4 years on – progress

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My art practise continues. I’ve taken up ceramics now too, and I love it!

I’ve hesitated about writing this post, because I think it might be boring for some long time readers. But then I think that maybe by reading it, it will help someone to make a decision about their options, or help someone to be better informed about what to expect in the healing process, so I’m writing this with them in mind.

4 years on from the first major surgery, here’s how my body is faring…. in a word, it is doing well! The pressure I’ve felt on my abdomen is way less, my torso no longer has that twisted feeling. It is much, much better! It does still feel slightly tight. I don’t have feeling on a good portion of my stomach or any part of my breasts. I can’t feel anything that touches those areas, but I can feel pressure. Maybe the healing happens from the inside out, so you can’t feel anything on the surface, but inside, new nerves are growing and mending. That’s what I hope anyway!

Appearance wise, the scars are well faded. You can still see them, but they are fine white lines. There are a few ridges around the scars but nothing too worrying. I still can’t wear a proper bra, as they feel too uncomfortable, so I stick to light crop tops or a maternity bra, which is softer than a regular bra. You can find some nice ones nowadays!

Other than that, my breasts look great, probably better than pre surgery. They are fuller and rounder than before, my stomach is flatter. I have helped the healing process along with regular exersize sessions with a personal trainer a couple of times a week this past 12 months. That has helped strengthen my core, regain flexibility and take off any excess weight. So, appearance wise, I am very happy with the outcome. My surgeon, James, did a fantastic job.

Would I make this choice again? Definitely. It’s hard but it’s worth it. I read on the weekend that some implants (perhaps only ones used for cosmetic breast surgery?) are causing cancer. I am relieved I don’t have to worry about any of those sorts of complications or future surgery. It always felt right for me to go with the option where I used my own tissue to rebuild my breasts. Others will make the decision that feels right to them. I am fortunate to have been able to afford the more invasive surgery too.

In an emotional sense, I am still coming to terms with all the other unexpected changes in my life. I don’t think I have any lingering or unresolved emotion about the surgery. If I ever start a new relationship, I am sure there will be a few “issues” in trusting someone, physically and emotionally again, but I’ll deal with that if and when it happens. It just takes time, and a willingness to deal with it all I suppose.

I love the new place where I live in Queensland. Every morning I wake up and say, “thank you God” for the peaceful, beautiful place I live. I love being able to hear the sounds of the waves outside my window. (Who knew it was so soothing?!) I miss seeing my children every day but they are well settled in new homes in Sydney with their friends (and loving it!). We see each other often with flights back and forth. I love having them to stay. It is great to spend good quality time with them and we stay well connected in between visits (hooray for the iphone!).

I am reading a book about a man who loses his girlfriend at the same time their first child is born, “In every moment we are still alive”. It speaks of another man who is asked, following the death of his son, “The grief you are feeling now, would you exchange it for never having known Johannes at all?” It is a good question to ask yourself after a loss I think. Would you take the pain away, if it meant never having had the experience of love in the first place? Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all. True. The gain is worth the pain. I think that about my surgery too – very hard to do but WAY better than having cancer or living with the fear of it. Way better.

Sending love to all readers – those I know and those I don’t. If you are considering this surgery I send you special love. If you know someone about to go through it, or who has been through it, thank you for taking the time to learn about it. I hope it helps inform your decisions and expectations.

The healing continues …

IMG_2208.jpgIt’s now two and a half years since my first surgery. Time for an update on my body’s healing process. I feel like long time readers of my blog must be thinking, “Isn’t she over all of that YET?!” Don’t worry, I feel like that too! One day I hope there will be nothing to report on my body front.

One of the main reasons I set up this blog was to share my story with those who may be contemplating, or travelling, a similar path, and to help those around them to understand what it is like to have this surgery. What I’d mainly like people to know (and what I wish I’d known myself!) is that it just takes a really long time to heal. It DOES get better, very slowly but surely. And there are things you can do to ensure you heal as best you can.

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The body beautiful – 18 months on

FullSizeRender[1]I said I’d update on where I’m at with my healing progress six months ago, so here’s the latest on my post surgery body, 18 months after my double mastectomy and muscle sparing TRAM reconstruction surgery.

Overall, I’d say I’m progressing well. I’m still really conscious of my tight stomach and numb torso each day, but it is WAY better than it was. The stiffness is less, the discomfort is reduced, my general feeling of well being has much improved. Still a way to go, but I definitely feel like I am “getting there”.

