My Expansion Progress Report…

I’ve had two successful expansions since my bilateral mastectomy in March and each day has been a new learning opportunity. First and foremost, I feel blessed to have had the option to undergo a breast reconstruction at the same time I had the mastectomy done. There have been so many women before me that didn’t have the option and to me that’s a big deal. While the process isn’t always an easy or fun one, there is a sense of peace I feel knowing I will eventually feel “whole” again.

After getting over the initial pain I experienced due to the expanders, the toughest thing has been adjusting to sleeping on my back. I’m usually a side or stomach sleeper so this has been a difficult one to get use to. Nevertheless, I’ve managed and have found great use for the bamboo body pillow I received after my surgery.

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The firm and tight feel of my expanding chest is another thing I’ve had to get use to. At times it’s caused back pain or difficulties breathing comfortably. The reconstructed breasts are so rounded compared to what they were like before and they feel so stiff after each expansion. I secretly hope each day that they eventually develop a more natural feel and look but, I don’t know that it will really happen until my final implants go in. You can tell in the picture I posted that it’s starting to look like I have two round balls on my chest… Lol Crazy!

Overall, the expansion process has been an experience I can’t complain to much about. Every two weeks I see my surgeon, he uses a needle to inject more saline into my expanders and I go back to my daily routine, giving my skin time to stretch and make room for more saline.

Saline anyone? :)
Saline anyone? πŸ™‚

Radiation treatment has been put on hold till we determine what other treatment options I have so, keeping faith that each expansion will be a successful one is the only thing I try to focus on right now. The biggest concern is that the left breast won’t do well since I had radiation. You can even see in the picture how shiny the skin on the left side is as a result of its inability to stretch as easily as the right. All in all, I am doing well and am looking forward to the final product. πŸ™‚

Stay tuned…
Elizabeth πŸ™‚

Breaking Point…

After spending a week in the hospital, I was finally released with a concoction of medications that would allow me to stay comfortable while continuing my recovery at home. I thought my stay at the hospital and the pain I was enduring was the worst thing that could be happening to me until my reality started setting in followed by depression.

I hate to admit it but it’s true, I have reached a new breaking point. I no longer feel as brave as you’ve all known me to be. I’ve become fearful of stepping into my day to day routines and not being able to complete them, unhappy with the way I look and the fact that nothing fits “the way it use to”, and disappointed in myself for letting this whole experience get the best of me.

This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn't restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.
This picture was taken over the weekend while I slept. It was the only position I could sleep in that didn’t restrict my breathing or cause me additional pain.

You would think, having gone through this before, it would be a piece of cake to bounce back, but it hasn’t. This surgery and the transformation that came with it has been much harder to cope with.

I try with everything in me to smile and remember just how lucky I am, but a part of me can’t help but be angry, sad and hurt. I get frustrated by the tiniest sound and go from sweet to sour in seconds. It’s an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t seem to end.

As the swelling has gone down and my incision have healed, I’ve been able to become more familiar with the foreign objects inside me. The expanders feel so hard and stiff. I’m even noticing a difference in placement which makes me worried. “Did I do something to make it shift?” “Was it always like that?” “Did the Alloderm not take, causing my expander to slide down?”

I’ve been so careful and still have managed to over do it at times, causing more frustrations. I can honestly say that the one thing that keeps me sane are the pep talks and counseling I’ve received along the way from people who have gone through this or something similar. It’s a reminder that I’m not alone and that I’m not crazy.

I yearn to feel whole again, but for now, I can only take it one day at a time and hope that each day gets better…

Stay tuned,
Elizabeth Plaza

Pre-Surgery Update

It’s been almost 2 weeks now that I found out my cancer had returned and I’m officially packed and ready to head to the other coast tomorrow in preparation of my surgery Monday afternoon.Β I can’t believe how fast the time has flown by.

Packing was a little different this time as there was one essential item that wasn’t coming with me. My bras! I know it sounds kind of silly, but when it finally clicked in my head that I would no longer be wearing my bras, I felt a whole in my stomach and a pain in my heart. I mean it’s not like I just received the news yesterday but in that moment, it felt like I had.

I have one day left before I say goodbye to the “lady lumps” that have been causing so much emotional stress in my life.

While removing them is the best decision for my future, they’ve been mine for 32 years now and I think that merits the right to be a little upset about losing them.

The plan for my surgery is a bilateral mastectomy, (one side required and the other preventative) with reconstruction. The reconstruction will take place in phases as they will not be putting in the final implants right away. I’ve opted to go with the placement of “Expanders” first at the recommendation of my plastic surgeon, due to the fact that I am small to begin with and have had radiation to the left breast in the past, making the healing process a more difficult one. It will reduce my chances of complications due to infection or my incision not healing correctly.

I admit I’m a bit nervous and am overwhelmed but I try to stay positive and remind myself that what I’m doing now will bring me so much peace in the future.

Flowers from my love :)
Flowers from my love πŸ™‚

I’ve also been blessed to have such an amazing support system to help me get through my daily struggles. My partner, family, close friends and new friends. They’ve all been an essential part of my mission to “keep it together”.

I will continue to blog throughout my recovery so be sure to follow along. I hope what I have to share will be both educational and comforting to others who may be going through something similar or know someone who is.

At the end of the day my purpose for sharing my story is to educate others and help in any way I can to comfort others going through the same. The support I’ve received along the way has really just been a blessing from all of you. One of which I am extremely grateful for.

Stay tuned,

Elizabeth πŸ™‚

P.S. The painting above was done by one of my co-workers. The woman represents me and the 2 flowers above my head represent my journey, one flower being darker than the other to resemble a larger and more difficult journey the second time around. The flowers below are white representing peace and the bird with the survivor ribbon represents my freedom and survivor-ship after completing my journey.  This painting truly touched my heart. ❀