Two Weeks Out!

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Two weeks already?! How is that possible?! I distinctly remember asking my breast surgeon back in February how long the recovery was, and he said something along the lines of “oh you’ll be bored and ready to go in two weeks.” That is definitely the truth! At least mentally. I also remember back when my wise friend Nicole reminded me there’s a difference being “bored” and being “ready?”… Damn her for being right (or in her words, clairvoyant!) The mentally ready versus physically not predicament is upon us!

I am quickly reminded many times a day by my lovely chest how I need to take it easy… Like when you can’t open a bottle of Vitamin Water or cut up your own food. Don’t take your pec muscles for granted… you’d be amazed how much you use them without realizing it!!

Everyone who knows me keeps assuming (admittedly with good reason) that I’m overdoing things chomping at the bit to get back, but I promise I’m taking it easy. I really don’t have much choice! We went out to Target and lunch yesterday and I was on the verge of tears in the car I was so ready to get back home and to the couch. So really trying hard to not overdo it. But it’s hard when you feel like you’re doing very little. See also: speed bumps suck. Dads that weave all around a parking lot to avoid them rock.

I’ve been off prescription pain meds since post-op day 7, only taking Tylenol. It would be so much easier if it was a “pain” that medication could fix. But it’s not. I remember recovering a carotid endarterectomy patient last year and when I asked him if he was in pain he said “no, I’m just profoundly uncomfortable.” That’s the best way I can explain this… In particular, the expanders. And so much of it is movement-related, so it’s a constant effort of trying to find the balance. I was both comforted and discouraged reading some blogs yesterday that this feeling can last the entire time you have expanders. With that said, I just keep telling myself “this is temporary!” And that it will all be worth it.

While the drains are still not bothering me, I’m ready to ditch them and be freeeeee!! Just weird having additional appendages! I hope they come out Thursday… I am encouraged by this:


What’s that you ask?! That’s the beautiful liquid gold of serous drainage… Finally not red or even pink! So making progress indeed, but not sure they’ll make the cc cutoff. Fingers crossed! But google “seroma” and you’ll have the renewed sense of patience I have after hearing those horror stories!

A few other rambling of thoughts for today…

• I remain so impressed with my incisions. The scabs are almost all off and whoa. Strong work, Boob Dudes! I’ve been taking pictures of the progress and straight on you can’t even see them they’re so hidden on the sides. As for the open area on my right nipple (I really hate that word. Need to find a better substitute!)- Friday it looked much worse, but after a picture text to my plastic surgeon with resulting reassurance and a few days of treatment it is now looking much better, thank goodness. Yay for pink granulation tissue! Patience is the name of the game around here!

• Phantom itching = WTF?! It’s so weird. I can’t feel anything on the surface of either breast, but they still itch. Yet scratching I can’t feel. So weird.

• Also on the weird nerves note, I mentioned this before but the nerves/nerve degeneration under and a little bit down the insides of my upper arms is a very strange tingling/burning that I hope improves soon! Clothing rubs in an unfortunate way.

• Muscle spasms are there but much less – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to type that!! Those 2 drains I had pulled last week (1 & 4) were really triggering them, come to find out. They do tend to be worse in the morning for whatever reason – the expanders feel so much stiffer right when I get up, it’s like my pecs have to change position from laying to being upright

• I highly underestimated the power of the uniboob. That’s right. You know what I’m talking about. The sports bra-induced uniboob. None of my pre-surgery ones fit with the non-moving expanders! And even one size up is still tight. And expanders vs sternum? Expanders always win.

• While much improved from my attempt to sleep in my bed last week, sleep itself is still very rocky and interrupted. Thankfully my trusty Facebook girls that have been through this and blog stalking assures me that’s normal with expanders. They just suck. It’s hard to get comfortable and stay asleep. I’m doing okay back in my bed with even MORE pillows… Made it so it’s impossible to turn over while asleep! And hanging out in the recliner during the day is still “my spot.”

