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Category Archives: situational depression

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 Legal Settlement

Earlier today I received the following email from a regular reader here at the blog. For personal reasons, the reader has asked that they be kept anonymous.

Maria,

In your blog, you said you signed papers with your doctor not to name them.  Did you have a settlement?  Did you have the option not to settle, instead spread their name all over? Or did an attorney advice you about libel or defamation?

If you can comment without naming the doctor, much appreciated.

I have written before about how I tried to deal with the legal ramifications of what happened to me. I also wrote about the settlement that currently binds me from mentioning the name of the surgeon. HOWEVER, before I agreed to the settlement that prohibits me and my “agents” from mentioning the surgeon’s name, I wrote a few posts. Those are listed below in my response to the reader’s questions.

Dear Reader;

I am, unfortunately, also bound from talking about the terms of the settlement as well. I DID have the option not to settle. At that point I was deeply clinically depressed and traumatized. I didn’t want that person to have anything to do with my medical care any more. I would start shaking every time I had an appointment. I just wanted it to be over with so I went with the first available way out.

People keep telling me that I’m brave. This is one of those instances where I was not. I DID put up a synopsis of what happened on the Complaints Board [Editor’s Note: This post has been edited on advice from my lawyer.Please visit the link for details]

I never spoke to a lawyer about defamation, but I was a journalist so I know that once I signed those papers, I am legally bound, along with my “agents”, not to reveal his name. HOWEVER, those two links were written up before the contract went into effect.

Here is where things get interesting. I just happened to notice that a person I am presuming is the doctor in question or one of the 2-3 staff members familiar with the case (aka one of his “agents”), made a brief response to my initial post on the Complaints Board. I am presuming this because of the use of the phrase “ridiculous herbal remedy’ in the response. That is FAR too personal to have been written by someone just reading entries on the complaints board.

And so, dear reader, I am going to war. For some reason I am having technical difficulties logging on and making a response to that accusation. Once I do, you all may want to stop by for a look because I can guarantee that things are going to get very, VERY interesting.

This surgeon does not know with whom he is messing. He’s about to find out.

 

The 200th Post

As the title says, this is the 200th installment of BoobCast. Today I am writing about you, dear reader. Today’s installment is all about the support and the stories that people have shared with me since I first started this blog on Oct. 11, 2008.

When I first started writing this, I was also fairly active on a website called All About Plastic Surgery (http://www.allaboutplasticsurgery.com). When I posted what had happened to me it didn’t take long before I was inundated by questions about various aspects of the surgery. You can find that entry here: http://boobcast.net/2008/10/14/questions/ People expressed a great deal of concern about how well I had checked out the surgeon, what indications I might have had and what legal recourse I might have taken. During that period so many people gave their support and I am grateful for it. So my thanks goes out to the women of the All About Plastic Surgery forum. They were the ones who inspired the idea for BoobCast.

Now you’re probably asking yourself, “Gee Maria, why do you call it BoobCast? Were they wrapped in plaster or something at one point?”

No, dear reader. There are reasons this site is called BoobCast.  In 2007 the podcasting community lost a precious member by the name of Joe Murphy. He died of a vicious type of cancer that took him quickly. During his medical treatments he talked in vivid detail about what was going on, the testing and all of it. His strength inspired me. I wanted to be as strong and as brave as Joe Murphy. So I planned to podcast what was going on with my breast necrosis. The name of that podcast was going to be BoobCast.

I never met Joe but his life inspired me. It just turns out that I’m not that strong or that brave. To honor that bravery I have kept the name.

I also owe thanks to a very dear friend, Tee Morris. When I was trying to find the strength to create BoobCast, He was there for me. He gave me mental and emotional support by letting me know that I *could* do it. I’m sorry I disapointed you Tee but want to thank you for being a friend when I needed one.

In the time I’ve been writing BoobCast I have had people email me directly for advice. Of course, after reading the email, my advice was always “Contact your PS (plastic surgeon) and ask for [fill-in-the-blank]. Whether it was about bruising, skin texture or pain, I advised talking to their doctor. If they couldn’t get a decent answer from that doctor, talk to another one.

The one that really broke my heart was the husband of a woman who, a few days previous the email,  had the same procedure I had. According to her husband, the pain pills her PS had given her weren’t doing much and she was in constant pain. She couldn’t eat or sleep and she was suffering. I told her husband to call her PS immediately and insist on different pain meds and not take NO for an answer. i explained that, right now it was his job to advocate for his wife since she couldn’t do it herself.

A couple days later I got an email from him saying that her PS had changed her meds and she was doing MUCH better. It’s emails like those that made BoobCast well worth the emotional pain of writing those early posts.

I also want to thank everyone who talked to me about BoobCast at DragonCon last year. Being told in person that I’m making a difference means the world to me. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

Finally, my thanks to Carol Montoya, Lolly Daskal and the Woman At Denny’s. I promise that once I’ve had nipple reconstruction and recuperate from that, I WILL write the book. The foundation is in the works already.

