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Preventative Double Mastectomy: The final stage

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First off, I apologize I haven’t updated or posted in such a long time.  Time truly flies by quickly doesn’t it?  Whew…. okay I last left off on the week of my final surgery (which literally feels like forever ago).  Here is a quick recap of the final stage of my prophylactic double mastectomy.

During my final surgery, the expanders I had in my chest (which are implants that are filled with saline multiple times over a few months to expand the skin) were taken out and my silicone tear drop shaped implants were put in.  I no longer have any breast tissue in my chest.  All I have is an implant and some extra cushion from fat grafting.  Fat grafting was painful.  Basically the plastic surgeon took fat through a little tube out of my stomach and placed it around the implant and on top to give my foobs a more “natural look”.  Although I am certain they do not look like natural breasts, I do think that fat grafting was necessary.  Recovery after this last surgery was worse than I had expected.  I was in quite a bit of pain and it was more in my stomach area than my chest.  I have a high pain tolerance so I thought I would be okay, however my stomach felt like it had been cut all the way across my body multiple times yet it was only a tiny little hole.  Bruising was not as bad this time but it was still on both of my sides and all around my scars.  A few weeks later and everything was just fine.  My scars are visible but they are not over bearing.  I think they are perfect.  I am proud of these scars as they tell me so much about myself.

Out of everything I have been through during this journey only two minor struggles stick out to me that were not the easiest to deal with.  The first would definitely be the drains that I had in my sides with the first surgery.  Even though I only had them in for a few weeks, I do not want to go through that again.  The only other part that I struggled with was the last recovery from the fat grafting mentioned above.  Everything else was exciting and all in all it was all so worth it.  As I am sure I have said this in a previous post, going forward I will only have to have a MRI every 3 years to check on the implants.

Just two weeks ago I had my one year follow up with the plastic surgeon to briefly check the implants and make sure everything healed properly.  The first thing she said to me was that the girls looked so good!  Then she asked how I was feeling and all I could say was relieved.  I did not have any worries or questions or what if’s to speak to her about.  I was almost speechless but in a good happy way.  She checked my foobs and she said everything looked/felt perfect! YAY!!

I took my daughter with me to this appointment and we had a great girls day.
IMG_6497.jpgAs my little princess sat next to me, all I could think about was how my decision to have this done truly was the best decision for me.  I literally can not express my feelings after having my double mastectomy.  Before, I had so much worry and fear that breast cancer would take me as it took my mother and now after, I know I will not be the 1 out of 8 women that will be diagnosed.  Of course I can not protect myself from everything in this world, but I did stop breast cancer from ruling my life.

I hope to continue on here with personal updates and even other stories of women going through this process. I truly believe that even if something is so personal to you, by sharing your story/experience and opening those doors it can move mountains in helping others!  Thank you for all of your continued support and if you have any questions feel free to contact me. Goodnight and God Bless!

xoxo Ashley
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Breast Cancer Awareness : My Summary

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So 2015 has been a whirlwind of emotions, appointments and surgeries but I am very thankful for everything that I have been able to go through this while keeping a positive attitude.  To the people who have questioned this whole process to learn about and get a closer perspective on, I wish you all the best and I am here for anything you need!  So I wanted to clarify a few things in this post about what has happened so far and what I have to look forward to.

