Things have been super busy with clinicals, school, and life in general. Plus my physical therapist got sick, so I haven’t been to PT in 2 weeks. I’m officially cleared to not go to PT anymore but I like going because it is really helpful in loosening up my neck and back, which can get tight because of the mastectomy, exchange surgery, and all that time with my heavy rocks aka expanders.
Luckily, my plastic surgeon prescribed me PT after my mastectomy and exchange and referred me to a breast cancer specialist. It really does require a special level of expertise to work with patients after a mastectomy, especially if there are any lymphedema issues. After my mastectomy, I had cording even though the surgery was preventative and no lymph nodes were removed, and PT helped a lot. So, the moral of the story is: if you’re having a mastectomy and your doctor doesn’t offer these resources, I would highly recommend researching to find a PT breast specialist.
This may look like a pretty boring picture, but for me, it’s something I’ve been looking forward to for 6 months – our bed without a giant pregnancy pillow and underarm pillows. I’ve had to sleep on my back since my mastectomy in August. Since I’m a side sleeper, the only way to ensure I slept on my back was with a pregnancy pillow. The pillows were incredibly helpful and I’d recommend them to anyone having a mastectomy, but they are also HUGE and took up so much room on the bed, my poor hubby barely had any room.
Last week marked 6 weeks since my exchange/reconstruction surgery, which means I can finally ditch the pregnancy pillow and sleep on my side! It also means I get to sleep without a sports/surgical bra and I can now wear a normal bra during the day. At first, I had to get used to sleeping on my side because it felt different than it did before (you can feel the implant when you’re on your side). But after about 5 minutes, I was sound asleep. It’s so nice to be able to cuddle with my hubby and not have this giant freaking pillow in the way. The funny thing is, I end up waking up on my back a lot now – I guess I got used to it over the past 6 months. But being able to sleep on my side and without a surgical bra feels amazing. Another great step to feeling back to normal!
Sorry for being MIA for a little while. Things have been pretty busy since my last post. I turned 31 and had a karaoke party. It was great to be able to hang with friends, dance, sing, and enjoy some beverages. It was one of the first times I felt 100% back to my old self since my mastectomy in August. I’ve also been in my preceptorship/immersion part of nursing school, which means I’ll be spending 300 hours in Labor & Delivery this quarter. It’s been awesome. Sadly, my allergies got really really bad last week and I ended up getting pretty sick with sneezing/coughing/sore throat. I’m thankful I didn’t get sick at all during the initial recovery process because my chest is pretty sore from all the coughing, and I’m 6 weeks out from surgery. I can’t imagine how badly it would have hurt to be coughing a lot right after surgery, even laughing after my mastectomy was almost too much to handle.
Right now, I’m trying to balance feeling more and more like myself with making sure I still give myself enough time to rest and continue with my recovery. I’ll definitely be blogging more often, now that I’m feeling better!
Many people don’t realize that you can’t breastfeed after a double mastectomy. When I decided to have a preventive mastectomy, one of the hardest aspects was knowing I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed. I know that many women can’t breastfeed for a variety of reasons, or choose not to, and that there is nothing wrong with formula – but it still was a big decision to make. But, since my BRCA2 mutation breast cancer risk would have been especially dangerous during pregnancy, the decision to have the preventative mastectomy before ever getting pregnant made a lot of sense to me.
This article in the Washington Post really spoke to me. Please take a few minutes to read it, it is a great educational piece and will hopefully make people a little more sensitive about just assuming everyone can/wants to breastfeed.
I had my 1 month post-op appt today and everything went really well! The tissue damage is still healing nicely and everything is looking good. I got cleared to exercise and the 2 week countdown to side sleeping begins tomorrow. I also learned exercises to prevent capsular contracture (aka hardening) of my implants. I’ve gotten used to wearing a sports bra 24/7 but am really excited for when I can sleep without a bra and wear wireless ones. I can also cook again, as long as I’m super careful not to burn my numb boobs lol, so I’m planning on a lot of crock pot dishes. I start my clinical rotations this week, I’ll be doing around three 12-hour shifts/week this quarter.
I also had my first physical therapy appointment last week and it went really well. My range of motion and strength are great and even better than they were before I had the surgery (those expanders were definitely preventing me from using my full motion). I only have to go to PT once a week for 3-4 more weeks and then I’m all done.
