long time, no talk.
i’m here, still plodding along. i started radiation last week, and i’ll share more on that….um…*unique* experience soon.
in the meantime, i want to close the loop on my expander. because it’s weird and complicated and misunderstood.
during the mastectomy surgery, they remove all the breast tissue. we then had a few options–do nothing and leave the skin without a nipple, immediate placement of the silicon or saline implant, or temporary placement of this plastic expander under the pec muscle. for lots of reasons, i chose the last one. having the muscle on top can provide support. it can also help avoid some of the visual rippling effects of the final implant. however, it can be riskier with radiation (e.g., it could all collapse and leave me with nothing) and does mean more procedures. in 6-12 months, i’ll have another surgery to swap it out for the final saline implant. we get to choose the final shape and size later, but let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve tossed some saline implants in the air.
for the 6 weeks after surgery, i had weekly appointments with the plastic surgeon. he’d slowly fill the expander with saline each visit; the goal was to stretch my pec muscle and match my breasts in size. the pic here is of the big ass needle and syringe with 50cc of fluid that was about to get stabbed into my breast. totally crazy (sunglasses for scale, btw.). the little plastic contraption on the tray is a magnet, used to find the magnet in my expander to insert the needle into. let’s just say it didn’t feel awesome going in and the stretched muscle is sore for a few days afterwards. mike sitting there watching the injection could literally see my boob getting bigger. science. while we knew the breast weight removed (376g, fyi) and tried to calculate how much saline to put into the expander, it was ultimately a visual decision (~350). kind of not science. i mean, i could have upgraded one side to a double dd, but stuck with the matching barely c.
i have a love/hate relationship with the expander. it makes me essentially look normal to you and able to wear clothes and a bathing suit just fine, even. however, it feels like i’m wearing a rock strapped to my chest. like, be careful when we hug so that you don’t get a black eye. because my breast nerve endings are mostly dead (more on that in the next post), i find myself bumping my expander into things (e.g., the fridge door) and only feel it when it gets super compressed. it just doesn’t know its own boundaries. i have physical therapy twice a week, where they move the expander around to ensure the pec muscle stays over it and it scars the way we want it too. i’m supposed to do those moves 30 minutes a day too, along with a bunch of stretches to get my range of motion back. the expander is sore and feels like it’s sitting high up at my throat most days. there is also a big divet at the top of the expander, which can happen after removing so much tissue to start. the plastic surgeon said he could fill with stomach fat later to smooth it all out. silver lining?
another crazy thing about the expander is that i need to be extra careful about infections. i have a sore throat that’s graduated into a cough, so my radiation oncologist got me started on a z-pack today. apparently any kind of infection can travel in your blood stream and land around the expander, causing big big problems. yoi.
my chemo-induced acid reflux has popped up again, and i have some canker sores. i realize that no matter how much i feel as though i’ve turned a corner, and i have, all of that shit my body endured over the last 9 months is just below the surface waiting to rear its ugly head. and sometimes i run into a boundary at 60mph. splat.
anywho, just wanted to check in. mike and i went to joshua tree and palm springs last weekend. my summary: glorious, hot, hiking, eating, convertible, art, margaritas. we need another day/month/year of that.
i’m also glad that my last post on helpers could help some of you. thank you for reaching out to share your stories.
miss your face and looking forward to seeing many of you soon.