Category Archives: reconstruction

Nipple Reconstruction Success

Did I say I’d continue that tomorrow? Sigh….
Well, I’m a little late.
Late enough to tell you that my crazy appetizer looking nipples now look cute and little and are exactly what I wanted. Above expectations. I love them. I’m so glad I was brave.
Now for the tattoo’s….

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Reconstruction Experience #3

It’s done.  I’ve been sucked, tucked and schmoozled one more time.  (That sounds so gross, but I’m leaving it)  I’m sore, no doubt about that.  But happy, really happy.  I can’t believe technology is such today that they can suck fat from one place to donate to another, but they’ve done it three times to me and it’s working like a charm.  I just might like my body more now than I did before cancer. 

When I went in to surgery we hand a little snafu.  When I checked in the receptionist asked if my birthday was 2/2/71 and I said, no 12/2/71.  So then when I signed the paperwork I noticed it had me listed as 39.  So when I got back to Jeremy I had him reassure me I was only 38.  Then I said to the woman who took my back for pre-op that I was only 38.  I wanted her to know this NOT because I thought it was important other than I WANT TO BE 38 and not 39.  I just do.  I will relish in 38 as long as possible.  But here’s the funny, or not so funny part about it.  They still had my birthday wrong.  And I’m really telling you this because at Northwestern, they really areprofessional.  I’ve never had a bad experience with anyone.  They all try to make you as comfortable as possible.  But they also DO EVERYTHING by the book, which means, right after we got to the operating room and they had given me my first dose of happy medicine, they realized my birthday was wrong.  This is a very big conundrum for them.  Because once I’ve had drugs I can’t sign for myself and Jeremy had already left with Charis for American Girl and the ferris wheel on Navy Pier.  So for a few minutes I thought I was not going to have surgery.  Everyone was rushing around trying to get ahold of Jeremy.  I heard a lawyer out talking to the nurses.  Dr. D was reassuring them he knew me and was my patient, but they needed risk management there, so I knew even he wasn’t going to talk them in to budging.  Finally Jeremy answered his phone and rushed over, and surgery…..

And that’s all I remember. 

When I came out of my groggyness I had to pee so bad I cried.  I couldn’t pee.  It was a horrible feeling.  To be half drugged, in horrible pain and to feel like you’re going to pee your pants.  You’d cry too.

They had put these compression pants on me, which are so sad I can’t even describe them to you but considering they were on when I was trying to pee, you can just imagine them.  So my nurse graciously offered to take them off for me.  What do you know.  I pee’d.  I have NEVER felt such relief in my life.  OK, I’m exaggerating a little.  But I was crying on the pot, that’s how upsetting it was to me under all that anesthesia.

I then stumbled back to my room to listen to two very loud, very interesting patients in the next room.  Take note people, when you talk loud in hospital rooms that are separated by curtains, EVERYBODY can hear your business.  EVERYBODY!  I shouldn’t tell you this, but since I don’t know who these people are I will tell you their stories:

Lady1:  Had no idea what medicine she had taken and when but she had a lot of them.  I won’t even tell you what illness she had, but she talked very loud.  Then after not being able to remember all the medicine she was on and forgetting to take half of them she asked the doctor how to get a residency at Northwestern and if she could work full-time while doing a residency.  Now, maybe she had already gone to medical school, but I have a feeling not.  I know she was talking loud because I couldn’t hear a thing the doctor or resident said, but I could tell they were very gracious to her like always.  I wanted to scream “shut-up.”  I know, bad clergygirl.  But I was freezing so I had my 6 blankets over my head but I still couldn’t shut her out.

Man 2:  He wasn’t annoying.  In fact, I felt bad for him.  He sounded really young and he had what I believe was some sort of testicular cancer.  They were going to be doing surgery again to hook up his urethra.  It sounded like he was doing well.  But he admitted to the nurse that he still “party’s” a lot, which ain’t so bad….I like a good party, but he admitted he drinks at these party’s, and not just a little.  Adding it up in his head he said that makes several beers a day.  He also said he smoked, but could quit for up to 5 weeks at a time.  **Sigh** Let’s pray for man 2, because you would think he would have more respect in his body having cancer that young and not just quit smoking for 5 weeks….but for good!  I wanted to be his mother and go over and give him a nice long lecture, but I stayed under my six blankets.  I had also asked for socks between lady 1 and man 2.

