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20 January 2010 @ 03:13 pm
 
PUBLIC POOL  (20 January 2010)
 
My foobs had their fist public appearance last night.  It went well.   My husband and I went to the local pool for public swim.  I’m not going to lie, I was a little nervous to be naked in front of other women in the change room; what if they noticed my lack of nipples and my scars?  My shape is not glaringly different but the look certainly is.
 
I decided that I would not try to hide them.  It went very well.  My thought is this; if someone notices my foobs, it’s a good thing.  I can educate them (without words) of what a mastectomy and reconstruction looks like.  For so many of us, when we think of mastectomies, we think our butchered mothers or grandmothers.  That is not the case today.  I figure if they can take home a memory of ‘that woman at the pool’ who had reconstruction and it looked … pretty good/not bad/not scary… and noticed that I was comfortable with myself; maybe if breast cancer ever strikes close to home, they can recall ‘that woman at the pool’.  Perhaps that is giving myself too much credit.  Maybe nobody noticed; if they did, maybe they were grossed out by it.  I kept my eyes to myself and focused on getting ready.  When I went to leave, I did see one woman give me a shy smile.  Maybe she did notice after all.  :)
 
It was an ‘adult swim’ time, I considered if I would do things differently if it was a ‘family swim’.  Would I try to cover myself more in the change room?   Would it ‘traumatize’ a little one to see me?   Should I be hiding myself?  What if a little noticed I was different and asked her Mom.  “What’s wrong with that lady?”   What would I do?   I figured I will say something along these lines “it’s OK (to the mom); I’d explain that I was sick on the inside so the Dr’s took out the parts that were sick and replaced it with good stuff, that’s why I look different.”  I don’t have children, so I wonder if that would be enough or too much?   I supposed depending on the age of the child…
 
It brought up more issues for me than I thought.  It has been almost a full year since my first surgery.  I have chosen to share my story with as many people as I can through my online journal.  I would/still do a ‘show and tell’ to anyone who shows any interest in what I’ve been through.  Before showing them, I always ‘brief’ them on what they will see… “OK, I don’t have nipples, I have a 5inch scar that runs from the top to the bottom of my breast ect.”; this was different.  It was somehow more personal,  I was exposing myself to women who were not ‘ready’ to see my scars. 

I had to decide BEFORE I went, that I was not going to be embarrassed or ashamed of my body.   In my private life, I have chosen to see my scars as strength of character, proof of what I have gone through and a reminder that I can do anything.  I am not ashamed or unhappy with how I look in private, why should I let this instance be any different?


ONE YEAR  (24 January 2010)

I wonder if it is strange that I want to CELEBRATE my mastectomy date?  Perhaps it is strange; Happy anniversary to me non-the less!  One year.  It is hard to believe one year as already passed since that first surgery.

I feel good.  I still get muscle cramps across my foob; in fact I had one this morning.   They are few and far between now though, maybe once a month.  I really do feel done.  I do not plan on making any tattoo decisions in the near future.  I do plan to meet with a local tattoo artist to discuss doing 'artwork' instead of a  nipple tattoo - although I have still not completely discarded that idea yet.  I do know for sure I do not want nipple reconstruction.  I like the way I look now or perhaps I have simply gotten used to it?

I have been trying to remember to massage with oil like I did after the first surgery, I just have not been disciplined in that.  I also bought some silicone strips to put over my scars - they are supposed to help reduce their visibility; again, I have not been constant with that either.  It seems I have really moved on. 

I try to check in with the on-line group that I was so attached to but now I just seem to be frustrated by what I read.  Most of what seems to be asked or discussed is the same stuff we when through 6-7months ago.  When did I become so impatient?  I do still meet with a group of local women who are all at high risk or have had breast cancer, I do not tire of that; perhaps because it is face to face.

Once in a while I receive a 'thank you' note from someone who has read my journal.  I do appreciate those letters.  It's nice to know that my journal is doing what I really wanted it to do.  Show others what this surgery can be.  Although we may all will have different experiences with our DRs, pain management and healing; we are going through the same process.

I have included some photos too.  I have gained about 15lbs since last year, my goal is to loose that weight before my 2nd anniversary.  I am happy with the healing for the most part until I look closely at my left side....there is still a very FLAT part where I think it should be round.  I even notice it through cloths!  Perhaps when I meet with my Plastic Surgeon (for my 1 year follow up this summer) I will ask her if there is anything that can be done about it.