• I added a new page to the blog that’s currently a work in progress – “Mastectomy Must-Haves.” I perused many of these prep lists in the weeks before my surgery and want to add my contributions to the PBM blogosphere. Just my $.02 from my surgery experience…

• Having family come in town this week was brilliant – it’s keeping me from going absolutely stir crazy! And so helpful that my Aunt TRULY understands what this is like, especially the expander suckage. She’s so helpful and is up for whatever – even just sitting on the couch watching Friends! Hoping we can do a few light outings later this week, including a special dinner to celebrate my parents’ anniversary.

• I’m starting to realistically think about my return to work. It’s all dependent on these darn drains… And driving. That has to happen too. I was hoping for some half days next week but it’s looking like it will be post Labor Day most likely… I realllly don’t want to push things too fast. And even though I don’t work directly with patients anymore, it IS still a hospital. I was filled in on the latest “this wouldn’t have happened if Diana was here…” moments this weekend… Feels good to be missed! Craziness will ensue mid-September so I want to be ready for that!

That’s about it for now… Check in with my plastic surgeon Thursday to address the three Ds: drains, driving, and doing stuff (aka weight/activity restrictions). I’ll update more then!

Have a great week!

Belated BRCA-versary

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With all the craziness/blur/haze since my surgery, I totally missed my “BRCA-versary!” It’s not something I’d ever really thought about before now
(I saw someone on Facebook post about hers which triggered my curiosity) and honestly before I started the blog and dug out my results, I wouldn’t have known the date. Even now I had to look back! And the timing is a little crazy that it falls so close to my surgery.

I kind of wish I remembered more about the genetic testing process. It’s weird but it’s such a blur I can’t even really picture meeting with the genetic counselor for the first time. I can easily picture sitting in a booth at Cantina Laredo by the ice rink at the Galleria and my parents telling me that both my Aunt and my father were tested, and positive, for a gene mutation linked to cancer (that I had ironically just learned about in nursing school the semester prior). And I remember telling them that I undoubtedly wanted to be tested too (and soon), knowing in my gut what my result would be. I distinctly remember the chair I was sitting in at the cancer center when the blood was drawn out of the mediport I still had in place at the time on August 7, 2008. And vividly remember being told I was positive… I was at home at my parents taking a nap! So I was a tad disoriented answering the phone. But I do remember Sarah saying “you were right…” a week later on August 14th. I vaguely remember being handed a purple folder and opening it to read with my own 20 year old eyes the word “deleterious”:


I remember calling my Aunt to tell her I too, was positive. And I very much so remember meeting with my breast surgeon, and apparently took the “come back in 5 years!” more seriously than I realized. I’m such a dates/numbers person I can’t believe that I never put it together over the past 6 months that the anniversary would fall right after my surgery. Seems appropriate!

It’s hard to believe its been 5 years since then, but honestly it kind of seems like longer… Between finishing nursing school, 2 moves, 2.5 years of ICU nursing, and now almost a year of my current job (how did that happen?)– it’s been a busy 5 years! Sometimes I wonder what I would have done if prophylactic surgery (to happen then) had been offered at that initial appointment. I’m not sure what I would have done, but to be brutally honest, I am so incredibly glad it wasn’t. I needed to come to the decision on my own. And more importantly, I needed the life experiences of the last 5 years to be ready to do this. And between the job changing, gaining such a strong support system, and transition to being an adult (or something like that!) the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Besides the fact that my plastic surgeon who I adore so much wasn’t there then either! So truly the stars did align.

Anyhow, just wanted to commemorate, albeit a little late, the 5 year anniversary of the day I was inducted into Previvor-hood, whether I was ready or not! Ever since then, being BRCA2 positive really wasn’t something I let define me or was was even something I thought about a whole lot until last fall, so it’s still a little (okay a lot!) surreal to be “on the other side…” It’s really happened. I really did it – I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy at the age of 25. Crazy. I wish there were words to describe the empowerment that typing that sentence provides, but there truly aren’t. I know that five years from now this surgery will be a blur like that whole time is, and you know what? I can’t wait.

Plastic Surgery Post-Op #1!

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Can’t believe I’ve been home from the hospital for a week now! Things are going as well as I could have hoped for and I’m still very much so “hanging in there!”