But I didn’t yell or lecture.  Nor did I really enjoy the loud recovery area.  Maybe it was EXTRA loud because I was coming off anesthesia? 

So my legs are swollen and black and blue.  My breasts are perfect.  I’m good.  I’m happy.  I’m almost done.  Almost 99.9% back to me, with a few scars for the ride.

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Happy Mother’s Day to Me!

I’m on my way to Chicago for my 3rd surgery. It will be a smaller less invassive procedure. Dr. Dumanian is going to fix up a little spot that is not cooperating on my right side.

But the really great thing that he’s going to do is liposuction my hips to move the fat to my breasts to even them out and give them a little more umph. Pretty amazing stuff that you don’t even need implants anymore, you can just transfer fat! So as long as my fat doesn’t mind being relocated to my breasts this should be my last somewhat major surgery. My body could decide to absorb the fat….joy…but that isn’t likely since he did a little last time and it worked.

I’m stoked for this surgery. I feel totally confident in my surgeon. I feel like we’re old pals now. Not like the “deer in the headlights” grief-stricken breast-less self-esteem shot young woman he met last February. He’s had a major part of my physical reconstruction as well as my emotional. He always promised he’d see me through the end and he hasn’t wavered in that.

So today I feel like a mother, and a wife and a woman, and tomorow when I come out of a hazy drugged fog I will be the size I was before cancer and I will have hair and it will feel good to be feminine and me, with a little smaller thighs:)

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Surgery #4

It’s just me. Coming down off the excitement of driving over to meet with Dr. Plastic at Northwestern today so it’s late and I can’t sleep so I’m updating. I’m scheduled for round 3 (that’s 1 mastectomies and 3 reconstruction surgeries) on May 10th. He’s going to fix the right side that for some reason is not cooperating. It’s left over from my mastectomies so it’s really to the right of my breast. He’s also going to do a new procedure called fat grafting to increase my size. This means he’ll take fat from my thigh’s and move it to my breasts. (no offers please, he has plenty from my thighs to work with). It’s really amazing what the serious plastic surgeons are doing these days.

Since he’s also world renowned in his hand/arm nerve work, I asked him about the neuropathy in my arms. (he’s known for reattaching arms with feeling and for work with prosthetic arms with feeling). I have an increasing amount of numbness in my arms and hands. It doesn’t hurt, but is annoying. I’m so glad I asked him because he thinks I can get help through physical therapy. It may be reversable. It’s probably another side-effect of radiation. Gosh, I just love all the radiation side effects. Can I have a “do over.” I’m pretty sure I would refuse radiation. Ugh!

Hopefully the fat transfer will work the first time, otherwise there will be a second try. I know, you are all wondering why I do this to myself. Here is why:
A. I want everything in me to be me. I’m already screwed up so adding something else potentially screwy to my system scares me more than surgeries.
B. I want to be bigger. I’m sick of feeling like I need to apologize for feeling like I want to be the size I would normally be had I not had cancer.
C. I can. They have the technology, I have the fat. Put a great doctor in the mix and whamo…a new me.
D. Once the fat takes, it’s there for good. No rupturing, leaking, replacing. I’d like to grow old with set of breasts #2.

That, and I have a really nice day to myself. I’m starting to look forward to my trips over to Chicago. No kids. Trader Joe’s. A few stops at Starbucks. A stop at Michigan City Outlet. I come home a happy girl.

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Plastic Surgeons and Magic Wands

My plastic surgeon has a magic wand.  It looks like this:

I am totally serious.  He stuck a long thin needle into the side of my hips and back fat, wiggled it around, turned on the vacuum, and now that the swelling has gone down I am flat out (no pun intended here) AMAZED!  Maybe all that pain IS worth it….lol!  I may never have the breasts I once had but I may have the hips of my early 20’s again!  After having three kids I’m quite sure my love-handles would have stayed forever, no matter how much dieting and exercise.  What a nice little Christmas surprise for me:)  My only worry now is that the food I’ve eaten over the past few days will somehow gravitate there in an attempt to survive….lol!  What a bummer that would be if I ate my way back to love-handles.

