2013

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2013.  Ohhhhhhh 2013.  I’ve thought and thought about what I could POSSIBLY write to do this year justice.  I feel like I’m a blog cheater without an obligatory end of the year post, but I’m not going to lie – it is absolutely daunting to think about.  So I’ve put it off and put it off and put it off until now, where there’s only a few hours left of the year, and even fewer until my family all joins together and we get our game night on.  BUT, this is a year I don’t ever want to forget.  Sure, it has been long.  And it hasn’t all been easy.  But it’s been a year of overwhelmingly positive memories.  It’s the year where I faced my own mortality head on, and came out a stronger, better person… or so I like to think.  It’s certainly changed me in more ways than I can count.  It’s a year that’s shown me the beauty of the human spirit in those around me, both that I knew before and that came into my life in the past 12 months.  2013 will be a year I won’t soon forget – though I’m admittedly looking forward to a new start a little more than before this year!  But before the clock hits midnight, here it is: my 2013 in review… bullet point highlights (not included of course: endless dinners with friends, sushi nights, happy hours, etc etc – it’s the little things that matter, but that would get old quick!)

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January

  • I brought in 2013 in our usual family fashion – no wild parties, but fun nonetheless!
  • I turned 25 – woohoo!  Brought in the year with many a celebration… suffice to say, my friends are THE BEST.  Major points if you get the reference of my awesome birthday cake!
  • I met the wonderful Amy and Eryn for the first time – it made the beginning of my mastectomy journey both very real and very do-able!
  • I saw Lady Gaga in concert for the 3rd time.  I freaking love her.

February

  • I traveled to the Texas Hill Country with one of my best friends for some birthday fun… and learned to like red wine!  An achievement I’ve been working on since I turned 21!
  • I met with my breast surgeon for the first time since finding out I was BRCA2 positive 5 years earlier and we decided a prophylactic mastectomy was the way to go… and decided on a date that day!
  • I also met my plastic surgeon and gyn-oncologist for the first time.  They’re both amazing, and I’m so grateful everything fell into place the way it did

March

  • I had my first (and only!) breast MRI and first round of ovarian cancer surveillance.  One time of breast surveillance was PLENTY for me and confirmed my decision to have the surgery
  • I traveled a bunch for work – a then-new concept for me!  But it was lots of fun and I learned a ton!
  • I participated in Shattered Dreams again – a program I’m a huge supporter of, and I get to “save lives” with the WorkFave.  Woot.

April

  • I visited one of my oldest and bestest friends in the world in Seattle – such a wonderful person, trip, and place!  I can’t wait to go back!
  • Not a whole bunch of huge life events, either boob world or real world, but lots of fun memories with friends – oh, and the 100 day mark countdown to surgery began!

May

  • My brother and his then-girlfriend and now-fiance visited – wonderful, wonderful family time ensued!
  • I went to Boston with some of my favorite nurse-friends… shenanigans and awesomeness abound!
  • And of course, Angelina Jolie brought BRCA into the spotlight with her powerful article

June

  • I went to Pennsylvania to visit a dear friend and be a part of her awesome mission to raise awareness for Mitochondrial Disease – love you Hayley!
  • Work was epic crazy but SO much fun – reiterated how much I LOVE my job with a whole crop of new amazing people joining us!

July

  • Visited family for the Fourth of July – arguably one of my most favorite holidays!!  So much fun I absolutely love having everyone together and being so patriotic!
  • ALL of the many pre-op visits commenced… it was a little over a week of craziness, but I saw everyone (breast surgeon/plastic surgeon, gyn-onc, etc, and was set for surgery!
  • My amazing friend Sarah took pre-op pictures as we counted down to single digits – so grateful I did that!

August

September

  • Got back into the groove of things – lots of fun stuff with friends this month!  And some (boob) confessions came out.
  • Had my second (and final) expander fill and scheduled my exchange surgery!
  • Went to my first Bright Pink Dallas event – met some wonderful people that I am so grateful to now call my friends!  So looking forward to what this year has to bring for the chapter!
  • And of course went to Chicago with Amy & Eryn for Bright Pink’s FabFest – so fun!

October

  • I celebrated a year of being at my “new” job – still adore it and look forward to going to work every day.  Basically I work with super-cool people.
  • Celebrated my first National Previvor Day and BRA Day – not that I wasn’t a previor before, but now these days have a whole new meaning!
  • Of course went to recreate the horrible picture from last October and got to be a part of a sea of pink in the incredible breast cancer walk with my Aunt, Cousin, and Mom!
  • Had a fun Halloween trick or treating with my goddaughters, and then a fabulous party with friends!

November

  • Lots of lovely fall days with friends, dinners, etc – saw The Grinch with my parents!
  • November 22nd – the day I ditched expanders (post eviction notice)!!  Woohoo I was so ready and my exchange surgery was such an exciting day!!  I’m SO happy to be done and love my fabulous results.
  • Thanksgiving was a little different then planned with an unexpected hospital admit, but I got out just in time and we made it to Ruthie’s for a wonderful dinner!