       

I have also come across some wonderful blogs while working on this one.  I will post them for you.  We all have a different story to tell, a different experience, sometimes its just nice to know we are not alone.

http://brca2blog.wordpress.com/
http://www.onestepscoop.com/
http://brcaismy4letterword.blogspot.com/
http://sandradginzburg.typepad.com/imamutant/
http://itsinthegenes.wordpress.com/
http://myblip.wordpress.com/
http://goodbyetoboobs.blogspot.com/
http://thebreastsonmychest.blogspot.com/
http://lisaschoice.blogspot.com/?zx=73f55d7390a298f8
http://jenn4011.livejournal.com/
http://boobnoophbrca1.blogspot.com/
http://www.bridgesgirl.com/BridgesGirl/
http://brcajourney.blogspot.com/
http://mmargsnow.blogspot.com/
http://thebrcablog.wordpress.com/

Enjoy.

The SCAR Project
   (March 2010)

A photographer has taken on the passion/responsibility of photographing women after mastectomy and breast surgery.  What an undertaking!  I wish I could remember where I first came across his website, perhaps Facebook.  As soon as I looked at his photos I was inspired!  Have a look for yourself:  http://www.thescarproject.org/  As soon as I found the site, I wanted to be part of it.  I wrote the photographer, told him a little of my story and he said he would love to photograph me!  He asked if I could join him for his photo shoot in New York City next month (that means a bit of travel for me).  Before agreeing, I discussed it with my husband.  Having a blog is one thing, exposing myself from the waist up, no face; posing topless for a photographer is another. :)  I explained to my husband just how important I felt this opportunity was for me; from the very start of this process I have always planned to have 'after' shoots taken; this is an opportunity I did not expect...  After discussing it with my husband, I agreed.

Next month I will be making the trip to New York with a friend who has agreed to come with me.  This friend has been a great support to me during this process, I am looking forward to sharing this with with her.  I am anxious to take this next step although nervous at the same time.   I have shown the photos from the website to several different people and have received quite mix reviews from people, some find the photos "hard to look at", someone even mentioned the word "butchered" .... ouch.... It hurts me to hear that.  Maybe because I have lived through it, I don't see it that way at all.   Although it may not be mainstream beauty, I think these women are stunning.  What I like the most is the photographer's style, I find he really captures the woman he is photographing; each one is so different; strength, sadness, victorious...

 Before I go for the shoot the photographer asked me to write a bit of an intro about me, here's what I wrote:

"I am not a breast cancer survivor; I have never had cancer and yet I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy.
 
Here's why: I have one of the two known "breast cancer genes|", otherwise known as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.  Everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes; however some people inherit an abnormal (mutated) one.  The women who inherit this abnormal gene have up to an 87% risk of developing breast cancer by age 70; they are also at increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.  It is important to note that most breast cancers are not genetic; the BRCA mutations only account for 5-10% of all diagnosis.
 
Instead of living with the risk and waiting for cancer to strike; I decided to be pro-active and remove both my healthy breasts in order to reduce my risk by over 90%.  No, I am not a survivor but I do consider myself something else; a previvor (pree.VY.vur), someone who is not diagnosed with cancer, but has a higher risk of cancer due to a certain genetic mutation [blend of pre and survivor].
 
When I was researching my options for surgery, I found it very hard to find good, clear, useful information about mastectomies.  It was then I decided to be very open with others about my surgery.  I even kept an online journal documenting my progress in words and pictures with the hope that my experience may help others have an idea of what to expect; http://lianne-brca2.livejournal.com/ 
 
I want women to know that this surgery is not as scary as we imagine it, nor are we left looking terrible when it is done;  that is why I feel so blessed to be part of The SCAR Project.  I share my story to raise awareness of the BRCA mutations but more importantly to show that women can still feel beautiful, even after this surgery."

JUNE  2010

First of all I must apologize for not updating my blog sooner.  I have been meeting to write the following entries for some weeks,  I just find that I have moved on so much from my surgery it is hard for me to get back into blog/breast mode, to focus on really expressing myself when it comes to my foobs.  It's hard for me to 'go back' because I feel like I have come so far. 
 
LAST DR'S APPOINTMENT (March 8, 2010)
 
I wanted to meet with Dr T again to speak about a couple issues that I was not happy with.  I still struggle with seeking perfection/ the endless debate of shouldn't I just be happy to have shape? why am I seeking perfection? On the flip side, I've chosen to have this surgery, I have a right to be happy with the results.  Will I ever be really happy, they will never move like they should?
 
Back to my appointment.  I wanted to ask her about two things specifically.  First is the flat part on my left foob, it is still there and I still don't like it.  Dr T basically said there was nothing she could do about it, it has to do about the shape of the implant. Strange because the other side is just fine.  Then she suggested a procedure she has not preformed before.  She would take some fat from my belly (liposuction) and inject it under the skin where the flat part is on my foob.  The injected fat would fill out that flat spot.  She has not done it before, however I am more than happy to let her try this new procedure on me!  
 