  • I am not a BRCA gene carrier.
    Only about 5% of breast cancer patients have the BRCA gene.  BRCA 1 & BRCA 2 are the two types of genes that you may test positive for.  This is one of the first things you should do if you have any question about breast cancer running in your family.  My mother was diagnosed in the middle 90’s and when I discussed her diagnosis with my doctor, she stated this testing may not have been available back then so we are unaware if she had BRCA gene or not.  My aunt (mom’s sister) did not have the BRCA gene so we would assume mom did not have it either. However, just because you do not have the gene does not mean you will not get breast cancer, as in my aunt and mother’s case.  If you have any question as to if you have this gene, it can be as simple as a saliva test to find out.  I was able to do the test locally and received results in 2-3 weeks.  I was negative for this gene.
  • My lifetime chance of obtaining breast cancer was still very high risk even with testing negative for the gene.
    You can test your risk from a simple series of questions about your family history, health and lifestyle and by talking with your doctor.  You can also go online to https://www.brightpink.org for more information on your risk assessment.  This website has so many wonderful events, support teams, and information for early detection/prevention of breast and ovarian cancer.  I highly recommend this site.
  • You must have an open mind and a positive mind set before making any serious decisions like this.  Obviously mastectomy was my choice, but that is not everyone’s choice.  Many people I know have been diagnosed with breast cancer and they are not ready to have this surgery.  You can still get your regular check ups and mammograms to be proactive!  Surgery is not for everyone, but it was the best decision I have ever made.  Emotions are real with this surgery and can easily affect you as well.  Thankfully, I think that this has made me a happier person overall!  Although I am more self conscious about what I wear (which is mostly black, gray or navy) and what the girls look like, I am ready to have my new chest to finally know what size bra to get or what type of shirt looks okay.  This will take time to feel comfortable but the rest of my emotions about this are wonderful!!
  • This surgery may be covered by insurance.  Definitely call them if you have any questions about the gene test and any preventative screening – mammograms, mastectomy, lumpectomy etc.  I just hope this piece of it is not a battle for you as mine was, but do not give up – keep on top of it.
  • I will no longer have to have a mammogram each year.  I will have a MRI every few years instead of smashing my boobs with that dreadful machine because it could potentially bust or damage my implants.
  • I have my last reconstructive surgery this coming up Friday.  It will be similar to the first surgery by cutting the same incision under my “foobs”.  I do not have to have drains with this procedure which is wonderful news!  They will remove my temporary saline implants and replace with silicone “permanent” implants that will have to be changed every 10 years or so.  I am also having some fat grafting to go along with this surgery to cushion and make the girls look/feel a little more natural and not so rock hard in your face.  I still feel awkward hugging someone because I know they are thinking “OMG, those are rock solid.” So true and so sorry lol!  I am glad I can laugh and joke about these things now as I am finally used to them but now they are about to change again.  Since I chose to have breasts again and not completely remove them I obviously want them to look somewhat normal.  Now that my worry of ever obtaining breast cancer is completely gone, I now am anxious for what the end result will look like.  I have to say my plastic surgeon has done wonders and I could not be happier with my results so far, so I have high hopes for Friday!
  • Everyone has been awesome with the idea of this surgery but you will always have a few stray ones that can make those comments that can be hurtful.  I only had a few that said “Oh you are just doing this for new boobs.”  As I do not hide my emotions well and could have easily corrected their inconsiderate remarks, I surprisingly held it together and fake laughed it off all while reassuring them that the main goal is to completely be free of breast cancer.  I will be proud of my new girls, my new scars, weeks of recovery and all the future surgeries because I am going to be breast cancer free.
  • I will always be a huge supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness.  As most of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and I encourage everyone to help and support your local charities, a friend or family member who has been affected by this cancer and any organization that supports the American Cancer Society.  Please also keep in mind as your social media accounts try to bring awareness to this – let’s all be supportive, respectful and mindful of how you encourage awareness.  Make a donation, schedule your mammogram, raise money, participate in fundraisers, walks, runs, school events, pink out games, etc.  You can make a difference these ways but by posting a make-up less selfie does nothing for anyone.
  • After I am done having kids, I am already thinking of removing my ovaries because I am also at a higher risk to obtain ovarian cancer as well.  I would gladly remove any body part possible that gives me a high risk to prevent cancer from taking my life as it did my mother’s.

Quick knowledge/facts from http://www.brightpink.org

  • 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer
  • 1 in 67 women will develop ovarian cancer
  • Vitamin A reduces risk for those who have a family history of the disease. Look for carrots, sweet potatoes, dried herbs, and leafy greens.
  • Vitamin E has been clinically proven to slow the growth of cancer cells in the ovaries by reducing the production of telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein that can increase the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Fill up on leafy greens such as swiss chard, spinach, and kale, as well as nuts, wheat, and tropical fruits
  • Cut back on cocktails. Research shows a 10% increase in breast cancer risk for every 10g of alcohol—that’s one standard drink—consumed on average each day.
  • Some women who are at high risk for breast cancer have their breast tissue surgically removed through a prophylactic (or risk-reducing) mastectomy. Studies show you can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by 95%, and you have options for reconstructive surgery afterward. You will also want to consider that you will likely lose normal sensation in the breast, and won’t be able to breastfeed. If you decide to have a risk-reducing mastectomy, you may find these tips helpful. https://www.brightpink.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MastectomyGuide.pdf

If you have any questions about any of the above I would be happy to give more details or help clarify anything I can for you!  I hope everyone has a wonderful week and thank you for all of your support.  I can only hope this continues to encourage you to be more aware of your options and to be proactive! xoxo, Ashley. 

One Month Post Mastectomy – Life with Expanders

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It has been a little over a month since surgery and overall the recovery has been great!  The doctors are very happy with how everything turned out and so am I!  I received a call about two weeks after surgery from one of my doctors letting me know that my tissue did not have any cancer cells and everything was benign.  I can not express the relief I had after that phone call.  Thankfully, I did not have any infection either and the incision site is a perfect thin line under my foobs.  The drains, that I mentioned before, went into my side and wrapped around the top and bottom of my chest for about a week and a half.  Although my chest is mostly numb, I could definitely see and feel those drains.  Once they were ready to be removed, the doctor literally just pulled them out and I was free.  Hallelujah!!  The area was still pretty sore but it was a relief to have them out.  I really think the mindset I had at the beginning of this whole process made it a fast and positive recovery regardless of any pain or struggle I had.  I was so excited to get this procedure done and I expected recovery to be a lot harder than what it was.

