Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tissue Expansions: Pump Me Up

**Just a warning that I have pictures here showing some of my tissue expansions. If you don't want to look then don't scroll down**

When I had my double mastectomy last July I decided to go with reconstruction because well honestly, I wanted boobs again. Just keeping it real... At the time of my surgery, after my breast surgeon did her magic to get all my tissue and cancer out, my plastic surgeon "installed" expanders under my muscle because they would help stretch out the muscle and skin to a point that I felt comfortable, then at a later point they would be switching them out for implants. Once the expanders are put in by the plastic surgeon he put some saline in them to get the process started and then closed up my incisions. How they stretch them out, you're probably wondering?! Well, the expanders have a port on them that gets found with a magnet, the area gets cleaned and then gets accessed through that port and filled with saline (about 50cc's or the equivalent of two shot glasses each boob or foob per appointment). Usually the process doesn't take more than a few months to do, but unfortunately I had to go through chemo which started in September. I had the option to get tissue expansions during my chemo treatment, but frankly I was too tired the week of my chemo and too busy working the opposite week. Through my four months of chemo, I had one tissue expansion...which was A-OK with me. I am not planning on having my reconstruction until the end of July because I feel at that point I will be at a point, both mentally and physically,where I will be ready to proceed on with the next step.

breast cancer, double mastectomy, bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, tissue expansion, watrous photography, dr. hussussian, plastic surgery associates wisconsin

breast cancer, double mastectomy, bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction, tissue expansion, watrous photography, dr. hussussian, plastic surgery associates wisconsin

I have to admit I was a little nervous about how it would feel to get a tissue expansion. I've heard horror stories of women not being able to have many due to how painful and sore they felt after, and others who their process went smoothly. While each person's recovery and "growth" is different, I'd have to say that I am SO happy that I have been taking my time with this and would recommend anyone to do the same (given their circumstances allow). Not long after my mastectomy, but before I had my lymph node surgery I was having some issues with pain. It was on my right side, right below my armpit. The pain was absolutely debilitating and was worse then any pain I had ever experienced, even worse then the day I had my mastectomy surgery. The best explanation I had for it was an intense burning and feeling like I was being sliced open and having bleach poured on the wound and glass ground in. I tried one of those small pillows under my arm, and at one point I couldn't even walk. Crying, of course I did, but that also made things hurt more because when I would breathe it would hurt. So I was in pain, crying because of it, then in more pain, then crying some more.... Imagine looking at a crumpled up piece of newspaper and all the sharp edges it has. An expander is similar to that in the way that at some points during different expansions there would be bulges or edges that would protrude out more then others causing weird indentations. All the pain and discomfort went away once I took some pain meds, and eventually completely went away when I had my lymph node removal surgery, which caused my armpit and arm to go numb. So I'll say that surgery was a blessing in disguise at that moment, but I do believe that the pain would have subsided regardless once I was healed some more.

I had that discomfort with that side for a while, especially when I would sit for long periods of time or move around too much. Another reason why the pain could be explained was the day before my hubby and I were visiting a friend who owns a golf driving range, and we were helping him manually pick up balls....I was feeling good in the moment so I was using my right arm.  I'm thinking I may have over extended myself that day, THINKING I was doing good and ended up taking two steps back because of the way the expander was placed and obviously the area inside was tender and raw.  So DON'T DO WHAT I DID...If you "feel" fine, wait a few days to a week or more before pushing yourself, otherwise you will be a crying, hot mess!

So far, I have had five tissue expansions and haven't had any soreness from the muscle being stretched. After my fourth appointment, I did notice that my foob was itchy, and not something that I could itch from the outside. The area around my scars is numb, but the area of my foob where the cleavage is tends to be more sensitive to touch and feels like pins and needles at times, which is the area where the itching is. I have found that the only way to "itch" is by flexing my pecs...sounds weird and I feel like one of those body builders that its showing of his/her pec muscles and how big they are, but it is kind of a nice parlor trick.

On a lighter note today is exactly THREE MONTHS since my last chemo and my hair is growing in some more and I've found out that my hair likes to form a weird fo-hawk....go me for style without trying!  My hair is a brown color, with "highlights" of gray...lovely, 27 and gray-ish....I'm definitely excited to see how it grows in and the color that it takes.  I used to have curly reddish hair so I'm hoping for straight this time around.  A girl can hope right?!

breast cancer awareness, breast cancer, growing your hair out after chemo, chemo


  1. I have read most all of your blog since 11pm tonight. Your journey inspiring to say the least. Dyi projects I love, so awesome. I love "house work" not cleaning. More gardening. I love waking up after a day at work and smelling the daffodils and hyacinth as I go inside. I work at a very large greenhouses in Kansas that supplies several cities. I'm at the main store. It's family owned and very chill so my days are hands in soil and feelin Zen.
    I need to read your post on food. I got my degree at le cordon bleu and was a chef at a golf resort for 6 years.
    Please keep sharing, keep writing. You are not only inspiring, but funny, intelligent, witty, and beautiful.
    Might I suggest keeping the current faux hawk? It's so frikin rad!

    1. Olivia-

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog posts!! I don't have a ton of posts on my recipes, but I take it one at a time! I love gardening and watching things grow, so I'm itching for spring to get here. This spring in the midwest has been TERRIBLE, so maybe by July we will have some warmth! I'm digging the faux hawk for sure, I'll see how my hair grows out!!! Thanks for reading!

      Emily C