Reconstruction

My breast reconstruction process has been very interesting and comical!  I’ve learned a lot throughout the process, but more importantly, I learned that the big boob life is not for me! The people spoke and I listened…B for Becky (thank you Beth Moran) and C for Chris (thank you Katie and Lou)! Definitely a toss up! I was truly torn…haha. 

During my mastectomy surgery, my plastic surgeon put in expanders, which are essentially bags with magnetic/metal ports. Through the ports, they inject saline into the expanders, allowing for the cup size that I desired. 

My friend, Morgan, took me to get my first fill and we literally watched my breasts grow right in front of our eyes. It was the funniest/coolest thing…modern medicine is pretty crazy! For the next  four weeks, I  continued to get expansions. Once I was at a size that I liked, I decided to get one more expansion because I heard they can look smaller after the exchange surgery. As soon as I got home, I dramatically tried on a ton of clothes and everything looked so weird on me! My friend Annie and I could not stop laughing because they looked rather odd on my body. The next day, I returned to the doctors to get some saline removed. The doctor told me she was not surprised that I came back because she thought my body was too petite and they no longer looked natural after the last fill. The whole situation was rather comical. I never thought I would have to pick what size cup I wanted to be, but here I am…making big life decisions (.)(.)

Fast forward two months, a ton of traveling and it’s now time for me to get my exchange surgery!! On Monday, I’ll be going in and getting my final implants! This is the “fun” surgery! I never thought I would be excited for a surgery, but I am!!  It’s been an odd thing to walk around with bags (or what I like to call water beds) inside your chest. Needless to say, it will be a huge relief. 

Thank you all for your continued support, prayers, love, and encouragement I’m so happy this breast cancer journey is coming to an end….it’s the best feeling! Never have I felt so relieved. I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I had this disease, but beat it. I’m so fortunate to have had the best of the situation. This was by far the best decision I ever made! I had hesitations and regrets at first but, looking back, the pain, the tears, the stress, the money….100% worth it. I’m so blessed! 

Love you all...so so so very much!!

The surgery

The morning of my surgery, I woke up and immediately noticed how hungry and thirsty I was from the required fast. I savored my long, hot shower, thinking it might be my last enjoyable one for awhile. Nicole (my college roommate and bff) and my mom were in town so I made them my favorite oatmeal and an almond milk matcha? latte! On one hand, I felt like I was ready for the surgery and knew that it was the best decision. Alternatively, I was avoiding  thinking about the surgery by staying busy and even drove to the hospital! 

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Upon arrival, I felt quite anxious and thought about leaving.  I started formulating an exit strategy even though I knew deep down I wasn't going to leave.  After checking in, I found my family talking to a few amazing volunteers. They were to there to comfort people and inform families about the process! It gave everyone great peace of mind. Soon after, they called my name…cue rapid heart beat. 

After getting prepped, getting an IV, and getting marked by my surgeons, my mom, dad and step mom were allowed in.  We chatted and took selfies because…2017. I had kept it together until my dad and step mom lost it. They bolted out pretty fast due to the emotions and since they were going to get last minute things out of my home (I moved the week before). Right after, my mom looked at me and said, “I’m not crying”. …way to go mom  ;). A few minutes later my best friend came in the room and we soon sent out my mom. I really tried to make the entire situation less dramatic because that’s what I felt like I needed. We talked and chatted on the phone with Chris to make time pass.

A little later, the anesthesiologist came in and injected liquids in my IV. woahhh! I felt like I was floating on clouds! I don’t even remember saying bye to Nicole! I do remember the operating room though, which was quite intimidating. Then, I was out. 

After four hours, my surgery was complete and I was waking up. According to Nicole, I woke up looking very blue. They tried to get me to eat some crackers, but my mouth was too dry.  The doctor entered and suggested that I stay overnight (which would be helpful for pain management) but ultimately it was my decision. I told him I wanted to go home, so home we went! My dad went out to find Ezekiel bread, avocado and eggs. Not your typical meal request after surgery, but that’s what I was craving! Thanks Dad!! 

