It was all kind of a blur. You wake up and your breasts are just… gone. It took a while to resonate with me that I was going to lose my breasts and when it finally hit me, I felt an enormous sense of loss. I was no longer going to be able to look at myself in the mirror and recognize the woman staring back at me. The person I had become over the last 29 years would be forever changed.
I had small breasts to begin with and I had always contemplated breast augmentation, but when it is decided for you, that is a completely different story. Reconstruction is NOT a boob job!
The drains after having the mastectomy have to be one of the worst parts of the whole experience; I had to have a sense of humor about it. I mean, nothing beats trying to function while dealing with tubes that drain fluid out of your nonexistent tits! Don’t even get me started about trying to shave my underarms! I LITERALLY had to hold a drain in my left hand and hold the other in my mouth as I shaved with my right and vice versa. Now THAT was a fun experience! (Ha Ha!)
Not that long after the drains were put in, I started to feel immense pain on my left side. I was vomiting constantly and the fluid contained in the drain was a milky consistency with a greenish yellow color. I knew something was very VERY wrong. I called the surgeon who performed the procedure and later ended up in the hospital for five days with a staph infection. As if my luck wasn’t shitty enough!
Reconstruction was pretty much a “no brainer” for me. Losing my nipples and my breasts was already too much to process, I couldn’t fathom the idea of having to see myself and have nothing there, only scars. I didn’t have any skin left to just throw some implants in, and of course all of my breast tissue had been removed during surgery, so we had to expand the skin slowly with a tissue expander – (empty breast implant that will be filled with normal saline over 6 to 8 weeks). This process slowly stretches the skin and pectoral muscles to accommodate a silicone gel implant, which is one of the final steps of reconstruction. At that point, they didn’t really feel like breasts anymore… They are just there to fill the empty space; to help clothing hang correctly; to give the appearance of “being normal”.
Even post reconstruction, I still don’t like the reflection I see in the mirror. I suppose over time I will grow more comfortable with the image I see every day. I have to be grateful in some aspects for this experience. I have gained respect for time and how precious it truly is! I am thankful to be alive, I have amazing support from my husband and friends, I have the 2 best dogs in the world and I am able to work and do what I love. Positivity definitely helps me throughout my day to day tasks. I mean, I still have bad days. Some days it is hard to exude so much energy that at the end of the day I feel exhausted. But, every now and then I get to share just a piece of my story and make a difference in another person’s life. That is what motivates me to get up and get moving!
Readers of this blog, please know you are not alone! Share your stories with me! Together we can make a difference in finding a cure and helping so many others.