Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The unveiling of the sisters (aka tatas)

First, let me extend my thanks again to all of you for your well wishes and prayers for a smooth and successful surgery and recovery. I KNOW your prayers go straight to God's ears and heart and I feel the shower of His blessings every single day. Every day! I'm so incredibly grateful to Him, and to you for your thoughtfulness and generosity. I have been doing GREAT! The recovery has been a breeze compared with the big surgery during the summer and what a relief that has been! I only had to take the pain medication for 3-4 days and I'm sure I didn't need them that long but I was nervous about stopping and finding myself "behind the pain" (after what happened at the hospital when one nurse delayed my meds on day 2 or 3) so I took them just in case and just took less and less each day. The only time I've felt any soreness at all is when I have broken the rules - reached for something over my head or forgot and picked Cooper up. Even when that has happened the effect has been minor and short-lived, thankfully. I have barely any swelling (a huge difference compared to last time). My only 'complaint' is the digestive trouble that comes with using pain medication - the cramping and...oh nevermind :). It's short-lived and totally bearable so I'm really not even complaining about that. Just mentioning it since it's there - but just about done with already anyway. It has been a huge help having my mom here - thank you, Mom!!! Cooper loves her so much (and so do I!) and he loves to sit at the dining room table next to her while she works on her computer. He sits and draws and plays with all her stuff - totally cute. Oh...right...the unveiling. Haha (silly chemo brain!) So, on Sunday I was allowed to take the bandages off and have a gander at the sisters, the tatas, the boobies. I was actually afraid to look because I've heard from some that it can be disappointing even when the results are good. It's hard to explain but it's sort of like when you go through anything difficult and there's one little morsel of a bonus (for lack of a better word) that you look to for fun or humor and you've talked it up and then suddenly you're faced with the reality that you may have talked it up too much and then you're suddenly disappointed not just in your own excitement about it but the actual thing itself. In the case of reconstructive surgery following breast cancer, I know from other survivors that it can go either way - it can be a moment of sheer bliss and relief or a moment of great sadness and loss. I guess how a person feels at the moment of the unveiling depends upon what their expectations were. I wasn't "attached" to my natural breasts so I didn't hesitate to instruct the surgeon to take them both from me - they failed me in life before when they were so heavy and big I could barely find attractive bras and when I had them reduced and later discovered that the surgery prevented me from breastfeeding my son and then of course when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Me and the boobs were not my "friends" so I was totally fine letting go of them. Getting a new set of breasts that would not require wearing a bra and would be the exact size of my choosing was a nice little "bonus" to this process and although I would have been fine to not have any at all (seriously), I guess I have been psyching myself up to look at the positive side of having a set of perky fake boobs (better clothing options, perky set for life, etc.) I guess I was expecting bliss and that was probably a mistake. That's probably why it's taken me so long to write about it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not sad or angry about it, I'm just not as excited as I hoped I would be. Why? Well...only so much can be done in a single surgery. Not every 'issue' can be fixed and sometimes it needs to be incremental and that's the case with reconstructive surgery that involves the 'growing' and 'stretching' of skin. You see, it's not like a run of the mill boob job where you have your own original skin and nipples to tuck a squishy implant behind and voila you have perfectly symmetrical, perky and glamorous boobs. Yeah, not so much. I had ALL of my breast tissue removed in June - they had to actually cut into chest muscle and create pockets for the expanders and later implants to be set into and this causes a different look than the run of the mill boob job. I also lost a huge amount of skin from my original breasts and the expanders served to stretch/grow the remaining skin to make room for implants. Anyway, the result is that I have one side that's slightly bigger and positioned slightly differently than the other because of post-surgical settling and fluid retention (lymph drainage issue). Thankfully, these 'issues' are only noticeable when I'm nude and thankfully we're not living in a nudist colony. :)Dr.C did an excellent job but he had a lot to get done and it's hard to know how it will turn out until the swelling disappears and things settle and then he'll go back in and get more done when it's time to get some nipples (doesn't that sound so strange!? - get some nipples LOL). He warned me that there would be things that would need to be touched up along the way so I have no complaints about the way expectations were set with me - my issues are purely mine with regard the emotional buildup involved. By the way, Dr. C is such a wonderful person too - talent AND compassion is hard to come by both in a surgeon but this guy has it. I'm so glad I chose him. On the VERY plus and happy side - and this is BIG - the new implants are so much more comfortable than those expanders. So to all the ladies out there with expanders -- you will not feel icky forever. Those expanders were hard, expansive across the chest landscape, and made sleeping a challenge (for me it did). The new silicone implants I'm sporting are soft and lighter and I no longer feel like I have a chunk of steel stapled to my chest. As soon as I noticed THAT difference, I no longer cared about the temporary cosmetic issues that still linger. Another positive is that the overall shape is better and more normal looking which is a big relief because before I had to wear layers - usually a soft bra, tank top and shirt - to try to disguise the strange shape I had with the expanders. The only way I could think to describe it was that it looked/felt like I had little tree trunk stumps because of the bumpy appearance in part from the skin stretching process and results. This surgery included pulling and tucking to smooth and round out the appearance and I'm so glad about that because now I can wear a shirt without worrying about hiding my stumpy bumps. So, another milestone is behind me and that's really awesome. The next chapter, radiation treatment, begins next week. On Tuesday I go in for my radiation simulation and CT scan. The week after I begin daily radiation treatment, 5 days per week, for 7 weeks. I'm plugging along. I'm cherishing every day. I'm working on my relationship with God and with myself. I started my first ever Bible study group last night and I'm so happy to have made that important step to learning more about God's will for my life. I look forward to sharing more about that at a later time. With love and gratitude, Julie


  1. You sound so amazing Julie!!! You boobies will be perfect& cancer free :)
    WIll be praying for you on Tuesday for your apt!

  2. Amazing, inspirational entry, Julie. Many women feel the exact same way you do. It sounds like you're choosing to focus on the positive in life. Good for you!

  3. I'm sorry you were a little disappointed but as you know, it's not over yet. Since I only had one breast removed, I am steeling myself for the eventual results of my reconstruction. I'm well aware they can't make anything that will match but hope springs eternal and I try to quash it as soon as it wells up. My goal is to look good and even in clothes, and still be able to wear low-cut tops. Anything else will be gravy - including getting those expanders out!

  4. Julie, I just saw your comment and came to check out what you said. I feel EVERYTHING you are writing and feeling. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there is a little disappointment. Let's fast forward 20 years...when our friends breasts are really sagging...then maybe we'll appreciate it. Sometimes it's just hard to see the forest through the trees, but I believe time, and a great support network that you have, will make it all better. All my best to you and your family! Remember, allow your body to recover!!! No picking up Cooper, no matter how much you want to!!!