Fair warning: I’m about to say nipples a lot. If you want to play a drinking game – drink every time I say nipple. Tomorrow is my first surgery, the nipple delay. It’s an outpatient surgery that should take about 1.5 hours. During the operation, my breast surgeon lifts the skin from the tissue and takes samples from the nipple to make sure there are no pre-cancerous or cancerous cells, so I can keep my nipples (I should have the pathology report on Thursday). Also, this surgery stresses out my skin and causes the blood flow to start changing a week before the mastectomy, making the mastectomy a tiny bit less traumatic and increasing the likelihood my nipples will survive the mastectomy. My mastectomy is the following Tuesday the 26th and I’ll be in the hospital for a few nights after that one with a 4-5 week recovery period.
To prepare for tomorrow’s surgery, I did a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment per my doctor’s recommendation. The reason to do the hyperbaric treatment is for faster healing after surgery. I was a bit scared, but it was actually really relaxing. You get into this big giant tube and it feels like you’re in an airplane with your ears popping a lot at first. Luckily, they gave me water and gummy candies to help with that. It isn’t like an MRI, so you are able to move around all you want. They had a bunch of movies to choose from and I picked Legally Blonde 2. It was a pretty good choice because it was exactly the length of my session, 1.5 hours! I felt really relaxed after my session and am going to go back again the day before the mastectomy.
I am a bit nervous for tomorrow, but really trust my team and am ready to begin this process. The anesthesiologist called me tonight to go over my allergies, which I thought was awesome. The only bummer is my surgery is not until 3:45 so I may be pretty hungry/thirsty all day tomorrow since I can’t eat/drink before surgery. Anyhoo please send good vibes/energy/prayers for me tomorrow afternoon. Adam will be guest blogging during my recovery so I’m sure he’ll post an update on how everything went.
In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of me in the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
I had my pre-op with my breast surgeon last week, and my pre-op with my reconstructive surgeon today. I did everything from my tips for appointments list, and I feel pretty prepared for the upcoming surgeries. Actually, I feel prepared for what to expect, but unprepared in terms of getting everything done before then. My nipple delay is this coming Monday, and I have lots of schoolwork to do before then. I want to get everything done before then if possible because writing papers while on painkillers could either have a really good or really bad outcome. 🙂
After these appointments, I know some supplies I need to pick up in advance, along with some meds. I’m really thankful that I have such great doctors. They both spend a lot of time with me and answer all of my questions. They are honest and kind and experts in their fields, and I’m just so happy with my team. Now, back to that schoolwork…
My nipple delay is in a week, and mastectomy in two weeks. I’m getting everything ready and finishing up all my schoolwork. Something else I’m doing that is really important is celebrating my breasts. I need to say goodbye to them and thank them and then welcome my foobs (fake boobs) with open arms. I’m doing some things to celebrate them.
1. My mother-in-law threw a “Bye Bye Boobies” party for me yesterday. It was so awesome to be in a room full of strong, supportive women who are completely encouraging me on this journey. The setup was beautiful with pink and teal (for breast and ovarian cancer) decorations, food, balloons, and even tutus. There were boob related foods like boob cupcakes and pink ribbon cookies. We played pin the boobies on Rachel (luckily on a life-size photo of me and not my actual boobs). I gave a little talk about hereditary breast and ovarian cancer and the BRCA gene. It literally brought me to tears to feel all of the support in the room and it was a great way to put me in a positive mindset before my surgery.
2. Last month, I applied for a Keep a Breast Treasure Chest kit and I was given one! It is a program to memorialize your breasts if you are going through breast cancer or undergoing a prophylactic mastectomy. My husband helped me make the cast tonight and it turned out awesome! It is so nice to have a piece of art to memorialize my breasts. I hope to have an artist friend paint it for me!
3. I’m talking to my body. It may sound strange, but I’m (silently) talking to my body each night preparing it for what is going to happen and how I am doing this to be healthier. I’m also thanking my breasts and preparing my body for the new ones.
I’ve come up with a list of items that I think will come in handy after my mastectomy. I came up with the list from talking with other BRCA carriers who had prophylactic mastectomies, attending the FORCE conference, and also read this great book. My list is below in case it’s helpful to anyone else getting ready for this surgery.
- Pillows, pillows, and more pillows
- Pre-packed hospital bag
- Mindfulness CDs
- Slippers and robe
- Eye mask and earplugs
- Comfy blanket
- Mastectomy seatbelt cover
- Silk button up pajamas
- Button up t-shirts
- Elastic band pants
- Drain holders for shower
- Toiletries to help when you can’t shower (dry shampoo, cleansing wipes)
- Throat lozenges (for after being intubated)
- Alcohol wipes and gloves for drain cleaning
- logs for drainage and medication
If you have suggestions for other items I should pick up, please let me know!!
“Are you scared?” That’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately. I’m happy that my friends/family are comfortable enough to ask me that question. Weirdly, the closer I get to surgery, the less scared I am. Maybe it is because I’m so busy with finishing up schoolwork and making sure everything is organized before my surgery date. The mastectomy is scary, it is a 7 hour surgery with a lot of moving parts. But, in the end, my breast cancer risk is lowered from 87% to 1%. And that is what makes me have a very positive outlook about my mastectomy.
Tomorrow is my pre-op appointment with my breast surgeon. We will discuss the nipple delay (happening on 8/18) and the mastectomy (happening on 8/26). I always prepare before important appointments, and here are some of my tips.
- Audio record the appointment. You will forget a lot of what is discussed during important appointments, and sometimes you can be on information overload. If you have it on tape, you can listen to it later to remember what was discussed.
- The day before your appointment, write down a list of questions you want to ask. If you have loved ones who are involved in your care, go over the list with them as well in case they think of additional questions.
- If you can, always have someone with you at the appointment. Bringing a trusted family member or friend can help. They will remember to ask things you forget, and they can act as your advocate if needed.
- Bring a notebook
- Don’t be shy – ask what is on your mind and always advocate for yourself
As my mastectomy approaches, I’ve been doing more shopping to get things prepped. Sometimes, people working at the stores will ask me what kind of surgery I’m having and it’s a bit awkward. Like when I needed to buy a wireless bra today for after the nipple delay. I was explaining to the saleslady that I was having surgery and needed a bra that wouldn’t irritate my incisions. Since it’s LA, I realize she probably thinks I’m getting a boob job. On the other hand, I don’t know if I want to tell her I’m having a preventative mastectomy. In the end, she asked when my surgery was happening and I explained the surgery I was having. She was so sweet and told me how I’d do great after my mastectomy – and she helped me pick out a great wireless bra.
I’m working on a checklist of things to have to prepare for a mastectomy, so I can add it to my blog and help others prep. In the meantime, check out the footage from this awesome session I went to during the FORCE conference.
Today is one month until my mastectomy on August 26th (AKA ticking time bomb breasts removal). It’s crazy that I found out about my BRCA mutation in 2007, made the decision to have a preventative mastectomy this December, and started Funky Genes in May. The time has flown by and I honestly can’t believe the surgery is coming up so soon. Luckily, I feel really prepared and have the next month to finalize everything I need during recovery.
Am I scared? Yep. Am I still 100% confident in my decision? Absolutely. My support network and the people I’ve reached through my decision to go public with this journey have been incredible. I’ve had tons of friends and family offer their support, and I’ve even had some reach out to me about getting the BRCA genetic test themselves. I’ve even had people I don’t know reach out to me because they had questions about BRCA and found my blog online.
So, on the one month countdown to my mastectomy, here’s a reminder why considering genetic testing is important.