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Get Over It!

11 Feb

I had my 2 month check-up at the plastic surgeon on Friday.  Seems like it has been longer than 2 months since I had my reconstruction surgery on 12/5.  I’m doing so well!  My absolute favorite result (well, other than the obvious.  HaHa!) is that I CAN SLEEP ON MY STOMACH!  Every night when I flip over to go to sleep I get little tears in my eyes because it is such a wonderful blessing and it makes me emotional still to think about how much God has blessed me in my recovery.  I have missed sleeping comfortably.  It feels so good.  Also, I’m able to cuddle with my hubby again (I know, TMI!).  Anyway, back to the doctor.  lol!  He looked at everything and felt around (yes, this makes Kevan very uncomfortable to see another man touching his wife)…then he said, “looks great, my best work ever!  I’ll see you in 4 months.”  That’s it.  I’m so thankful that it has gone so well.

While I was there I met a woman that also went through chemo/cancer.  We talked a little while in the waiting room about our hair troubles.  It was a blessing to talk to her and to know that she is feeling the same way I am.  She also had blonde hair before and now hers is coming back brown (and gray) as well.
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I’ve Learned Yet Another New Word I Didn’t Know Before Cancer

20 Dec

New word: Seroma – a lump or swelling caused by an accumulation of serum within a tissue or organ.

First, thank you to those that prayed for me.  I felt better today when I woke up (probably due to the antibiotics they started me on – Cipro and Bactrim) and I prayed that when we arrived at the doctor that Kevan and I would just look like paranoid idiots and that there really wouldn’t be an issue.  I would much rather look like an idiot than have an infection or seroma.  I did not have a fever this morning and my right breast didn’t look as red.  So, it seemed that maybe everything was fine.

We packed the car with overnight clothes/items just in case.  If it was serious I may need to stay at the hospital or if we had to see the doctor again tomorrow we could just stay at my MIL’s instead of making the long drive two days in a row.  We arrived 30 minutes early.  We had given ourselves the normal 2 hour drive, but traffic was down so we arrived early.  We finished listening to a Christmas Sermon by John MacArthur and then headed in to see if they could take us a little early.  Kevan and I love the modern technology.  We have been listening to YouTube videos or streaming sermons lately during our long drives.  It is pretty cool that our cell service is able to stay connected well enough that the video/audio is never interrupted and it gives us so many more options than just listening to the radio.

When we arrived my two wonderful nurses, Miss L and Miss B, took a look at the redness and didn’t notice any swelling.  They didn’t think anything serious was going on, but wanted to make sure with Dr. M’s confirmation.  So, Kevan and I waited (he was in surgery) until we could see him.  We just played around on our phones for 30 minutes and the time went by pretty fast.  :o)  I was very happy though…thinking that nothing was wrong and I’d be going home.

Dr. M came in and in the next 5 minutes he burst my bubble of happiness.  He immediately mentioned needle and drain.  I obviously got emotional because I hate both words.  He could tell I was getting emotional, but he knew that putting in a drain if he found fluid (seroma) was the right thing to do.   I already have potential issues because I’ve had 3 lymph nodes removed from that side and it is my cancer side so there was more trauma to the area during surgeries.  Of course, I wanted what was best, but I didn’t want to go through anything else so I was starting to cry a little just thinking about it.  Miss L and Miss B prepped the room for my “minor” surgery.  I was so glad they were going to let Kevan stay.  He moved his chair to the other side of me, held my hand and prayed for me.  Then, Dr. M stuck a few needles in me to numb the area (OUCH!!!) and then did the procedure to find any fluid that was there.  I felt a lot of pressure and some “jamming” which I did not care for.  lol!  I didn’t watch, but looked at Kevan the whole time.  At one point he had a weird expression on his face that scared me so I told him he wasn’t allowed to watch if he was going to make faces that scare me.  lol!  So, then he just continued to watch, but put his hand over his mouth so I couldn’t read him.  Anyway, there was quite a bit of fluid so Dr. M did need to put in a drain.  Have I told you how much I HATE DRAINS!  Ugh!  I am grateful for them, of course, because they have a great purpose, but I just don’t like this thing stuck in my body that has a big long tube that gross stuff drains through to get to a “bulb” that we have to empty 3 times a day.  Dr. M also noticed a blister that had formed and lanced it (ouch!).  For those that are brave and can look at medical stuff…I’ve uploaded a picture of what the blister and drain site looks like.  It isn’t pretty!  So, click here to see a picture.  I made the picture really small because it just looks grotesque looking at it any bigger. I will have to have the drain until the fluid coming out is less than 5cc’s for 3 days.  Last Monday, they removed my drains and the count had to be less than 20cc for 2 days.  So, you can see that the threshold has to be a lot less now.  My appointment to have it removed is next Thursday, but if it is more than 5cc’s I will have to move it.  I am praying it is next Thursday!

