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Category Archives: Recovery

Four Years And Still In Mourning

Today I gave a pep talk to a woman I admire in hopes that some of my own life experience might help her. She is having problems with both men and women who feel that it is okay to say cruel and hateful things to her simply because they disagree with her. The tone of her initial post felt like she was about ready to throw in the towel on doing the work she enjoys because of these hateful people. So I posted the following to her:

I want to tell you a story and I hope this helps you get your feet under you a bit better. Several years ago, back before I was a skeptic and before I had a decent sense of self worth, I had a boob job. I hated the way they looked after breastfeeding two kids and I thought that, as I approached the age of 40, it would make me feel better about myself.

I ended up developing necrosis due to unconfirmed surgical complications and I lost both of my nipples and areolae. I don’t know if there’s a worse experience than watching your own intimate body parts rot away but if there is, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

There’s much more to the story which you can read on http://boobcast.com if you are interested.

About a year after my chest healed, (I was severely deformed and required two reconstruction surgeries which i have long since had, to rousing success) I was finally in a mental state to start writing about what happened to me. I was bound and determined to write about it because if I DIDN’T write about it publicly, then, in my mind, the hack that did this to me would win.

That wouldn’t do.

There were SO many times when I had to stop in the middle of writing a post and go have a good, long cry. But I did it. I did it because I REFUSED to let my situation dictate my life. I refused to let what others told me change what I truly thought was the right thing to do.

Boobcast has made a real difference in women’s lives. I get regular emails telling me as much. I talk to women regularly who are scared and in need of reassurance and advice. I’m so very grateful I can do that.

When I was a little girl my father told me to “Stand and fight if you believe you’re right”. I learned determination from my mother who, after a motorcycle accident that left her in ICU for six months, taught herself to walk again when doctors said she never would.

Believe me when I tell you that I know it’s hard. I know it’s disheartening and some days you just want to give up and let the world go to Hell in its own little monogrammed handbasket. And some day you may decide you’ve had enough and that’s okay.

But please don’t let THEM make that decision for you.

I really hope that helps her. She’s doing good work in the skeptical and critical-thinking community and I would hate to see her give up because of all the hate mail and awful things people say about her in the blogosphere.

Unfortunately, this good deed of mine seems to have had some emotional backlash. I realized that even though Boobcast is doing good work, I am still in mourning for my loss. It has been four years as of yesterday since that first surgery and it still hurts emotionally. Not to the degree it used to, but it’s still a visceral pain. I feel nauseous remembering what I went through. I have tears in my eyes remembering what it was like and I wonder if I will ever completely heal emotionally from this.

I have had people suggest that I just walk away from Boobcast for a while. I can’t do that. Women email me regularly asking questions and seeking advice. I know what it’s like to be that terrified so abandoning the thing I have created here is not an option.

The upside is that where there were once great, wracking sobs, there are now just tears and a dull ache. Four years seems like forever and a single heartbeat at the same time. I guess I’m healing. They keep telling me that healing takes time. It’s just taking so long. I know that it will never be truly over because I will always bear the scars of reconstruction as a reminder. I will also always be here for others going through this nightmare.

I can’t abandon my post as long as I’m needed.

It has also been suggested that I start talking to women’s groups about what I have experienced. With the settlement I have, I’m not sure I can do that, but I’m looking in to it. The recent cease and desist letter I got about my comments on the Complaints Board scares the Hell out of me. We’re having a lawyer look at that to make sure that it only pertains to the settlement and not the case itself. If that is the case and it only pertains to the settlement, I will probably start doing that.

In the mean time, life continues on. I still need to have one last round of tattooing done and hopefully that will be it for the medical stuff. I’m thinking that perhaps I’ll do it in November or December, depending on the tattooists schedule. I’ll post when I have something concrete.

 

My Breasts – One Year Later

One of my regular readers asked for what amounts to a critique of The Twins from both my perspective and my husband’s. So here we go: What I think of my boobs almost one year after reconstruction.

