I have been very slow to tell you that my cup, indeed, overfloweth. Or rather, my cup is now fitting very well. Thanks to the lovely Monique in John Lewis Birmingham. Following my last visit to Surgical Spice, I was able to throw out the soft bras and finally get myself sorted with something a little more appropriate. Underwired is out for now and likely to be for some time but before I plunged into the lingerie department once more, I needed to have an idea of what size to be buying.
My mastectomy in March 2016 removed a kilo (I kid you not!) of breast tissue and replaced it with shoulder muscle in a mound that was considerably smaller than my removed boob. My reduction this March (2017) removed half a kilo to bring it down to a size that matched my Foob (false boob). Before any of these shenanigans I was wearing a 36F. I knew it was too small and figured I should be in a G cup. So imagine my surprise on discovering that I currently measure a 36F!
I have gone from a size 18 top to a size 14. I can see my stomach for possibly the first time since I was 12. My shoulders no longer ache and my back is much improved. And yet, apparently I am the same bust size I was pre cancer … Methinks my bras were a tad smaller than I realised!
In other news, I have been having increasing problems with my left arm since my last surgery. It is painful on stretching, down to my hand and thumb. The pain is worst in my forearm, and certain movements are now becoming tricky. It has magnified since we’ve been out boating. That may be co-incidence or it may be linked to increased use. Difficult to say. Being the cheery soul that I am my first thoughts were to bury my head, ostrich style. I do denial so well. My next, was to convince myself I was developing lymphoedema but given that pain is not usually an isolated symptom and I have no swelling or other symptoms it seems unlikely. My third and most sensible thought was to call Breast Cancer Care’s helpline who in turn put me onto my Breast Care Team. The result? I have an appointment in a couple of week’s time. Annoying as I would really rather forget all about it now and just get on with living, thank you very much. But then again, I am very grateful to have access to such care.
I can hardly believe it has been eight weeks since my last surgery. But it has. Eight whole weeks. It seems a lot longer because I am so well and have recovered so much faster than I have done from any other surgical procedure I have ever had. Getting to grips with my dressing problems no doubt helped but I think knowing that this was the last big thing to happen was a major psychological boost. Having had a total of 1.450kg removed from my chest has probably helped too (1kg at mastectomy, 450g at reduction).
Anyway, today I got to see Surgical Spice for what may be the last time. But more of that later. Given that we are no longer land based, it involved a boat trip back to central Birmingham and then for the first time ever I walked to my appointment. This was actually rather fun thanks to brilliant sunshine. My Foob (fake boob) is looking excellent. It has healed well and no longer twitches quite so alarmingly. It still has the potential for a bit of tit twitching but it is not something I am practising and Surgical Spice is not keen to re-operate on that bit. Which is good as I am less than keen to subject myself to yet more surgery unless absolutely necessary. My Much Reduced But Still Real Boob is also healing well, although the scars are not what they should be yet. I have been instructed to be more vigorous in massaging both the scars and the breast in general as there appears to be some fat necrosis internally. This is not as alarming as it sounds and will settle down. The symmetry is excellent and all things considered everything looks very good. My histology results were also fine and given that I had totally forgotten about them were clearly something I was not worrying about.
The next stage is for nipple reconstruction and this is where things got a little complicated. My hospital is going through some major reorganisation and my lovely consultant will no longer be working there from June. This is a sad loss for the hospital and the service as the skills she brings will no longer be available to this NHS Trust. She is the only surgeon able to perform certain procedures like the DIEP flap reconstruction which was my reason for being referred there in the first place. I will not be recovered sufficiently for my new nipple to be formed before she leaves which leaves me with two options. One, have whoever replaces her at my treating hospital; or two, aim for the NHS Choose & Book service which may allow me to continue to be seen by her even though she will no longer be working within the NHS. I am inclined to continue under her care if possible given that she knows my history and I am so nearly through my treatment so will aim for that option. Once this is done, I get to explore the world of tattoos!
Once again, this appointment was rounded off with a trip to the medical imaging department as topless photos are now a standard part of my visits. I would quite like a complete set to see the changes but suspect this is not possible!
This weekend marked something of a landmark. It was the first weekend that the Captain and I had booked in to trade at a canal event this year. When we sent off the forms it was unclear just how much I would be able to do, given that it was still fairly close to my surgery. However, I am pleased to report, as returns to work go, it was a triumph.
I did need to have a few nap-lets during each of the three trading days. And it is true, I did have a minor meltdown as we came to set up for our first day. But it felt really good to be back and doing something so normal.
Yesterday found me once more at the Breast Clinic. My Letrozole holiday was over and it was time to shake the sand out of the hormonal sandals and review where we were at. Brainy Spice was as fab as ever. The news in was that all my muscle cramps have vanished but my hips are still stiff. It was enough of an improvement for Brainy Spice to suggest a change. So I will be starting on Exemestane just as soon as the pharmacy has made up my prescription. As with all these drugs, the side effects are very jolly sounding but needs must so I am hoping to be one of the lucky ones.
In other news, my relative quiet on here has been reflective of sheer busyness elsewhere. I am recovering with great alacrity and feeling better all the time. My newly trimmed rack is simply marvellous and I am loving the lack of shoulder and back ache! The Captain and I are poised to take to the waters next week and will be peddling our wares at a canal near you very soon. Expect photos of our new Breast Cancer Care jam to follow in another post.
Otherwise, I think you can take the infrequency of my posts to be very good news indeed. Life is happening. And it is good.
