Friday, June 1, 2012

Hand over the Brownie *Warning: Estrogen Content*

*Estrogen content:  Those things pertaining only to women.  If you be male or someone who doesn't like discussing things purely periods, breasts, nursing, childbirth...all estrogen topics.  You probably want to skip this one and wait for the next posting.  *waving bye bye*

On May 1st, I returned to my plastic surgeon, who was impressed with the progress I had made over last 14 months concerning my skin, blood vessels and muscles.  Radiation burns and scars just flat out damage the GOOD stuff with the BAD.  It can continue to affect the tissue's ability to heal for up to a year after radiation is completed.  This is why he insists rad. patients wait a full year after the last day of radiation before beginning or completing reconstruction.  But as I said, he was so impressed with my skin; he promptly gave me a 60 cc expansion in the tissue expanders aka known as the "pucketts" after the plastic surgeon who placed them there.  I barely noted the expansion.  Might have been a little uncomfortable at times, but I completed my chores despite this expansion.

On the second expansion I was fine... right until I was not. I walked through the hospital and out to the parking lot, each step felt progressively painful. I was panting, not from exhaustion or heat but because each breath felt like my ribs were breaking.  I couldn't take a breath; I couldn't even stand totally upright because of the spasms in my rib cage.  Thankfully, we had made arrangements that day that "I" would drive my husband home from his work right across the street from said hospital.  I called him, still panting from PAIN, and with a short drive across the street, he immediately met me in the parking lot and took over the driving. He took me to dinner.  He took one look at me and knew he was either fixing dinner or buying it.  Sooo Cracker Barrel it was.  But oddly the next day I felt 80% better and mostly got my work done.  I even mowed a good portion of my lawn.

This week I had my THIRD 60 cc expansion.  Again initially the process was fine.  I could feel the saline going in and pushing against the walls.  But that part isn't really painful.  This time I had the forethought to arrange this visit to coincide with the time that my son gets off work.  He met me in the hospital and drove me home.  While he was here, he also mowed our back yard. (Thank you!)  

Until about bedtime, when the muscles across my chest, and under my arms started twitching, twanging, and twisting.  Even the non-radiated side got grouchy.   I suppose that’s a good thing, as it definitely meant parts of me were stretching.  But my ribs felt like they were being pulled from under my arm.  The muscles spasmed hysterically across my chest.  There was significant pain under the scar, and this is the first for scar pain.  Unfortunately it’s a good thing to have pain there, because my scar is adhered to the muscle under it.  The pain indicates it’s being pulled and stretched as well as the skin and muscle.  The obnoxious part is that the incision scar runs across the area where a nipple used to be.  So it feels like someone is PINCHING my nipple with a very large set of vice grips.  I want to yell at something or someone to let me loose but then remember, this is my reality.  

The image is all this
guy's fault!
That next morning, (Wed.)  lifting a cup to my lips, the lap top to my lap set off a symphony of pain that sounded forth from both sides of the foobs (false boobs - which I can't take credit for the word.  It's common in reconstruction circles.)  And mercy, don't sneeze in this condition!  I sneezed once and it felt like my rib cage split open and spewed alien babies all across the room. 

I'm relatively certain that I saw my stomach, lungs, spleen, heart, liver and pancreas fly across the room and like a rubber band - slap back into me.  I took every antihistamine in my medicine cabinet to prevent THAT from happening again.  So obviously I stayed pretty quiet through the day; reading was the only thing that didn't hurt.  I couldn't even walk without cradling the pucketts and praying that the sofa might magically appear in front of me.  I just felt yucky, achy and over tired, pain does that to you.

But yesterday was better than the day before, and today is better than yesterday.  Yesterday I could walk without pain.  I even made it to Wal-Mart last night.  (Yay, ME!) Today I can pick up the laptop without groaning.  I even managed to pick up clothes from the floor without wanting to scream OR curse.  The sensation of burning and stretching is still there but its better.  The ripping rib cage sensation is mostly gone. 

Before this week's visit with the plastic surgeon I learned from that I had not been asking the right questions of my PS.  So Tuesday I went in with a list...what brand TE do I have?  Mentor.  What is their capacity?  560 cc's.  What am I currently filled to?  660!  ARE THEY GOING TO POP?  Horrors!  Pictures of bursting water balloons filled my mind. The resident chuckled and explained that there was no danger of rupture, they were made to overfill.  Then I asked what the largest implant I could have was.  She explained that in silicone, I could only go to an 800 cc. implant.  They don't make them larger.  But if I chose saline, I could go as high as I wanted.  (Again, with the bursting water balloon images!)  She spoke about the benefits of both and then the good doctor came in to do the fill.

Yesterday I hopped back on because I wanted to know if other women who had radiation had successful implant surgeries.  The answer was yes.  I commented in one place how tight the skin on the radiated side was, much less the brick wall muscle behind it.  A fellow warrior popped up to tell me "Palmer's Cocoa Butter".  Liberally lubricate the skin (Boy, I have a thing for alliterations today.) several times a day.  Moisturized skin stretches better than dry skin and when I thought about it, that made sense.  So we went to the before mentioned Wal-Mart and I came home with my own pump bottle of Palmer's.  At bedtime, I pumped some into my hand and found it's more of a cream than a lotion.  It was thick, and smelled nice, rather chocolaty.

This morning, I awoke after a night of blessedly cool sleeping weather and smelled baking brownies.  I knew my husband left for work, but curiously I still smelled brownies.  In the empty kitchen, I still smelled brownies.  I was somewhat confused but decided I would dress for the day before continuing this brownie hunt like the brownie-hound within was insisting.  Brownies for breakfast sounded like a great idea!  (Psssstt - don't tell the Diabetic Educator!)  I pulled the nightgown off and was assaulted with that brownie smell again.  Grabbing the nightgown, I stuck my nose in it and sniffed.  Yep.  Brownies.  I looked at the bottle of Palmer's Cocoa butter and realized the brownie scent was obviously a result of the cocoa butter.  I should have realized COCOA butter.  I don't think I mind smelling like brownies, but my taste buds are sorely disappointed.  I don't have a mix in the house, but I could pull out the faithful Betty Crocker and make my own.

So if I run into you on the street, in church or in the infamous Wal-Mart, and you have a sudden urge for dark, rich, chocolaty brownies.  Don't look at me.  The mixes are in the baking aisle.


  1. Oh gracious, Tina! I feel your pain ... kind of. I had a potassium deficiency last week and every muscle in my body cramped at once. Or so it felt! I fell and sprained both ankles in one fell swoop as a result! So far I am NOT impressed with middle age! :) Take care of you, lady! ... Wonder if I can make brownies sitting down?

  2. I came to visit from the Better Writers group, and I'm so glad I did. Thank you for sharing with clarity and humor - I don't have anyone close to me right now who has experienced breast cancer or reconstructive surgery of any kind, and I learned a lot. I now have a deeper appreciation for what you and others face and I pray it makes me a more understanding and compassionate friend. God Bless! ~ Leah Rollins

  3. THAT was so worth the read :0). A sense of humor is key to facing any trial, but I believe facing cancer requires an even more positive attitude and sense of humor. Keep sharing these moments as there are so many ladies out there that NEED breast cancer recovery encouragement...with a humorous flare. If we meet, I will do my best to overcome the incredible desire to have a cold glass of milk :0)!