Monday, August 26, 2013


I am so grateful to my mother who encouraged me to go forward with my mastectomy and reconstruction despite all that was going on towards the end of her life.  I had her strength with me while she was alive through the beginning of this process and I carry her spirit of courage with me through the final stages of my surgeries and recovery and forever.  I am grateful that she was able to be here with me in the beginning of the process so that she could see that her daughter(s) and granddaughters will have a really good chance at preventing these cancers that took so much of her time and life.
I thought that with the preventative surgeries that I had, that I would feel such absolute relief...and I do feel that I have done all that I can to hopefully not have to go through the cancer process...
BUT there is always the fear that I will be going through this same cycle that my mother and her side of the family has gone through.  On the practical side, I feel like I have a chance.  Reducing my risk from 87% of getting breast cancer over and over to 5% is really encouraging.  On the other hand...that 5% lingers above me, around me and in the back of my head.
I think that I would have felt a lot calmer about my risk reduction if my mother was still alive.  When she died this spring, I felt so vulnerable.  Mom had been through cancer three times before and lived through it, despite some really difficult things to endure (like chemo, radiation, ports and large scars across her entire chest).  But Mom was alive and was showing me that "Breast Cancer doesn't have to take you away". 
This fourth and last time... it was cancer... EVERYWHERE.  I didn't even realize that it's not necessarily the cancer that kills you.  The drugs she was taking reduced her appetite to nothing.  Even when she was hungry, she often didn't eat because she couldn't bear to thow-up...again.  She felt nauseous all of the time.  So ultimately, the last months of her life, Mom fought feelings of hunger and nauseousness and chose not to eat food because it was so uncomfortable for her when she did eat.  She starved away to nothing.  Every day she would insist on getting out of bed by herself and walking to the bathroom as a measuer and self-test of her strength.  Eventually she would fall, but still she would try as she battled the fact that she was getting weaker.  Mom stayed in her bed for most of the time during her decline.   She would try to go downstairs to sit on the recliner, but eventually that was too difficult.  Even moving hurt her body.  As her body lay under her bedsheets, her frame became more and more thin until I couldn't even believe it... just bones and skin.  My father is an incredible man.  He took care of my mother so well in the last months and days of her life.  The home-nurse even told me that she's never seen any husband continue to care for his wife like my Dad did.  She was impressed with how he "preserved her dignity". 
Now that my Mother has passed, I catch myself feeling the fear of death like I never have before in my life.  Of course, since my Mom's first breast cancer when I was in 8th grade, I have felt that fear in my heart... but now it's even more.  I worry about my children.  I worry about my husband.  I play scenarios in my mind..."What if"...."What would I do or how can I make sure I have everything in place and prepared for my husband and children to make it easier if I die?"..."How would I be able to emotionally take care of my other children and our life if one of my babies died?"..."How could I handle the sadness if my husband dies?"
It's not all consuming and it doesn't prevent me from living life and it's not in the forefront of my thoughts every minute... but I feel the pressure of it "in the back of my head" just above my neck radiating forward and I feel my chest tighten from a million strings pulling tightly.  Right now it is with me.  I think it will always be.  My Mother is not here to show me physically that everything will be alright and that I will be able to live to raise my babies until they have babies.  That is really what I want.  To enjoy life with my enjoy our children and grandchildren together.
Maybe that is the gift that I will have.
Love you, Mom.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2 Months Post Surgery: Expanders Out and Implants In

I really feel so great!  I have no problem with my range of motion in my arms.  I am able to lift and carry my babies.  I certainly try to avoid lifting anything that is really heavy.  I am still a little cautious about that.

