December 4, 2013 by Julie
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
March 28, 2013 by Julie
I am finding lately that I feel the need to distance myself from all things BRCA related. It’s a very strange feeling. I haven’t really been able to open up the facebook group to read posts and I haven’t been to the FORCE page at all. I know I could be helping others. One of my newest BRCA friends has asked me to make a video and I just can’t bring myself to do it. I am grateful…so grateful. But every single day it is so very hard to look at my body. It is so very hard to see those bright red scars. It is so very hard to look at my left breast lacking a nipple and my right breast lacking volume. I see every flaw in a way I don’t think I did before surgery. Today I had to change the side of my body I wear my purse on because I have a spot on my back thigh that is sore all the time and the purse hitting against it finally became too much. I look at these things and I realize so clearly that I had the opportunity to count the cost before I took the plunge. If I had been diagnosed with breast cancer I would not have had that luxury. But then sometimes it’s so painful that I CHOSE this. It gets too raw and I have to distance myself from all of it just to make it through the day. It is ALWAYS on my mind….EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s like background noise just humming in my brain. I hope this is just a phase.
And then today a friend posted on facebook about having to go back for a second screening after an ultrasound and I remember that feeling so vividly. I am grateful for what I chose but good grief this isn’t easy.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,decisions,emotions,nerves,pain,recovery,scar | 1 Comment
November 8, 2012 by Julie
I have been having so many more pains in my breasts. It’s strange to have pain in your breasts…I mean aside from being pregnant or menstruating I really didn’t ever have any noticeable discomfort in my breasts. I am going to attribute this to nerve growth. I can point out certain spots that have throbbing feelings. I have one spot that always hurts when I’m braless. I shooting pains in some other spots. It reminds me of being a nursing mom…always touching my breasts because I was constantly aware of them. Now I have to make sure I’m not massaging myself in public.
Category The Journey | Tags: nerves,numb,pain,recovery | No Comments
September 25, 2012 by Julie
“How are you doing?” “How are things going?” “How are you feeling?” “How do things look?”
These are questions I get all the time. I understand…people want to know. How else are they going to ask me? How else will they know what is going on? I don’t know how to reply though. I have been saying “I’m doing well.” “Things are feeling more normal.” “I’m back to work and not having any difficulties.” But the other day I really sat quietly, meditating on how I’m really doing. And the truth wasn’t quite as pretty.
I realized that I have daily discomforts that I wouldn’t quite call pain, but they are annoying and disruptive. My donor incision and above has a constant heat…not really to the touch…but it feels much like your body feels with some Ben Gay rubbed on your skin. A slight burn. I have lots of “zaps” in my breasts. I have sore spots on my breasts still…that feel like bruising, especially when I am not wearing any bra. Physically things are doing great but then again they are so hard still. I still forget sometimes that I only have one nipple. Sometimes when I’m standing in front of the mirror I cover my left breasts just to imagine what I would look like had that nipple survived. I know I’m going to have something reconstructed in November…but it will never be MY nipple.
I went this past Thursday for some theraputic body work (massage). And the question was asked “What would you like out of our time today?” I felt this surge of emotion come up that I knew was bubbling under the surface. I had prayed about it on my drive over because I did have a goal. I told him, “I want to feel more whole. I feel like my body is in pieces.”
I’m still working on it. I am truly so grateful for the opportunity to eliminate risk of breast cancer but I am realizing I am far from being “on the other side”.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,emotions,nerves,nipple,pain,recovery,scar | No Comments
June 9, 2012 by Julie
I’m happy to be nearing another weekend and getting closer to being 3 weeks post surgery. I think at 3 weeks I can stop wearing these horrid compression garments. I’m hoping that I can start getting 1/2 of me in the pool (if the water in Georgia will ever warm up). I’m feeling more like myself and I’m going to start working again next week.
I’m driving…but it does make me very sore.
My house ends up looking like this more often than not…which I’m slowly getting used to. Remember I’m an organizer by profession.
Though I am feeling better there is lots going on in my family. Stuff with my father in laws health and also with my future brother in law and my mom. I’m ready for the universe to give us all just a couple months off from all of it. Somehow I don’t think that’s the direction we’re headed.
As far as my recovery…things are looking on. My left breast is not pretty but not infected and supposedly healing…though I’m skeptical that everything is going exactly right. I gotta keep it bandaged and keep an eye on things. Also…you’d be amazed how many times your children bang into your chest on a daily basis…trust me…it’s lots. ouch.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,family,pain,recovery,scar,waiting,work,wound | No Comments
March 29, 2012 by Julie
The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction will be having a free webinar on Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:00 p.m. ET / 4:00 p.m. PT
Sign up here for the free webinar: http://breastreconstructionnetwork.com/rightforme/
From their website:
When you join us on April 12, you’ll discover…
- Exactly what natural breast reconstruction is and whether you’re a good match for the procedures we offer.
- What all the acronyms mean…DIEP, GAP, TUG, SIEA.
- What you can expect in terms of hospital stays, recovery time, and scarring.
- Answers to insurance questions relating to breast reconstruction. Our insurance specialist will be on hand during our Q&A.
One in eight women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life.
Take Control of Your Life!