On the other end, the upper end.  My breasts are healing up well, except for a lump of fluid under my right arm.  I decided to go have it drained right before Christmas with a doctor here locally, but she felt like it would increase my risk of infection so I chose to wait on it.  I’m hopeful it will just absorb into my system.  If not, it may need to be drained eventually.  There is also a possibility it may also get infected.  Ughhh.  I am SO not wanting to have another open wound.

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Reflections of Reconstruction, part 2

One very hard lesson I have learned in the process of reconstruction is that plastic surgery is painful.  My chest lost most feeling after the mastectomies so none of the recovery from any of the reconstruction surgeries has been very painful there, but the tummy tuck and the liposuction in my hips have been quite painful.  My dear plastic surgeon does not miss a thing I say.  When I told him I was sure I wanted the DIEP for the tummy tuck….he gave me a REALLY great tummy tuck.  On Monday, before my surgery, he asked if he could lipo the area to the side of my breast and I let him know he could lipo any fat off me he wanted…..so he did….lol.  I’m not sure he does this because he can, or because he feels sorry for me (and figures I could use the self-image boost), or simply because the extra fat was needed to boost my breast area…..but I think it’s fun that he did it for me whatever the reason.  I have certainly paid for it this week though!  Jeremy and I were laughing today about the moment I said “you can lipo anywhere” to him because the resident was standing behind my doctor and both of us noticed he had a little smirk on his face….and now I know why!  He knew what I was asking for….lol! 

Everything after the surgery was a total blur.  I remember waking up to incredible itching.  I can’t really describe it as pain, just itching all over.  I remember two women running in and out of the recovery area trying to help me and I feel bad because I don’t think I was being very cooperative.  I think I kept asking for Jeremy, my doctor and the anesthesiologist because for some reason I thought one of them could help me?  And then in between that I kept trying to get out of bed.  I don’t know how many times I tried to get out of bed, but I do remember them restraining me at least once.  I don’t think I’m going to allow them to do anything to me again unless they have a bag of Benadryl hooked to my IV…lol!  I don’t want to go through that again.  When some of the itching did subside, I realized one of the really nice women WAS a doctor and that is my first clear memory…..of her looking me right in the eye and saying….”you are having a bad allergic reaction.”  She also added that I am probably really allergic to opiates.  How about that…..note to self….avoid opiates…lol!   I do remember Dr. Dumanian coming to check on me and seeming alarmed…and he doesn’t normally seem alarmed by much of anything.  And I remember thinking how glad I was he was there, but I don’t remember how long he stayed or what he said.  I thought it was funny when they asked me if I wanted to stay the night?  I don’t remember answering them, so I guess they decided it was a good idea. 

And when I woke up in the morning I was greeted by Chase and Foreman from House and I got to show them my scars.  Seriously.  Would someone tell Northwestern that they are not ER, House or Grey’s Anatomy, because I swear the prerequisite for a residency there is that you must be either beautiful or good-looking.  To give them a little bit of the benefit….I will also have to say they’re very nice, there hasn’t been a mean one in the bunch.  The nurses too.  But in my fuzzy haze coming off narcotics I think I asked Jeremy if I was on House….lol.

I don’t want to say too much about how I feel about the work Dr. D did because I want to wait for the tape to fall off and it’s hard to tell.  But so far so good.  Digger is gone.   The shape seems really good, but the right side is still really puffy.  If it’s not swelling then there could be a problem, but I’m pretty certain it’s swelling.  And the huge red marks/bruises from the lipo are starting to go away and the pain is subsiding some…..but now those spots feel very itchy.  I was well enough to go Christmas shopping today and I even made gingerbread cookies with the kids. 

All-in-all, I’m glad it’s over, and I’m ready for Christmas and two fun weeks with my kids.  I don’t want to think about the next surgery for a while.

