I can’t believe I had a double mastectomy a little over a month ago. The very worst part of my recovery seems like a distant memory now and things are slowly getting back to normal. When I wake up in the mornings I still feel like I did a thousand bench presses the night before and sleep is uncomfortable since I have to lay on my back (and side sleeping hurts like crazy!) but throughout the day I honestly feel great! By evening I’m definitely spent, especially if it’s the weekend and I’ve been lifting kids all day, which is a big no no in my recovery (and can potentially ruin my chances for reconstruction if my surgical mesh tears). Thomas exceeds my weight lifting limit by 3 pounds and Caroline more than doubles it! But for real, any mom out there knows that is an impossible rule to follow.
Also, I am returning to work tomorrow! I cannot say enough great things about my boss and my firm. I returned to work from my maternity leave for about four weeks before going back out for my surgery. Their response? They told me to take all of the time I would need without thinking twice. We’ve also received so many cards, emails, meals and gift cards from my office. So Wednesday is my first day back and the best part is that I’ll be working from home for the rest of the year!!!! I probably could go into the office (which I’d honestly prefer so I could see all my friends) but getting ready to leave the house feels like a mini marathon (especially with the kiddos) and oftentimes I’m utterly exhausted before I even arrive to my destination. Plus I’m still receiving weekly fills which usually require about two days of pain meds and I can’t drive. So you can find me in my pajamas through the holidays!
I start physical therapy in two weeks and cannot wait to relieve some of the tightness in my chest and arms so I can get my full range of mobility back. There’s still a few things that really hurt when I do them like blow dry my hair, vacuum, pull out the laundry from the dryer (our system is stacked and really high!!!) reach for things on the second level of my cabinets or pick up or do things immediately to my side like grabbing for my seat belt or reaching for a glass of water on the side table. And of course, I still run into super sharp pains when I do dumb things liiiiike try to pick up my phone charger cord off the floor while laying in bed, getting the mail out of our mailbox, pushing a shopping cart for too long and a few other things. Just today I screeched in pain while trying to reach for a few pacis that were too far under the crib and had to send Caroline under to collect them.
My Biggest Frustration: I feel ashamed to bring this up because in the grand scheme of things this is pretty petty, but if I’m being fully transparent, I’m having a really hard time with the numbness in my chest and arm pits (a shaving nightmare, by the way). I still get itches across my chest and I can’t shake the frustrations when I go to scratch them but can’t feel it. It’s like having a lost hair in your bra that you can’t find! Also, I had my first um, nip slip (yikes), the other day. I was wearing an open cardigan with a spaghetti strap tank top underneath. Thomas had pulled my tank top under my boob and that’s not something I can feel anymore. So while standing in the middle of the living room Matt went wide eyed and was like “ummm, babe? your top!” Sooooo, that’s the first.
Also, I’m sick and tired of sleeping terribly and am ready to be able to snuggle with my husband again. I switched out my body wedge system (so thankful to have borrowed this from a friend) for my pregnancy pillow plus several other pillows crammed in various places. At night time I constantly have to remind myself that I can totally handle this and this is temporary!
The Expanders. Ugh! I have a love-hate relationship with these. More hate than love actually. The expanders are profoundly uncomfortable and at times even painful! I constantly feel like I’m
wearing a tight underwire bra with cups made out of heavy rocks.
The love part of the relationship? Getting ’em filled up…
The Fills. I’ve had two fills!!! During the surgery my doctor filled my expanders with 100 ccs of BLUE saline so I’d have at least a little bump to go home with. And at my 3 week post op appointment I got my very first fill!!! This is the most fascinating process EVER. First, the doctor has to locate my expander port by using a crazy magnetic device. Once he finds it he draws a dramatically large (in my opinion) “X” over it to mark the spot. Then he literally pokes my skin with an insanely thick needle (that I can’t feel at all) which is attached to a ginormous syringe and injects 60 ccs of saline into each side. I literally watched my breasts inflate right before my eyes. Crazy! Afterwards I ran over to the mirror and checked out my new size. I was elated and exclaimed “I think these are already bigger than my originals!” only to be informed that I might be a AA at 160 ccs. HA! After the first fill I was on a high. Every friend that came over that week got a peep show!
This is the magnet device they use to find the port in my expander. And here is a little diagram to show how exactly they get the syringe of saline into the expander…
Needless to say, I was super pumped for my second fill. Same exact procedure only this time the doctor warned me that it may be a bit more uncomfortable since my skin and muscle is starting to stretch now with each new fill. Maybe I’m just a baby because no one warned me about the subsequent fills but with the second fill I could feel my chest swelling up and getting so tight I thought my breasts were going to pop, but didn’t want the doctor to stop so I kept quiet so he wouldn’t make me come back for the rest at another time. The remainder of the day, that night and the following day I was so uncomfortable and tried not to use my arms at all. I took my pain meds like clockwork and was fine, just tired!