My doctor still set some limitations even though I had full function of my arms.  I had to remind myself to not lift much and keep my arms down.  After a few weeks, it was hard to follow instructions when I did not feel any restriction or pain so I wanted to test my strength out.  My first attempt to do a push up was a total fail and I went face first on the floor.  Haha it was pretty funny and definitely eye opening.  I will have to gradually work on my chest muscles and gaining my strength back.  Exercise in baby steps… I have to remember that!

So about these tissue expanders that I have in…… just weird.  It’s like a wave in my chest every time I move.  This “wave” will go away eventually but because the implant is not filled all the way just yet, I’ll pretend I’m on the beach. 🙂 Every 2 weeks I will have more saline injected through a needle and the port of my implant.  They inject the saline wherever the port is so there is no control over how the girls will look during this time.  To find the port they use magnets.  How neat is that?  My nurse grabbed the little magnet and ran it across my chest to locate the magnetic port.  I just kept thinking what if that is not really it?  The nurse circled the area where it was located and then a massive needle goes right in.  Sounds painful but I can not feel anything, it is so strange.  Over time I should gain some feeling back but I may not.  Not only are my boobs wave like, water balloons and magnetic but they have their own ID cards I have to carry around.  This process is definitely interesting.IMG_9034

On the books right now, I will go get a fill every few weeks and then in a few months I will have my second surgery.  The next surgery is not as intense as the first one, which is good news.

I love the “new” me.
Don’t let go of your dream because one day it will come true!  xoxo, Ashley

3 Days Post Mastectomy

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So it has been 3 days since I underwent my nipple sparring skin sparring prophylactic double mastectomy and I will have to say I am doing very good with it all.  Any kind of surgery is hard to recover from and challenging but I definitely thought it would be way worse.  The hardest part was sitting up out of the bed.  Now on day 3, I can sit up on my own, do most of my daily normal activities but I still can not lift my arms higher than my shoulders.  Thankfully my hubs is strong and can lift me up when I need help.   He has been a wonderful nurse. Surgery only took about three hours, which I was surprised it wasn’t longer.  I went to the hospital early Wednesday morning.  I was the first patient scheduled for surgery that day.  After the IV was in and I was all prepped to go back to surgery, I was ridiculously calm.  They wheeled me back to the operating room that was ice cold and it was lit up with huge bright lights.  They also had dance music blaring in the room.  I said, “Oh my gosh, I love how cold it is in here and that it is a dance party in here!”  The anesthesiologist came in told me to take 15 breathes and I was out after the first breathe.  Speaking of being put under, when I was a little girl I had to have my tonsils removed.  All I remember about that surgery was this old lady that was a nurse was shaking me, and yelling at me saying I wasn’t being a good girl.  I guess I didn’t let her say that too much longer because I flailed my arm over and accidentally hit her.  Ever since then I literally have had the worst trouble waking up.  It is not intentional, I just think that mean old lady made me that way.  So I warned my anesthesiologist before I went back that I may have trouble waking up.  Sure enough I did, and he said he had to put me back out because of it.  Haha … Sorry! My expanders only have about 100cc of saline in them so they are small right now.  I have 4 drains in, 2 on each side, and everything I have heard about these things being annoying is so true.  Hopefully next week at my follow up appointment, I will be able to get a few or all of them taken out.  The doctors will put more saline in my expanders over the next few appointments.  I do not have any bruising right now, and the incision site looks great. When I woke up from surgery, I remember tears fell down as I was so relieved.  It is finally over and the worry/fear is gone!  The nurse asked me that morning how I was feeling.  I said I’m great and excited, then she got a puzzled look on her face.  “We don’t hear that often”.  When my doctor came in, the nurse said “Ashley is excited and ready”, my doctor said “It is rare but I know why she is ready for this.”  Someone understands why, finally!!  My doctors were phenomenal!  They said everything went great and that I would get results back from my tissue in about a week to see if there was any concern or cancer cells in the tissue. Unknown I do not regret this decision one bit, I am very glad I got this surgery.  This was the best decision for me and my life.  In being proactive, you don’t have to go to this extreme as I did, but just make sure you do your self breast exams, mammograms and yearly check ups. xoxo, Ashley

The Start to my New Journey

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For a while now, this verse has truly helped me get past my fear.  I encourage you all to keep this in your heart as the Lord is with you always.  Tomorrow, as I have my double mastectomy, I know that God will be there with me and my doctors.  I want to say thank you all for your kind words, prayers and support.  You all are amazing!