It is funny that the whole time I was laying on the table going through this, in my mind, I was thinking……”I want a big piece of Gondola’s cake for having to go through this”.  LOL!!!  I’ve fallen off the diet wagon and have cheated a few times lately.  If we had driven past it on the way home I would’ve made Kevan go buy me a piece of cake.  :p  I love their cake and I think it would’ve made me feel a little better.  LOL!

I am so thankful for Miss L and Miss B for always making me feel better when I have to go through these procedures or if I’m just having a rough time of it.  I’m also thankful for the ability that God has given to Dr. M.  Not just his plastic surgery abilities, but also his wisdom today to see that something was wrong and that he knew what to do.  Please Lord, please bless each of them.  Now, I will say that I think my little procedure was already a blessing to Miss L and Miss B because they both enjoy the little mini surgeries in the office.  lol!  I can’t imagine it!  But, Miss L was pretty excited.  :o)  

Finally, I want to say how wonderful my husband was to sit there and hold my hand the whole time and to pray with me.  I am so thankful for him and his support.  People tell me I am such a strong person all the time, but I have so much support (Kevan, Family, Friends, God) and that is how I’m able to be strong.  After each of the things I go through I appreciate so much more what my mother-in-law, Judy, went through.  She has had breast cancer twice.  She is a single woman.  I don’t know how she did it.  Kevan went to her appointments with her and tried to help her, but he wasn’t there for her first cancer experience because he lived in Texas.  Also, he couldn’t help her, like he does me, because that is just weird….cuz she’s his mom.  Ha!  Anyway, Judy….you are the strongest woman I know.  I don’t know how you did it.  I love you so much.  I wish I would’ve known you then so I could’ve helped you through each thing.  I’m glad God was with you though and got you through it.  I can’t imagine my life without you in it.

Encouragement and Unspeakable Joy!

14 Dec

What a difference a week makes!  Or 8 months.  I am a week and 2 days out from my final reconstruction surgery.  The swelling is gone, the pain is getting better, the stitches have been removed and things are looking good.  I wanted to write a post to encourage those women that have to go through the same procedures.  The journey is hard, painful, stressful, discouraging, sad…..but in the end….it is worth it.  I have talked on this blog many times about the pain and internal turmoil I experienced the first time I saw myself after my double mastectomy and how it took weeks…maybe even months for me to look at myself without crying.  Sometimes crying the whole remainder of the day.  It was hard to experience and hard to believe that I would ever look normal again.  God was with me though and I prayed and prayed that the doctors and my husband would be right.  That I would be able to look at myself and be okay with it.  That God would answer my prayer and I would look normal again.  I know a lot of you prayed as well.