And here is a close up of my um, wrinkles…
I have another fill tomorrow afternoon and am a little scared and excited all at the same time. After this fill I may only need two more so I’m hoping to be done by the end of the year. I’m shooting for a damn good looking B cup. To get there the doctor recommends 500 ccs. WOAH. That seems like a lot if you know anything about implants but again this is not your typical boob job. We have to make up for all of the lost tissue, etc. Right now, without a shirt on, these girls look (and feel) like small baseballs and are super uneven so I’ve been hiding under lots of baggy cardigans and sweaters. Each time I go in I ask again and again “you’re gonna fix that, right?” and the doctor assures me that during the exchange surgery he fixes them up and makes them perfect.
Still So Thankful. Over all, despite the discomforts I would do this surgery again and again and again without a second thought. Whenever I find myself complaining about the discomfort I think about how fortunate I am to not be preparing for chemo and radiation. I’ve taken my health into my hands and have reduced my chances for breast cancer down to 1%! I am so proud to stop the trend of breast cancer in my family and I am still so happy I had the surgery!
Other Mastectomy Posts:
I just think you are really amazing. Your honesty, transparency, gratefulness and humor are SO AWESOME. Praying that each day you just continue to feel better and better!! 🙂
Kelly Crusenberry says
You're a rock star Christina! I'm continually amazed by your transparency and courage to go through with this procedure. Cheering you on throughout your recovery and praying for you and all your family members. I hope that this holiday season is even sweeter than the others knowing you don't have to worry about breast cancer anymore! Also, you've inspired me to host a cookie exchange! Just wanted to let you know, the one you attend just looked like too much fun! 🙂
I think you're so brave, and what an inpsiration you are to so many, especially to your daughter!
Amanda @ A Brownie World says
Woo hoo new ta tas!!!! I had to say it 🙂 Yay for a fantastic recovery, that is a HUGE blessing!
Laura Wyatt says
love this post, and i'm so so proud of you, girlfriend!!! i need to see you (and your boobs) soon! xoxoxoxox
Glad you are getting back to normal! It's so interesting to read about this process – my mom had a mastectomy yesterday and has an expander in now and will have to go every 3 days to get it filled. Then a few months later she'll have two implants as a 61 year old, ha! I told her she's trying to upstage me at my wedding. Hearing how your feeling helps me get a good idea of what she'll go through – although I don't really want to share everything you've said as to not freak her out 🙂 She told me about the expander process a few days ago and about how her chest will feel sore too, so it's funny how everything seems to match! Praying for a good continued recovery for you!
Baby Swing Info says
I'm still receiving weekly fills which usually require about two days of pain meds and I can't drive. So you can find me in my pajamas through the holiday. For Baby swing tips go here : for baby swing info click here:Baby Swing Guideline
Jessica (The Newly) says
Yay for fill ups! I know it must be so motivating and encouraging to look forward those each time:) And I am sure that they will be just perfect when this process is over – perfect and HEALTHY – which is most important. Cancer free!:)
Jenn @ West Sac Honey says
You are one brave woman! Still very proud to read about your recovery and making the choice to stop cancer before it starts! Filling up the tata's must be very exciting.. Prayers for a speedy recovery road ahead!
Trista @ The Classy Chaos says
I stepped away from the blogosphere for a few weeks and am so glad to hear are recovering perfectly!! And yes, it would be nearly impossible to not pick up my children!
Elizabeth Birenbaum says
Thank you thank you thank you for these updates!!! I think I mentioned in previous posts, but I'm thinking about having this done too thanks to the breast cancer that runs in my family as well and these are SO SO helpful! Thank you! And so happy that you're doing so well!!!
Glad to hear that the fills are going well! It sounds like such a crazy feeling. Good luck back at work tomorrow 🙂
Sara Elizabeth says
Praying for a smooth day at work tomorrow!!! And stop with the wrinkle talk – you're beautiful!!!!!
Kelly Elizabeth says
YOU ARE AMAZING!! You have such a beautiful spirit and positive attitude! I remember the phantom itches after surgery, too. You described them exactly too, they are like a hair you can't find! Really there is so much to be thankful for, and it is so important to keep it in perspective! Keep up the good work, and enjoy those pajamas!! 🙂
You are such a strong woman!! Amazed by your positive attitude!! Praying for healing & less discomfort!!
Caley-Jade Rosenberg says
Wow friend, I am in awe of you – of the woman, the patient, the wife, the mother, the friend and the colleague that you are. And i don't think you even realise how many women you may be helping by being so open and honest on your blog and raising great awareness. I am so proud of you x
Lizzie Somerset says
Still in awe of you! Thanks for sharing, it's fascinating and brave. Praying too. Lizzie xo
Lizzie Somerset says
Can I share on FB?
Stephanie Chalk says
You are superwoman, seriously! I can't even imagine this whole process yet you handle it with such grace! Xo, Stephanie
Megan | Freckled Italian says
I love reading your updates! My mom just had her exchange surgery and everything went so well–she only took pain meds for a day and a half! Hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday. xoxo