Written July 20, 2014
I have that childhood chant in my head “I must, I must, I must increase my bust”. I have been living that chant since my March 21 bi-lateral reconstruction surgery.
I now have two breasts, or as I refer to them…I have two misshapen balloons under my skin. They are nipple free and have extensive scarring and are much wider than the final boobs will be, but in clothes you would never know. Most people are familiar with an expanding waistline but I am living the expanding bust-line.
I have had 5 injections done at my plastic surgeons office between April and June. Each injection added another 60 cc’s of saline to the tissue expanders that are slowly stretching my scars and skin to accommodate my future final breast inserts. The saline is injected by needle through the skin to the expanders via an invisible magnetic port in each expander. I felt like I was an active participant in a science experiment every time the procedure was done.
Chatting about travel, kids or my final implant surgery my doctor used a magnet to locate the ports, and then drew dots all around the port with a pen. Then using a thin needle attached to a large saline filled syringe (the size of a small pop can) the saline would then be injected into each tissue expander. I could feel the pressure of the additional fluid in the expander immediately. Over the next 24 hours I would feel discomfort, in my chest and back as my skin and muscle slowly stretched and responded to the tissue expander. The discomfort slowly subsided over the next two weeks, and then by the following appointment the skin would have visibly stretched and wouldn’t be as taut.
The ‘balloons’ feel buoyant, and at times I can feel the saline shifting in the expander, especially at night when I am lying down I am very aware of the expander itself, all the folds and the textures below the surface of the skin. I now have 400 cc of saline in the 500cc expanders. I am done, physically and emotionally with this process. I am stretched and I am marginally larger than what my final breasts will be. I am also a lot larger than my original A cups. I now wait with my two balloons until September 19th when I have my final reconstruction surgery. This time allows for my skin, muscle and body to set and be ready for the final surgery for best results. It has also allowed me time to get used to having bigger boobs. I have never felt boobs at the side of my arms! I have had to donate shirts that no longer fit over my expanding bust. I am again tweaking my wardrobe but this time I am enjoying the experience. During the final surgery the tissue expanders come out and the implants are put in. The shape, positioning and feel will be more natural and the science project “Balloons to Boobs” will be complete!
Written July 13, 2014
I am not happy. I feel it in my bones, my skin, my breath. I am rattled, unsettled and anxious. My mind races uncontrollably like a toddler taking its first steps. I want to be content and filled with all the joys and wonders of life. I have survived cancer after all and I am alive, yet I am struggling. ‘Cancer free’ does not translate to fist pumps and cheering in my mind – it does however create deep pangs of emotion. I can’t seem to shake the shadow of cancer. Chemotherapy and surgery attacked the mutated cells, but what attacks the negative thoughts, the worry, the aches and pains?
I try hard to be appreciative and experience life as it is happening but it feels a bit tainted lately. I feel like I am on borrowed time. I want these thoughts and doubts crushed like a bug.
I am playing the ‘ testing waiting game’ again. I had a bone scan of my body and images of my left hip and upper spine on July 5. The aches in my body seem to be getting worse and after sharing this update with my oncology nurse she ordered the tests. It has been a long two weeks. The first week was waiting for the test to occur and thoughts would bubble up and weigh on my mind throughout the week, and I would push them out of my mind. Then the day of the testing arrived, my mind was racing. What if they find something? How could I deal with this again? The thought of having to be strong and fight again seemed daunting. The testing consisted of having isotopes injected into my body and then imaging conducted a few hours after the injection. Jon came with me, I could feel his worry, it was palpable. I couldn’t face his worry it was too much, I had to stay isolated in my own mind to cope.
I called Juravinski prior to the one-week turn around period I was given to receive the bone scan results. I was told my oncologist nurse was on vacation, and I would likely receive a call Monday with my results. Another 4 days of waiting required. I wanted to cry. Get it together, I thought. The results will be clear and I can exhale knowing my entire body is cancer free.
I received a call Tuesday morning July 15. The first thing I heard the nurse say was “You are Clear”. I could breathe again. She explained that the aches and pains were likely arthritic in nature, and mentioned that the aromatase inhibitors can create these side effects, but then she realized I was on Tamoxifen not an aromatase inhibitor. It could be the side effects of menopause or effects of chemotherapy. Although thrilled that my body showed no signs of cancer, I realized that this achiness is my new reality. I will now begin discussions with my physician with respect to arthritis and the physical and emotional impact of menopause. I thankfully am Cancer Free but I am not worry free. I still search for my Shavastna, my quiet mind.