Reconstruction woe.

written by Nicole aka Throws Like A Girl

I have to admit I have been avoiding posting on Mothers with Cancer.  I’m having a hard time with my reconstruction and I don’t want any newbies who might happen by to think that this is going to happen to them. (THIS IS NOT GOING HAPPEN TO YOU.)

One of my expanders has failed due to infection and it’s still possible that the left side could fail if we can’t kick whatever infection it has.  The doctors are cautiously optimistic, but frankly, I just can’t go there with them.

I would love to say that having had cancer has made me stronger, a fighter, whatever.  But to be frank, I can’t get my hopes up on this.  If it happens, it happens.  I might get boobs for Christmas.  Or I might not.  I’m not sure how far I’m willing to go for a nice rack.  All these surgeries and doctor visits that are in addition to the regular cancer doctor visits are starting to seriously affect my life.  I see my plastic surgeon more than my husband.  In fact, next week will be the first week I DON’T have an appointment with him since July.

I can’t make plans to volunteer for anything but bringing food at the kids’ school because I never know when I’m going back under the knife.  Especially when you’re dealing with infection.  Sometimes it’s got to come out.  Right then.  I’m tired of having to ask my friends and family to watch my kids (which they do without ever complaining.  Love them.)  But I’m so tired of being the high maintenance mom.  And for what?  A pair of Barbie boobs with no feeling in them.

And yet I still want to try.  When you’re a girl of (ahem) a certain size, shirts are cut for a nice size rack.  I have 10 different neutral colored tank tops I have to wear under my clothes because the necklines don’t work when you’re missing part of your chest.

I always said that I was not defined by my chest.  I’m thinking that I was wrong.  I’m not necessarily defined by them.  But I miss them.

This was all a whole lot easier before they tried to kill me.


8 Responses to Reconstruction woe.

  1. Kayleigh says:

    Oh my, I so related to this post, hugs to you from one who understands.

    I had uni pedTRAM recon and developed wicked skin necrosis…am walking around with a wound VAC on now, over 2mos out from surgery. Can’t wear a bra and have saggy breasts w/an open wound. I just want to wear “normal” clothes again and not have to think about this.

    Plus my chemo is delayed to boot.

    This ain’t easy and I question how worth it all the recons stuff is too. Funny, because that’s all I could focus at first…I barely gave cancer a second thought.

    Hang in there — most days I find the faith to believe this will turn out well in the end. On those other days…well, blogging helps 🙂

  2. slouchy says:

    you have your head in the right place. (it’s your body that’s not cooperating. sigh.)

    thinking of you, always.


  3. davis85 says:

    Thank you for your post, Sarah! Its important to share the struggles that we go through as well as the victories! A positive attitude is great but we need to know that there are others out there going through the same things that we’re going through.

    While I didn’t have breast cancer, my boobs are nearly gone, too. As you know, I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma which presented as a tumor in my stomach and a year ago tomorrow I had a partial gastrectomy. It’s difficult to eat and maintain my weight so I now have no body fat and, consequently, no boobs. I DO still have my port which looks like an oddly placed third boob….LOL! 🙂

    I understand your frustration with wanting to get on with life, too. Like yours, my life is one doctor appointment after another. I feel like such a financial drain on our already struggling family. My diagnosis with epilepsy earlier this year prevents me from driving and I’m not well enough to work. We’ll be filing bankruptcy paperwork soon and once that goes through we’ll have to sell our house. Sigh.

    But….we’re going to get through this, Sarah! Cancer HAS made us stronger and things WILL get better. Hang in there! I’m thinking of you and praying for you…..and hoping that you’ll get that nice pair of boobs for Christmas!!! 🙂



  4. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    Carrie – Thank you for sharing your story. 🙂 My name is Nicole and I co-author this website with many women who are Mothers with Cancer. (I’m pretty sure Sarah already has her boobs. 🙂 ) The Facebook networked blog thing makes it hard to tell who the author of posts are. Anyway, nice to meet you! 🙂

    Nicole aka ThrowsLikeAGirl

  5. OY.I hear you on this. My complications were at the very beginning when the expander I had actually popped. (The surgeon poked a hole in it when filling) so I walked around for 8 months with a very uncomfortable folded up piece of plastic in my chest. Now there is an implant and it is too big to match the other side so I am considering yet another surgery to fix it.
    But I am also considering very much just leaving it alone, bigger and nipple-less to avoid another surgery. After awhile it just seems like ‘enough already’ with all the surgeries. Then again, it is worth it to feel normal again — I too thought I wouldn’t care, but of course we do!