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,emotions,expenses,fear,finances,insurance,medicine,pain,planning,plans,plastic surgeon,recovery,scar,surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments
March 28, 2012 by Julie
Today I called and scheduled my stage 2 of surgery. It will be on May 22nd in Charleston, SC. Same docs, same hospital, same beautiful city…this time I’m really excited. This surgery will be outpatient but I do have to be there a day on either side…possibly two days post surgery in town. In stage one they left an oval shaped piece of skin from my donor site (yes my booty) attached to the fat tissue they used to create my breasts…so I have that skin on my breasts now. Obviously none of you have seen it but it’s something I see every day. In stage 2 they will remove that skin and I will be left with one short scar out to the side of my breast. They will also make sure all the fat tissue has survived and remove any that hasn’t. They will recreate my left nipple which didn’t survive the surgery (out of that skin flap…fascinating right?). They will also do some contouring to make sure the breasts are the size and shape that looks best. I do not think I will have any drains. Hopefully this will be a piece of cake compared to stage 1. If all heals well my breasts will be finished…done! I am so excited!
It’s amazing how much I have become accustom to my new breasts. At first it really felt like they were foreign objects on my chest. I had such a hard time breathing and being able to stay calm. Now even though I don’t really think I have regained any sensation in the breasts that I didn’t have when I first had surgery they do feel more normal. What a blessing that is. It’s not a concept that I can even accurately describe in words…if you’ve been there…you understand. I’m growing and changing just like everything in life….grateful for these plants that were sent to me that remind me of just that.
Did I mention I’m so excited?!!!!!
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,nerves,numb,pain,plastic surgeon,recovery,surgeon,Surgery,travel | No Comments
March 3, 2012 by Julie
This photo is from March 1, 2012. One month exactly after my bilateral mastectomy and SGAP breast reconstruction. I have a 10 inch scar from each hip down into a V on my buttocks. Yes…TEN inches EACH. I have an oval shaped paddle of skin 5 inches wide on each breast that is a different color from the rest of my breast because it’s skin from my back side. It will be removed in the second stage of surgeries. I have an open wound on my left breast and a nipple that has not healed yet. That nipple will require reconstruction to look “normal” again. I have two very sore wounds on each hip that are still leaky and healing from having drains removed. But…do you know what I see when I look at that picture? I see ME! I see a woman who looks like she used to with a smile on her face. I see myself wearing clothes out of my closet that weren’t purchased specifically for surgery. I see a woman about to go to dinner with her family and enjoy a night out. I see a woman who doesn’t look broken. My body has undergone quite a bit of trauma. I am regaining mobility but I am still sore and weak. But my heart is happy that I am moving forward. I am seeing myself heal. I am working hard to make that happen and will continue to do so. Someday I believe I will feel together, whole and beautiful without my clothes on because I will heal. This picture gives me hope.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,drains,emotions,healing,pain,planning,plans,plastic surgeon,recovery,scar | 1 Comment
February 20, 2012 by Julie
February 20th…getting so close to being a month out of surgery. It feels so strange. Time passes so slowly while I sit at home but yet I look at the calendar and 20 days have passed since that early morning before my surgery.
Yesterday I was blessed to have a friend pay for a massage therapist to come to my home. She spent over an hour doing healing work with her hands on my body. She mentioned more than once the word “trauma” in reference to my surgery. I hadn’t ever really thought of it as trauma because that word conjures up thoughts of a terrible accident or something that is done to you without your permission. I had given consent for my body to be sliced and diced and rearranged. But if my body has a viewpoint I could see my body feeling like it had a “trauma” done to itself. She helped my body to relax. My muscles are constantly tense and spasming. I don’t know what is “normal tightness” and what is just my body being tense. It’s a new normal completely.
The best part about the day was that after the massage I felt my heart take a turn. I felt positive for the first time in a while. I gave myself permission to be happy that my donor site wounds seem to be healing nicely. I fixed myself some lunch while my mom was massaged (thank you to my friend for including her as well). I was independant for an hour…all by myself and I felt “normal” somewhat. I haven’t really needed many pain meds and last night I found an entirely different way to sleep with many pillows that didn’t encourage swelling in my chest. I would call these times of healing. It really gives me hope for what another week of recovery will hold. I can only imagine how great I will feel when THESE DRAINS COME OUT!!!!! I’m planning a return trip to Charleston with a friend for the grand removal.
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,charleston,drains,family,friends,nerves,pain,plans,scar,travel | No Comments
February 14, 2012 by Julie
Tomorrow marks 2 weeks since surgery. The incisions on my back side are healing nicely. I do still have my two hip drains that I will keep for 2 more weeks. They are a pain and they keep me from feeling like a normal person. I can’t wear normal clothes because they are bulky and have to have room for them. I will be sooo grateful when I am able to get rid of them.
The right breast is healing well. It looks so normal and the nipple looks untouched. The left breast is a bit gross right now. Because I had to have the sentinel node biopsy on that breast it complicated the surgery a bit. It has a huge scab over the nipple that we are keeping covered with Silvadene (Silver Sulfadiazine) to help it heal. Eventually the scab will come off and hopefully the nipple will have survived. I have no idea how long this will take. I am grateful my mom is here because honestly I can’t even look at that nipple right now. It makes me a bit nauseous.
I have to wear a bra 24-7 (minus showering) and though it’s stretchy and “soft” it’s getting to be very uncomfortable. I have to wear it for another two weeks as well.
My breasts today feel stiff and tight. Different than they have felt so far. It is so weird to have them and not be able to feel them. It feels as if I have something strapped to my chest. I am adjusting. I am sleeping better. Did I mention I can’t wait until these drains are gone. Seriously hate that part.
Category The Journey | Tags: biopsy,medicine,nipple,pain,recovery | No Comments