I am here as a witness now to say, “I look pretty darn good!”.  God answered those prayers!  In some ways, I look better than I did before I had breast cancer.  I am very happy with the results.  The surgeon was able to use new technologies to do so much…it is pretty unbelievable.  I still have a lot of healing left, but things should improve week by week.  My scars will eventually fade and as far as I can tell….no one would ever know I have breast implants under this skin.  The implants we chose look so natural.  I didn’t want to look fake and I don’t.  Praise God!  The tissue expanders felt like rocks….the implants feel so much better.  They took the sutures/stitches out yesterday so those areas still need healing and I still have dissolving stitches all along the bottom of my breasts, but I have joy today.  I can see now what the doctor and my husband kept telling me in the beginning.  I would look normal again and I would be happy with it.  I am.  I am grateful to God for blessing me so much.  I am so so so grateful that my husband is excited and very happy as well at how things are looking.  lol!  As a married woman, this means more to me than my own acceptance of myself. But, to have both (mine and my husband’s joy in it) and not having to feel like I “look as good as can be expected after breast cancer”…..but I “look good” and believe I will look great in weeks to come is huge to me….this is HUGE to me.  God’s grace.  God’s love for me.  It overwhelms me.

How I look shouldn’t matter.  I know this.  Who really sees me anyway besides myself and my husband?  But, it matters.  It matters that I feel beautiful for my husband.  It would matter even if I was a single woman.  It matters that underneath it all I’m not left with the memory of the horror of it every time I see myself without clothes, but instead the beauty of what God has done for me.  He brought me through a very hard time and left me better than I was before.  Not just on the outside, but also on the inside.  Only my Lord can do something this powerful.   Oh, how I love Him.  I know it mattered to my Father because it mattered to me.  He doesn’t do things small…..He delivers BIG.  He is the Creator of the world….why couldn’t He make me look great again?  Of course He can!  He made man from the dust of the earth….He spoke the world into being.  He healed me from cancer, He walked with me through it all, He gave me strength to endure it and HE gives me this joy today.  I am so thankful and blessed.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13

This song….is so fitting for my heart today and for the season – UNSPEAKABLE JOY!


Misconceptions

8 Dec

I had my first follow up visit with my plastic surgeon yesterday.  The nurse unwrapped my chest and stomach.  Due to the bruising I had already noticed from under the stomach wrap I had decided not to look.  I was just scared it would be emotional.  Because of the wrapping things already looked smooshed.  After the nurse and Kevan encouraged me to look I walked over to the mirror.  As I did, my drain accidentally fell onto the floor and pulled on my side which made me queezy and I had to hurry and sit down or I was going to pass out.  Kevan said all the color was gone from my face.  I’m not sure if this happened because of the emotional aspect of what I saw or because the drain pulling, but I let her rewrap me without looking again.

You see, I was under the impression that I would look normal again.  Like on tv when someone has a breast augmentation.  They show the after and the person looks great.  That is not what happened.  I have about 9 places where there are sutures sticking out.  They are there to hold the implants in place until the pocket heals enough to hold them there.  Another surprise was how high my breasts are sitting.  They said it will take between 3 and 6 months for them to fall into place.  That is a long time.

Also, my stomach, where they had to remove fat via liposuction for the fat grafting. I  looks a little strange and very bruised, but she said this is normal and I’m just swollen.  I will have to wear the stomach wrap for 3+ weeks.  I have no idea how I will hide it under my clothes.

Some good news is that they fit me into a bra yesterday.  They first put this sticky foam on the top of my breasts to push the implants down and then the sports bra (it zips in the front) and then they wrapped another wrap over the top to also help push them down.  This wrap is the most painful as it also rubs my underarms because it is so high.  This wrap is what is causing the most pain and also where the sutures are sutured into the breast muscle.  It does seem a little better today.

The bra they fit me into was a 40 C.  I used to wear a 34 B.  I’m hoping that the 40 is due to being swollen and it will not be the ending number.  Lastly, I just want to say that if you go through this just remember that his isn’t the end result.  It takes several months for the implants to drop and for things to heal.  I have to keep telling myself this as well.

All Filled up!