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Nip/Tuck, Recovery Day 2

I’m in a lot of pain.  I took my pain meds and got back in to bed this morning until it took effect.  Then I could get up and get Charis ready for school.  I’m actually surprised I’m so sore.  Hopefully it will only take a few days to feel better.  I had another itching attack again yesterday.  The Benadryl must have worn off.  So Jeremy and I got to a pharmacy and I got some allergy medicine and so far so good.  Hopefully it doesn’t flare up again today.  I hope they can find something else to use on me for the next surgery….because each surgery seems to get worse as far as the itching goes.  And yes, there will be another surgery.  There will probably be a few more.  Aghhh….the price of beauty.  I’ve had to decide if it’s worth it to me, and I think it is.  I’d like to feel somewhat normal and this is helping me feel that way.  I’m not about being bigger….just normal.

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Clergygirl Itches, Fights Temporary Insanity.

Thanks all who were praying today. I’m doing well. Digger indentation is gone and overall I can see a positive difference. The only hang-up I’ve had is itching. Once again I had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia and as I came out of my groggy slumber it became uncontrollable. The nurse and doctor tried to do as much as they could and were very patient and good to me. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced itching to that extent….all over your body…but let me tell you….the word insanity comes to mind. I become a very different person….a crazed person. I told Jeremy….when it is at it’s worst….I feel like yelling like a crazy lady and grabbing my nurse and begging her to help me. It really is not fun. It has now happened to me three times. After my mastectomies, then reconstruction, and now today. This time it came on quicker and was probably the worst I’ve experienced. I wanted to rip the bandages off and itch everywhere like crazy. I would have invited anyone in the area to itch with me…..lol. What a funny picture that would be.  Everyone picking a spot and itching. But it would be downright gross. But Jeremy will scratch for me. What a good hubby he is! So the Benadryl only helped slightly so they got some hydrocortisone cream and we caked it all over. Finally, some relief. They decided then that I should stay the night. Much of the itching is gone thankfully. I’m on some sort of prescription and we rotate the prescription meds with the Benadryl every few hours and it keeps the itching under control, so now I can rest some.

On a good note. Before I went in to surgery Dr. D used his marker to plan out his strategy. On the sides where it pooches a bit under my armpit he suggested lipo’ing the area and asked if it was ok. Is it ok?  Is it ok?  He could do lipo on me anytime, anywhere! I would never not say yes to lipo anywhere but my breasts….lol! So he lipo’d my back fat and the sides of my hips a bit and after a tough cancer journey he gives me perks like this. He is genuinely a very kind man and a great surgeon. I am so grateful to have a surgeon who I really trust and who is helping me feel better about my disfigured body.

And if I sound super chatty and happy in this post, I am….lol.  Thanks to a little magic pill called norco I am feel’in real good….lol!  I’m just hoping I don’t come back and read this and realize how loopy I was.  Because then I get embarrassed by my misspelled words and sentences that don’t make sense….lol!  I have a good excuse:)

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Fixing Me, Take 2

They’re going to wheel me in to th OR soon. Dr. D will be in to meet with me. Good-bye digger! Hello to symmetry! I’ll update later today.

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Surgery Next Week

I’m headed back to the great castle in the city also known as Northwestern.  I’m scheduled for a little nip tuck surgery on Monday, although I’m still not sure what time my surgery is scheduled?  I’m a tad bit nervous.  I’m partially nervous because of the weather.  My kids are in a Christmas program on Sunday night, so Jeremy and I planned to leave early Monday morning for the surgery.  But lake effect snow might make it interesting.  We’re hunkered down tonight because it’s been snowing steadily for the afternoon and the local forecast is severe weather for the next 24 hours.  Unfortunately the path we take for our three-hour trip to Northwestern is probably one of the worst as far as Lake effect snow and it gets miserable over on the southern part of Michigan near Lake Michigan.

Dr. D is planning to fill in my digger indentation and work on my flaps a bit as well as even out the sides a bit.  I know you can’t even begin to figure that one out, but I won’t send out pictures so you’ll just have to use your imaginations….lol!  Hopefully it will help things look a little better.  I think there is a good possibility I might actually be smaller after this surgery.  I’m having a hard time imagining how I wouldn’t be smaller since he’s going to be pulling the flap skin in a bit.  We’ll see.  This is all in preparation for the small implants later this spring.

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