October 27, 2022 by Julie Moon
Today, I am 20 days away from my 45th birthday. Tomorrow, I will go in for a robot-assisted total laparoscopic hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy. This is hopefully the final surgery in a long list of preventative steps I have taken as a result of my BRCA 1 status. Research suggests that BRCA 1 patients have a high risk of ovarian cancer and perhaps also uterine cancer.
As far as we know…nothing is wrong. I had my regular CA 125 blood work done and regular ultrasound that I do annually or biannually. Things looked pretty normal but the CA 125 levels were a little high but still in the normal range. Stephanie Allen, my gynecologist, and friend called me to say, “Please go see this gynecological oncologist and get his opinion.” So I did. And Dr. Wilson was pretty adamant that it was time. We spent a good long while talking through things and decided we would go ahead and schedule surgery.
I have dreaded this one the most. I have lots of questions about how this one changes my body and life in general. What will menopause feel like? Will I gain weight? What hormonal changes will come? Should I do hormone replacement? What are the risk and benefits of that? How long will it take to recover? How long until I can lift weights again? Will losing my uterus cause all kinds of problems? So many questions.
What I DO know…is this. I have a great team of doctors who I have consulted….again and again. Those great doctors have shared medical journals, notes, research, and more with me and have let me lead this step when I felt fully ready. I have a great support team. My wonderful husband and my mom will take great care of me physically. I have a pelvic floor therapist I have already spoken to that I will be meeting with post-surgery. My trainer at the gym is on board with modifying my workouts throughout my recovery. I am so grateful!
It’s interesting to me that this surgery would be harder mentally than my breast surgery and reconstruction. That was WAY harder physically but somehow I was brave enough to take that step. So I know that I am brave enough to take this step.
I think there is a bit of sentimentality kicking in this time. This precious body I was given has carried three babies. I am forever grateful to this body and all the ways it has nourished life. My mom even called me today to make sure I was doing ok emotionally with it all. I’m known to compartmentalize my emotions and not really connect with them sometimes. It’s ok…I have a couple of good “feelers” as family and friends who help me remember that this is a big deal.
Category Uncategorized | Tags: BRCA,decisions,emotions,family,ovarian cancer,recovery,Surgery,uterine cancer | 11 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
September 20, 2014 by Julie Moon
I had surgery on Wednesday. My friend and gynecologist here in town, Stephanie Allen, did the surgery. She has been a great support through all my decision making and has been great about providing me with articles and research to support my decision making. I always feel respected and like we are in a partnership for finding my best health plan.
It was a fairly simple laproscopic procedure. She removed my two fallopian tubes. I was told (I wasn’t awake yet when she came to check in) that the right tube had a cyst. It’s obviously being sent off to pathology and the left tube was attached to my left ovary. She said she had some difficulty removing the tube. Hindsight is 20/20 and I don’t know why we didn’t think of this but I wish I had asked her to remove one of my ovaries. As far as I understand my body can function normally with just one ovary and that would have further reduced my risk. Honestly it didn’t even occur to me to do that since we talk about them as a unit.
That’s the only regret I have about the surgery so far. I am sore but mostly feel like I got punched in the gut several times and I feel a bit crampy as well. She did remove my iud that was due to be removed as well. She prescribed me 800 mg of ibuprofen and also some tramadol for pain. I will be taking the tramadol tonight after a long day.
She has recommended I start birth control pills to further reduce my risk of ovarian cancer. This would suppress ovulation thus “quieting” the ovaries a bit. I’d like to do some more research on that before I begin that.
Overall…success…down two fallopian tubes and hopefully the pathology will come back clean and clear. Checking things off the list and being proactive. I’m kind of over having surgeries though…have I ever mentioned how much I hate trying to wake up after anesthesia.
Category The Journey | Tags: decisions,fallopian tubes,medicine,oopherectomy,pain,recovery,salpingectomy,surgeon,Surgery | 3 Comments
April 6, 2014 by Julie Moon
So I met with the gyn…she had lots of great information for me. First we talked about the oopherectomy itself and we actually talked about a study that had been done recently that suggested removing the fallopian tubes and not the ovaries was a good preventative step. She copied the article and I am going to read it and see what my thoughts are on this. We discusses hormone replacement and she explained bioidenticals and where the raised interested in compounded medicines came from. When I do remove my ovaries we will have to test out different things to see what makes me feel most normal. There will be some bumps along the way but she assured me the she felt confident we would figure it out.
She said to just let her know where to be and when I was ready and she’d take whatever out that I wanted. Ha. We can always continue with surveillance. I am monitoring my CA125 levels each year and I can also request to have ultrasound done to just look at things. I will be 37 this year….decisions decisions. I have no idea what is a “natural” menopause age for women in my family.
Category Uncategorized | Tags: hormones,nerves,oopherectomy,ovaries,recovery,surgeon,Surgery | 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
March 28, 2013 by Julie Moon
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 Moon
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 Moon
“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
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