December 7 will always be important – time to reflect on Martha’s life, and celebrate the person that she was to me. I don’t think either of us ever really knew or understood the connection that we shared. I loved her, supported her and honored her while she was alive, but now I can see more clearly her most special attributes: brave, independent, expressive, creative, kind, vulnerable – a truly beautiful soul. Those of you that knew her well would agree I am sure! She wasn’t perfect, none of us are. But the thing that I love and admire most about her now is that she was true to herself all along.
When I started this blog last year, it was really to keep family and friends updated on my progress through my breast surgery and recovery, with a view to using it in future for my possible art business. As time has gone on, the thing that I really love is when my blog helps someone else. I have received quite a number of comments and emails from other women, who have been through, or will be going through the same breast reconstruction, and they tell me it has helped to hear of my experience too.
With that in mind, today I want to share something that has really helped me in a broader sense over the last few years, through the loss of my two sisters, my business and my breast surgery and recovery. I have had plenty of time to have a good think about my life to date, and how I would like it to be going forward. I have started to see things in a whole new way. I have developed a “life philosophy” of sorts that really helps me make sense of things, to live in the moment more and not to worry so much. I call it “My life is a movie”. It’s a bit out there, but it works for me, and I hope it resonates with (and helps!) even one other person reading this post. For the record, here’s what I now believe life is all about (aka “the meaning of life” according to Sarah – haha!)
Twelve months today since my first, 12 hour surgery and I have to say I am quite pleased with myself to be crossing this “finishing line”! It’s not really the finish – I’d say I’m about 85% healed. It’s a long slow recovery, but I’m getting there.
So, just to mark the occasion, and for reference by others contemplating or comparing surgery results a year down the track, here’s how it feels for me. (I really am quite bored of this topic by now, so apologies to those who are totally over it too!).
This year I am studying Surface Design at the International School of Colour and Design here in Sydney, and I am learning so much! The course teaches the technical aspects of how to create your art so that it can be applied to surfaces and products. I am loving it! So far we have created designs for tea towels, swimwear fabric, bedlinen and currently, patterns for the outer surface of candles.
One of the things I love about the class is seeing each different person’s interpretation of the same brief. I am always interested to see all the variety styles that are presented, each one representing the artist’s “look”. It is lovely to see the range of unique handwriting for the same assignment.
Mainly, I am just so relieved to have the surgeries behind me now, and, best of all, no more ahead of me. I am so grateful that, while this whole experience has not been a pleasant one, at least I’m not unwell, or suffering a progressive, debilitating illness. I am done with surgery! The last of my bandages were removed this week, so that was a great milestone to pass. My breast shape looks really good (thank you James!) although, of course, they are still totally numb to me. But they look good, so that’s a plus! It really is a miracle of modern science and James’ talents to think that I have had every one of my original breast cells removed, and now have my abdominal tissue transplanted to look pretty much like the real deal! I have scars circling each nipple (or where my right nipple used to be anyway) and vertical ones from nipple to under bust, as well as along the base of both breasts. They are fairly clean, fine lines and I know they will fade. All good there. Continue reading
Tags: abdominal stiffness TRAM surgery, breast reconstruction, breast surgery, breast surgery recovery, grief, muscle sparing TRAM reconstruction, nipple necrosis, prophylactic mastectomy, scars after breast reconstruction, TRAM flap transplant
Today marks a sad milestone for my family. Twelve months ago today my sister Lou made the decision to end her life. Lou was such a gentle soul and it shocked us all deeply to hear of the tragedy that day.
Lou was an intelligent, graceful, sensitive woman, qualified as an architect, financial planner and teacher. She was also a great traveller, a photographer and a prolific writer. But most of all, she was a precious soul – kind, gentle and thoughtful. I really do not think for a moment she meant to bring any harm or distress to anyone, and would be deeply sad to know of the grief so many have endured in the aftermath.
Ten months today since my first surgery and yes, I do feel like I am getting better and coming to the end of this chapter. Bring it on! I want to finish being a breast patient and move on to being an artist. I don’t want to be “that poor woman who lost her sisters and her business and her breasts”. I want to be “that successful artist with an amazing global art business, inspired by her beautiful sisters in heaven”. Just putting it out there – that’s my big, hairy, audacious goal!
I am very happy to let you know that I left hospital on Saturday, 48 hours after my surgery, and am now happily ensconced at home, focusing on my #1 priority: REST! I think every cell in my body is heaving a sigh of relief that the surgery is over at last. I’ve been feeling like I was wandering around with a dark heavy blanket over me for so long and now it has lifted – thank you God!
In the end, the surgery took almost four hours. Fat was transferred from my hips to round out my breasts and the scars on my breasts were neatened up. I haven’t seen the end result yet, as everything is still under bandages, but I feel like the final outcome is going to be really good! The diagram shows you what was done (from what I can gather!) and I will get the bandages off on Thursday for the big reveal. I am looking forward to it! Continue reading
Just reporting in that all is well! I’m sitting up in my “airy, light filled room”, just as requested. Thank you God!
It was confronting going through each step of the pre surgery procedure early yesterday morning. Funny how your brain just blocks traumatic experiences out, and then gets triggered as each little reminder turns up! So I was a bit teary when I came round the corner & saw those pre op beds. And again when those pre med lines were being inserted (“Ohhhhh no! Not again!), but on the whole kept it together okay. Plenty of deep breaths!
This hospital is so much quieter & brighter again than St V’s so I am loving that. Didn’t sleep much last night, just dozed, so I will be resting most of today.
James has just been in to see me this morning and he’s happy with everything. I’ve had my drip & oxygen tubes removed – yeah! Then a quick sponge bath and into my own nightshirt – superb. Dosed up with pain killers and am feeling fine, all things considered!
Thanks so much for all the love and prayers sent my way – they are working! 😊
After weeks of count down, the big day for my follow up surgery arrives tomorrow. I have to say it has been a bit of a struggle to keep my anxious mind calm as I head into it. I think last time I was worried about the unknown (“will they find cancer?”) and this time it is dreading the known downsides of my last surgery – needles, blood, pain, bandages, scars – all things I hate!
I know that this surgery is WAY less invasive than last time, but I’m really not looking forward to revisiting ANY of the trauma of it again. So I have been piling on the soothing rituals, speaking gently to myself and visualizing a positive outcome – a smooth surgery and a quick and easy recovery.