Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Reconstruction...

Well this is a topic I haven't really blogged...and have no intention of blogging on my main blog...


I guess that's for a few reasons.....


I sometimes feel as though this entire journey has become a saga...I worry people grow tired of hearing about it...so I would prefer to keep it to myself


Its also a personal topic...I mean ....just how much do you share?....how much is over share.?... and does it make people look at you differently once they know the full story....


But....because I'm a believer in keeping it real....and mainly because I want it recorded..... here is a brief history of my breast reconstruction journey...


I was never defined by my breasts.... I wasn't large breasted...and I have never longed for large ones....or dressed to emphasize them... in fact after my left mastectomy I was quite comfortable with the way my body now looked..... I realised I really didn't have attachment to them.... by taking one away...I still felt whole....I still felt like me.


But....dressing like 'me'...was a whole other story....I was limited to clothes that where high enough that if I bent over no-one could notice that my chest was flat on one side....and swimming in bathers was crossed off the list....not that I swim much....but it was a limitation....and I am young...and I have life to live....I don't want restrictions.


So...when my Surgeon at the breast clinic told me that my risk of another cancer developing in my right breast was quite high.... there seemed no other decision to us....that right breast (and the risk) had to go.

So my Surgeon (whom I'm so grateful for) referred me to a Plastic Surgeon so we could chat about the possibilities of reconstruction in the future....and I was added to the waiting list for a prophylactic right mastectomy.


I'm not even sure now when I first met Dr Nicola Dean who is my Plastic Surgeon but she is fabulous... she is clever, professional, caring, kind, thoughtful and I had complete and utter faith in her always (as you can see... I cant speak highly enough of her)....I'm once again so grateful that life brought me Dr Dean.


In initial visits we talked about the options as far as reconstruction go.....and there are many.

Her preferred option (using muscle from the back) gives a great end result but takes a little longer to recover from.... but because I wanted to continue working and didn't want a lengthy recovery I preferred a less invasive method....and was happy to accept that they may not be as perfect as possible. Dr Dean was very accomadating of my wishes and I was very grateful of that.

We finally decided on reconstruction using expanders under the skin to create a 'pocket' and then finally implants... this would enable me to continue working...and lifting....not jeopardising my strength needed for work.

So now I was on the waiting list for right mastectomy and bilateral tissue expanders....and we began the wait.


September 1st 2009 - I was admitted to ward 5c at FMC for right mastectomy and bilateral tissue expanders. I was actually excited to get this next part of the journey under way.


September 4th - the drains were removed and I was discharged home. I wasn't really prepared for just how painful the recovery was....I naively thought that this would be a simple procedure...I mean....it sounds simple doesn't it. What I wasn't aware of initially is that in order to make the pockets for the implants....the expanders have to be inserted up under the muscle....so my pec muscle had been cut in places to allow access..and then lifted up from the chest wall to make a cavity...and yes...it hurt...a lot!

September 10th - I returned to Adelaide for a check-up at the plastics clinic...I was feeling pretty flat and sore on my left side...although my recovery otherwise was going well.

September 11th - I spiked a temperature and was feeling terribly unwell. I visited our local outpatients and was commenced on some oral antibiotics.

September 12th - the pain had increased in my left breast and I was feeling like I had the flu.... temperatures continued - so I made an appointment with my GP.

September 14th - Still unwell.. still temperatures - back to my GP who took bloods and updated the plastics team via the phone.

September 15th - my blood results were a little abnormal and Dr Dean and the plastics team requested that I return to FMC via the emergency department - so we made a mad dash back to Adelaide... we arrived around 5pm ... I got my first taste of public outpatient clinics....it was so busy...and I'm not sure if the communication broke down or what.....but I was there until 2pm the following day when I was finally admitted back to a bed in 5c. The staff were lovely...and I was started on IV antibiotics but it was still a very long wait...with very little food or water.

September 16th - I'm back in ward 5c - fasting and waiting to return to theatre at 9pm to have the left expander removed and the cavity flushed. I woke from my anaesthetic with drains back in place and feeling a lot more comfortable.

September 18th - I returned to theatre again and had the drain removed and a new expander inserted.

September 19th - I was discharged for the second time and we spent the weekend in Adelaide with the kids... it was lovely ....we celebrated Ian and Alex's birthdays with a nice dinner and enjoyed being all together as a family again.

September 24th - back to Adelaide for a checkup - feeling well.