They’re BIG. I know we’ve been over this before, but DAMN. They’re still really big. Those of you who have seen the breast reconstruction photos know I’m not even half kidding. Those are ALL me. No implants. After all the problems I had related to implants, I insisted that they not be used.

They look natural. They bounce, they sway, they’re not plastered to my chest like a pair of angry headlights. They even do that fallout thing. In other words, when I’m laying on my back naked, they migrate towards my armpits like normal boobies do.

In a push up bra I have cleavage for DAYS. AND they pass the Pencil Test with a 4.0 GPA.

I love the Twins and I’m beyond grateful to have them so please understand that the critique I am about to give is in NO WAY meant to imply that I’m not happy with what I have. These are observations on my own reconstruction that other women may or may not experience.

There are really only a couple very minor things. First, on the cleavage side of my right breast there is this one little spot where the flap was sewn in that looks just a little bit uneven. The only angle that can be seen from is the top and in this photo you have to look very hard to see it. The right breast is the top photo.

You can see a tiny bit of lumpiness where the green intersects with the breast. It is also a little flat on the front from that angle making the breast look slightly squarish.

The left breast, pictured below, is a better example of the slightly squarish look shown here. This HAS improved over the past year.

There is also a very minor indent where the scar is but that’s just what happens with any scar.

As far as the feel goes, they are pliant, yet firm. Since *I* know how they were constructed I know that firmness comes from the transplanted latissimus flap muscle. On the bottom outside edge of both breasts, if you probe, you can feel the outer edge of the muscle flap.

When you do a full on grope, it’s the muscle that makes up the firmness and the fat that makes them soft and pliant.

Many of you have asked for the perspective of my husband, Ken. I will be asking him to write guest articles on the more emotional aspects of necrosis and recovery from that in later installments. In the mean time, here are a few of his comments on the Twins one year out from surgery.

Ken: “Due to the procedure, there are some areas that are a little squarish. Considering what Dr. Elliott started with, they’re AMAZING! They also came out much bigger than both of us expected but that’s NOT a bad thing.”.

When asked about what my breasts feel like, he comments, “They feel amazing and they fit my hands well. They’re big, they’re full and they have a nice heft to them.”. He thinks that, appearance-wise, the Twins are a good size for my frame.

In general he reports that he can’t feel the flap. If he feels in detail, he can feel the scar tissue (the scar lines where the flaps were inserted) but nothing unusual.

Tomorrow I will post detailed photos of what the Twins AND my back look like exactly one year after reconstruction so stay tuned.

 

My Emotional Healing – One Year Later

In just a few days I will celebrate my one year breast reconstruction anniversary. It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed already. Yet here I sit with the Twins neatly filling out my  New Orleans t-shirt.

My regular readers know that the time before my reconstruction was  really bad. I talked honestly about feeling like a deformed, sub-human thing. I considered myself to be mangled and a not human being.

I also talked about wanting to kill myself. More than that: I had a plan for killing myself. I suffered from severe suicidal depression because of the mangled remnants of my chest. Once during the period that I had been hooked up to the VAC machine I called suicide hotline. She saved my life and I am grateful. She’s one of the reasons that I write this blog.

Unfortunately, the time period before the surgery was MUCH worse. I knew I was much more serious about it than I had been previously because I wasn’t talking about it at all. My performance was SO convincing that no one in the family had the slightest idea that I had a plan in place to end my life if financing for the reconstruction had not come through.

I’ve come a LONG way since then. I’m much more content. I have real periods of happiness now. I understand that the severe depression was solely situational. In a case like that, no medication would have worked.

I LOVE the Twins. They have some minor flaws and quirks that I will talk about in another post. But I am SO grateful to have them that the flaws are a relatively minor issue and are, for all intents and purposes, inconsequential.

As happy as I am to have them, I still have some unresolved anger issues. I’m not normally a violent person. Nor do I generally wish for harm to come to people. There IS, however, one exception. The surgeon. I still feel he was negligent. I think that something happened during the initial augmentation and lift that led to the subsequent necrosis and I wish him to suffer just as much as I did.

