(Previously published September 4, 2010)
So I haven't said much lately about the main object of my disease...the Betties. I thought we could all use a little bit of laughter as laughter is medicine for the soul. We've all got to continue laughing and smiling. There is so much to smile about!
After I posted about my first chemo treatment, I had a couple close to me...ahem...my sister and dear friend.....comment about the size of my Betties from the pictures on that post. And a friend came over yesterday, who hadn't seen me in about a month, and that was one of the first things she commented on...my size! It's ok, good friends can do that.
This is a bit outside my comfort zone, sharing with this much candor...but I'm sharing on this level as I've had many ask me about the filling process and I know, as women, we are curious about this part of breast cancer....and each week those of you who see me, see me growing. :)
This is where the comedy comes in.
Before breast cancer, I was, shall we say, rather small chested. I was glad for the person who invented the padded bra, as we were friends. (Funny how breast cancer thrusts you into an arena where you talk about something so personal that really wasn't open forum conversation before...but let's be real....breast cancer centers around the Betties.) I'll be tasteful! :)
Anyway, I often laugh when thinking about the whole filling up process. You see each week, when I go to my plastic surgeon.....He fills me up. As tissue expanders were put in during the mastectomy, they are basically hard plastic balloons with a center port for needle access. This is all under my skin, of course. But the idea behind the expanders is to inflate rather large, stretch the skin and prepare it for the final implants which will be silicone. The final implants can't go in until two months after all treatment is completed. So, we go through 4 months of chemo. They give my body a month to rest and then radiation will start probably sometime in early January. Those treatments will happen 5 days a week for one month. Then, Lord willing, I will be done with treatments and into the final stage of reconstructing my Betties by early April.
Radiation is pretty hard on the skin. It tightens the skin, causes burning and just overall makes the skin less elastic. That is why these fillings are so important, and the stretching process needed. My plastic surgeon wants to stretch the skin as much as he can, knowing it will be somewhat damaged after radiation. So each week, for the last 4 weeks, off I go to see my plastic surgeon and each week, I come home a little bigger and more stretched.
I thought you might want to see what awaits me at each of these doctor visits......
These too, have become my friends. Yes, those are big needles filled with saline. The little gray thing laying between the sharpie and the syringe is a magnet. The magnet locates the port on my Betty, the sharpie marks the spot and in goes the syringe. Out I go with bigger Betties....and residual chest pain as the muscles get stretched along with the skin. It is rather uncomfortable, I will say. You don't feel the needle going in, as I don't have any feeling now in the general area of my Betties, and the needle goes into the plastic expander......I'm hoping this makes sense.
Each week, I laugh as I walk out. It really is comical.
I haven't had a chest like this in a long time....probably since I was 18 or maybe since I was nursing and my milk was coming in....yeah...not comfortable.
And to think I still have 2 more fillings. I'm a little afraid of what I'll look like in the next 2-3 weeks. Yikes. There will be a lot of loose shirts in my future, as I have no desire to be known by the size of my Betties!! I mean really, I'm a huge proponent of modesty, so trying to take this all in stride and keeping the end result in view.
The other part that is comical is that the expanders aren't really round, as one would think. They are kind of oblong/squarish. So, as they fill up, they look more like footballs, as my plastic surgeon likes to point out. Yes, that would be accurate. My life is filled with football these days, so why not just look like one too! See, you really just have to laugh. :)
And then to put the cherry on the top of the sundae....my right Betty decided that it should shift a bit down, so my right and left side don't exactly match up right. My plastic surgeon said he has only seen this happen in a couple of cases, where the muscle pushed the implant down. It's really pretty. So, back to the padded bra we go. Friends again.
There you have it. The life and filling of the Betties. It's ok if you are laughing, we are laughing and smiling together and really, life is too short to not keep it real and laugh together. It is one more stop on this journey. In the end, I'm told I will have some nice perky Betties for life. I guess the small physical silver lining in breast cancer. After 6 babies, my Betties will have gone from limp tea bags to something so much more!
Keep smiling and pressing on....
"Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, The LORD has done great things for them. The LORD has done great things for us, and we are glad." Psalm 126:2,3