October 8th - back to the plastics clinic and finally I'm on track and the expansion can begin. Its a very simple procedure....over a period of time small amounts of saline are added through a port under the skin. As the expander is filled...the skin stretches and adjusts. This procedure is repeated at two week intervals until the required volume is reached then the expanders are removed and permanent implants inserted. So today....is the day I finally begin the expansion-Dr Dean wants to take it slowly... particularly on the left so I think my first expansion was only around 50mls.

October 22nd - back to the plastics clinic for another expansion - still only around 50mls

October 29th - back to plastics clinic - expansion

November 12th - back to plastics clinic - expansion

November 30th - back to plastics clinic - expansion

December 17th - back to plastics clinic - expansion - I seem to have developed a redness on the left side and my scar is stretching very thin on the lateral edge but I'm well and have no pain and the expansion is still happening slowly so I'm not worried. Dr Dean asks me to watch it and notify her immediately of any changes. I'm so used to not having breasts that by now even with this amount of expansion I'm referring to myself as Dolly Parton and loving that I can finally wear clothes...any clothes.

December 23rd - I notice a dark spot appearing on the thin scar line so I contact the Dr Dean who advises me to attend the clinic the following day so she can review it.

December 24th - Mitch comes with me...and we make a dash to the plastics clinic. Dr Dean removes some fluid from the expander to take the pressure off the skin / scar ...asks that I take it easy and done work for 10 days or so to allow the skin to repair and we return home to enjoy Christmas.

December 28th -I notice that the dark spot has now become a hole... mmmm... possibly not the best thing to happen...

December 29th - I make an early appointment to see my GP who looks and decides its not a job for him...its a job for Dr Dean... she advises him to remove some more fluid and begins the process of getting plans in place for me to return to Adelaide.

December 30th - My dear boss John drives me back to FMC ...where I'm admitted back to ward 5c and reviewed by Dr Dean. (Once again I have to repeat how fabulous she is...I'm sure she mustn't sleep or take time off.... each time Ive had a hiccup she has been there...always reassuring...) So unfortunaly the expander has broken through the skin and while I'm well and have no infection the best option is to have them removed and my permanent implants put in. This all came as a bit of a shock initially....here I was back in Adelaide at New Year....not what Id planned... but when I thought about it more....what a blessing!

This operation was inevitable....and to have it earlier than planned...and to get it all over before the New Year....that could only be a blessing..

December 31st - I'm first cab off the rank and in to theatre nice and early.... it was lovely to see Dr Deans smiling face and waving hands as I was wheeled into theatre again.....for the final time.

This operation was a breeze for me - the pain was minimal....and after the expanders which felt hard the new implants felt comfortable. There was no drains...and once the anaesthetic wore off I seriously felt fabulous. I have a couple of nice long incisions under my breasts which are still to heal....and some sutures on the top of my left one where the expander broke through...but each day I just feel better and better....

So that is my story to date....somewhere in excess of 14 trips to Adelaide.... 3 hospital stays..... 4 trips to theatre....and a memorable night in the FMC Emerg department.....I guess it possibly explains why this year has felt like a blur.

I should add we have also had a wonderful year.... with a cruise in June/July with dear friends....and Bellas 1st birthday and Alex's 21st birthday as well as weekends away....Ive continued to work full time as much as possible... but I'm kind of glad to leave 2009 behind in my memories and move on to a fabulous 2010 with a new set of boobs.

5 comments:

Ali :-) said...

Hey Mardi,

I always read your main blog but very rarely comment - slacker I am!

I wanted to comment here and tell you that you are such an amazing inspiration. You've had so much sh*t thrown at you to deal with and the way that you've handled it is just awe-inspiring.

You've got an amazing strength about you. An absolute fighter.

Wishing you the VERY best 2010 - with nothing but good things for you and those you love!!!!

Take care,
Ali :o) xoxo

Leanne said...

Yah she has a new set of "boobies" Glad to hear that it is all finally all over for you chickadee. You have me in teas everyime I read about your expaditions......
Praying that 2010 is an event free year for you Mardi.
Loads of love hugs and kisses to you xxx

Leanne said...

oops that should read TEARS not TEAS lol

kerry said...

MArdi i alays read your blog too.I hope that all goes well for you in 2010.You are looking amazing.Take care Kerry xx

Lea said...

Mardi I just wanted to let you know that I have followed your chemo journal. i think it is nice to know who is reading your blog especially when one is so very brave and puts their life out there as you do. I love your honesty, humour and positive approach to each and every challenge. You are an inspiration really and I think people relate to and connect to others especially when they share your journey in the way you have. Sometimes I simply don't have the words to leave a comment but I wanted to tell you that everytime I support pink, I think of you and I now check my breasts on a regular basis-something I never bothered do before.