Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Fills..

I wasn't sure why I was even needing the muscle relaxers at this point. Then I had my first saline fill.

One thing that happens after this surgery is the loss of feeling in your chest. I had to remind myself of that when the nurse came at me with a gigantic, and I mean gigantic syringe. I couldn't image NOT feeling a needle as big as the one she held. I must have said as much, so we took a step back and she walked me through the process.

They planned to fill only 20 cc's - 30 cc's per side each time, until we reached the desired breast size. My chest certainly wasn't flat after surgery. The expanders had between 100-200 cc's already. We were aiming for around 500 (a full C to D cup). Then we would schedule the 'swap out' surgery for 6 weeks after the last fill and replace the expanders with implants. I was highly motivated to complete this part of the process and get back on the operating table. In fact, I asked her to put me on the fast track. Put as much in as possible to make this entire process go by much quicker.

A tiny magnet was used to find the port of each expander. (It was generally at the center of each breast every time.) She would mark the spot with a dot, then begin the fill. Oddly enough, the actual process of adding saline didn't hurt at all. I had no feeling, so I didn't feel the needle. Just pressure, lots of pressure. When I would sit up it was a different story.

Each and every time I had a fill, the muscles in my chest and back would go into complete spasms. Sometimes it was very very painful. I would be back on my pillows, with numerous heating pads under my back for days. Other times I would be fine, then my muscles would spasm and I would freeze and be brought to my knees in pain. It never lasted too long, but it was always enough to have me counting down the days for when I could jump back onto the operating table. I adjusted to this phase knowing the pain was temporary. I would end up canceling all plans when I did have a fill, and I quickly learned to go right home and get in bed afterwards.

Other than a little down time around a fill, life was quickly back to normal. I am sure that had I not been hit with the flu (or whatever it was), I would have been at 90% around the 4 week mark. Instead I was down for six weeks. After that though, I was driving, chasing my kids, cooking, doing laundry, everything I normally do. The only things different were that my workouts were put on hold, I had to sleep on my back, and I was no longer wearing a bra. I would tire out a lot quicker than normal, so I needed to take it somewhat easy. I certainly missed working out but it was important to me that my kiddos not have their lives disrupted too much. I had already spent enough time away from them, and my doctor appointments took time away as well. I also didn't want them fearful that I was sick or in any kind of danger. I made it a point to do as much as I could without over doing it.

My mom and I both were going through this same process together, while in different states. We were also having two very different experiences. Her ports were located a few inches below her armpits. While this process was painful to me, it was excruciating for her. We aren't sure exactly why things were so different for us, but they were. Maybe it was the port location, our age differences, who knows. What we do know was that it was a much more frustrating, lengthy and more painful process for my mom.

I can't remember the exact number of fills I had, but I do remember that both sides were not filled to the exact same number of cc's. I think that was done for appearance sake, but the variation was so small, it really didn't matter. It would be easy during this process to just call it and settle for a smaller chest size. I had to talk myself out of settling for a smaller size many times. I was so ready to have this over with. I wasn't able to wear a bra and my chest looked and felt both horrible and bizarre. It looked so strange that I either wore a vest, blazer or scarf every day over my shirts. Luckily it was winter, so I had the benefit of layers. I wasn't aiming for a gigantic chest, I just wanted to go back to the size I had (I was a D cup). The option to go bigger is definitely there if you so choose..but I certainly did not.

My last fill was sometime late February /early March of 2013. I was beyond thrilled. While I would miss my weekly (sometimes every other week) appointments with Dr. Robbins and his staff, it was time to put this journey to an end. His staff quickly coordinated a surgery time with my Obgyn. I was going to have the implant swap out surgery and a full hysterectomy at the same time. One doctor would operate then the next would begin once the first surgery was complete. Both doctors assured me that their portion would be a piece of cake. That was music to my ears. I was ready.

I don't remember what my chest looked like upon my last fill, but I do know that I put a lot of trust in my plastic surgeon. There were times leading up to the surgery that I questioned how the mess in my chest was ever going to turn out to appear 'pretty.' It was lopsided, uneven and hard as a rock. Not to mention the bright pink scars running along the sides. It was also a lot smaller than I wanted my final cup size to be. I was trusting it would turn out well, but I was extremely doubtful. I kept telling myself the bright side: at least I wouldn't have to really worry about breast cancer AND I wouldn't need a fill again.

Once my surgery date was set, I tried to get my family organized and ready for a few more weeks of downtime from me. I was over the fear of my initial wake up from surgery, and had been more than convinced that BOTH of my surgeries would be a breeze. Drains weren't even on my radar, so that element of this equation was removed as well. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit my biggest fears, but here we go....I was terrified that my hysterectomy would cause such a hormonal mess that I would gain weight. I was scared of feeling, acting and looking ugly. I have heard such horror stories of menopause that I was beginning to fear the person I would become. I reached out to the few women I knew who experienced early menopause. I once again did as much research as possible, then resigned myself to the fact what will be, will be. I would deal with the new me once we both resurfaced on the other side of surgery.

If you are questioning my hysterectomy, remember, BRCA1 also comes with a more than 50% chance that you will develop ovarian cancer near or after the age of 40. Once you hit 40, your percentage goes even higher. My husband and I had four beautiful children and we were very confident that our newborn baby days were over. I know this decision is different for each and every woman. There is no right or wrong choice but only a choice that is right for you. My Dr. and I were convinced and more than confident that my complete reproductive system needed to go. She could have attempted a partial hysterectomy, monitored me over the years, etc, but that route wasn't for me. Every part of the reproductive system is somewhat interconnected to the ovaries. They were the problem here. I wasn't willing to remove just the ovaries and have any chance that bad cells were somewhere in there lingering and waiting to strike.

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