I will not cause him harm. I’m not that kind of person. But I would definitely throw a party if someone were to pulverize and powder the bones of his hands with a sledgehammer. That’s all. I don’t want him dead. Death is too easy. I just don’t want him to do to someone else what he did to me.

So, yes, I’m angry. I feel cheated. But I was so emotionally fucked up that I settled just to get the hell away from him. How’s THIS for screwed up? In the state of Florida no other plastic surgeon will even SEE you while you’re under the care of another plastic surgeon.

I have more emotional healing to do even after a year. I have these moderate anger issues to deal with and I still have sorrow surrounding the loss of my original breasts. There are times when I write a particularly difficult article here and it leaves me in tears.

Please understand that I do not blame this blog for my tears. Boobcast has been a haven of sanity. Writing these articles, being this open and honest, has kept me sane. I still just have brief periods where I grieve the loss of my breasts. I grieve for what I put my husband and family through. I grieve for two years of my life lost.

Yeah. I still have some healing to do.

 

Aches and Pains

A year out from breast reconstruction I am still having the odd occasional ache or pain. Most of the time it’s in my chest but sometimes my remaining latissimus muscles will cramp up for no apparent reason.

For instance, last Thursday evening we were at DisneyWorld. We have annual passes so we’re somewhere on property pretty frequently. After walking around the property of a house we’re very interested in buying we headed over to the park. By the time we got there my chest was aching.

On the 1 to 10 pain scale it was only about a 3 but something like that hadn’t happened in quite a while. It had been at least two months. My upper chest was tender to the touch and the muscles around my cleavage ached to the point that I wished I had some Tylenol. It was bizarre.

The pains I spoke of earlier are nerve pains. It feels like someone is poking me with a long, thin pin. Unfortunately this has been an ongoing situation.  They tend to crop up suddenly in either my chest or my back. At the beginning it was all my chest. More recently it has been more in my back.

Before my father-in-law passed at the beginning of last month I had been training using the Couch to 2K program. A few weeks into the program I got a pinched nerve in, of all places, my right breast. Which is weird considering the skin on most of the breast is numb but the tissue underneath has sensation.

Right now as I type this, I have minor nerve pains in my left breast and the right side of my back aches. I walk such a fine line with activity. If I do too much, I ache, if I don’t do enough, I ache.

Of course the discomfort is minor in comparison to the first time I got out of bed right after surgery. That hurt worse than labor even WITH the morphine. I just would have thought that by now I’d be past nerve pain and back aches.

Only time will tell how much more I’ll recover.

 

Nerve Damage With Breast Augmentation

With any type of surgery you can expect to lose some sensation. Sometimes it’s just temporary. Sometimes the nerves are just so damaged that there’s no way you’ll regain all the feeling you had before. Breast surgery is one of those situations where you will never be the same.

Even if you have a transumbilical breast augmentation (TUBA) there will be some nerve damage. Nerves get torn, cut or separated causing a loss of sensation. There can be wide swaths of numb areas. It depends on what type of surgery you have as to how much nerve damage and loss of sensitivity there is.

There are three major types of incisions used in a breast augmentation:

Periareolar – This incision is the most concealed, but is associated with a higher likelihood of inability to successfully breast feed, as compared to the other incision sites. The incision is placed at the bottom half of the areolae. Consider that there will most likely be severe reduction in nipple sensation with this type of implant insertion.

Inframammary – This incision is less concealed than the periareolar and associated with less difficulty than the periareolar incision site when breast-feeding. This incision is placed in the underside crease of the breast. The reduction in nipple sensation probably won’t be as severe with this type of implant insertion. Consider that a big bag of water is being shoved up under the muscle or skin. There WILL be some reduction in breast sensation.

Axillary – This incision is less concealed than the periareolar and associated with less difficulty than the periareolar incision site when breast feeding. This incision is placed in the armpit. The loss of nipple sensation won’t be as severe as with the periareolear, but again, you’re having a big water bag shoved under the skin or muscle. There will be loss of sensation.

