Body happy

Mastectomy scars ✔
Lipomodelling scars ✔
Mamma tiger stripes ✔

Any fucks given – absolutely none🤘

I was really anxious and body conscious before I came on holiday, dreading the thought of a bikini and baring my scars to the world. Now I realise, a lot has changed with my body over the past decade…. being underweight most of my life, I am now finally a healthy weight. Having carried, birthed and breastfed my 2 amazing kids (totally biased I know!) I am proud of my jelly belly and tiger stripes. And after my mastectomy, revision surgery and multiple lipomodelling over the past year, I am proud of my scars and what they mean.
To anyone starting out on their #brca journey, it does get easier, you will feel better and you are 100% stronger than you give yourself credit for xx

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Getting there

4 weeks post revision surgery with lipomodelling and all went well. My right implant was removed and replaced after the pocket was made bigger to accommodate the implant more comfortably. I pretty much instantly felt better. The right side isn’t tight and uncomfortable any more and they are most definitely sisters now! On the day, I was scheduled in for about 11:30am but just as I was snuggled under my warm air-filled cover at around 10:15am, Prof came and whisked my down to the pre-theatre room. Between the nurses, Prof and Dr Foo my anaesthetist, we managed to have a bit of usual banter before sending me off to sleep. They really are the best medical team I could have hoped for, not overly clinical and always manage to put me at ease before surgery. Once again, I was full of love and hugs for anyone who came near me once I woke up! I managed home around dinner time on the day of surgery and had Lily lay next to me holding my hand until it was time for her to go to bed. I’m due back to see Prof on 6th March and I’m hoping he’ll tell me I’m all done, but I think he has other ideas….

I have to say, this is the quickest I’ve recovered from an op both physically and emotionally. My bruising was much better this time – I looked like I’d been ran over by a Mini instead of a Land Rover so that was a bonus. I will admit though that I found the first few days difficult as I’d forgotten what it felt like. For me it’s an odd combination of feeling spaced out, sore and generally a little emotional. I really don’t like the weird, high feeling that comes for the first few days post op. I think it’s a combination of the anaesthetic, bodily trauma and Dihydrocodeine – Unfortunately, it would seem that opiates are not my friend.  I also start to lose my patience a little about a week post op, when I’m sort of done with feeling like shit and just want to be ‘normal’ again. All that said, I managed to drive after about 10 days and I was back at work after two weeks. Although, I may have been a bit ambitious to be honest. I wasn’t really sore, just absolutely wiped after about an hour of being back. Glad to be off this week for the February break though, so catching up on some rest.

Bruising started to show at 3-4 days post op.

 

Implant stabilizer band to be worn for 6 weeks and compression shorts to be worn for 3 weeks.

I had an appointment at Gynae on the 8th February. This was meant to be my opportunity to discuss with Dr Martin whether or not it would be a viable option to remove my fallopian tubes either this year or next, then have my ovaries removed in about 5 years time. However, when I arrived I was seen by one of his colleagues who obviously hadn’t read my notes before I walked in the door, as he started chatting about HRT options based on having had cancer. “Many doctors consider HRT risky because estrogen can stimulate the growth of breast cells—both normal cells and cancerous ones. So doctors feel HRT may increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer recurring or of her developing a new breast cancer. A cancer that is hormone-receptor positive (ER-positive or PR-positive) may be more likely to be stimulated by estrogen than a cancer without hormone receptors. Thus, HRT may pose a higher risk for a woman with this type of cancer” http://www.breastcancer.org

He told me that he would need to discuss my request with Dr Martin as he is my consultant and that I was to make an appointment for three months time to go back and see him, which takes me to 17th May – around the time when my original appointment was. So I left feeling a bit frustrated really and not any further forward. It’s still a really touchy subject for me and I struggle to keep it together when I discuss it. I’m beyond grateful to be blessed with my two gorgeous kids and can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like to be faced with these decisions without having had children yet. Just the thought of having that choice taken away from me as a woman, a mum, a partner and the fear of being plunged into a surgical menopause 20 years prematurely brings me to tears every time.

On a more positive note, my BRCA sister Abbie and I will now be hosting regular Edinburgh meet ups for the BRCA Umbrella and our first meeting will be held on the 19th March – almost exactly a year since we met at an Umbrella meet up. Really excited to be a part of such a wonderful support network bringing BRCA sisters together to share experiences and support each other through our journeys. I really find that sharing my journey, bearing my scars and just generally opening up to others has helped me deal with all this crazy shit. I still find it difficult sometimes to look at my scars and see what my body has endured over the past year but ultimately I feel proud and empowered. I’m a lot less resistant to it all and I’m trying to embrace it all and turn it into a positive by hopefully helping other women.

Cx

 

Third time lucky

​Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year. I’ve had a pretty good balance of resting, eating, spending time with family and making plans for the year ahead. We’ve booked our first family holiday ever, my best friend is getting married and our baby girl is starting primary school while our boy is going into primary 3. One major decision I’ve made is to put off the oophorectomy to next year. I’m still meeting with Dr Martin my gynaecologist on the 8th of February to discuss symptoms and what the plan is going forward. I’d like this year to be a little lighter on the surgery side and I’ve decided to focus on healing and recovering from hopefully the last of my foob ops.

