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
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
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
February 17, 2012 by Julie
Dr. James Craigie
Dr. Paul Baron
Last night as I was lying in my bed waiting for my body to fall asleep my thoughts turned to my surgeons in Charleston. I started to think through the first time I met them.
I drove from Athens, GA to Charleston, SC with the Mister so that we could visit the city and see if these were the right doctors for me. Some friends of mine who used to live in Charleston recommended a wonderful place to stay and we spent a whole day enjoying the city. The next day we drove to the Charleston Breast Center and first met with Dr. Craigie, plastic surgeon and his PA (whom I had already had over an hour conversation with over the phone…she was amazing and answered all my questions in depth). I already felt so comfortable since I had been in contact with them over the phone. In fact when I had emailed I had gotten a reply from Dr. Craigie himself. They were so amazing. The Mister had so many questions and Dr. Craigie fielded them all. They gave us so much attention and put me at ease. It really was feeling like the right choice. Then I was able to meet with Dr. Baron, the breast surgeon and his PA. Dr. Baron was very attentive to my questions and then at the end of our meeting he leaned over and gave me a hug and said “You’re going to be ok. We’re going to take good care of you.” It was right then that my heart decided. These were the right men for the job. Not only are they amazing surgeons but they were compassionate and caring. I felt as though I had two fathers who were going to care for me like a daughter. We scheduled my surgery for February 1, 2012. I would not see them again until the day before surgery.
They did not disappoint when it came to be surgery time. I met with Dr. Craigie the day before to be marked for surgery. This was the first time my mom had met him and he immediately greeted her with a hug. I felt so grateful for the PA Christina…seeing her was instant comfort. All of my pre-op and post-op meetings with them have been wonderful.
Last night I began to cry. My tears were not sad tears even though I’m still so uncomfortable and unable to sleep on my side. My tears were of gratitude for the healing hands of Charleston. I missed them. It seems so strange for them to be far away and not be able to see them. I am not sure if I will need to go back for a checkup before stage 2 of my surgery. I am grateful that I decided to go to Charleston. I will be eternally grateful for Dr. Craigie, Christina and Dr. Baron. They went above and beyond and took care of the whole person.
Dr. James Craigie and Dr. Richard Kline, The Center for Natural Breast Reconstruction, Charleston, SC – on facebook
Dr. Paul Baron, Charleston Breast Center, Charleston, SC – on facebook
Category The Journey | Tags: blessings,breast cancer,charleston,decisions,God,mister,planning,plastic surgeon,surgeon,Surgery,travel | 2 Comments
February 8, 2012 by Julie
My Recovery Home
Day 7…finishing up the first week of this new life. What a journey it has been already. Last night was a very hard night. Neither I or my mom slept very well at all. We both had some crazy dreams and I was hot and uncomfortable most of the night. My body feels so tight and swollen and I’m just so ready to be done with these drains.
I saw Dr. Craigie, the plastic surgeon, first today. He greeted my mom and I with hugs and a smile. He prescribed silvadene for my nipple that I may lose. If I do lose it he will be able to recreate something that looks similar…we knew this was one of the risks. That side was the side that got the radioactive dye for the sentinel node biopsy so I think it was harder to see during surgery and not damage. He also shorted my drain tubes for me so that I don’t have as long of tubes that can potentially get pulled on something. I will go back Friday to see the PA and she will remove my two breast drains. That will be great! We will head home to Athens after those are pulled on Friday.
After we left Dr. Craigie we filled our prescription and then drove over to see Dr. Baron, the breast surgeon. I had taken my pain meds as well as a zofran before I left Dr. Craigie’s office and the two of those combined really get me loopy. I feel like I’m floating all over the room and feel like I lose feeling in my legs. It was relaxing but definitely a strange feeling. He is so warm and compassionate and greeted my mom and I with hugs as well. I feel so taken care of by this team of doctors. He examined me and seemed a bit disappointed with the left nipple’s healing as well. I know he was hoping that they both would survive and look as they always have. He did feel great about everything else so far.
I am happy with my recovery so far. It’s not pretty for sure…but I know that’s all part of the journey.
We grabbed a late lunch and headed back to our recovery home. It’s so peaceful and quiet here. I need to gear myself up for heading back to my house which is full of loud children. I love them but it will be a big change for sure. I was out from 10-4 today and I’m very sore and tired now. I hope I sleep well tonight and really am able to relax and rest.
Category The Journey | Tags: charleston,family,fear,plans,plastic surgeon,recovery,scar,Sleep,surgeon,travel | No Comments
February 1, 2012 by Julie
This is the place I will leave my risk of breast cancer. This is East Cooper Medical Center…a beautiful facility. We have met nothing but nice and helpful people. I was there twice today and it will become my new home through the weekend. I am so grateful that I was able to afford to travel here with my mom. I am so grateful for Dr. Craigie and Dr. Kline and Dr. Baron who will perform my surgeries. It will be mind blowing, life altering and life saving. I am so grateful that I do not have cancer and I get to tackle this as a healthy 34 year old woman. I am so grateful that the BRCA test was conclusive and I was able to confidently move foward with this step. I am so grateful for each and every person who is at home feeding, hugging, nurturing, driving, dressing, bathing, teaching, snuggling, and taking care of my dear sweet children.
I feel the prayers and positive energy of my friends. I am envisioning the candles that will be lit for me tomorrow. I pray for peace for my friends and family while I’m under. My wish is that tomorrow not only changes my own life but that it changes many people’s lives. I hope it inspires a woman to get her mammograms or research her genetics. I hope it encourages a husband to be completely supportive of radical preventative measures his wife may want to take for her health. I hope that it challenges more people to participate in the 3day and other events that support breast cancer research. We need more research. We need to find a cure.
Goodbye to the breasts I know and have loved…the breasts that have nourished my three children and have been loved by my husband. I am looking forward to meeting my new breasts…the ones that will carry me into my old age. I suppose if you want to be technical I have known those breasts all along since they will come from my back side. :)
Category The Journey | Tags: 3day,blessings,BRCA,breast cancer,charleston,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel | No Comments
November 29, 2011 by Julie
The Mister and I traveled to Charleston, SC this weekend to meet with the plastic and breast surgeons. We left on Saturday and were able to have two days to ourselves…without children to reconnect and just enjoy each other before the appointment day. I am so grateful for my sister watching the kids Saturday and Sunday…a wonderful babysitter helping out on Sunday night and Monday morning and one of my best friends coming over Monday after school to keep the kiddos, clean up the house and get everyone to bed before we got home. What a network of great people I have supporting me on this journey. It was reassuring to see that I could be gone for 3 days and things still function as normal. I have to admit that I am probably more nervous about what is going to happen to my kiddos when I’m gone for 2 weeks than I am about the surgery itself…ah motherhood!
The Mister and I were able to eat at some great restaurants, check out some local shops and the market and visit Folly beach at Sunset. Did I mention we slept? Oh the bliss of no children in the house kind of sleep…no naps interrupted by squeals of disagreement over the wii or by a toddler banging her fist over your head because she is hungry. We slept well and we napped. It was glorious!
I feel peaceful. I feel content. I feel excited. I feel nervous. I feel happy. I feel sad. I feel grateful. I feel blessed. I feel spared. I feel sure. I feel crazy. I feel amazed.
No wonder I can’t sleep yet tonight.
February 1, 2012…a day that will change my life forever.
Category The Journey | Tags: breast cancer,charleston,decisions,family,fear,friends,mister,plastic surgeon,surgeon,travel,waiting | No Comments