My thanks to you all for reading, commenting and talking to me. Here’s to another 200!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2010 in anchor breast lift, Anxiety, barter, boob job, Bra Fitting, bra sizes, Bras, breast, breast cancer, breast health, breast implants, breast lift, breast reconstruction, breast size, breast volume, Cash fees, checkup, chemotherapy chemical, clogged surgical drains, communication, complications, compression bra, compression dressing, cortisone, cosmetic surgery, cryotherapy, debreiding, debridement, deformity, dehiscence, Depression, Drain, Drugs, emotional healing, emotional scars, Excise, excise fluid, fear, Flashbacks, flourouracil, Fluid, granular tissue, granulation tissue, Healing, Hospital, Hospital fees, Hosptial Costs, implants, Incisions, Infection, Insurance, interferon, Invisibility, keloid, keloid scars, laser, Latissimus flap, latissimus flap reconstruction, malpractice, mammogram, mastopexy, Medical, Medical Insurance, memory, Nausea, necrosis, negligence, Nipple prosthetics, Nipple reconstruction, Nipples, Pain, Pain Management, plastic surgeon, plastic surgery, Plastic Surgery Disaster, podcast, Post surgical depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Prescription Drug Addiction, Prosthetics, PTSD, radiation, Reconstruction, Recovery, Scars, Seroma, serous fluid, Sex, silicone sheets, situational depression, Sleep, slow healing, suicide, Surgery, Surgical complications, Surgical drains, Surgical Fees, Ta Ta Tuesday, Uncategorized, V.A.C. machine, Vacuum assisted wound closure, wet to dry bandages, wheelchair

 

The ER – Pt. 2

Let’s hope I can finish this part of the story tonight. I genuinely feel like I’m going to throw up. It’s amazing how visceral my reactions still are even after all this time.

By this point I was absolutely furious but I felt totally helpless to do anything. The news that I couldn’t be stitched back up was devastating. Couple that with the results of the culture and I was even more of a basket case than before. The culture discovered five different types of bacteria: three of which the tech never even heard of. So they put up a bag of the most badass antibiotics they had.

Unfortunately about 1/2 way through the bag I started getting EXTREMELY itchy. My throat started swelling a few minutes later and it became a bit difficult to breathe. Well Ken called the nurse and within a minute or so he had a syringe of something in the IV. He SLAMMED the plunger in and within moments I felt like I was going to pass out.

I got tunnel vision and then the tunnel started narrowing. My body felt very heavy and I felt like I was being pushed down. I told the nurse that I thought I was going to pass out. His reply was “Isn’t it a good thing you’re in the hospital then?”.

So…yeah. I was allergic to the first antibiotic. So they put up something else really badass and I was off again. This one made me a little itchy too so the nurse injected a little syringe of something else. This time much more slowly. In a matter of moments I was doing just fine and made it through the entire bag.

After a bag and a half of serious antibiotics, they also made an appointment for me with an infection specialist. Then one of the nurses packed my chest and they sent me home.

 

Packing Up

Even after the debridement the HiQ still had me packing the area with saline soaked wet-to-dry bandages. Every time I asked why this happened his reply was the standard “I don’t know”. When I asked him what was next, his standard reply was “We’ll just have to wait and see.”.

After the debridment I told him that “I don’t know” is no longer an acceptable answer. I let him know that I would accept “I don’t know but I’ll find out” and that I would expect an answer at my next appointment. When he DID finally give me an answer it amounted to “Sometimes these things just happen and we really don’t know why”.

Emotional meltdowns were a regular occurence. Ken still wasn’t allowed in with me. I wasn’t going to expose him to the horror I saw twice a day.

After the debridement there was just raw fatty tissue and flesh. Granular tissue started filling in some of the areas.  granulation tissue the newly formed vascular tissue normally produced in healing of wounds of soft tissue, ultimately forming the cicatrix. A Cicatrix is a scar resulting from formation and contraction of fibrous tissue in a flesh wound So I was starting to heal.

Since the HiQ had removed all the necrotic tissue that he could, the next step was the other bad news. There was no way the implants were going to stay. They had to come out. So they scheduled me for the second surgery on November 2nd 2007. And lucky me, I got to pay for the cost to use the surgical center. Yes. You read that right.

In the next post I’ll talk about the shocking reality of law suits for malpractice.

 

What Is The Sound Velcro Makes?

This is going to be a slightly more graphic than usual post about wet to dry dressings and what necrosis looks like as it develops. So those without strong stomachs are cautioned. I will do my best to inject humor into this as I go. Humor and my support system are really the only way I survived this in the first place.

That, and I rediscovered the analytical part of myself. I mentally separated myself from the situation at hand. I used the phrase “THE breasts” as opposed to “MY breasts” and I never looked at myself in the mirror. So I dissociated to some extent while I was changing the wet to dry bandages.