So here I am, sat in the day surgery waiting room awaiting my third BRCA related surgery. This time I’m here for revision surgery on my right breast (or ‘Righty Tighty’ as I’ve named her) and my third round of lipomodelling. The joys. To be fair, it’s actually quite a good time for the lipo, I’ve been prepping my body since the beginning of December. I mean, what better time of the year to put on a few extra pounds guilt free than at Christmas!

You see when my mastectomy was performed at the beginning of June, the pocket of my right breast was made too small. Not only does it look a different shape (Lefty is more of a natural teardrop shape where as Righty is like a Madonna foob) it’s actually quite uncomfortable at times. The muscle feels like it is contracting a lot of the time so it squeezes the implant (my implants are under the muscle) and just generally feels a bit ‘tight’.

Now, I’m perfectly aware that just as your eyebrows should be sisters and not twins, so should your boobs. Fair enough. However, mine are more like cousins. You see Lefty is pretty chilled, nice and relaxed sitting comfortably where as Righty, well she’s a little more ‘highly strung’ and wound up. Actually thinking about it, they’re like the two sides of my personality…..

I’m working on that, trying to channel my inner calm whilst tamimg my inner crazy. I blame my fiestiness on my Italian heritage 😉

So today, Prof is going to go back into the same wound and remove the implant. He’s then going to release the scar tissue and make the pocket larger before inserting a new implant. Followed by my all time fave…… lipomodelling. Ugh. Hopefully, I’ll get home tonight with some heavy painkillers so I can sleep it off in my own bed. For the next 6 weeks or so I’ll be sporting my sexy white surgical strap and compression suit again. I’m so on trend it’s rediculous. I’m hopeful that this will be my last breast surgery although I get the feeling that Prof may have different ideas….

Anyways, positive vibes are always welcome so wish me luck and I’ll see you on the other side.

Cx

The next chapter…

​December. An odd time of the year when it’s meant to be filled with joy and cheer, (oh wow, I’ve just read that back and realised it rhymed- totally unintentional festive cheese🙈) but for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons, it’s not. I’m some where in between like a depressed christmas tree. You know the one you’ve had for years and it’s branches are thinning and you’re just looking at it like hmmmmm 🤔
Having said that, the end of the year is always a good time to reflect. I’m looking back and remembering the fear and anxiety I was feeling. This time last year, I had known my BRCA status for a few months and was waiting to meet my breast surgeon in January.

2016 – It’s been a tough one. I’ve literally been on a roller coaster of emotions;
Fear of the unknown, how I would look and feel both physically and mentally. Hurt by those I had hoped would have supported me more. Blessed to have found new friendships and strengthen some existing ones. Guilt for those around me that this journey has affected. Empowered to know that even though I was absolutely terrified of what this year would bring, I’m here. I did it.

I feel better within myself. I’m no longer at war with my emotions (don’t get me wrong, there are still some pretty serious battles going on inside) but I’m learning how to accept my personality, my scars, my flaws and trying to be kinder to myself. I’m trying to be more compassionate and quiet the inner critic but she can be a right bitch sometimes!

I’m trying to be realistic about next year, I feel better equipped to deal with what’s ahead now that I have my support network around me. The support I have from Macmillan is invaluable. I’m so grateful for being introduced to my counsellor, I honestly don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for our weekly chats! The Living with Stress course at Maggies Centre has taught me coping mechanisms for when things are a bit tough. Both Maggies and Macmillan provided me with a safe place to be vulnerable, and that’s exactly what I need.

Things kick off nice and early next year with a pelvic ultrasound on the 5th, pre op on the 9th and then revision surgery with lipomodelling on the 19th. Squeeze in a counselling session and Living with Stress course meet up at Maggies and I’ve got a pretty busy start to the year.

I hoped that I would’ve been finished with breast surgery and was back to my old self but sitting here at the end of 2016 I see that I’m not meant to be the old me. I’m changing, physically, emotionally and I’m hoping I’ll face  next year with more strength, courage and grace as I grow. Here’s hoping this time next year the surgical part of my brca journey will be over and I’ll be a little more at peace with myself.

So come on 2017, here’s to Chapter 2.

Cx

Inner Warrior

Wow. I hadn’t realised its been 2 months since my last post. Again, a sort of stumble through the fog. September saw me turning 30, my ‘geneversary’ and the start of my support from Macmillan.

On the days leading up to the 1 year anniversary of finding out about my BRCA mutation, or my ‘geneversary’ as I call it, I started to reflect on the time that had passed. I remembered how I felt when I was looking from the start of my journey, comparing then to now. All the questions, fears, tears and tantrums. I also took a minute to reflect on the people in my life both then and now. It’s a funny thing. People you don’t expect reach out towards you, and some you thought would be by your side, drift away. It’s actually been a bit of a blessing in disguise, cleansing out negative relationships and welcoming in positive ones.