5 Aug
I had a plastic surgeon appointment earlier this week.  I was able to get my last fill of 50cc’s.  Due to the size of my frame my doctor had to use a small tissue expander in each breast and they only hold 300cc.  So, I am now all “filled up”.  Each tissue expander has 300cc’s of saline.   This doesn’t mean I can’t go bigger if my hubby and I choose to, but for now, while I finish chemo there will be no more fills.  I guess they can add a little more to each expander, but my doctor will not be back from maternity leave until October so we are going to discuss it more then.  Also, the actual implant can be bigger than the size of the tissue expander.  It is pretty hard to decide what “size” I want to end up with.  Since tissue expanders have no give to them and they are so hard I cannot really try on swimsuits or similar attire and get an idea of what size I am now.  They just don’t cooperate.  Also, I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but when I had the mastectomy the surgeon needed to get clear margins so I have a lot of flesh removed above my breast, which will be added back using fat from my stomach (yay!).  But, since this flesh is missing there is no way to imagine what it will look like after my final surgery.
We also discussed the surgery time frame with them.  I would like to have my final surgery by the end of the year since I have met all of my insurance deductibles and if it is any later we will have to pay even more out-of-pocket.  They are going to work with us to schedule a December surgery date ahead of time.  Kevan has researched the different implant options and we are going to go with an implant that is still waiting to be approved by the FDA.  The implants are 410’s or “gummy bear implants”.  They look more natural.  I don’t want to look like I have big implants in my chest.  They have been in clinical trials for 12 years (I think) and are VERY close to being approved this year, but might not be approved in time for my surgery.  Due to this, my plastic surgeon will not be able to do the final surgery.  Her partner, who is using them in a clinical trial will be, but he is only allowed to do so many per month.  So, I need to get on his schedule now.  At the end of this post I have added a few links regarding the type of implant we are wanting in case you are interested.  We still need to find out if I’m a candidate for them.  We are praying I am.  I’ve read a lot of the breast reconstruction forums regarding the 410’s and a lot of women are happy with them and can even sleep on their stomach’s once again!  I can’t wait until that day!
While we were in their office they took a 4D picture of my chest.  It was pretty cool.  The software actually detected different “issues” that can be fixed during the final surgery.  We were able to see what I currently look like from all different angles and the software was able to be manipulated so that we could see what different implant types would look like and size.  Also, my rib cage is different on each side of my chest so we could see that one breast appears smaller than the other when we look from a certain angle even though they have the same amount of saline right now.  Since the surgeon can see this prior to surgery (using the software) he can fix this in surgery by adding a little more to the one breast than the other.  One thing that they have told us OVER AND OVER is that no women’s breasts are the same on each side.  Even before my mastectomy they were not equal (they have pictures to prove it to me.  HaHa!)…so they will not be perfect afterwards, but they try their best to help them look as similar as possible.  I’m just happy that I can have reconstruction and that I can have somewhat normal breasts in the end.
I talked to them about my scars and how I can help them fade faster.  They recommend a 100% silicone product called, ScarAway.  It is sold at many local stores without a prescription.  This product can be used on any scar.  Whether it is a surgical scar (C-section, mastectomy, etc), burn, cut, etc.  I started using it yesterday.  I’ll let you know how it works.
I have 2 more days until my next chemo treatment.  Ugh!  My parents are going to come down from Michigan to help this time so Kevan isn’t having to help me all by himself.  I’m really looking forward to them coming.  It is always nice to have your mom with you when you are sick or need some extra love.   Also, wanted to mention that we were at Walmart Thursday night and I kept complaining about how bad my feet hurt.  I told Kev we needed to hurry because I didn’t think I was going to be able to walk on them much longer.  I didn’t know what was causing it.  Then, Kevan said he remembered that I had this problem after my 1st treatment.  I looked back in my journal and he is right.  There were a few days (starting at Day 15 both times) where I was begging him to give me foot massages.  He gives great foot massages.  So, apparently this is another chemo side effect.  But, it will subside I’m sure before my treatment in a few days.  Saturday night it was a lot better.
Gummy Bear Implant links:

Drains, Expanders and the "N" Word

16 May

Today started out as a really good day.  Kevan helped me get ready so we could head to Nashville for my first post-op visit with the plastic surgeon.  It is amazing how long it takes to get me ready.  The shower alone took us almost an hour because we have to work around the drains and I can’t wash my own hair.  Kevan does a great job though.  I am so blessed to have him.  I went almost 6.5 hours without having to take a pain pill.  It felt great to not be dizzy, to feel normal, but to also not be in pain.