No matter what type of insertion you have for breast augmentation, there WILL be some nerve damage. Whether it is temporary or permanent is an individual experience.

 

Sore Flap

I have noticed over the last week or so since I started the C25K.com program that I have some problems. I have a silver dollar sized area on the outer edge of my right breast that feels like someone is boring into my breast. The spot isn’t where the wire ends on bras. It’s about an inch forward of that, towards where my nipple would be if I had one. If I probe, I can feel the edge of the muscle flap.

Now I’m SURE I definitely overdid it this past weekend. Saturday Ken and I took the “Keys To The Kingdom” tour at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. It’s a FIVE HOUR walking tour. Of course there were short breaks and 30 minutes for lunch. We’re talking about a 3.5 mile hike around the park. For me, that’s like running a marathon.

We got up at 6 am so that we could be there by 8 to check in because the tour started at 8:30. Then our lovely guide Evelyn, proceeded to take us all around the park. It was a fantastic tour and I recommend it highly. This tour was on top of the C25K.com run I did on Friday.

After a nap, we came back since the park was open til midnight and stayed until nearly closing. I was pretty worn out but I thought maybe with a good night’s sleep and some aspirin, I’d feel better. We slept until we woke up and I was sore and tender but I figured if I walked, I’d stretch out the soreness. After a nice breakfast of fruit and yogurt, we went BACK over to Magic Kingdom. As we were walking out the previous night, I found a child’s hoodie sitting on top of a covered trash can so when I dropped it off at City Hall, the woman there asked if i would like a fast pass. It was good for one attraction. Since we hadn’t gotten to go on Space Mountain since it re-opened after refurbishment in December of last year, aches and pains or not, We were GOING on Space Mountain. By the time we made our way to the back of the park, I was starting to feel like a zombie. But by damn I wasn’t going to give in.

After Space Mountain we went all the way BACK out to the car and drove over to Animal Kingdom. I wanted to milk this weekend for all it was worth since we so rarely stay over night. So we took it reeeally slooooowlyy. By the time the park closed at 6pm, I was spiking about a 4 on the pain scale. That’s the highest it’s been for a long time. I was firmly convinced that I had died some time the previous night and no one had bothered to tell me.

By the time we got home I was thinking that I might have done something to my right breast flap, i was in that much pain. So I grabbed the ice pack and tossed down some Tylenol. This morning, I was in even worse shape. I went to change my bed time top and it felt like the flap was ripping. So I called Patti at Dr. Elliott’s office.

She was kind enough to reassure me that I hadn’t done any damage to what they had done. She suggested I take ibuprofen the rest of the day and resume normal activity tomorrow. She said that getting back to my old self (or in my case, better than my old self – my words, not hers) was going to be painful.

So here I sit, waiting for Ken to get back with ibuprofen. I’m SO not looking forward to running tomorrow but I’m NOT going to skip it. I’m just shifting it to T-TH-S this week instead of the usual M-W-F.

 

In Honor Of Mardi Gras: My Boobies!!

Ladies and gentleman, in honor of the 2010 Mardi Gras, and because I can’t be there in person to do this, I present to you…. <drum roll please>

MY BOOBIES!!

Okay, okay, so they’re not MY boobies. And that’s actually spelled Bubis according to a few sites I’ve looked at. These two on the left are Blue Footed Bubis. There is also a species of Red Footed Bubi on the Galapagos Isles as well. See the photo below.

Yeah, I know. Feathered Bubis just aren’t the same. And so, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you, my new breasts about a month after latissimus flap breast reconstruction. (see more about that here: living_latflap.htm#how The reason there is tape on them is to keep the scars from becoming keloid scars. Those are thick and ropey. The tape helps them heal flat.

