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.
As 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!
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.
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.
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
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!
I will be having surgery as a preventative measure because within my life time the probability of me obtaining breast cancer is very high risk. The idea of not having to worry about breast cancer is an absolute relief. As I think of the bigger picture of not having to go through what my momma went through with her breast cancer and being there for my daughter makes me want to have surgery tomorrow. However, I can not get too ahead of myself as there are many risks and options with having a prophylactic double mastectomy. My aunt (my mom’s sister) also was diagnosed with breast cancer. After going through chemotherapy she is in remission and a survivor! Have I mentioned how excited I am about this double mastectomy?
I would have not gained the knowledge and confidence in my decisions without talking to others who have had this surgery. So to all of you who have shared their story on here or any type of media like the Cosmo I read years ago – Thank you!!!! You truly have helped me so much and I think that is all of our goals right? I only hope to inspire others out there as well.
What is prophylactic mastectomy? Prophylactic mastectomy is surgery to remove one or both breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in high-risk women may be able to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 90%. The statement above is from http://www.breastcancer.org.
There are many different risk factors that play a part in determining your chance of getting breast cancer. If you are curious in finding these risks as I was, please talk to your doctor as not all numbers are the same for every individual.
After research, talking with my insurance and speaking with my doctors, I knew my decision was final on getting this surgery. I also already had in mind where I was going to go to have this surgery. I made a quick call and a packet arrived a few days later with loads of information on my upcoming appointment. That was very overwhelming as it was finally starting to sink in. As I drove to the same hospital my mom spent the worst of her days, it was tough. I remembered the overpass bridge, the fountain in the lobby, the cafeteria and the elevators which soon after the tears began to fall. Did I mention I do not like to show emotions that portray me as weak? I only let a few tears fall and I was fine. I met with my doctor who will be performing the removal of my breast tissue. She was so comforting and knowledgable, I couldn’t have felt better about our appointment. After we discussed all of the details, numbers, the procedure and risks, a massive weight had been lifted off of me. When she said, “your risk after this procedure would be under 1% of obtaining breast cancer”, I bawled like a baby. I could not stop crying as these were tears of joy and relief.
How could I not get this surgery with that low of a risk? My life will be forever changed as I will not live in fear anymore. When I was younger, I knew I would get breast cancer and was expecting it to happen any day. Well in 36 days that fear will be gone as I am having my prophylactic double mastectomy on June 3rd!!
The surgery I am having is a bilateral nipple sparing double mastectomy with same day reconstruction. Basically one doctor will be removing all of my breast tissue, and my plastic surgeon will come in right after and replace with an implant. I will have a scar at the bottom of my foobs (fake boobs).
If you have boobs, or if you had to get them removed, you are still a beautiful woman inside and out – never forget that!
A lot of women struggle with “losing a part of themselves” (real boobs) as this is a risk factor in this procedure. I can’t say anything yet, as I still have my real ones but as of now I do not have an attachment to them. First off, all I can think about when it comes to my boobs is that one day these things are going to give me cancer. I tend to always expect the worst, so regardless of the outcome, I am still ready to get this surgery done. Honestly, boobs are just boobs and after you have a baby, let’s just say they are not what they used to be, so I will be just fine! Regardless, this is a big concern for everyone who has this surgery, so be sure to talk this through with your doctor.
Recovery will be extremely rough, as I will not be able to lift my arms higher than my waist, open a door, lift more than 5 lbs or really do anything but lay down for the first few weeks. I can only sleep on my back, which is pretty much impossible for me to do. The little things like not being able to put my hair in a pony will drive me nuts. I pray that things go as smoothly as possible with no infection after surgery. Please send prayers for my husband, family and friends as well who will be helping me out during this time. The worst part about this whole process is not being able to pick up my daughter. I will be out for roughly about a month. I will have tubes in my sides for a few weeks to drain the extra fluid from surgery. I will have major bruising but that will clear with time. I will have to go back to have a few outpatient procedures but in a few months it will all be over. =)
Could I die tomorrow in a tragic accident or become diagnosed with a different kind of cancer? Yes, and I assure you I will be strong and fight it through, but it would not be breast cancer that I feared so much. I know you are thinking that cancer is cancer no matter what kind it is but to me it is different. Not many people understand my reasoning , but I do not expect anyone to and that is perfectly okay. Everyone has a story, struggle or fear and I will not judge you on yours as I could not ever put myself in your shoes. Do what you feel is right for you, make yourself happy and just be you. xoxo, Ashley
Well this is all new to me but I am loving meeting so many people already that I can relate to! Hey y’all! I am so thankful for the inspiration you have given me as I have decided to share my personal journey. My story is no more of an importance than yours, I just know how I have been impacted by reading other people’s stories and had to share mine as well.