The good news is that I had 2 of my drains removed!  Praise God!  I only have 2 left.  I have to say that this was VERY weird and a little painful when she removed them.  I can’t wait to have the other two out, but at the same time I’m not looking forward to the way it is done.  Kevan held my hand and they really are removed in about 20 seconds, but it is something I hope I will never have to experience again once I’m done with the remaining two.

Each week I will go into the plastic surgeon and she will add saline to each tissue expander until we reach the desired size.  Think Reese Witherspoon….NOT Pamela Anderson!  There is a little magnetic area in the expander that helps her find the area where she needs to insert the needle and inject the saline.  It is all a pretty cool invention for women like me who have to have a mastectomy but still want to look normal. Although, the explander is really uncomfortable and un-natural looking.  Unfortunately, today, she said I was healing well, but not healed enough to have my first “fill”.  I was disappointed that she didn’t do a fill, but I don’t want to rush it if she doesn’t feel I’m ready yet.  

Now, there are two areas that are a little concerning that I need prayer specifically for.  I feel guilty asking for prayer since I know so many are already praying for me and there is no way I can make up for all the prayers that have already been prayed over me and here I am asking for more prayers.  First, my nipple.  Yes, I said the “N” word.  When I had my mastectomy last week I was a candidate for a skin and “nipple-sparing” mastectomy…this means I get to keep my own nipples and will not have to have them made surgically.  One of them is looking really good.  The other one does not have good color.  I think my grandma in heaven cannot believe I am talking about nipples right now, but God asks us to pray about all things.  So, please pray for this nipple to start responding well, receive the blood flow that it needs and that the color will start looking better.  PLEASE!!!  I know God can do a miracle and I could wake up tomorrow and it be just the way it needs to be.

Second, there is a place on my left breast where my skin is very thin.  The expander, since it isn’t full yet, is “rippling” and causing a place to form that could have potential to be worse.  Please pray that the skin here will start to thicken and/or the expander would stop pressing so much in this area.  We have to continue to watch this area to make sure it doesn’t get worse.

Lastly, due to all of the antibiotics I’m taking, I’ve developed thrush.  The doctor has given me a pill and a rinse that should help it go away.  It doesn’t hurt very much unless I drink something too cold or if I brush my teeth.  

Jeremiah 17:14 – Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved,  for you are the one I praise.

Plastic Surgeon Visit – Misconceptions

12 Apr
This post is for those that want to have a better understanding of what this part of the journey is like.  I tried to be as discreet as possible because this is a personal subject, but in order for others to understand what a woman goes through at this point I had to dig in a little in order to describe it.  It is very hard for me to even type the word “implant” because it is embarrassing to me….I even tried to figure out a different word to use, but couldn’t come up with anything.  So, here goes.  If you are a man and your wife is going through breast reconstruction you need to read my post before you go to your appointment. If you are just reading this because you are curious I ask that you stop reading when it gets to the more detailed section (below the picture of the flower) as this was hard for me to write and I only wrote it to help others who are going through this.
Yesterday Kevan and I had our visit with the Plastic Surgeon.  She is only a little older than me so it did seem a little strange, but I realize I’m getting older and doctors will start getting younger.  :o)  Before the visit, I thought we would go to her office, feel the different implant options and then choose the “size” we want.  I thought it would be an easy visit because isn’t it every women’s dream to be able to choose her chest size?  NOT!  That is not at all how it was.   I don’t know if it is just me or if this would be the case for any woman that is having reconstruction surgery.  It was a hard visit.
I was already exhausted by the time we arrived there so I know that didn’t help.  It took us about 2 hours to drive to Nashville due to the traffic, we only had time to eat a little snack before we arrived and I have not been able to sleep past about 4am lately.  So, I’m sure all of this contributed to my emotions.  
It was a VERY nice office.  They gave me a plush robe to wear instead of the paper or hospital gowns the doctor’s offices normally give me.  The atmosphere was totally different than a doctor’s office.  It seemed more like a spa.  I’m sure it is because they have high paying clientele having various plastic surgeries and they need to cater to them.  I was happy about that aspect of it.
During our 1 hour visit we probably spoke about the size and implant type for about 5 minutes.  This actually won’t be discussed again until several weeks/months after my mastectomy/reconstruction surgery.  I am not going to go into detail here about our discussion.  This is very personal to me, but if you are a woman that is going through this and you would like to discuss I would be happy to talk to you about it.  Just comment or send me a text and I will contact you to go into more detail with you one-on-one. 
Yesterday, I had to keep reminding myself of the verses below….

