Karen's Blog

After a mastectomy you get new boobs! Yay! Wait, not really…

After a mastectomy you get new boobs! Yay! Wait, not really…
When I tell people about my mastectomy, I receive lots of support, many questions and even some rude comments. The most frequent thing I hear from both women and men is “at least you will get perky boobs” (insert awkward laugh here)

For those of you who, thankfully, have not had a mastectomy or been close to someone who is going through one, you might think that this is going to make us feel better. It doesn’t! I understand that it is meant to be a supportive comment, but, I promise you, this is not a normal boob job. Yes, I did get implants to replace my real breasts, but that is where the similarities end.

A breast augmentation consists of an implant being inserted behind the existing breast tissue. Typically this is for aesthetic reasons and is meant to enhance a woman’s natural breasts.
A mastectomy “(from Greek μαστός "breast" and ἐκτομή ektomia "cutting out") is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.” (Wikipedia)
I was sent home the day after my mastectomy feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Unable to stand straight, I walked and sat hunched over. The tissue expanders that were placed under my pectoral muscles made me feel like I was wearing a metal corset while an elephant sat on my chest. On top of all that, I was extremely nauseous from the anesthesia and, on the car ride home, it felt like every bump was going to send me over the edge. 

As awful as all of that sounds, the worst part, for me, were the drains. I wish I had been prepared emotionally for them because, although it is doable, it is by no means easy to handle them!

The JP drains (Jackson Pratt) are used after a mastectomy to remove any fluid buildup that can accumulate after surgery and cause infection. I woke up from surgery with 4 of them dangling by my side, under the bandages, and they stayed with me for 10 long days. 

With every move, the drains would pull at the incision site and, on more than one occasion, I sat on one. Going to the washroom was an ordeal in itself. Where to place the drains? I never really found a great solution for that, but the trial and error was quite entertaining. After battling with the drains for a few days, I finally found a solution that worked the best for me. It didn`t make the drains any more comfortable but I was able to get around a lot easier.

I placed the drains in the pockets of a hooded sweatshirt that I turned inside out. Not attractive, but effective. To prevent the drains from pulling every time I moved, my daughter (who was 2 at the time suggested “band aids for my boo-boo”, so that`s what I did. 

When I returned to the surgeon ten days post surgery to have the drains removed, I was so relieved. I felt some pulling and pinching, but the unpleasantness didn’t last long. Whenever you speak with someone, who has had drains removed after a mastectomy, they will tell you it is a sense of freedom!
These new boobs of mine came at a price, but, for me, it was a price worth paying.
Until next time ☺
Much love
Karen

                                                                 

“Mommy, where are your nipples?”

“Mommy, where are your nipples?” These words I never thought I would hear coming out of my kid’s mouth. This is my reality; and I promised myself when my journey began over six years ago, that I would always be honest with them. I respond with, “The doctors removed them along with my boobies and fixed them so that I would never get sick with breast cancer.”                                      At the time of my surgery, Jonah 4, Paige 2 To those who don’t know about hereditary breast and/or ovarian cancer it makes no sense. People aren’t able to understand that by removing healthy breasts and ovaries, I have reduced my chances of developing cancer to less than 2-5%. If I had a dollar for every person that told me that I could eat right or exercise to avoid my risk of cancer, well, I would have a lot of money! As a BRCA2 mutation carrier, I was given up to an 87% risk of breast cancer and up to 40% risk of ovarian cancer. That knowledge alone was enough for me to take drastic actions. Cancer was NOT going to get me. A mutated BRCA gene cannot be repaired. It cannot be fixed by eating right, exercising, or with natural remedies. If you have a mutated …
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Thank you Angelina Jolie…

start a convo
Sitting in a Montreal restaurant with Angelina Jolie, I am overjoyed that I am finally getting the opportunity to thank her for writing her op-ed article “My Medical Choice” in the New York Times two years ago. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/opinion/my-medical-choice.html?_r=0 I can’t believe that we are actually talking about preventative mastectomies, hysterectomies and BRCA mutations. It’s hard to imagine that only six years ago there was not much discussion about BRCA mutations and hereditary cancers, never mind trying to explain removing healthy breasts to prevent cancer that you might not ever get. This extreme measure is almost too much for most people to grasp and now, one of the most famous women in Hollywood has given us BRCA mutation carriers a voice. Thank you Angelina… Then my alarm goes off. A girl can dream! Two years after Angelina`s announcement in the New York times, genetic testing has gone up over forty percent. Hard to imagine that one women has such a powerful voice but it`s true. Knowledge really is power and when it`s linked to Hollywood and celebrities, word spreads fast. http://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/press-center/info-02-2015/aarp-report-brca-testing-jolie-effect.html I vividly remember the day that Angelina Jolie`s article came out. Everyone was talking about the risk reducing measures that she had taken to drastically decrease her risk of breast cancer All I could think was “Oh My God, Angelina just had the same surgery as me. Unbelievable! And she’s talking about it! She is giving BRCA a voice’! I
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