She said she would order the equipment she needs and will get in touch with me.  No news yet.
 
MY BODY IS MY OWN
 
I was sitting down watching TV with my husband one night a few weeks back and rubbed my hands over my foobs and I realized something... my foobs feel like PART of me.   I will try to explain what I mean by that statement...  My foobs they feel like they always have, in other words, I don't remember what touching my 'real' breasts felt like.  What I was touching/feeling.... was me.   Some time ago (3 weeks after my first surgery) I announced that I was feeling normal - I no longer felt like I had foreign objects in my body.  Now, not only to I feel normal but my hands and mind are telling me that this is normal - its me.   I hope that I am making myself understood.  It is harder to put into words than I had imagined.  
 
Basically I feel whole.  My body is my own and I am complete.  It's a pretty good feeling.  I hope you understand what I am trying to explain. 
 
NIPPLES
 
I still do not feel the need or desire for nipples.  BUT.  A friend of mine, who I met through this whole experience was sent nipples as a GIFT for her birthday!  That's right nipples, in fact she was sent 2 sets of nipples.  Silicone, stick on nipples.  They are available online in the US at www.sears.com  you can buy them individually or as a set http://www.sears.com/shc/s/search_10153_12605?vName=Health+%26+Wellness&keyword=nipples 
 
This friend of mine offered me her spare set!  Truely one of the coolest things I've seen. (Thank you Laura!!)  Stick on, reusable nipples. They come in a small plastic case, reminds me of my contact case.  Take them out and try to place them, the first time I put them on I did not like them at all.   I have been so used to seeing no colour on my chest even the small circle of light pink/brown was disterbing to me.  Then I got used to the idea a little.  I now take them out on special occations!  Once in a while I'll even wear them to work!!  I haven't been flashing my foobs in quite a few months, but when I have these nipples on... I want to show them off again!  The toughest part is the placement of them... I'm sure I have them on crooked most times, I don't mind. 
 
I find this has solved something I had be struggling with.  I think my husband would like me to have nipples tattoos, I still really do not want them.  Do you see how this has solved my issue?!  I can put temporary nipples on!   No lifetime commitment of colour/shape.  I am a very happy camper and am suprised at just how much fun I think these nipples are!

     
             
THE END  (01 June 2010)
 
Tomorrow I am flying to New York City to be photographed by David Jay, a photographer that has been working on something called The SCAR Project.  He is photographing young women who have had mastectomies in order to raise awareness of this terrible disease Breast Cancer.
 
When I first decided to go ahead with this surgery, about 3 years ago, I met with a friend of mine (locally) who was a photographer.  I wanted to take pictures of my breasts, I wanted to make sure that I could look back (I haven't, btw) and see what I had given up.  That is also when I decided I would document my journey in words and pictures; for me that also meant taking the 'before' photos.  Even when I met with this friend for the photo shoot, I knew I would be posing at some point for the 'after' photos.  Now, this opportunity to be part of The SCAR Project has come along and I have come to see it as the completion of my mission.  The last thing left to do.  I am truly excited to be given the opportunity to be photographed by a professional and to be part of such a Project. 
 
I do feel it does in some way mark the end.  It all started with my posing for before photos, then surgery, more photos, more surgery, more photos.... now this. 
 
Now that it is here, I am surprised at the significance of this moment.  Not only being part of The SCAR Project but this trip to New York as well.  I am flying down with my sister and a friend.  Two of the strongest supports to me though-out this whole experience.  My sister, who slept on a love seat for a week after my surgery, who set her alarm every 4 rs to give me my pain meds, empty my drains and document it all, who wouldn't let me get up to walk to the bathroom on my own, who helped pull my shorts up because I couldn't do it myself, I could go on and on.  My friend, who has always been there to support me, who never once doubted or questioned any of my choices, even when I brought the idea up for the fist time, who has truly always 'had my back' through this and everything I have faced, one of the strongest women I know.  In addition, both of these women where with me when I went for my MRI biopsy, the event that was really the trigger for my doing this surgery.  That MRI biopsy meant a 4 hr road trip with an overnight stay at a hotel.  This time, a 2 day trip with over night stay.  I feel like I've come full circle in some way.  It all started with these two women and now, it ends.
 
Perhaps I am being overly dramatic about this.... maybe I am.  Maybe not. 

SURPRISING PAIN  (21 December 2010)

It is winter here again.  I have been doing very well.  So well in fact, that I have not felt the need to write.  I will however add a couple things that have been on my mind lately after this post.... more on  nipples and tattoos.