Another recovery highlight was that Adam and I went out w friends on Friday night, and I was able to dance! I love love love dancing, so it was really fun to finally be able to after basically 5 months. I am so excited to be able to go back to Zumba and Cardio hip-hop. My next post-op isn’t for 6 more weeks, and I am definitely enjoying feeling more normal each day 🙂
Today marks 3 weeks since my exchange surgery. It’s super exciting because I was able to finally lift my arms above my shoulders, switch from a surgical bra to a sports bra, and drive on the highway! My mom met me at the mall to help me shop for sports bras, which was really helpful. Some of them I couldn’t even pull over my own shoulders so it was really nice having her there to help me out. We ended up finding winners at Lorna Jane, and the staff was super helpful, even bringing out a yoga mat so I could make sure the sports bra would be comfortable while I’m sleeping on my back. It’s also awesome to be able to lift my arms above my shoulders (or as Beyoncé says, “Flexin’ while my hands up My hands up, my hands up I stand up with my hands up.”
Yesterday, I had orientation for this quarter of nursing school, which is the immersion/preceptorship portion of the degree. I won’t have class next quarter, but will be in a maternity unit for 300 clinical hours and 60 project hours. I am super excited because I looooove clinicals and working directly with patients. Then one last quarter and I’m done! The other exciting part of orientation was learning all about graduation in June, taking the board exams, applying for jobs, and getting my RN license.
I’m really excited to move on from recovery mode into feeling more like myself. I start physical therapy tomorrow and only 3 more weeks until I can sleep without a bra, wear a normal bra, and sleep on my side!!!!
2014 has definitely been a challenging but rewarding year. The challenging stuff was definitely tough (mastectomy recovery, balancing nursing school and 3 cancer prevention surgeries, the hardest quarter of nursing school, the “hole in my boob” saga, acquiring hella medical bill debt) but the rewarding stuff was amazing (starting this blog, educating thousands about BRCA and cancer prevention, successful final surgery this month, becoming part of the BRCA community, and being so grateful for my husband, friends, and family for their support and being amazing caregivers).
I’m really excited for 2015! 2015 will mean the mastectomy journey is complete, I will graduate nursing school in June and start my career as a nurse. Hopefully Adam & I can get some traveling in. And – I’ll finally get to sleep on my side again & hopefully pay off that medical bill debt lol 🙂 Thanks for making 2014 so rewarding and here’s to a great 2015! I’ve got big plans for Funky Genes, can’t wait to share them!
(source: my musical muse)
I had a bunch of tape all over my chest from surgery and it was coming loose in a lot of spots, so I got the okay from my nurse to remove the tape. Luckily my friend (who also happens to be a nursing student) was coming over today, so she was able to help me remove it all and did an awesome job. I’m sensitive to tape, so I have crazy looking blood blisters all over that almost look like tiger stripes – but other than that everything looks great! I had the same blood blisters after my mastectomy too and last time they went away in a few weeks and they should this time too. It feels so nice to have all the tape off! Now I just have a bit of tape over the incisions to help with scarring.
One more week until I can lift my arms above my shoulders and switch to a sports bra instead of my surgical bra, woo-hoo!
I had my follow-up appointment with my surgeon today. My appointment on Monday where I got my drain and stitches out was with the nurse (heck yes to nursing skillz), so today was the first time I’ve seen my surgeon since my surgery 10 days ago. She was very happy with how everything looked and told me she was 80% sure going into the OR that I would have to keep the expander on the left side, so thanks for everyone’s good vibes, thoughts, and prayers – they definitely helped! Things are still healing but look pretty good for only 10 days out. I got the okay to go on 2 hour excursions today so Adam and I went to lunch to celebrate after my appointment. I also learned how to do these “displacement” exercises on the implants to get them to move more down and to the middle since my expanders were higher and more to the side. The exercises are a little uncomfortable, but I’m happy to do what I can to make them look better than they already do. I am really happy with how they feel, they feel way more like my natural breasts that I had ever imagined. I am so happy to have those expanders out. The hole that was sutured up is healing nicely and I’ll be able to switch to a sports bra instead of a surgical bra 3 weeks from surgery. Then, 6 weeks from surgery, I can FINALLY sleep on my side (haven’t been able to since August) and can wear a normal non-underwire bra. I’m cutting way down on pain meds and should be off them really soon, so I’m feeling more and more like myself. So, very happy with how today went!