I ditched the Vicodin 2 days ago and feel like I’m finally a little more out of the haze the last week has been! Though I overestimated myself last night for sure… Thought I would try moving up to my bedroom at my parents. Worst. Idea. Ever. Unless you like waking up having slid off the mound/throne of pillows feeling like you can’t breathe because your lungs are being crushed by a liter of expanders. It was awful! So I’ve retreated back down to the lovely recliner I’ve called home for the last week. Equally as unfortunate was subconsciously trying to flip over to sleep on my stomach. Talk about a rude awakening! Epic fail. So recliner it is! The muscle spasms are impressively less sitting up, and they’re really still my only complaint at this point.

I had some wonderful visitors the last couple days – it’s hard to admit they had to be spread out, but I’m slowly getting my strength back and able to do more and more each day!

This morning was the first time I left the house since I got home… Seems like forever since I was in the hospital. But off to my plastic surgeon for my first post op visit! Between showering and drying my hair (I was ambitious, what can I say!) I was already a little worn out. Then literally right as they called my name to go back this atrocious obnoxious alarm goes off saying “Attention, attention! An emergency has been detected in this building…” with the instructions to evacuate. Those 5 flights of stairs and out to the front were more physical activity than I’ve done in a week… Probably combined! So yeah, always keeping it interesting! No idea what that was about but thankfully it was unseasonably cool outside and short-lived so not terrible.

So after that excitement we finally got on with my appointment. I had to laugh when he was like “you’re sweating!” Haha definitely a bit deconditioned from the last week! Anyhow, a good visit overall. Love this guy! He fawned over my drain chart… If you know me in real life you can appreciate this:


The greatness of the chart is that I got drains 1 and 4 pulled! Woohoo!! Such a strange feeling coming out… Not painful, just super weird! The other two are still draining a decent amount, but we’re both hopeful they can come out when I see him in a week. I asked what my activity restrictions were at this point and got a “do absolutely nothing!” response, meaning no lifting and taking it easy. That plus a compressing sports bra will hopefully get the drainage to slow down enough to pull the last 2… They are right under my skin so it would a relief for both of us to get them out sooner rather than later.

Thankfully the daily dressings of the clinical trial are over! Not to be graphic, but there is a small area that’s open on my right nipple, which earned me another week of Keflex and strict instructions that any redness or warmth earns an immediate picture text and direct admit to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Please cross every appendage possible that this doesn’t happen! We are so OCD with cleanliness so no fear we’re doing everything possible to prevent this. But it’s especially scary with the proximity of my shunt (that goes, you know, to my brain)… ahhh I can’t even think about that!

So anyway, such a relief to have ditched 2 drains! And my surgeon is so pleased with the results, and so am I! The incisions look amazing, and I’ll have my first fill once everything is healed… We’re aiming for that to happen in 2 weeks. It’s just really weird getting used to not having feeling… Like my arms will hit the expanders and its bizarre. Hard to explain… But strange nonetheless.

Well that’s the latest from over here! I see a nice, long nap in my very near future! I’m so excited to see my Aunt who comes in to town this weekend. And am grateful that I’m feeling up to doing more, while still abiding by taking it easy – will make these next couple weeks fly by!

Thanks again for all the cards, visits, food, flowers… Everything! I truly have the best support system and nurses (aka parents!) a girl could ask for!

One Week Down!

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Whew! If I thought time was flying before the surgery, I don’t even know where to start to try to understand how it’s already been a week since the big day! It’s unbelievable.

I suppose the best way to answer “how are you doing?” is with “hanging in there!” In many ways this recovery has been better than I expected, but in the interest of not sugar-coating, some parts of it pretty much suck.

My range of motion is so much better than I expected – I read stories of women who couldn’t brush their own hair. I can do that and almost raise my arms above my head. Yes, it hurts, but it’s totally doable. The drains were my biggest concern as everyone I talked to said they were the worst part. I honestly don’t even realize they’re there… They stay in my swanky apron and they’re just “there.” Not much itching and a weird feeling when I strip them but not painful. The drainage is slowing down and clearing up – hopefully they’ll be out soon. But I’m really not bothered by them. The bruising and swelling is pretty much as I expected – not pretty but improving every day. Cosmetically the girls look way better than I expected – I never imagined I would wake up with them filled like this! And I’m so impressed with how small the incisions are. The Boob Dudes are incredible!