My breasts are looking great and are "settling in" a bit.  My incisions are pink and still visible, but not bad.  I remember going into this that I was most concerned about having these incision scars and I absolutely didn't want them!  I had looked into the "keyhole mastectomy" where the incision is smaller so I wouldn't have the long scars that I'd see in the pictures on the internet as I was researching this whole process.  Really, those incision scars made me sad to look at and think that I would have those too... but honestly now I don't even really "see" them when I look in the mirror and I don't "think" about them.  Would I prefer overall that they weren't there?  Yes.  But I am really pretty okay with them.  The funniest, weirdest thing about my breasts is due to the fact that my implant is tucked up under my pectoralis muscle.  Normally I cannot tell or see my muscle through my skin, until I flex my muscle and I can see that "flex" under my skin.  I do not like that look at all, so I try not to do it when I am looking at them in the mirror or just looking at them.  When a woman gets augmentation under non-reconstructive, normal circumstances, she has a lot of fat padding over her pectoralis muscle so she doesn't see that "flex" as much or at all.

I have the best friends and family who have helped me through this time.  My wonderful friends came over during my first week home.  They...helped me change the sheets on all of the beds, swept and steamed my kitchen and bathroom floors, brought in fresh flowers from their garden, vacuumed my carpets, knocked down cobwebs from my deck and front porch soffits, whisked my girls away for a fun dinner out on the town, cleaned my windows and brought me meals and special treats.  I am so blessed to have such wonderful people who love me.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

6 day check-up...2 weeks later

It took me a little longer than 6 days, but I went in to speak with Dr. Ferguson for my follow-up appointment.  He took a look and said that everything looked really good.  I was grateful that I didn't have any complications and no infection.  It was really a pretty quick visit.  Again, I couldn't drive for 2 weeks or move my arms at the shoulder, so I looked like I was doing the "robot" dance during that time.  After 2 weeks, I was able to work on my range of motion.  Again, I wasn't supposed to carry more than 20 pounds for many weeks.

Thank goodness for my in-laws who took James for that first week so I could rest and not need to carry him around.  I think I wasn't supposed to carry him for 6 weeks, but at least 1 week helped so much.  I was able to "work around it", by picking him up for some things like putting him into his crib, but making sure not to carry him around the house.

My recovery has been much easier than the recovery after the initial double mastectomy.  I don't think I took Percocet much after 3 days and I don't think that I absolutely needed it that long and may have been able to just take Ibuprofen.  In fact, after the surgery, my husband filled my prescription at Costco and I stayed in the car...until he came out and had forgotten to use the Rx insurance card.  $16? no thanks... so I headed back in there to get the amount refunded.  I actually felt good enough to do that!...I don't think I would've tried that after the mastectomy.

Again, after wearing the compression bra for 3 straight days, I was hesitant to see what my newly reconstructed breasts looked like.  It was a nice relief to see that they looked very nice, even though they had been squished with imprint lines and there were purple marking lines all over them.

My incision scars looked pretty good.  Dr. Ferguson always puts this glue sealant over my incisions after he sews up the hole where he took out the expanders and put in the implants.  That glue helps prevent infection, but keeps the dried up  blood from sloughing off so my incisions always look much worse than they are.  I usually keep that glue stuff on for a week (when it kind of cracks and starts to come off a bit by itself) because I want my incision to be left alone for a while since it really tugs at them when I peel off the glue, but Dr. Ferguson warns not to leave it on too long because that could actually perpetuate infection.  So when I finally pull off the glue and the dried blood falls off too, my incision scars look pretty good!  With time I am told they will fade.  I had heard from many people that I would need to massage the scars, but both Dr. Ferguson and Travis, PA tell me that it's not a good idea.   They say that the constant stretching that my skin is doing with the implant in is enough to "massage" the area (Travis told me about a study that showed this stretch was just as beneficial as massage) and that massage is actually detrimental to my situation since my skin is so thin over the breast implant, I will be causing more trauma and scar tissue build up if I am constantly massaging the incision scars.

My breasts seemed a teeny little bit high up on my chest, but slowly are filling into place.  There are one or two teeny things that I a small pucker here or a teeny fold there...that I only notice when I'm staring to really observe the shape and form of my breasts...but I think that Dr. Ferguson did a fantastic job and I'm so grateful to him and Dr. Reading, and to Dr. Soisson for performing my hysterectomy/oophorectomy and for his expertise in the BRCAgene.  I feel really blessed to be led to excellent surgeons!  Not only are they all talented with their surgeries, but they are really great people!