated a nipple (sort of…it’s nothing special). I traveled to Charleston on the 26th with my mom. She’s been so amazing this year for me. She’s been through the toughest parts. She has been the one to see me hurting the most and she’s been the one to receive the most complaints and general recovering Julieisms.
We stayed with our friends again who we lived with for a week and a half after my first surgery. It was so great to catch up. I stayed at their house so long before it felt like coming home in a way to visit them and sleep in “my old bed”. We got up way early for surgery and like a doofus I took my antibiotics (on an empty pre surgery stomach). I do this every time because they tell you to start them the day before and I’m such a darn rule follower that I took it that morning. Nevermind that they were already going to give it to me in my IV at the hospital. So I eventually threw it up in the preop waiting area. Oh well…maybe someday I’ll learn or remember. I brought my beautiful quilt with me again as I waited. Every staff member was wonderful, my doc, nurses, anesthesiology staff…they were all so great. I don’t remember now how long surgery was…but I was out sometime after lunch. So maybe 5 hours? We stayed at East Cooper overnight so I could sleep on the air bed. I was so grateful to not have to wake up and get up and get out of the hospital right after surgery. That was such a pain the last time. I have lots of blood pressure issues when standing up for days after surgery. Then we came home to Athens and my mom came with me too.
I came home with two drains and a compression garment from my knees to my ribs. Joe lent me a laptop to so I could get cozy in the recliner while keeping up with the world and my friends. It’s all a bit of a blur now. Heck, life feels like that when I’m not on pain meds or recovering from surgery. Mom helped me wrap Christmas presents. I tried to get most of my shopping done early so that I wouldn’t feel stressed about getting Christmas ready for three small children.
My friends brought meals again…I feel like I owe them all a night out. In fact I get emotional every time I think about the people who have served me this year. Near and far I have felt so much love and support it is just more than my heart can hold and my heart bursts out through my tears every single time. I truly know who my friends are this year. I truly know that my family loves me dearly. I know without a shadow of a doubt that this village I am a part of is good to it’s core and without them I would be lost.
This past weekend the Mister had some work to do in Charleston so we planned weekend sleepovers for the bigs and Joe, Scarlett and I traveled to Charleston together. Scarlett and I hung out in the hotel and she enjoyed jumping on the bed, watching tv in bed and buffet breakfast. It was quite a treat to spend time with just one child…but I definitely missed my big kids so much. We saw Dr. Craigie on Monday and he pulled both my drains! Thank the Lord! He said I should wear my compression for another couple weeks.
Though I still have lots of visible scars I feel like my body looks more like normal than it has in a year. I feel close to whole.
Tonight at dinner Savannah asked me “So which one of us kids do you think has the gene?” *sigh* I told her “I hope none of you sweetheart.” She’s thinking lots about it I know. It’s deep in that brain of hers that goes a million miles a minute. I know my children won’t fully GET what I have done until they have a friend whose mother gets breast cancer, goes through chemo and heave forbid dies. They are too young to have SEEN that yet in life. But I hope they understand what this year of sacrifice has meant for them. Scarlett said “Mommy I wish you weren’t sick.” and I know that I”m not “sick”. I know that I’ve done this so I won’t ever have to be “sick” from breast cancer…like so many others in my family.
I’m so excited about 2013 for them. I’m so excited about a mom who isn’t traveling out of town for surgeries. I’m so excited about a mom who doens’t have wounds and can get in the pool. I’m so excited about a mom who feels great and can really enjoy the year with them. My children and my husband have been strong troopers. My husband…no words for the love and support he has given me through this decision and my journey.
Whew…what a year. My journey isn’t over. There are still some more surgeries in my future regarding ovaries. I still have some decisions to make but overall…this was the biggest mountain and I’m on the other side. I didn’t climb the mountain alone and sometimes I was carried but we made it over the mountain. God is good!
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,drains,emotions,family,friends,God,mister,plastic surgeon,scar,Surgery,travel | No Comments
August 21, 2012 by Julie Moon
This is how I feel tonight.
I had a great drive to and from Charleston today with my sweet husband. We left early at 8 am and returned around 8:30 pm tonight. It was so great to spend that time alone with him. When you have three children you just don’t get that much undivided attention from your spouse. We had a great spiritual discussion, laughed and I felt really loved by him. I’m so grateful he is so supportive of this journey. I couldn’t imagine trying to convince him that driving to Charleston for a surgery was/is the best plan for me if he wasn’t on board with the plan.
Everything is looking good and healing well and softening as it should. Dr. Craigie seemed pleased with how things looked and said I was ready to finish up. We planned a surgery date for November 27th. The kids will be back in school so it should be a little more manageable than my summer surgery date was. We will finish my nipple reconstruction on the left side, fill up one part of the right breast that needs some fullness and then he will do a revision of the donor site. That revision means they will open up the scar and take some fat from below the scar and fat from above the scar and fill in the concave area. It will hopefully help things to be more proportional. For those who don’t know the scar on my backside goes basically from hip to hip in a V. This should be the final surgery I need. It’s inpatient for one night only because they like for me to sleep on that special air filled bed for one night after surgery. We asked if they could give us a special spa room since our deductible for the year has been “met” (though we are still slowly paying it to everyone). They just laughed.