Macmillan have been a huge support in recent months. Initially anxious, I now find it a haven of peace. A safe place. Almost every week I have a little hour of relaxation, whether it’s reflexology or massage. It’s just that little bit of time that helps me to stay grounded. I met my counsellor, Maggie, 4 weeks ago and have been seeing her weekly. I’m immensely grateful to have been put in touch with Macmillan as they have been a HUGE support. I’m learning to be kind to myself and accept that there will always be tough days, but that’s OK. So instead of fighting against it, I’m just gonna have to ride this one out. I definitely see that my lesson from all of this is patience. Not only patience to allow myself to recover, physically and emotionally, but also patience to slow down, take a breath and just see.

Went back to see Prof on 21st of September who confirmed that my ‘highly strung’ right foob will need revision surgery. The initial pocket made during my mastectomy isn’t big enough and as a result it sits a lot higher than the left side and it’s quite uncomfortable a lot of the time. So I’m due back in on 19th of January for revision with bilateral lipomodelling. The thought of more surgery at the moment scares the shit out of me to be honest, but at the same time, I feel a little bit closer towards the end of this journey (At least the surgical part anyway).

After one of my BRCA sisters had her oophorectomy, it’s really made me focus my attention on obtaining as much information as possible about my impending surgical menopause. I’m literally all over the place at the moment so the thought of surgically inducing me into menopause is only gonna have one of two outcomes…. either it helps me calm my inner psycho and balances me out or it’ll make me batshit crazy. I’m praying it’s not the latter. So, I asked my GP to put in a referral to the menopause clinic and have an appointment with them next week, and I’m also waiting on my gynae’s secretary calling me back to bring my May 2017 appointment forwards, to discuss all the options in-depth.

I’m beginning to feel like I’m taking back a little bit of control. Enough control to be able to have ‘a plan’. Now, I’m not too bothered if things don’t go exactly as planned but just as long as its there, I feel like I’m on it. I went back to work on Thursday and although I was exhausted after an hour, I felt really comfortable being there. I’m phasing back over the next 4 weeks and I’ve been offered a place on a Maggie’s course entitled ‘Living with Stress’ starting next Friday. So really, I’m hoping to have achieved some level of enlightenment by the new year 😉  On another positive note, I haven’t worn make up for over two months (apart from maybe 3 times) and I’ve actually learned to like myself without it. I don’t feel like I need it to feel comfortable and its given me confidence where I always had insecurity. Quite empowering really.

I’m actually beginning to feel a little bit more like ‘me’ again, like my little inner warrior is starting to grow, and do you know what? I quite like it.

It feels good to be back.

Cx

 

Dark space

It’s been over a month since my last post and what a month it’s been. I feel like I have literally disappeared, lost myself completely in a fog of anxiety and mixed emotions.
It’s like the time from receiving my genetics results, to surgery, I’ve been on autopilot. Just powering through, trying to be strong and focusing on the end goal.

Mastectomy. Oophorectomy. Done.

Then I can just put it all to one side and be ‘normal’ again. Not having to deal with all the bullshit that is BRCA for a while would be nice.

At about 8 weeks post op, tired of being exhausted all the time, I found myself broken. Out of nowhere, without warning or expectation, it hit me. People spoke of how it was going to be hard, I didn’t realise this is what hard would be. This is it. The most fragile and vulnerable I have ever felt. Emotionally raw, literally lost. I’ve been in some dark spaces this past month.

I need to be still, quiet. I need help.

I’m blessed to have close friends, who can see me asking for help when I haven’t even said a word. I’ve been introduced to the Macmillan Centre at WesterHaven. They have offered me counselling and complimentary therapies to help support me through the recovery process. I’ve also been put in touch with the Maggies Centre at the Western General.

It’s odd, I didn’t think I could go to Macmillan or Maggies as I haven’t had cancer. I wish I had known sooner that I could use the services that they provide. I can’t even imagine how I’d be feeling right now if I hadn’t been offered help.

And so the next part of my journey begins. Support. Accepting all that’s offered and allowing myself to be vulnerable in order to rebuild my strength. I think I’m just going to have to accept that it takes time.

C x

Exhausted 

I’m exhausted. Emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted. On the outside I look fine, I’m mobile again and more or less back to normal but on the inside I feel like I’m crumbling.

Since finding out I carry the Brca1 mutation in September 2015, it’s literally consumed my thoughts. I think I’ve cried every day since. Not because I feel sorry for myself, but because I feel this immense guilt for my children. I hope that by the time they are old enough to be tested for Brca1, there will be alternatives available. Medical advances that mean they won’t need to face the decisions I have.

I feel guilty for people who don’t get to be armed with the knowledge I have, for those who have to deal with cancer and all that comes with it.

It’s made me realise how precious life and health are and just how blessed I am to have so much support from people around me.

I’ve been given this path for a reason. I am absolutely determined that I’m going to support as many people as I can who are going through similar experiences and in turn, raise awareness about genetic testing.