Today marks ONE YEAR since I had my tatas removed and 8 months since I got my new ones! Every now and then I read back through my mastectomy posts and honestly can’t believe how intense my whirlwind journey was. First there was the decision. Then lots of appointments. A Ta-Ta to the TATAS party. The surgery. The relief from the surgical drain removal. The first tissue expander fill. Then more fills. The highly anticipated exchange surgery. And the recovery.
I can’t describe how thankful and relieved I am to have this is all behind me now. I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate my first boobiversary!
So what does life look like now?
Well, if you are a regular reader you have a pretty good idea, but for those of you who landed here for my “mastectomy tab” you probably want an update! One thing I really struggled with while prepping for this journey was finding blogs that posted updates beyond the surgery and recovery. I felt like I read every single post from these brave women and then they disappeared after their reconstruction surgery and I often wondered “Well, what happened afterwards? Did normal life resume? Were there any complications? Did you experience any other emotions? Do you like your new boobs?” So today I want to give a progress report on life 365 days later…
**Note, my experience comes exclusively from a prophylactic decision. I know many of you are facing a different journey with chemo, radiation and more so your experience may look different.
First, I am excited to inform you all that normal life has completely resumed! I don’t even think about the mastectomy very much anymore and it already feels like it was forever ago. During the thickest part of the journey it seems like you’ll never feel normal again but I promise each day gets better and the worst parts of the journey fade into a distant memory with each passing day.
Stomach sleeping: I absolutely prefer to sleep on my tummy at night and adjusting to this position after my surgeries took a very long time. With your new boobs you’ll feel like there is a large foreign object between your chest and your bed. It is very awkward and uncomfortable for awhile (for me this was about 10 months). However, I found that laying a mini pillow under my chest helped me slowly transition back into tummy sleeping.
I also received some really great advice for massages! When you need to lay on your tummy for a massage just roll up a towel and lay it under your chest to take the pressure off your breasts. Works like a charm.
Nipples: My doctor gave me the option to keep or remove my nipples. Keeping them increased my risk of cancer to less than 1% and after lots of thought I made the decision to keep them. Although it’s not often, there have been several times since my surgery where I’ve been glad to have nipples to avoid the awkward stares or questions from strangers who don’t know your story. For example, getting a custom spray tan, changing in the gym locker room, etc.
Loss of Sensation: Probably the most annoying part of the process, not being able to feel my breasts is very, very weird. The doctor told me I had a highly unlikely chance that any of my nerves would grow back and so far that remains true. He said I’ll know for certain right around one year post-op. As of now, I have minimal feeling around the base of my breasts. For the most part it isn’t a big deal but being at the pool all summer with little ones tugging on my bathing suit definitely kept me on strap patrol worrying about my suit slipping and not recognizing it. (And yes, this has definitely happened)!
Bra Shopping: One amazing benefit I discovered post surgery was that most insurance companies are required to cover your bras after your mastectomy. Shockingly my insurance covers an unlimited amount of bras for life. So off to Nordstrom I went…with a one year old…which I don’t recommend…
The New TaTas: First, I am extremely grateful for my new (forever cancer-free) girls. During my pre-op consultation with my doctor, Matt and I went with my surgeons recommendation — Allergan Natrelle Inspira silicone implants aka “gummy bear implants!” Apparently the cohesive silicone on the inside of the implant is very similar to Gummy Bear candy. But we selected them for reasons beyond that. These implants are actually specifically designed for women who have undergone a mastectomy or have very little breast tissue. With the Natrelle implants, I don’t have to
worry about leaking silicone, they hold their shape much better than saline implants and there is only a 3% chance they’ll ever need to be replaced.
Since we didn’t know exactly what size implant would fit the pocket the expander had created, my doctor tested out a variety of implants during the procedure to see which one looks best. With each
implant option he literally sat me up on the operating table like a puppet to examine the size (height and width), projection (how far they stick out), fullness (volume of cc’s), evenness, etc. Since he is the breast expert, we told him to shoot for a full C cup and he took it from there.
You can read more about the implant/reconstruction process here.
|BEFORE pictures on left, AFTER pictures on right|
Honestly, this upgrade is definitely something I am still getting used to. Some days I love them and some days I still feel a little awkward by the size. I am 4’11” and I swear they turned out way bigger than I had anticipated. Also, despite the fat grafting I have some minor rippling (that absolutely no one but me would ever notice), which is very common for this procedure.
Also, after a few months after my exchange surgery I began to notice my left breast was settling lower than my right by about an inch. This is also common in mastectomy surgery and I knew this risk going into the procedure. The implants are heavy and are being held in place by surgical mesh. However, over the following months I became more and more self-conscious by the misalignment. Most people wouldn’t ever notice but I notice and it drives me crazy, especially when I’m wearing something with a lower cut there’s only cleavage on one side or if my shirt is fitted you can kind of see the unevenness (if you’re looking for it). But the most obvious misalignment is when I’m wearing something with a plunging neckline…
So, I wasn’t going to do anything about it because the end goal was truly a cancer-free life, but my girlfriends have been pushing me to get them fixed. And Matt agrees only because he knows it bothers me. So off I went to my plastic surgeon (who I really love) to have him take a look and he informed me that 1. yep, totally common 2. it’s a super easy fix and 3. insurance will cover any and all future adjustments for life! So that pretty much sealed the deal.
On December 1st I will have a revision surgery.
Although the recovery is no big deal for this one, the downside (which is actually pretty terrible) is that there is a very strong possibility that I’ll require two weeks of drains (again) which as you remember was my worst experience throughout the entire journey. Because my revision will require more surgical mesh, the doctor will insert drains to remove any fluid build up as a precaution against infection. I’m trying not to think too much about that part though!
Also, I have the option to change my size during this surgery and despite my girlfriends strongly advising me against it (what can I say, I have very close, opinionated besties) I am leaning towards swapping out my implants for a smaller size. Verdict is still out.
|TaTa party cake!|
So there you have it — life is pretty darn fantastic 365 days post mastectomy!!!!!
I recently celebrated my 30th birthday which was the age my mother was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I can’t imagine the fear she faced as she prepared for chemo
treatments and radiation followed by the devastation of learning she would be leaving her husband and two baby girls behind shortly after her diagnosis. By choosing this surgery I was able to
fight cancer before it could even begin and have proactively reduced my breast cancer risk down to 1%. If my mom would have had this opportunity, I know she’d still be alive. And I know she’s proud of me for making this brave decision to stop the trend of breast cancer in my family.
The journey was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through but I would do it again and again and again, without hesitation, to be where I am today — healthy and cancer-free. Happy 1st Boobiversary to me!