But yes, the expanders are indeed like rocks. They’re heavy and feel very foreign. The hardest part of this last week is without a doubt the muscle spasms. Really if I’m not moving around the pain has pretty much resolved. But when these spasms hit, it’s like having 2 Charlie horses on your chest and you can’t stretch them out, and you feel like you can’t breathe. The muscle relaxers help for awhile, but they a) wear off and b) knock me out. I’m tired of being in a haze from them and the pain medicine. If it wasn’t for the spasms I think I’d really be in great shape. So yeah. That’s definitely the most difficult part. It’s a catch 22 between wanting them to stop and being asleep for most of the day, or not taking meds that take the edge off and being awake. On a related note, the “pins and needles” of nerves being messed with is also bizarre and unpleasant. So much stretching is happening, and the tingling is mostly under my arms. It comes and goes but is just strange getting used to the numbness. I have to remember to be patient, that it’s only been a week since a fairly extensive surgery, and hope that things will improve soon. I have faith that they will, as I’ve already come so far, but patience has never been my strong suit when mentally I’m ready to get back into things but physically I’m not quite there yet. So yes, hanging in there indeed! I know in a few weeks I will look back and this will all be a blur!

I’m so grateful for visitors that provide such great distraction… And holy moly my friends can cook! I’m so impressed… And spoiled! I’m also so grateful for friends that have kept me company when I certainly was not much company! I’ve made a lot of progress weaning pain meds so hopefully those occurrences are fewer! I don’t understand how people can function on these meds every day. I guess I’m a lightweight! But yeah so over the side effects.

I see my plastic surgeon on Thursday to see where we go from here – I can’t even begin to reiterate how great it is to be over the worst of this and be solidly on the other side!

TGIF at Home

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All went well yesterday morning and we were out of the hospital by noon! Quick stop to drop off prescriptions and made it home sweet home!

I’ve been hanging out on the couch/recliner and have been resting pretty well. I had heard from more than one person that post op days 2 and 3 are the most painful and there’s some definite validity to that, along with the ongoing “elephant sitting on your chest” and “expanders are rocks” analogies. The swelling and pulling pressure is pretty intense at times, and the spasming is a really unfortunate feeling – Flexeril makes it tolerable, but it’s still such a bizarre sensation. My range of motion is getting better every day – I was even able to shower with minimal help today, which felt great. Thankfully the drains aren’t bothering me at all (knock on wood!) and they’ve slowed down quite a bit except just one… Just such a strange feeling to strip your own JPs!


My plastic surgeon is so amazing he is always just a text away and requests updates and pictures, and with all the swelling on my right side it helped to have his reassurance this morning that everything looks good – the mastectomy bra was really cutting into my skin so he took that off yesterday. It’s the side that has the dressing for the clinical trial on, so it’s covered except for once a day when we change the dressing. The girls look pretty rough still, but once the bruising goes away and the “tattoos” come off the results are going to be incredible. Definitely a work of art!

And saving the best for last, the most awesome news of today was my breast surgeon calling (yes, himself – have I mentioned how amazing he is?) with the pathology report – they removed 560 grams of tissue from the right side and 470 from the left side (and grams and cc’s are equivalent so with 500 cc’s filled in each expander, size wise I woke up not much different than where we started with which is incredible). There was dense tissue (as expected) but all tissue and sentinel lymph nodes were benign with no signs of malignancy!! Such a great thing to hear I can’t even put it into words!!! That phone call makes all of this worth it!! Such a relief to be on the other side of all of this. He was surprised I answered my phone myself so I take that as a good sign I’m recovering well, all things considered!

Everyone keeps asking if I’m up to visitors, and the answer is a definite yes! I’m a little groggy from the meds, but really not too out of it. The distraction is much appreciated, so come on over!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend! Thanks again for all the good thoughts and wishes – I can definitely feel the love!!