 

Couch To 5K

Thanks to Mur Lafferty (@mightymur on Twitter – follow her. She’s chock full of Awesome) my hubby found out about an app called C25K. The full name is Couch To 5K. This program gives you guidelines for how to train for a 5K run even if you’re a total couch potato. Their website is here: www.c25k.com

Today was our first day and, truth be told, I didn’t quite make it all the way through. I didn’t really understand the program at first. Hubby, Ken, was so fired up that we just loaded it and headed out. So I didn’t really understand it until I sat down and let it run all the way through.

The instructions on the screen advise you to start with a “Brisk five-minute warmup walk. Then alternate 60 seconds of jogging and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes.”

What it DOESN’T tell you is that you need to go into settings and check the 1-minute notification box so that it will chime when you stop and start each segment. There are also boxes for 5-minute markers. That is for segments 13 minutes and up. And there is a Half Way Notification box for segments 3 minutes and up.

The program goes for 9 weeks. At the end of that time you’ll be jogging for a full 30 minutes. The nice thing about this program is that if you don’t feel like you’re making enough progress to keep pace with the program, just repeat a week. At my activity level, or lack thereof, I’m going to be repeating week one for a week or two. I don’t really care if it takes me longer than 9 weeks. I’m using the program to get myself moving. After 2+ years it has been long enough.

My long term goal is to run the Disney half marathon next February. My SHORT term goal is to make it past the program’s week 5 since that’s when most people supposedly give up.

Since this is part of my recovery I’ll be blogging about my progress each week.

 

Ball FAIL

In the recent post “Rub Me The Right Way”, i got some misunderstandings cleared up about what adhesions are and aren’t. Patti, the RN at Dr. Franklyn Elliott’s office in Atlanta, answered some questions for me. For those not aware, Dr. Elliott of Atlanta Plastic Surgery, is my most excellent surgeon who created the Twins from the wreckage that was my chest.

Patti explained that what I have in that place on my back that feels really tight is actually scar tissue. She said the best way to break that up was stretching and exercise. So this afternoon I decided to try stretching on our big white yoga ball.

I sat on it, bent my knees and gently rolled so that I was laying with my back arched across it. My muscles screamed at me from the stretching and I made myself hold the position.

After the initial muscle pain died down, I started mentally probing for the sharp pain that came from stretching the scar tissue.

There was none.

So I tried turning over on my stomach and stretching that way.

More muscle ache ensued but still no sharp pain from pulling scar tissue.

Since that wasn’t working, I tested out stretching on both my right and left sides. Still nothing.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a Ball FAIL here. So in the next few days I’ll try using the Wii Fit and see if any of the yoga positions (the ones I can manage) do anything to stretch out the scar tissue.

 

Rub Me The Right Way

Today we’re discussing ways to break up scar tissue adhesions.

Since the first day after surgery my back has felt tight, as though I were squeezed into a proper corset. For those not familiar with corseting, it is an undergarment from the Elizabethan era worn on the torso that uses boning to give a more shapely figure. The boning then was whale bone because of it’s strength. Today the whale bone has been replaced by plastic. But for some diehards, there is steel boning.

At one point in my life I was the half owner of a web based Renaissance fashion company. I traveled all over the south east dressed in Elizabethan finery to promote the company. So I know what it’s like to be corseted.

The last time I spoke to someone about this, it was a massage therapist client in southern Georgia. He suggested that the reason I still feel like that is because the scar tissues has adhered, or grown on to, the fascia layer of skin. Thus the term “adhesions”.

According to Patti Bergley, the nurse at Dr. Elliot’s office, I do NOT have adhesions. Adhesions refer mostly to bowel tissue adhering to the abdominal wall. I just have scar tissue. The scar tissue is tight and will, according to Patti, soften over time. What will HELP with that is exercise and stretching.

I told her that when I stretch it feels like things are tearing in my back. She said that was a good thing. Stretching and exercise will actually do more to increase flexibility than cross fiber friction massage. From a medical standpoint, all massage will do is soften the scar tissue.

I have an exercise ball. You know…those big rubber balls with the 2 foot circumference that you lean back on. So I’m going to start using that and see if it does any good.

As usual, I will report back.

 
 
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