The rest of the night was pretty much a blur, but with the help of Nicole, I was able to connect some things. Once my dad finally got there, he was pretty pumped about his findings…Halo Top, Ezekiel bread, avocado, and other golden items. He went to put away the Halo Top, but saw there was some other Halo Top already in there. He took it upon himself to eat that and serve everyone else some…hahaha that’s my dad for you! While my food was being made, my mom suggested we take some photos ——> LOL

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The next  morning, I went out to the couch because I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to look at my phone, but everything was blurry. I then pulled away my surgical bra and looked down. The tears started flowing and I felt so incredibly sad. “What did I just do?” “Everything is blurry.” “That was such an irrational decision.” “I’m so flat.”(They only put a little bit of saline in my expanders.)  I’ve never felt so down. I’ve never dealt with depression, but at that given moment, I was able to relate to so many people (thankful for this new insight). It was a feeling I never want to come back. I called my boyfriend who was living in London for work and continued to just cry. He knew exactly what to say to bring me out of it. Soon after, I fell fast asleep thanks to my snuggly neck and husband pillows….lifesavers! 

Nicole came out about an hour later to check on me. She’s a nurse so she started trying to figure out why my vision was blurred. We decided that I would quit taking all narcotics, hoping that it would bring my vision back, to no avail. Later that evening, I managed to write in a Facebook mastectomy group about this.  Others wrote how they had experienced blurry vision due to their nausea patch. Nicole got up so fast and ripped that bad boy off….she couldn’t believe she didn’t think of it. I didn’t even know I had a patch on! It took a few days to regain my vision, but I will never take clear vision for granted! 

Two days after surgery, Nicole and I went about running errands…my family was not happy about this, but I had to get out of the house!  Plus, it was Nicole’s last day in town and we had to make the most of it!  When we returned, Nicole helped me bathe. This was such a humbling experience. I literally sat in the bathtub as Nicole washed my hair. What a beautiful act of service that I will be eternally grateful for.

 

Three days after surgery, Nicole left early in the morning to go back to Seattle. Her departure allowed for the return of my down feelings and mental struggles with my decisions. My dad called and within minutes, tears were streaming. It’s such a funny topic to talk about with your dad, but he’s my best friend. Not only that, but he had prostate cancer ten years ago so he can relate in some ways. Thanks for being the best and always knowing what to say, Dad! 

 

The next day, my sweet sister friend , Aimee, came over to help me shower. This time, I was able to stand in the shower and hold my drains. I felt like a new woman and cannot thank Aimee enough for this…such a blessing!

Over the next couple of days, I had so many visitors, which was so kind. The amount of cards, car rides, kombuchas, sweet messages and crazy thoughtful gifts I received blew me away. I’m not a cryer, but I cried quite often…my heart was so full by all the thoughtfulness. Thank you to everyone that showered me in love in so many ways…you have no idea how much it meant to me. 

The days after my surgery, I couldn’t believe how manageable the pain was, nor could anyone else. One of the most annoying parts of the process was the drains. They came out of my sides and were very uncomfortable (Shoutout to Cole for helping me with these).  I couldn’t wait to get those suckers out.  The surgeon was supposed to remove the tubes at my one week follow up, however, they told me they were not taking them out yet. It was such a disappointing moment because I had been hoping to return to some normalcy. After ten longs days, they finally took them out!! 

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Somewhere in the middle of all this, my breast surgeon called to tell me the final pathology results were in. These calls are the worst. I’ve received them three too many times. The doctor told me immediately they didn’t find more cancer… Cue the happy dance and prayers upstairs…with limited movement of course! She then went to explain everything else they found….bilateral Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia and a bunch of other conditions that they usually scoop up when they go in to remove cancer. This information reaffirmed every decision I made!  You have no idea how relieved and thankful I felt!!!

This entire process has been a journey, but I truly believe I had the best of the situation. I no longer question or doubt my decision. I didn’t have cancer anymore and was able to make a proactive decision with the doctor. I wish I could show you what I look like….you can hardly see the scars! I’m so blessed and thank God for watching out for me. I'm thankful for these new scars, everything they represent and all that I've learned from them. 

Well, this got a little long winded! I’ll be working on my next post about the reconstruction process, my final surgery in March, flashing people and how the big boob life is not for me! ; )

Love you all…so so so much!!

 

 

Breast Cancer Journey

I must say, I never thought I would talk about my breasts with my family and friends so much. They say when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Let me tell you friends, I’ve been making the sweetest lemonade. Humor, friendships and family make life so much easier when life gets real. 