Back to the snow.  We moved this summer, now we have a large back patio deck and our driveway is quite a bit larger too.   We  haven't had a crazy amount of snow fall, but enough that it should be cleared off the patio and driveway.  There was about 6 inches of snow, it was quite light though so off I went; I grabbed my shovel and started shoving the snow off the balcony, shoveling the snow off the steps and throwing it off the sides.  Once I was done with that, I took out the snow blower and did a bit of work with that out front on the driveway.  All in all I must have been out for maybe an hour or so.  Not much more than that;  the sun was shining it was a beautiful day and I felt great.  Until Midnight.

My husband and I had gone for dinner and decided to stay at a hotel for the evening.  The pain woke me about midnight.  I was in so much pain, I could not tell were it hurt; from my waist to my shoulders front and back.  I thought maybe it was food poisoning or the flu.  I lay on my stomach and felt that all too familiar pain across my foobs to my shoulders.   I took two pain killers and tried to get comfortable; I could not.  I decided I would try a bath, maybe that would relax my muscles.  (a luxury we are are not afforded after a mastectomy)  As soon as I got in it did give me some relief, we put a towel in the tub and covered my chest with it while I was lying down and when I sat up, we put the hot towel on my back.  I was on the verge of telling my husband we had to go home because I needed something stronger for the pain that Advil, thankfully the warm bath did relax me some, I was able to fall asleep.

For the following 2 days I have been taking 2 Advil every 4hrs.  If I forget, the pain returns.  I tried taking only one pill; it was not sufficient.  It is Tuesday and the pain it Saturday.  I was able to go without any pain medication till about 11am today; then back to the 2 Advil.

This is the most pain I have experienced since the mastectomy itself.   The biggest difference is my arms were not sore, nor did it hurt to take a deep breath; just a deep, dull muscle ache.  Monday, it hurt to put any pressure at all on my foobs; I took a warm bath with Epsom Salts before going to bed and that was wonderful.

I would like to be able to describe the pain for you, all I can say is it was 'mastectomy pain'.   A soreness unlike any other, one I was familiar with and did not like at all.

What now?  Does this mean I never shovel again?  I'm not going to lie, the idea scares me a bit now;  I do NOT want to go through this again!  This has thought me that although I did not realize I was doing it; I have been 'babying' my chest muscles, going easy on them.  I must not do that!  I must use them!!  I know women who go back to kayaking, body building, push-ups after their mastectomies.  I need to do more.  I do not consider myself to be all that out of shape, however I need to do more.  Maybe some light weights, push-ups?  I must figure something out.

I will keep shoveling, however I will set myself a time limit 20minutes at a time; maybe that will help to build up those muscles again.

TO NIPPLE OR NOT TO NIPPLE

Yes, that is still the question.   I have good news, there are more options available to us than I first thought! 

There is of course having nipple reconstruction; that normally consists of a tattoo for colour and a small surgery under local anesthetic to recreate the nipple.

Next of course, is the silicone nipple.  The one I mentioned in a previous post; sadly it appears that SEARS is no longer carrying them.  I will try to find another place were we can get them.

Most recently I received an email from a woman who came across my blog from the FORCE website.  This woman told me of a new product.... RUB-ON Nipples!!!!    That's right _temporary_ 3D nipple tattoos!   For people like me who have no desire to commit to a nipple tattoo; this will be a very nice option!  I have ordered a set and when I get them, will post pictures for you all to see.  In the mean time, the website were I got them is:  http://tattooednipples.com/?page_id=333




Now for the last and very exciting option, not having to do with nipples at all really.  A henna tattoo.  For those of you who are not familiar you can google henna tattoo, you will see many images.  I have a colleague where I work that is an artist, she paints.  She has been a wonderful support to me throughout my process.  Always supportive and interested to be part of my 'show and tell' in the ladies bathroom.  It escapes me exactly how the subject came up, however she mentioned she would like to paint me.    We spoke of it again recently; I have purchased some henna and we hope to meet up soon to give it a try.  I had mentioned to her how much I like hummingbirds and I would like to have that incorporated somehow in my tattoo.

I am very much looking forward to meeting with her and getting this done!  The most wonderful thing about it, it will be temporary!  We can try a design and it will wash off in a few weeks!  Then we try again.  Here are the photos.

         

Pretty cool.


TWO YEARS   (23 January 2011)

I can hardly believe it has been two years since my surgery.

I had my husband take pictures to really see how things have progressed... I think that they have.

I feel as though my foobs are really a part of my body now, it appears as well that the scars have faded quite a bit;  You be the judge.