December

  • Saw my plastic surgeon for my exchange surgery follow-up and finally started really feeling better… with some Mother-Nature induced rest due to Icepocalypse 2013!
  • Bought cowboy boots. Yes, this deserves its own bullet – it was a long time coming!
  • Lots of fun holiday events and parties, got my first new car, and got to spend the holidays with my wonderful family, complete with some fun traveling!!

Whew – what a year, indeed!  A HUGE thank you to my incredible family and friends for being here for me, and Thank YOU for being a part of it – here’s to a FABULOUS 2014!!


Merry Christmas to All

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Happy Holidays everyone! I hope you’ve been able to celebrate with your family in whatever way you choose. I’ve certainly been blessed with wonderful celebrations! So very grateful for my amazing family… Just hard to believe it’s been a whole year since we were doing this last!

So I know I’ve totally neglected the blog the past few weeks… Honestly it’s just been such a giant blur it really doesn’t feel like I’ve missed the past 3 weeks. So I’ll rewind… Last update was the day I had an LP and we raced the weather home. Well Mother Nature was most definitely NOT kidding around this time!! We were truly iced in from Thursday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, and the driving was still a bit dicey through Wednesday. Suffice to say, I can take a hint, and Icepocalypse 2013 was actually the best thing for me at that point – I was forced to take it easy and not push myself. I did a whole lot of resting and recovering and went back to work Monday 110% better than the previous Monday!

I saw my neuro-ophthalmologist the following Wednesday and he confirmed the explanation for everything that had been going on, and we came up with a plan moving forward – I’ll be following up more closely with him for a bit, but thankfully I feel a thousand times better and was able to enjoy the last few weeks of holiday festivities!

As for actual post op healing, doing great in that regard as well! Had a rogue dissolvable stitch on the left side as well, but everything has healed beautifully. The “fluff and drop” phenomenon is legitimate and it’s amazing how the size and shape of the implants changes week to week as they settle. It was premature due to the enticement of the Victoria’s Secret sale, but bra shopping has been a bit interesting – unlike natural breasts, these gummies do what they want! Meaning the bra has to fit them and not vice versa. So I admitted defeat and that will be an event for the new year. I’m really coming around to the thought of wearing sports bras of various strap styles most days and only wearing real bras with outfits that need the strap situation. It’s just more comfortable! But we’ll see what I can find in the next couple months.

But yes, doing great! Just need a little help with lifting until I hit the 6 week post op mark, but that’s really it. Range of motion is great and fat grafting bruising is all but gone. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a little over a month! With the craziness these weeks have been, it really seems like longer! But I’ll take it.

Well that’s the latest… Nothing too earth shattering or exciting to report, just the way I like it! More soon… Enjoy the holidays!!


Two Weeks Post Exchange!

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Wow, how two weeks flies!! I had my post-op visit with Dr. Teotia, my wonderful plastic surgeon, today. Thankfully they were able to get us in early so we made it out before this crazy weather hits (they say it’s for real this time, and based on the speed of the temperature dropping, it’s looking unfortunately reminiscent of the infamous Super Bowl storm!)

Everything looks absolutely fantastic and we had a great visit with him and his wonderful nurse. So much so, at the end he sent in others to admire his “art!” I was happy to show off – that’s got to be the biggest proof of success right there!!

I had one stitch popping out on my right breast incision that my nurse snipped off, and she went ahead and took out the other sutures and all the tape! I didn’t think that stuff would ever come off so that was a relief – they all look awesome and I got a handful of adhesive remover to get them cleaned up before I shower tomorrow. The fat grafting sites, both where it was taken and where it was injected, look awesome. Bruising was pretty fierce, especially on my thighs and upper abdomen, but is much improved, and the soreness is getting better every day. It will be interesting to see how much of it stays, which only time will tell. Hopefully it all will – I couldn’t be happier with how they look! There’s always the option of doing it again, but I’d really rather not have to do that! We all agreed that we’re glad we did the two expansions and did 640cc implants… At one point we had kind of toyed with the idea of 580 cc’s, but I’m so glad we didn’t. This model of implant (Natrelle 410/teardrop gummy bear) is very wide so they fit my build really well, and the size is exactly what I wanted – I did a photo collage of pre and post op next to each other, and it’s incredible – they look so much like my original boobs, just fuller and with more projection, but still amazingly natural. I’m just amazed, both to be at this point, and the incredible results!