Here is a little fun for those that do not know me, my name is Ashley, I am a strong-willed, independent, protective 27-year-old daughter, friend, wife and most importantly a mother. My ideal job would be to have an unlimited amount of money to just use to pay it forward for any and everyone. I love gymnastics and I wish I could still be the 17 year old gymnast I once was. My favorite sport is baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals are obviously the best. I love, love, love me some country music and I wish I lived somewhere like Nashville or Texas, so I could have that southern voice while I wear my cowboy boots everyday. Back to the music part —-> Garth Brooks. Oh my goodness, every time I see him in concert I leave with mascara down my face, sore legs from dancing the whole night, no voice from screaming and so incredibly amazed of the show he puts on.
I love life, my family and my friends. My husband is my best friend and an amazing father to our little girl. Let’s just say, I am the lucky one. Most people say it is good to have a “few” close friends, well I am proud to say that I have many close friends and I am blessed to call them my family. I am very open about my opinions, my story, and I tend to be too honest at times.
I am a picture fanatic and if you take anything away from this blog, please take lots of pictures with your family. Then save multiple copies of all of your pictures in different places just in case you lose your hard drive.
A little bit of why I am who I am To be strong is all I know, therefore I do not accept help or sympathy very well at all. (Silly to most of you yes, but hey that is just who I am and I can assure you I will ask if I need help, otherwise I’m good). But even when I know I could use the help, I can do it all on my own. Annoying right? I know, I agree with you 100%, and I will struggle with this more than I ever have before in the next few months. I have learned that time is precious, and I cherish every second I have with my little princess. One of my many struggles is that I have a hard time sharing her with others (even my husband) because I have learned that time with her can be taken away from me very quickly. Do I think this way about most of everything in life? Unfortunately, yes I do. I live in fear everyday. What if this? What if that? I have always been the realist, but after having my first child the fear grew stronger than ever before. As I look to the Lord, I know it is all in Gods hands (yet I still worry).
Ever since I was a little girl, I had to be independent. I did not have any other choice as my only parent became my angel in heaven. My memory has faded a lot and I barely remember any of my childhood. I believe my lapse in memory is an “escape” of reality at the time. When I was around 7 years old, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 32 years old at the age of diagnosis. She was the most beautiful person and I was the luckiest daughter (along with my amazing sister). I was so young that I did not understand any of it or I made myself not believe it. I wish I could go back so I could cherish each moment more and be there more for her. The hair loss, weight loss, sickness, hot flashes, surgeries, treatments, etc. was a normal day of a beautiful person for four years before she passed at the age of 36.
My new beginning Which brings you to the reason of this whole journey. Let’s face it, we all have been affected by cancer in one way or another. This “C” word is the scariest word in the dictionary to me. About 7 years ago, I was reading Cosmo and came across a story of a mother and daughter who was affected by breast cancer. The article went on to inform that the mother was a breast cancer survivor and her daughter chose to be proactive by getting genetic testing done. This test is a simple saliva test that determines if you carry a positive gene for breast cancer or ovarian cancer (BRCA1 or BRCA2). The daughter found out that she tested positive for BRCA1 and is high risk for breast cancer. She decided to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. I wish I would have torn that article out to keep so that I could personally tell those ladies “Thank You” as they brought hope to me. I was inspired to do my own research to take preventative measures as well.
Just a few years ago, I began doing daily self breast exams, getting mammograms and researching every preventative measure to lower my risk. In my research, one disagreement I have with most of the doctor’s recommendations is to wait until your 40’s to get mammograms (unless you have a strong history). Let me remind you, my mother was 32 at the age of diagnosis. Every time I scheduled a mammogram, I would constantly be questioned and almost denied an appointment because I was a young lady who wasn’t 40. That was frustrating. My doctor informed me that I should have started being proactive 10 years prior to the age my mother was diagnosed. I am very happy that I started this in my middle 20’s.
Please continue reading and go to my next post which will go into details of my surgery. I look forward to sharing more with you all. Remember to just be you and you can make a difference! xoxo, Ashley