Today was the day. 261 days since I last had a hair cut. 261 days since my lovely hairdresser cropped me to chemo chic in preparation for the great shedding. Co-incidently, today has also been my first non hospital related trip out since last week’s surgical shenanigans. And what finer way to spend my first outing, I ask you? Two delicious cups of coffee, endless chatter from my darling hairdresser (who’s official verdict on my hair was ‘It really is mad, isn’t it?’) and an hour of feeling utterly normal.
I am seeing him again before the Captain and I take to the waters and head off into the wide blue yonder for a few months. We have plans for a few highlights and colourful whatchamacallits. Meanwhile, here is the finished result as promised. Pleased does not come close:
… but it is also quite dull. Five days post op and our house is still a house of unnatural quiet. My throat and mouth are by far the worst things about this latest date with the operating theatre. My uvula is about 50% longer than normal and likes to drag itself across the back of my throat. Which is as unpleasant as it sounds. My mouth is a bit like the sorest sore throat you can imagine. The one where you brace yourself to swallow your own saliva. It is improving. And it is good for the waistline as I am only really managing to eat variations on mush at the moment which is also quite dull. Ice cream is good but, and here’s something I never thought I would say, there is only so much I feel like.
Medically speaking, there seems to be nothing to be done except wait it out. I have been assured it will get better. And I can see that it is doing so. It is a tedious old business though. All that is to be done is to continue with the mouth numbing preparations, drink lots and wait.
Meanwhile, I rather think the Captain is enjoying the peace. He should worry about all the things I am plotting …
This is my mission now. The deed is done. I have been lopped, trimmed, tidied and hoovered. My job now is to pull up my positive pants, the ones that suck it all in, and get on with recovering.
All went well apart from a wee problem with my uvula. Yes, the dangly bit in the back of my throat. Apparently it got caught in the hoover. I know! Anyway, it swelled up like a balloon which made swallowing a tad tricky and caused a bit of alarm but hooray for steroids because they were fast administered and I was soon able to swallow. Fortunately breathing was never too much of a problem. Talking was but they did not seem too concerned about that. Can’t think why? I am now left with an elongated swollen dangly bit that tickles the back of my throat and is deeply annoying. It will pass. And it does mean I have been instructed to eat ice cream so it is not all bad.
All the surgical stuff seems to have gone well. I do not seem to have reacted to anything and everything so that is a major result. Everything is a bit sore but nothing that paracetamol can’t handle. The best thing is being home. They threw me out yesterday afternoon which was fabulous. I am hoping not to return.
By this time tomorrow, the deed should be done. I should have been hoovered, plumped, trimmed and lopped. I report for duty at 7:30am and hand myself over once more into the care of the NHS. This time I am taking jam to theatre with me. Can’t hurt to spread some sticky love, can it?
It is a novelty for me have to have curly hair. What am I saying? For sometime it has been a novelty for me to have hair full stop. But while I am delighted at the regrowth, I am less delighted and the sheer bonkerness of my current head covering. It really is mad. And nothing I do, not brushing, not washing, not any attempt at styling, makes the slightest bit of difference. So my plan for sometime, and I think you will agree, it is a cunning one, has been to simply avoid mirrors.
This has worked well. But the time has come when something has to be done. The reality is that, for all its madness, my hair is still not very long. Which is why I have not taken this course of action before. Finally though, I have made an appointment at with my hairdresser. It will be 261 days since my last appointment. It is a personal best. I am really hoping he can make something of the mess that now sits on my head. He is a magician so I have good reason to hope. I will of course, post photos when done but you will have to wait a while as it will not be until after my boobs have been trimmed. Boobs first, hair second. It is the rule.
Meanwhile, I have been having a lovely time over on picmonkey.com making collages of my hair regression and progression since my last cut. Enjoy.
Today was the first of my five, yearly visits to the Breast Clinic just to check that all is going well. It follows on from my annual mammogram. The appointment was with Brainy Spice and I was looking forward to seeing her.
However, on arrival, I seriously began to question whether I had got the place, time or date of the appointment wrong. The waiting room I was shown to was in the Oncology Clinic which threw me a little. But it is adjacent to the Breast Unit so that did not seem unreasonable. It was very crowded. Again, nothing unusual about that. But I did begin to wonder if I had inadvertently been sent to a Health Care for the Elderly Clinic. I was easily the youngest in the room by at least twenty years. Until the woman in her thirties showed up. I must have looked ancient to her so I can only shudder at what she thought of the rest of our companions. Of course, there is the possibility that these women were, in fact, all in the their fifties and were attending their last review appointment having spent the past five years on Letrozole.
Which brings me to my consultation. Brainy Spice was as fab as ever. I was as dippy as ever. I had a list of questions I wanted to ask. Unfortunately, it was a mental list. Mistake. Obviously, I got side tracked by demonstrating my tit twitching abilities and promptly forgot all about it. She was impressed though and felt that as a plan to fall back on in hard times, it was not an unreasonable one. Hurrah. The one question I did remember to ask was about Letrozole. Just lately I have been having a lot of trouble with muscle cramps and joint stiffness. I am frequently woken in the night with my calves or feet cramping and I can no longer sit cross legged on the floor without a good deal of pain. Both these problems are getting worse. To establish whether it is the Letrozole causing the problems or just an absence of oestrogen, Brainy Spice has suggested I have a Letrozole holiday. So for six weeks, my little brown pills get metaphorically packed away in a suitcase with arm bands and a bucket and spade. I wonder if they will send a post card?
Following this break, I return to clinic to discuss the findings. Of course by then, I will be sporting my new rack. I wonder if I will still be able to twitch?