Initially I didn’t really understand HOW wet the gauze was supposed to be. I was told by the nurse that the gauze should be damp. *I* thought that meant it should be dripping just a little bit. After a couple days I noticed there was little to no progress with the wet to drys. Progress would mean the removal of dead tissue. I was pulling off the occasional fleck here and there but nothing meaningful.

Let me explain a bit more about wet to drys. Once the gauze has been dampened in sterile saline solution, it is laid flat in one or two layers over the area to be debrided. It is molded to the body part so when it dries it is a bit like plaster. A successful pull makes a soft sound akin to velcro being pulled from its fuzzy moorings.

When I went back in for the next check up a couple days later the HiQ complained that there was not enough progress. I explained what I had done and was given the moisture level corrections. It seems that instead of dripping slightly, the gauze should be just slightly damp. Previous to this I had done what is called “packing” where the area is kept moist with wet salined gauze. Thus my confusion, I suppose. We’ll go in to packing later when things have gotten REALLY bad.

Once I had been given better information I was sent home for a couple more days. I was also told that I should only be changing the wet to drys one to two times a day. I HAD been changing them 3-4 times because that was what I had done when I was packing. No one told me to do anything different as far as changing went. Isn’t it amazing how nothing changes when there is no communication?

With the new changes I was getting more dead tissue off. When I pulled off the dried gauze it was definitely pulling away the blackened tissue. The HiQ had me do that for about a week and a half. In that time I still forbade Ken to come in during bandage changes and showering. No one should have to be exposed to that.

I had started crying at least every other day at this point and I was really depressed for obvious reasons. Pulling bits of dead flesh off your own body tends to do that. I was angry because I couldn’t get a straight answer out of the HiQ. The man had all the bedside manner of Dr. Mengele. Which was pretty evident by the “don’t scream” comment when he was sewing cadaver skin onto me and telling me that it was an extremely expensive treatment.

Really folks that all I can manage for today. Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you the Valium story.

 

Pins And Needles

During the first few weeks after the initial surgery, there is another incident that stands out strongly in my mind. Personally I think that I spent the first 2-3 weeks after the initial surgery in shock. Like the kind of shock they talk about on ER or House, MD.  That and the fact that I really don’t want to remember, might have something to do with this.

So why am I doing this if I don’t want to remember? I’ve talked before about how silent people are when it comes to botched plastic surgeries. People need to know and understand that even with an amazing surgeon, things can go wrong. Plastic surgery isn’t an instant fix even when it DOES go right.

So here I am, talking about it.

It was the appointment after the HiQ gave me a cream that was supposed to improve circulation. I left Ken in the waiting room because I was bound and determined that I wasn’t going to expose him to what was going on unless I absolutely had to. Quite honestly I was also terrified that if he saw what was happening to my body, he would leave me and I would be alone because I had insisted on having this done.

I still have a small part of me that blames myself for the entire snafu as regular readers know. Even two years after the fact I carry a part of that blame. I don’t know if I will ever shake the idea that, on some level, this was all my fault.

I remember sitting in the exam chair. The HiQ took a long needle from a steripack and stuck it directly into the blackened nipple tissue on my right breast. It didn’t hurt. I didn’t feel anything. I also didn’t really understand what was going on. The HiQ never said why the needle stick. All he said was “I’m sorry.”

I understand now that the reason for the stick was to see if the necrosis was just topical or if it had affected the underlying tissues as well. If the necrosis was topical, there would have been a droplet of blood from the stick. There wasn’t anything.

I didn’t understand what was going on. I wasn’t being told anything. I didn’t know what questions to ask because of all that. So I was just my usual, kind, cheerful self. It’s amazing what ignorance can do. It’s also amazing how rapidly the old defense mechanism of avoidance popped in. For the last 10 minutes I have been looking at how to create a website on iWeb so that I can finally get the BoobCast website up and running.

That may not seem like avoidance from your perspective. Trust me. It is. I was avoiding talking about what happened at the HiQ’s office that afternoon.

I checked my photos and unfortunately I don’t have anything for the four week span between October 9th and November 11th. I wish I had taken some pics during that time period. That way I could have better chronicled this story.

See? I’m doing it again.

So… Here I go. After the needle stick, I THINK that’s when the HiQ first mentioned debriding. That thought terrified me. I kind of knew that it meant having tissue cut off, and I anticipated a great deal of pain. I’ll talk more about it soon. It’s emotionally really rough but physically there isn’t any pain at all.

He said that he wanted me to start doing wet to dry bandages. He didn’t say why though. I had to figure that out on my own. Wet to dry bandages gently pull off dead or dying tissue. What you do is you take a gauze bandage and pour saline solution on it. Then you squeeze it out so that it is damp and spread it on the area to be debrided Then you put dry gauze over the top so that you don’t get your clothes wet.

I did that all on my own for a week. I forbade Ken from being in the bathroom when I was changing dressings or showering and I ALWAYS wore a surgical bra when I was around him. To my mind, I was not ever going to expose him to that as long as I could help it. Unfortunately, that would come back to haunt me in about a month.

 
 
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