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11: 28

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” – Psalm 56:8

He knows my pain and is with me through it.  I can cast all my sorrow and burdens on Him who gives me strength.  He will give me what I need to endure this.

This next paragraph was pretty hard for me to write because everyone will know my “business”, but I’m trying to be helpful for anyone that may have to go through this or to give a husband an idea of what his wife is about to go through. I want you to be able to prepare yourself before your visit since I didn’t realize what it was going to be about.

DSC_0253

During the reconstruction there will not be much left for the surgeon to work with.  It isn’t like a normal augmentation.  Because so much is lost during the mastectomy she will be doing a tissue expander technique that requires her to use human skin graphs (from donors – ewww!), temporary spacers (the actual expander) and will need to use the pectoral muscle since there will be no tissue left to hold the spacer (or implant) in place.  Here is a good page to read about it that is not too graphic.  Most sites have real pictures so I tried to find one that was less graphic.

She gave us a little background on how the surgery would go. My oncological surgeon will start the surgery by doing the mastectomy and sentinel node biopsy (they remove the main lymph node to see if it reveals cancer).  The biopsy will give immediate results that will let him know if anything else will need to be done during the surgery (i.e. other nodes will need to be removed due to the cancer spreading).  I did learn that the scar will need to be a lot larger than if it was an augmentation so this was sad to me.  Once he is finished it will be my plastic surgeon’s job to try to reconstruct what was there.  I am very thankful that this is an option and even though this is hard for me I know it is a blessing to even have this as an available option.  I know women many years ago did not have this option nor did they have the skin grafting options available that they do now.

Once this surgery is finished I will be in the hospital for 2 days.  I will be put on pain medication to help manage the pain from surgery and I will start arm exercises the following day to help with arm mobility and lessen scar tissue.  I told her that I do not like taking medication (I know….I am an odd one) and she said she understood but I would have to take it for at least the first few days or I would be in too much pain to do the exercises and I MUST do the exercises.  I will have 2 drains in on each side that I will have to measure and empty throughout the day.  I believe I remember her saying I will have these for about 2 weeks following the surgery.  I will have to see her weekly to be “expanded”.  Once I am healed from the initial surgery I will start my treatment (chemo, etc).  This will be about 6 weeks post-op.  This was really hard for me to accept because I want the cancer gone NOW, but I know I need to be patient.  I will not even meet with an oncologist until several weeks after my surgery which is understandable since they will know a lot more after the various biopsies of tissue and lymph nodes.  Only after my treatment will they be able to finish my reconstruction.  So, I will have to go back at some point to have it completed.  She said it will be an outpatient procedure and will only take about 2 hours.
A few more things.  After the surgery I will not be able to lift more than 2-3 pounds.  Which is good and bad.  I won’t have to do any vacuuming, laundry or kitty litter (my favorite restriction.  lol), but I also won’t be able to lift my kitties and hold them either which will be hard to do since they are so sweet.
Below are a few more links that might be helpful if you are going to be going through this:
I am a candidate for this and you may be too.  This is a good site with a good explanation of the procedure.