I had my final check up with James, my plastic surgeon last week. He is really pleased with my physical progress. I didn’t expect to, but I cried when he asked me, sincerely and kindly, how I feel about the breast surgery now. It just brings up so much sadness for me. As James says, I’m healing well on the outside, but have a way to go on the inside.

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Mighty Martha – 3 years on

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Martha on Rainbow Beach ~ 2000 (pre breast cancer)

Today it is three years since Martha passed away, over there to heaven, out of her tired and painful body. I do remember that day with sadness, but as the years have gone on, it has become a day to celebrate too. I know now that Martha lives on in a new realm with Lou. They’ve run their life races here, and now I feel like it is time for me to pick up where they left off, make the most of my life, and celebrate the creative spirit that has awakened in me since Martha passed away.

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.

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Two steps forward and one step back

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Oh I thought my next post was going to be such a positive “YAY! I am nearly there!” one … and I AM nearly there. On the weekend I did my first “proper” walk, around Cremorne Point (my favorite and surely one of the most beautiful urban walks in the world), which took me 90 minutes, rather than the usual hour. But I did it and I loved it so hooray for that. I’ve also stopped taking any prescription pills since about 10 days ago and am only taking a few over-the-counter pain medications a couple of times a day now. I’ve finally dropped the afternoon nap too, in an effort to help me sleep better at night. That seems to be working well. Two months today since my surgery and yes, I have made so much progress since then.

That’s all the good stuff!

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Silver linings … and more girl talk

"Soar high" by my sister, Paula

“Soar high” by my sister, Paula

I received a lovely email yesterday from an old friend, in which he said:  “I’m sure you’ll look back in a few years and reflect on this time as one of enormous growth and a period which has given you such a different and important way of thinking. I guess that’s often the beauty of challenging times and this silver lining comes to us all a bit later on. Life is an interesting old journey isn’t it?”

Well, it sure is! I think I have learned more in the last two years about how life works than I have in the previous fifty! And yes, one of my learnings is that in hard times there is always a reason for them, and a lesson (or two or three or more!) to be learned.

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Girl talk (aka “how my body is healing up”)

"Femininity" by Martha 2004

“Femininity” by Martha 2004

This post is mainly for us women, especially those who have had, or who are contemplating having a similar surgery to mine. I don’t mind at all if you men read it, but I’m just alerting you that this is the “Sarah’s bosoms” update for anyone who is interested. It’s light weight but I don’t want anyone thinking “Whoa! Too much information!” And no, there are no photos of my breasts! I’m happy for anyone and everyone to read if interested, just giving you the heads up on what is to follow!

Anyway, two and a bit weeks after my surgery, here’s how my body is going …

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WITH GRATITUDE …

begin each day with a grateful heart

Today marks two weeks since my surgery and my fourth day out of hospital. I have never been so glad to be home! I wasn’t really conscious of it while I was in there, but now that I’m home, the peaceful contrast is amazing – it is so noisy in hospital! Trolleys clattering past, people chatting in the hallways, let alone the incessant parade of people in and out of my room with meals, blood pressure and temperature checks, medication deliveries, injections, wound dressing changes, cleaners, surgeon’s visits etc etc etc going on every hour of the day (and much of the night too!). So it is wonderful to be home, back in my own quiet space, relishing every little thing like being able to have a cup of tea in my own familiar cup – heaven!

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MASTECTOMY and RECONSTRUCTION – how does it feel from the inside?

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Here I am at Day Nine post surgery. And now planning on going home tomorrow- yeah! When the doctors told me there would be a 12 week recovery period post surgery, I thought they were being a bit ridiculous, but now that I’ve been through it, I think I will be taking every minute of that time to just lie around, pamper myself like never before and let myself heal, heal, heal!

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Slowly, gently moving forward

This is one of my favorite quotes which inspired this painting of mine earlier this year. And I guess it best describes how I’m feeling today. Very tired, very sore but also confident that I’m headed in the right direction!

I think for most of this past week I have just been a physical & emotional wreck. Functioning, passing all the key milestones but just feeling like I have been on some sort of scary alien planet!

However, today is another story and I’m feeling like I’m coming back to being me. Dazed, battered, bruised but underneath it all, still me! Energy levels are still v low, so special thanks to my husband for keeping you all updated.

Anyway, a week down the track from surgery things are slowly coming back into focus & I’m getting into the swing of the (v busy!) hospital routine. Hoping to be home by the weekend but no pressure. Just taking each day as it comes.

Bring on the pain relief, bring on the healing & being on the peace!

With much love & thanks for all of your messages. I’m reading them all but no energy to respond. I will get there!

Sarah
💗💚💜

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