    Stay strong. I know your friends understand. Someday you will be there for them. You don’t want that infection going any further.

    Here’s wishing you Christmas boobs–all neatly wrapped in a bow!!!:).

  6. Sarah says:

    I just stumbled on this website tonight. I saw it listed in a friend’s (“Coffee and Chemo”) list of the blogs she follows, and I was, for some reason, drawn to it.
    So interesting the first thing I see is about reconstruction and skin expanders, infection, etc. You see, I am not a cancer survivor. I am a survivor of flesh-eating bacteria, which left me with a wound, now with strips of skin grafts over my lower abdomen and upper thigh. That skin and muscle and fascia do not exist, it is a concave gap.
    I have the option for reconstruction, and am going through many of the same feelings you all are talking about. Do I really want to endure more complicated surgeries for my emotional need? It takes so much out of my family when I have to have surgery (including just last month which I am still recovering from). I relate to the “high maintenance mom”. That has been me for two and a half years. Reconstruction seems risky, and really; is it worth it. I would like it fixed, and the surgeon is optimistic that it can be done well. But I have already come from a horrific infection that almost killed me, and I am not back to myself. I don’t know if I ever will be (I’m 41 with 4 kids at home, ages 11-4). I don’t work now for two years, and as much as I want life to be back to normal, I have still this inner desire for “closure” of the wound, to help me get my closure I need for this hard and crazy time period. But, what it if goes wrong? I already intimately know the wound vac. I know the skin stretchers can burst, and cause infections. How can I overcome the desire to want it fixed, or reconcile myself with “this is my body, now lets pick up our marbles and go home”.
    I’m sorry if I broke into this conversation uninvited… it is just the reconstruction discussion is good for me, I need to talk this out, and hear others talk it out. Is it OK that I came on here?
    Sarah from Israel

  7. Christina Heald says:

    I have had this blog flagged for quite a long time but haven’t taken the time to really jump in. I thought I’d just give it a quick look-see and lo and behold the post that pops up is on reconstruction. I am about to undergo my first of these surgeries to put the expander in on this upcoming Wednesday. I had been really confident (the first time for that since my ordeal began) and the other night I watched te movie “I wore lipstick to my mastectomy’–not all of it–just clicked it on when the part happened that she was getting her expander filled. It freaked me out. Now I read this and I am really beginning to get cold feet. I have struggled with my self-image since March now and I really thought my emotional health needed the boost. I am feeling A LOT of these same feelings and have spent the past 7 months blogging about all the struggles I’ve been facing–haven’t had to many victories yet and I thought having this surgery would be one step closer to a victory–in many facets of my life. I’m not sure, anymore and I will need to mull this all over today and really try to jump into this blog this evening when I have more time. I am looking forward to building a support network because I am finding its just too hard to do with people that have never been through this before. I also am looking for specific information and stories about reconstruction so I can prepare for what lies ahead.Thanks for sharing.
    Christina in Iowa

  8. Wow…I just stumbled onto this part of Mothers with Cancer. I am in my reconstruction process too. B lat mas was on Feb 8 2010 and I have had 2 inflationns…had to miss one and go back under the knife….I have been plauged with pain like crazy and yet, I don’t feel like I have a right to complain because I got to skip the chemo and the radiation and for now am Cancer free. I say for now, because I feel like there is always a chance it can return. Despite the fact that, my nodes were clear, and they had a huge margin of clear tissue…one of the benefits of having DD breasts before. Nobody prepared me for reconstruction and I have felt so alone! I too live in tank tops underneath my shirts, so no one can see the horrendous train wreck when I bend over. besides, My incisions are still draining after almost 5 weeks. My drains are out, so they drain into pads. It’s kinda like having your period through your once breasts..not to be graphic. Everyday, I DREAD my daily shower, because it hurts, I have to look at myself and check my wounds and the mental anguish begins all over again. Thanks girls for sharing your stories and giving me a place where I feel safe saying this stuff. I am incredibly thankful just to be here experienceing my pain and I spend a great deal of time praying for those of you who are worse of then me, or whom cancer has recently returned. My heart aches for some of you…literally and completely. This too shall pass! I hope by August, my body will resume somewhat normal and I won’t be horrified evertime I look at the trainwreck. Hopefully by then, it will look more like it should! XO Heidi

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