I was also cleared to wear a real bra!! It’s been months since I’ve done that! I also got the fabulous news that I should never wear an underwire again… I’m remarkably okay with that! The reasoning being that the implants are plenty perky on their own, they just need some elastic support, and the skin will always be a little more fragile, so the rubbing of the wire would be no bueno. I’ll still wear a sports bra at night to keep them on place since we had issues with that left side moving, but the Strattice/pig skin is definitely doing it’s job – no more sliding around! My nurse also mentioned to wait a couple months before buying any expensive bras, that the implants have a lot of settling to do and my bra size may very well change in the next couple months. So bras for a birthday present to myself it is!! I’ll probably get some Target ones next week just so I can wear all the shirts I have that don’t play nice with sports bra straps! And mentally for the sake of being doneeee!!! :)

I’m cleared to start slowly increasing my activity, just not to go crazy with lifting, and to listen to my body and stop if I have any pec discomfort. The New Year will be the 6 week mark when I think I’ll definitely feel confident that I’m recovered, so I’m kind of laying low till then, both to be cautious and because there’s just so much chaos with the holidays! My goal is to have total, complete range of motion back by then however… I’d say I’m about 95% there now… Just a little bit of tightness with “snow angel” movements. So that’s a great goal, I think. And lastly I was cleared to… Sleep on my stomach!! Woohoo!! Really it was “sleep however you want!” but this former belly sleeper is ecstatic! It’s the little things…

I had a few other random questions that were answered… With “old” silicone implants you used to have to have MRIs every few years to check for a silent rupture. There’s mixed opinions on the interwebs about whether this applies to the gummy bears, and I was glad to get the definitive “not needed.” I will follow up with Dr. T for awhile to monitor them, but the big thing they look for is capsular contraction. Thankfully because I did so well with the expanders, the risk of that happening is low. So really the follow up after all of this is with plastic surgery, and then yearly with my breast surgeon for an exam (no imaging with that either – woohoo!)  Other things that will be addressed in the future, once I’m all healed from this surgery, is some scar reduction from some small marks that were left from a pesky drain (I know that explanation likely makes no sense, but I can’t come up with a better way to explain it), watching for rippling (there’s a little bit on my right side when I do a lot of contorting, but really not bad – just something to watch), and perhaps we’ll discuss a bit of nipple tattooing. I don’t know that I lost pigment versus they’re just a totally different shape/projection than before and therefore it’s noticeable, but it’s something I may consider. We’ll see… It’s not a big deal, and pretty far off my radar at this point in the game, but a possibility.  Those are simply the “finishing touches” to consider over the next months.

We chatted about some other stuff, took some more pictures in the office, and then we were off! I’ll see him again in 3 months… Holy crap that’s spring!! And I’ll have been seeing him for over a year at that point. Just insane how time flies. Luckily I was able to schedule that appointment the same day I see my gyn-onc for my regular ovarian cancer screening appointment… After sooo many appointments and everything this year, I’m desperately trying to minimize my time away from work and “normal” life. But all in all, a great appointment and I left smiling, as usual!

So, in other news… I alluded to this last week but put off mentioning it more because it’s been complicated and frustrating and frankly I haven’t felt well enough to, but I promised myself I’d be totally honest when I started this blog so here goes… If you’ve been following long at all you know my VP shunt has basically been an unexpected curse since the day I started all the BRCA and mastectomy-related appointments after I turned 25. Between it apparently raising CA-125 levels, finding out from my breast MRI it went straight through my right breast tissue, and then it subsequently being “fractured” (as pretty much expected… and thus immediately fixed) during my mastectomy, you’d think I really shouldn’t be surprised it caused problems, yet again. Even with a seamless surgery experience and fantastic results.

But alas… Long story short, we’ve figured out, after I finally stopped stubbornly (or stupidly, in retrospect) denying something was wrong, an ER visit and accompanying hospital admit (with a Thanksgiving miracle – between both my amazing nurse and MY neurosurgeon being on call on the holiday they got us discharged in time to make it to dinner at Ruthie’s!), some meds, and finally an LP this morning, that the post-surgery swelling (in the unfortunate, yet necessary, overlap of location) has been messing with my shunt. CTs prove it’s all physically all connected correctly (thank goodness!!), it’s just been functioning differently than usual, causing the symptoms. Thankfully we got some answers with the procedure this morning, and that combined with the swelling from the surgery subsiding, I’m hopeful this will soon be a blur of a bump in the road and I’ll be feeling better every day. Also, for what it’s worth, all that radiation exposure in the past week? Made me grateful, yet again, I had this surgery. Take that, faulty BRCA genes!!!

So it’s been a bit of an unexpectedly bumpy recovery, but nothing we can’t handle, and I truly believe we’re now moving in the right direction – unfortunately, shunt symptoms are just something you can’t mess around with, given the potential ramifications that are too scary to even think about, let alone list. It sucks, but it’s just the reality. I’m continually grateful for the incredible people in my life who drop everything for me at a moments notice and who are understanding when plans get changed, my doctors and entire medical team, for being wonderful even when things don’t go exactly as we (and by that I mean control freak me) would like, and of course my parents for never leaving my side.

I love Christmas like a little kid and am so excited to spend the holiday season with family and friends, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m very much so looking forward to the “light at the end of the tunnel” that is 2014. More on that soon, I’m sure. Until next time, stay safe and stay warm in this crazy weather (81* yesterday, below freezing today… Gotta love it!!)