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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How does it feel? – from the inside, looking out

Elle Magazine - USA - June 2015

Elle Magazine – USA – June 2015

This is a post to mark one year since my second reconstructive breast surgery in June last year. I wasn’t going to post anything at all, since there is not much change to report with my body, other than the continuing VERY slow progress of healing. I’m determined that it’s not finished yet, but we will see!

However, today I was reading a great series of articles in the June 2015 USA edition of Elle magazine about women and their breasts and how they feel about them – whether healthy, not healthy, big, small, happy, unhappy or an assortment of other feelings. If you are reading my blog because of your interest in my breast surgery, or someone close to you, then it is worth tracking down the issue.

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Moving on up!

IMG_8900This year I am doing something really special for myself. I’m spending lots of time in beautiful Noosa in Queensland, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. I’ve always loved it, and we’ve holidayed there quite often over the years. And of course, we spent so much time in Noosa with my sister Martha (who had lived there for ten years) in the months before she passed away. Since then, I have discovered and grown to love Sunshine Beach up there. It’s where we scattered Martha’s ashes because it is the beach that she really loved. I scattered part of Lou’s ashes there too. It comforts me to think of my two sisters being together. I’ve found that a walk on that beautiful beach, at the beginning or end of the day is really peaceful and uplifting to me.

When I was up in Sunshine Beach this past December, as I have been on each of Martha’s anniversaries, I saw that the townhouse/apartment behind the place I usually stay in was up for permanent rental. In the split second that I saw the “to let” sign, something in me said to myself “I am going to live and paint there!” I’d had no thought of anything like that before, and it took a while to make sense for me. I just knew I needed to be there and spend some quiet time on my own. I’ve listened to my heart, trusted my vibe, done what my wise self was telling me: use this time to explore my creative self in peaceful solitude and a beautiful place that I love. Continue reading

Life goes on …

life goes on frangipani JPEGTwelve 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!).

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Eleven months on – lessons learned

photo[9]For those of you wondering, here’s how I’m faring 11 months after the first surgery, and six weeks after the second….

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

Getting so much better all the time

10151919_287529301420517_6032147868471510115_nTen 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!

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Finishing line ahead …

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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

All good!

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! 😊

 

Body update – 9 months post surgery

photo[58]I just read this on a breast cancer website: “In Australia, around 5,000 women have a mastectomy every year, but only 6% to 12% of these go on to have reconstructions. This compares with 42% of women in the US and 16.5% in England.” It is thought that this is because when diagnosed with breast cancer, Australian women are not being as well informed and empowered about all of their treatment options.

I suppose that means I’m one of only 500 Australian women in the past year that have had a mastectomy and reconstruction. A much smaller proportion had bilateral surgeries (on both breasts). And most reconstructions are done with implants, not a tissue transplant (TRAM or DIEP) as I have had so I am a rare breed! That being said, when you see the low rates of breast reconstruction in Australia, it makes sense that this rate is rising fast, as information and awareness improves, especially with the “Angelina effect” on preventative mastectomies.

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