December 12, 2012 by Julie
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
October 3, 2012 by Julie
I have some of the same feelings about my breast reconstruction that I have about my wedding. Let me explain.
I got married 13 years ago. This was before people had cell phones, digital cameras and blogs. We barely had the internet back then. Weddings didn’t seem nearly as creative as they are now. If you hadn’t seen it before and you weren’t one of those super creative types you had a typical wedding. Which is awesome…but let’s face it, not quite as cool as some of the weddings happening today. It’s easy to get caught up in Pinterest and see beautiful weddings with creative ideas and wish you had “done that” for your wedding. I get a feeling of dissatisfaction about my wedding…I don’t like it. I usually promptly close Pinterest and the feelings go away.
I have been having those same feelings about my reconstruction. Technology and medicine never stops. It is inevitable that breast reconstruction is only going to get better and better. The choices available are going to blow my mind. I know my mom has some of these feelings about her own reconstruction. She had her surgery four years before my own and it has amazed us what was available to me that wasn’t quite as well known and/or available to her. But I have to quiet that voice in my head that wonders if I should have chosen a different type of reconstruction. I am happy with my reconstruction but I do have things that are still not quite right. I know I have another surgery in November but I wonder if I will still have some of these feelings after that surgery too. I want to help others but I think that there might come a point where I just have to quit looking things up and researching and being involved with the previvor forums for fear that my involvement will keep me from being satisfied with where I am. I will never stop being an advocate for breast health, breast cancer research and breast reconstruction. I do have two daughters…they may very well have the BRCA gene mutation. My efforts to find a cure are for them as much as they are for me.
Category The Journey | Tags: BRCA,breast cancer,decisions,emotions,fear,medicine,planning,plans,plastic surgeon,surgeon,Surgery,waiting | 2 Comments
August 21, 2012 by Julie
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
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
May 25, 2012 by Julie
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
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
March 1, 2012 by Julie
Monday morning one of my besties volunteered to drive me to Charleston to see the doctor and to get my last two drains pulled. If you don’t know what drains are, consider yourself blessed. Having them for a month has been a drag. I was so excited for this day to come. We drove straight there…nearly running out of gas because evidently noone thought it was a good idea to put a gas station on I-20 for what felt like 100 miles. Thankfully we made it to our hotel without having to walk to any gas stations.
We relaxed for a bit and decided to go out to dinner in downtown Charleston at a great little place called Blossom. It’s wonderful to have friends who have lived there because they always give us the best restaurant recommendations. I love being in Charleston! We turned in early and watched some crazy tv until it was time to fall asleep. Isn’t hotel tv the best…you watch things you never would have watched at home. We watched some TLC show where a child had a parasitic twin removed from his body…wha?
Tuesday morning we went to my favorite breakfast spot…Hominy Grill. I have yet to have dinner or lunch there but I have plenty more Charleston trips planned this year. It was delicious as always. It reminds me of our very own Athens restaurant, Mama’s Boy just with more seafood. We killed some time shopping at TJMaxx and Homegoods and found a dress that might work for the baby girl to wear as flowergirl in May.
Finally it was time for a visit and I was so excited. In the waiting room we met another BRCA 1 family. A young girl from Atlanta. It was great to share stories and realize that we were going through much of the same journey. She had a failed flap in her first surgery….such a small percentage of women have this happen. So she was there having her second reconstruction.
At last it was my turn to see Dr. Craigie. He came in and sat down like an old friend ready to hear how I was doing. We discussed my recovery and then he got to work. I had nipple sparing surgery which means we attempted to save the nipple to be part of the reconstruction. This is difficult because the nipple has the weakest blood supply after mastectomy. One side has healed beautifully and managed to get a very good blood supply. The other side has not been so lucky. We have been using silvadene cream for the past 3 weeks trying to help it heal. Dr. Craigie cleaned the wound and cut away the dead tissue and now we are working on my protein and letting the skin continue to grow to heal the wound. Please pray for this to heal. It is by far the scariest part to me…looking at my body with an open wound. There still is a chance that there is enough healthy tissue for part of my nipple to survive. The second stage of surgery we will be able to repair/construct anything that we need to though. I have full confidence in my surgeon and his ability to make me whole again. I have seen AMAZING pictures and I believe I will be one of those too. THEN HE PULLED MY DRAINS!! Woo hoo! It was glorious to be free of those darn tagalongs. They did a great job but I’m glad to let them go!
After my wonderful appointment we celebrated with frozen yogurt and then headed on our journey home. I got to see my baby girl before she went to bed on her birthday! What a wonderful trip!
Look what my family had on the door waiting for me!
Category The Journey | Tags: baby girl,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,drains,emotions,family,friends,plastic surgeon,recovery,travel | No Comments
February 21, 2012 by Julie
I just got off the phone with my physicians assistant at the plastic surgeon’s office. I have an appointment on the 28th to HAVE MY DRAINS REMOVED! One of my best friends offered to drive me to Charleston to see the doctor. And though they don’t require me to go I could tell they were very happy that I was choosing to drive back to see them. It will be great to have them removed there in the office. It will also be great to be able to be “checked over” by the doctor and let them see how my healing is going. I am very grateful for my friend offering and we might be able to have another friend or two come along. We are going to make the most of it and spend one night there as well. I am so excited!
Category The Journey | Tags: charleston,drains,friends,plastic surgeon,travel | No Comments