It was interesting today. Dr. Craigie is a laid back guy. I love that about him but today it made me a little insecure to tell him all that I wanted “fixed”. I think what I realized is that maybe he is used to dealing with “sick” people who are really not interested in more surgery to get themselves back to normal. They are more focused on survival…which I get. I wanted him to sell himself a bit more I suppose but overall I know that he will really do a great job. I do miss Christina…the PA I had for the first stage. She moved to another state to follow her husband to a new job. I could sure use a chat with her tonight. She was such an encourager.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,expenses,finances,insurance,mister,planning,plans,plastic surgeon,recovery,scar,surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments
August 20, 2012 by Julie Moon
It’s been a long time since I posted. Life has been busy. The kids are all back in school and we are back in our routine. Tomorrow the mister and I are headed to Charleston to meet with Dr. Craigie. I wanted to see him in person now that I am all healed up from stage 2. I plan to discuss our plan for finishing my nipple reconstruction as well as what he might be able to offer in regards to modifying the donor site. My back side has some very large concave areas (obviously) and hopefully they are able to do a lift to fill in that area some and make it not so obvious I had tissue removed. I have no idea what we will actually come away with tomorrow in regards to a plan. I am looking forward to it though. It brings me lots of peace to be able to see Dr. Craigie and know that I am making progress.
I feel really normal most days. I did yard work yesterday…lots of digging which I couldn’t have done a few months ago. I’m working again and that makes me very happy.
I wish I could stay in Charleston for more than a couple hours tomorrow…that place holds such a sacred place in my heart. I think I need an I “heart” Charleston teeshirt..hee hee!
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,nipple,plastic surgeon,recovery,surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments
July 11, 2012 by Julie Moon
I have been shopping and shopping lately….for what you say? Swimsuits. This has been the most confusing year ever for me. Not only do I have completely different size and shape breasts but my backside is shaped all differently around my hips. I have been totally lost when I’m shopping. I feel like I am shopping for the first time. I ended up buying TONS of stuff online and then taking back what didn’t fit. Lands End has been my hero. I also have a great friend who brought over piles of her swimsuits and let me try them on and she even let me borrow a suit for our vacation. There is nothing quite like feeling good in a swimsuit. I was so grateful to get to that point in my recovery. I’m still not done and I have some things I dislike or need fixed on both breasts still….but I think I totally rocked the swimsuit at the beach. I guarantee there wasn’t a person there who could tell the difference. To all my fellow BRCA sisters…you’re going to look HOT when you get those darn drains out and get all those holes healed up…it really does happen!
The summer has been so busy with things going on for the kids and vacation that I haven’t really thought about what lies ahead for me and my body. I got a card today in the mail that I need to schedule a follow up with my breast surgeon. I will probably plan a day trip to Charleston once the kids are in school again to see Dr. Baron and Dr. Craigie. It’s almost time to map out my next steps whether they are this year or later.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,charleston,clothes,decisions,emotions,recovery,Surgery,swimsuit,travel,waiting | 3 Comments
June 2, 2012 by Julie Moon
Well I woke up this morning with a stomach bug. Seriously universe…give me a break! I am finally feeling a bit better but goodness can I please feel great soon. I have had insomnia the past three nights…I need no more of that either. I did however have an awesome reader, another of Dr. Craigie’s patients email me yesterday and gave me lots of encouraging messages. It was great. I do feel better about getting it all out there and now I can just move on and get to healing up. I also had another friend bring over some swimsuits for me to try on. It’s unusual for trying on swimsuits to be fun but I do have to say that was a good highlight of the day. There are some “perks” to all this surgery.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,clothes,recovery,sick,Sleep | No Comments
May 25, 2012 by Julie Moon
I never tire of seeing this beautiful city. Charleston in my heart is a place of healing. It is a place of happiness for me. It was just four short months ago that my life took such a turn here in Charleston. I made a very tough decision to do something radical to ensure a life free of breast cancer. And this past week I was able to return to Charleston for the stage two of my reconstruction.
Two of my very best friends packed up and drove me to Charleston. My mom couldn’t leave until Tuesday so these wonderful women drove me down for my preop consult. We then had the opportunity to meet someone who is in the process of her reconstruction as well. The mother of a good friend of ours who I referred to Dr. Kline and Dr. Craigie. She’s had some obstacles to overcome in her recovery but it was so inspirational to see her and hear her express her gratitude for leading her to Charleston.
Stage two was lots easier than stage one. My surgery was only 5 hours instead of 11. However it was outpatient so as soon as I was in recovery they were waking me up and trying to get me going. I felt so groggy. The way you feel when you’re asleep and dreaming and trying to wake up in your dreams. Everything is blurry and impossible. It’s so very frustrating to be in that state. Everytime I sat up my face went pale and I thought I would pass out. My friend Meg and my mom looked at each other with concern…how in the world were they going to get me into our hotel room. Eventually they did it…they got me settled in and I slept most of the rest of the day. Right before they got the call that I was in recovery they were preparing to order sandwiches…so their lunch got delayed until dinner. Sorry ladies!
This stage they revised my scars on my breasts and recreated the nipple that I lost in stage one. Dr. Craigie also revised the ends of my donor site scars so they are now flat instead of creating “dog ears”. Some more contouring was done so that everything was smooth and even. I am very sore this time but much more mobile. I still have restrictions for about 3 weeks and will be resting and recovering at home. I feel so happy with the results. I still have a bit of a road of healing, getting these wounds to close up completely and some time getting these scars to fade. I still may do another revision on my donor site in the future but I won’t be doing anything until the fall. Oh and the best part of stage 2…no drains! I do however have to wear compression garments for the next three weeks…which makes me a bit nauseous.
I’m incredibly tired and my body is sore…I can hardly believe that I have two stages of surgery behind me now. I have already been able to connect with several women locally who are BRCA + and some others long distance via this blog. It makes me so happy to know that my journey gives strength to these other women.
My mom and I having breakfast the day after surgery at IHOP.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,friends,plastic surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments