Wanna be a Breast Reconstruction Expert?

BRCA, BRCA1, BRCA2, Breast Cancer, Mastectomy, Breast Reconstruction

INSIDE: Learn from my woes and become a breast reconstruction expert for yourself, your mother, your sister, or a friend.

Over a year ago, I started my surgery journey based on my risks as defined by my BRCA2 gene mutation. It wasn’t an easy set of decisions and the path to breast reconstruction was most definitely not straight.

If you’ve been following my story, you are painfully aware of the setbacks I encountered with my mastectomy and breast reconstruction in the fall of 2016. If not, you may want to catch up here. (My BRCA DecisionsSurgery UpdateRecoverySetbacks, and a Look Back at 2016.) Since my last update, I have had another round of reconstruction surgery and one scheduled for the fall of 2017.

My BRCA Timeline

BRCA, surgery, Recap

Have you ever heard the term foobs before?

I hadn’t either.

Foobs are what reconstructed Fake boobs are commonly called. Do you get it?

It’s a funny term, but not something to really laugh about since the reason someone has them is very serious. Keep in mind that breast reconstruction is not a boob job.

I hope that is very clear. It should also be clear that I am a patient with my own knowledge base, experiences, opinions, and outlooks….not to be confused with medical expertise. Please seek professional assistance with your unique medical needs.

Now let’s get back to the the little things you didn’t know, you needed to know about breast reconstruction.

Tidbit #1

With clothes on, you might never know they are fake. You would pay no attention to them at all. With a swimsuit on or other unmentionables, you would notice that they may have a slightly different shape, size, or location than your old, real boobs had.

Tidbit #2

Oh, and they move. Like when you go to sleep, they might not be in the “right spot” in the morning. There are some mornings, where I literally have to shift them before getting up. I don’t mean like one ends up on my back, just slightly moved over. Weird, I know.

Tidbit #3

You would also notice that you have no feeling in them. I mean, none. Not a single nerve ending is connected.

Yep, that is the one thing I didn’t know about ahead of time. I was not prepared for how that would feel or how I’d feel about that. In case you were wondering, I don’t like it. I am still not used to it and don’t know if I ever will be. Sometimes I get phantom pains and think, is that real? But, no. No it is not.

There is research that shows feeling can return with certain breast reconstruction efforts, but not with mine.

Tidbit #4

Foobs are better than the expanders. Those were awful. Those felt like oranges, sticking straight out from my chest. I mean, for real.

Go ahead, grab two!

Go pick up two oranges the next time you go to the store and hold them up in your hands. Now imagine the weight of those on your chest. Now imagine the firmness of them under your skin and chest muscles, which is where they sit.

It sounds horrible, doesn’t it? I am telling you that it is, but in the grand scheme of life they aren’t around for too long, so putting up with them is okay in the short term. Trust me!

Tidbit #5

Silicone implants are better than the expanders, but they’ll never be like your real ones. You will grieve those. That’s okay and totally normal. Let that process happen. Breast reconstruction is full of surprises and the stages of grief associated with it is real.

Tidbit #6

Implants have some movement and move a little when you bump them. Which is unlike the expanders. Sometimes I would bump into things with the expanders (remember they were like oranges) and literally bounce off because there was no give to them at all!

Thankfully, these implants smoosh a little.

Tidbit #7

Oh, and all this happens under your muscle layer where there is barely any fat between the skin and muscle. When you use those muscles or engage them in any way…your foobs kinda travel with them. It is a little unsightly.

I try to forget about this strange phenomenon until I look down when I am doing pushups. 🙁 This is where that lovely fat grafting comes in handy!

Tidbit #8

Fat grafting is the transfer of your own fat cells from somewhere else in your body and then injected in thin layers into the upper layer of the reconstruction zone. It fills in the funny gaps between the edge of the implant and your body.

Tidbit #9

Fat grafting work best when done over time and layered in and on top of each other, plus then your own fat will start to fill in the spots not grafted in. I finally have a reason to like my fat. 😉

Bonus Breast Reconstruction Tidbits!

Tidbit #10

I blocked out a year for the full process (start-finish) and felt like that was a fair amount of time to devote to the surgery and healing process…but now I am several months past that and not “finished” yet. That part is frustrating, but useless to fret over.

Tidbit #11

I realize that I am lucky. I am lucky to have the choices I had to learn about my mutation, my choice of experts and doctors, options for surgeries, and that I had sufficient health insurance to make it possible.

Tidbit #12

I have to give a special shout-out to my plastic surgeon- he is an artist. It took a while, but I am learning to like the “almost” finished version of myself. You see, after my expanders came out and my reconstructed breasts were settling into my chest cavity, I was unhappy and hated them. I cried for days which was more than when I was in the hospital with gaping wounds or flat chested for months. I actually thought of getting them removed, but I am glad that I gave it time.

Tidbit #13

Time.

Time really heals all wounds. I have a few different sets of wounds. I have my actual scars (too many of those) and then my internal, emotional scars. Thankfully, I have had wonderful support from family and friends that have given me space to be, to cry, to grow, and to adjust to the new me.

I am feeling nothing but good vibes now. 🙂

 

Good Vibes
Post Breast Reconstruction. July 2017

 

Final Thoughts

First of all, I didn’t know going into this, that I would have six (going on seven) surgeries related to breast reconstruction. I don’t know if that is a normal amount or not. Remember, I am not a doctor.

I also realize this is a lot of rambling and probably doesn’t make sense to anyone else but me or others traveling the road of mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

If so, lots of positive juju and vibes to each of you.

However, I realize that even my rambling serves a purpose. It makes my story real.

Writing it down helps me heal (remember those emotional scars) and lets me create a safe and valid space for sharing my experience and hopefully connecting with my #BRCASisters and #BRCABrothers or Breast Cancer survivors. {You are all amazing!}

My point is this, I have learned a lot this year- a lot of lessons I wasn’t expecting yet I am grateful for them. I choose to share them with you so that you can possibly be armed with more information if you are about to go through this or if you know someone that is BRCA positive or facing breast cancer. He or She will need every ounce of love and support you can give them.

Take what I have shared, file it away, and come back to it later after you’ve had time to digest it all. Please comment below if you want to chat. I’d love to hear from you.


We do not know what the future has in store. Nobody can predict if I will get breast cancer or if this was all worth it, but I can tell you that I feel far less anxiety for the possibility of it because of the preventative steps I took. And THAT is worth it.

There is beauty in chaos and in the mess of life. Sometimes you just have to squint a little to see it. And laugh. Laughter is the best medicine. And yes, I laugh every time I say foobs out loud. I think I hear your giggle, too.

There are no happy accidents.

~Kim

You can check out my other writings on Full Time Mom, 30Seconds, and SheSavvy. Follow me on Twitter at @KimKusiciel or @nohappyaccident.

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Lisa Kelsey

    Amen to everything you’ve written! The foobs are at times awkward, but infinitely better than the turtle-shell expanders.

    You’ll get more accustomed to them as time goes by. They look great in clothes and allow you to skate by without a bra. I take exercise classes and they don’t move anywhere.

    Best of all, you’ve dramatically reduced your risk of cancer related to your genetics and come through on the other side wiser and stronger.

    You’re helping others by posting this, whatever their journey. You rock. Give a holler anytime you’d like to commiserate or share inside jokes with someone else who’s been through it.

    1. Thank you Lisa!!! I love having all my “breast friends” willing to commiserate and laugh through all of this. Thank you for your kind words. I am happier now than I was a year ago and that’s due to two things: 1) being almost finished and 2) reducing my risks! That is the WHY behind all of this. Thanks again!!

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