I didn’t think I would share my story, it was all too personal and I didn’t want to feel vulnerable. However, God started convicting me. He had been telling me to share my story/His story for quite some time so that's what I'm doing. Through this journey, God continues to show me that He is a faithful and loving God. He has shown me miracles and put amazing people in my life. He comforts me, guides me, loves me and fills me up with so much joy!! 

In May, I showed the doctor some unusual tenderness in my breast. It was especially painful during my menstrual cycle. She confirmed that there was a lump and sent me to get an ultrasound. The doctor at the breast center said they found a tumor/fibroadenoma. Typically, fibroadenoma’s are are a common, benign condition. However, the doctor recommended doing a biopsy because that was the only way to confirm it was benign. Some of my close friends reassured me that everything would be fine, as they’ve also experienced fibroadenomas. Chelsea even came with me to get the procedure done…did I mention I have the most amazing people in my life! My biopsy results came back as atypical ductal hyperplasia, which is essentially a higher risk for forming cancer. The recommendation was to get it removed. A few days after returning from Seattle, my girlfriends (love you Chelsea and Morgan) drove me to surgery. The surgery was pretty easy! The most difficult part was not being able to drink water after midnight….I LOVE staying hydrated. To my friends disappointment, I was barely even loopy and came home and worked for the rest of the day. I was even able to fight fight through the pain and avoid pain medication. 

The following Monday, I had a follow up where I was told that the results came back as DCIS/stage 0 Breast Cancer. I was not prepared for this news and came alone, especially since we lost my stepdad to cancer just a week before. However, God made sure I knew I wasn’t alone. Last year I was with a dear friend/big sister, Aimee when she got the phone call that she had breast cancer. I’ll never forget that day for so many reasons. She told me she questioned why God had me there when she found out the news. She was happy that it was me, but just wondered why God would choose me since I was younger. However, God was really just at work…He knew my story and how this would all connect back in a little under a year. Aimee was the first person I called when I received the news and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. She’s been my go-to every step of the way and I could not be more thankful for her. My other friend that had breast cancer when she was 18 had happened to texted me that morning and asked if we could get lunch….exactly what I needed after this news and another example of God hard at work. 

The next step was to meet with a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist and genetic counselor. The medical oncologist recommended take Tamoxifen, but after researching  the medicine, I decided not to take it as the side effects can be brutal and my gut said no. The radiation oncologist recommended more surgery and radiation. The genetic counselor informed me that I had a genetic mutation called BRIP1, however it’s a variant of unknown significance, meaning there is not enough data to say whether or not it’s directly related. 

I went forward with another surgery to get clearer margins to ensure that I was 100% cancer free. The new surgery results came back with some scattered Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia (the original reason I had surgery) and a benign tumor called Pseudoangiomatous stromal hyperplasia (PASH). 

Following my surgery, I met with the breast surgeon to discuss the next steps. My options were radiation, close monitoring or a double mastectomy. I asked her what she would do if she was me. She told me everyone sees a different solution, but she would get a mastectomy as we don’t know what else could grow back and it can almost guarantee that this will all never be a problem again. This was all very difficult to process because the type of cancer I had only required a lumpectomy. If they could guarantee that only DCIS would come back then I would just do close monitoring. However, they can’t guarantee this and I have a higher risk for something more aggressive to come back. Not only that, but I was predisposed to the disease since I was only 25 when I was diagnosed. They also found more Atypical Ductal Hyperplasia, which radiation does not kill. After many prayers, I have opted in to get a nipple and skin sparing bilateral mastectomy in December. It was not an easy decision, but it will guarantee me a life not cut short from breast cancer and perky breasts for life. I'll even have a 20 year manufacturer warranty on the new girls! 

I’ve learned so much throughout this journey and know God has just been writing my testimony. I hope that you all will be encouraged to live a healthier lifestyle, be an advocate for your health (so many woman have messaged me about how they found something and were encouraged to go to the doctors), live life fully, and love out loud more than ever. 

A huge shoutout to my family, friends, and boyfriend for the constant boob talk and supporting me every step of the way. You are definitely the stevia (is sugar still a thing) to my lemonade! Love you all!