This past week has been confusing to say the least.  I was just “numb”.  I didn’t have many feelings about what was about to happen.  I think my nerves and excitement basically balanced each other out.  I also got a little sick which totally messed up my schedule.  I had everything planned to “stay busy”.  1. Clean 2. Laundry 3. Clean 4. Organize and although it may not be perfect and it will drive me nuts not to be able to finish it when I get home, I think I will be okay.

Is it weird that I still do not feel like it is happening? (thanks to the month of May)  I know that will quickly change as I am in my gown about to count down to go to sleep.  I am not worried about going under, cut open or stitched up but I am worried for a possible infection and for the drains that I will have in afterwards.  The surgery is lengthy supposably about 4-6 hours.  No idea of the accuracy on that until in the morning but I do know it will be awhile.  I go in at 6:15am and I am assuming surgery will start a few hours later.  I can’t imagine the feelings my husband will be in during this time, so keep him in your thoughts and prayers too please!

As today is the day before surgery, it is also a very special day for me.  Three years ago, I married my best friend!!   What says Happy Anniversary more than Hey, you’ll get to be my nurse for awhile =).  He is so awesome and I am so lucky to have him.  I promise not to be too awful after this, just don’t wake me if I am sleeping.  We all know I love my naps! =)

It is getting late so as I sit here and attempt to fall asleep, I will say my prayers and try to stay relaxed.  Isaiah 41:10 will be on repeat.  Love you all, xoxo Ashley

Tomorrow is a new day, a new start and a new beginning so you better own it, love it and make the best out of it!

A dear friend of mine gave me this bracelet and it is perfect.  Angel wings and Strength with the date 6-3-15.  Here comes the beginning of my new journey.  Bring it on!
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Goodbye to May

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You know how you just have the one terrible day that you can not wait for it to be over?  Yep, that would be basically all of May for me.  You would have honestly thought that I was a 9 month pregnant, hormonal, bipolar, hungry or hangry mad woman.  The battle of emotions I have had is unreal – I swear just ask my husband or those fabulous girls I work with that got to deal with me everyday.  I promise I do love you all who have had the pleasure of dealing with me.  This whole journey just goes to show me that my family and friends really are the best!  Thank you all and I appreciate all of the support you have given me.

At the beginning of the year, my doctor said that insurance would cover the surgery.  Awesome, sign me up!  After multiple hour long trips to my doctor’s office, appointments, research, talking with many girls my age or younger that have had this surgery, I could not wait to share my big news.  However, I wanted to keep it all in until it was closer to my surgery date because I know things can change in no time.  I have been crazy organized, prepared myself mentally and I was ready, I just needed to pack my bags.  At the beginning of this wonderful month of May, I hear the news that the surgery is denied.  I was devastated.  During the next few weeks it was one bad thing, after another, after another that just kept happening.  Weeks later, I finally get things straightened out, surgery is approved.  The same day that I got the exciting news, I leave work to go pick up my daughter and a semi decides to have a blow out in front of me.  All I see is a massive black tire shooting straight at me, and even though it messed up the front end of my car, I wasn’t going to let that get me down.  I swear I can’t make this stuff up.  I never wish time away, but I will be happy to be off this roller coaster month full of emotions that I have had.

With that being said, I hesitate to even sit here and say that two weeks from today I will be under the knife, but supposably it will happen.  I probably won’t believe it until I am there, but they have assured me it is approved.  So if this for some reason does not happen in two weeks, I know it is God’s timing and not mine.  If it doesn’t happen June 3rd, I can assure you that I will do everything I can in the future to have this done so that I can be here for my child(ren).

Now if everyone can say a prayer that this surgery actually will take place in two weeks (unless there is someone who needs emergency surgery, then it may be pushed back a little bit) I would greatly appreciate it.  I know I have been so ready for this, but I will actually admit I am very anxious/nervous at the same time.  I will update again before the scheduled surgery.  Fingers crossed everyone!
Goodbye May, Hello June!!!!! xoxo, Ashley

You can’t make everybody happy. You’re not a Nutella jar.

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I am certain I will get some funny comments as well on this decision, so before it starts I have to share this! It is too good and made me laugh. I am fully aware that everyone has their own opinion but what in the world are some of these people saying/thinking?  xoxo, Ashley

themutantdiaries

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I’ve stumbled upon this picture multiple times the past week and I giggle whenever I see it.  It’s so fitting too, to the post I’ve been toying with writing.  I’ve wanted to share some of the better ignorant and flat out stupid comments I’ve received in the wake of being in the public eye after my mastectomy.  One thing I don’t want people to think, however, is that these comments affected me in any way.  On the contrary, they made me laugh, and sometimes they made me pity those that were saying them.  So I thought I’d share some of the more laughable ones with you and my thoughts towards them.

“RIP to that glorious rack”
Sorry your love life sucks, bro.

“You’re such a pretty girl, why would you want to change that?”
This one came a while back, I actually have a full blog post devoted to it. …

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