Its been three days since my last fluid injection into my ever growing tissue expanders. I have had three injections now of 120cc’s of fluid on both sides plus the 390cc’s that were put in at the time of my surgery. My “mounds” as I like to call them are starting to take shape. The shape however is nothing like what I expected or want. My left side protrudes much more than my right and it sits very high on my chest. So much so that the mound starts just under my collar bone. Even the perkiest breasts don’t look like that. It’s like having cleavage that starts just below your neck! On my right side, the expander isn’t filling “up” its going to the sides so that my mound is flatter and wider. If I wasn’t self conscious enough before this last injection, now I have very apparent and obvious lopsided mounds. Its mortifying. One side is a tennis ball and the other is a tennis ball that has been run over by a car.
I had agreed to have the 120cc’s injected this week as I thought I could handle it. That’s what I’ve had the other times so why not?! I didn’t consider though that each time I get fluid injected my skin has to stretch and settle to that amount….but the more fluid inside the tighter and more uncomfortable my chest becomes. With a mastectomy all tissue and all skin is removed to ensure that the cancer cells within the breast are removed. So the skin that is left for the surgeon to sew up is skin that they have stretched and sutured from just above my ribs at the bottom and slightly below my collarbone at the top, so the skin is is pulled together very tightly. That is why it takes months of injections to slowly stretch the skin in order to create a pocket to insert the implants.
Right now, my skin is stretched like the skin of a drum. It feels like my chest has turned into a set of snare drums or perhaps bongo drums. The skin is so taut that you could bounce a quarter off it. There is absolutely no “give” to the skin right now as it is stretched like an elastic band just ready to snap. Every few minutes I feel a stabbing pain as the skin tries to settle into its new size. At night I battle terrible muscle spasms from the expanders pushing up against my pectoral muscles as I try to sleep. Think about the what it feels like when you get a cramp in your calf and then imagine that in your chest. How do you stretch it out? I try sitting up straight which only stretches the skin more…I try raising my arms above my head which pulls at my sutures and aggravates the pain already caused from the surgery and lymph node removal…or I just hold my breath, swear really loudly and wait for it to pass.
It will eventually settle…it always does, but with each fill up it is more painful and takes longer to ease up than the one before. Many people have voiced their opinions on why I am putting myself through this. Why am I not just happy with a small chest or no chest at all. There is nothing wrong with that, but the fact is that I want more than that! You may think that is vain but that is my decision. I am not looking at anything obscenely large. I don’t want to look like Dolly Parton, but I do want to look somewhat like I did in my previous life. Not as large perhaps but at least “shapely”. I am not trying to recreate what I was before, as that is impossible. I will never have real breasts. I won’t have nipples. I will never have the look or suppleness of real breasts. I will never have real feeling in that area again. I will never lose the scars that run across my chest. I will never look or feel the way I did “before,” but I am trying my best to create a body that isn’t as foreign to me as the one I have now. One that doesn’t shock me every time I look at myself. This is very hard physically and even more so emotionally. I avoid mirrors. I struggle getting dressed in the morning and I curse the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer every time I look at myself.
But…I also thank my lucky stars everyday that I am cancer free. That I am here and able to make these decisions and I am blessed to have years and years ahead of me. So even though I could moonlight as a bongo player right now I do not regret my decision to undergo the reconstruction. Every one is different. And there is no right or wrong. So although you may think I am marching to the beat of a different drum I am committed to the parade and will continue to march forward one step at a time.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.