The Image of Success


Over the past few weeks, my right Lady Lump (i.e., my post-FBC new “breast”) has had intermittent sharp pains. Between the sharp pains, I have felt itching…from the inside out. It has been annoying first and worrisome second. Maybe that order should be reversed.

So, I called my plastic surgeon to make an appointment. I had in the back of my mind that the time was coming for me to transfer the expanders to implants. One more surgery. Plastic to plastic. Such a strange thing to ponder.

Even stranger for me to say is that today I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon. He happens to be an exemplary clinician as well as human being. Silver Lining: I have been blessed with extraordinary health care during this entire FBC period. The strange part about the appointment stems from the fact that I just never imagined myself having a plastic surgeon, especially one for whom I remove my shirt every time I see him. I’m just sayin’…

So, the HOTY and I made yet another trip to Los Angeles to see my plastic surgeon. While there, the HOTY mused about how many hours we have spent at doctor’s offices. We lost count – quickly. One Silver Lining: the HOTY and I love to be together and all of these appointments have equated to A LOT of togetherness.

The Silver Lining of the appointment is that my lady lumps still look good which means that they are inflated and positioned just as they should be. The pain and itching is normal. My doctor assured me that these symptoms are coming from scar tissue that is continuing to develop from the radiation. One thing that I know for sure: as soon as I try to forget, FBC comes back to say “knock-knock. I’m still here!” FBC.

What came out of this appointment is that now is the time to plan for the next step in my reconstruction process. Another Silver Lining: this is the LAST step.

The procedure will involve a 2-hour surgery, including general anesthesia and a whole lotta stitches. I’m sure that there will be pain as well (though I WILL be the person to manage it swiftly and efficiently this time!). Additionally, I will be off of the Lefty-Lucie Tennis Circuit and Marathon Running Trails. Finding a Silver Lining to not exercising will be challenging. However, I know that one will indeed appear. They always do.

I know that I am not quite emotionally ready for another surgery. My doctor assured me that there is time, that this is not an emergent or even urgent situation. So, I’m hoping that in the next couple of months, I’ll be able to fuel and prepare for the next and LAST stage of this process.

The treatment process has been far from linear. The best way to describe it is by the image below. It is a long, crooked, sometimes backward process. However, the Silver Lining is that the end result is the same: Success!


They can because they think they can.

– Virgil

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  1. Lois Daum-Xenakis says

    I finally finished my Chemo,my expander has been removed and my implant is in place. My reconstruction is not what I thought it would be and I must find a way to deal with that. Everyone reminds me how lucky I am to still be here. With all my heart, I know that and I'm so grateful. That's why I get so mad at myself for being unhappy or vain about my breast. I will start my radiation treatments in another week. I will then decide about the placing of the nipple, and I do need a breast reduction, I was a DD before. There are days I'm wonderful , it's like I have forgotten, and then I pass a mirror and it all comes back. I thought the grieving was over, it isn't!

    • says

      Congratulations, Lois! Wonderful news about having the surgery DONE. The grieving process will go until it's complete. We all think that it "should" be done sooner rather than later, especially when it's so painful. Please do your best to take care of yourself, sit with the pain and ignore the musings of other people (especially when they haven't had FBC). Emotions such as anger, frustration, confusion and sadness are NORMAL. They will pass…eventually…but not until they have been fully processed. I feel like so often we push these emotions down rather than process them…which means that they come back…again and again. Please take good care and stay in touch!

  2. Charlyn Coleman says

    My thoughts and prayers are with you. Having gone through eight surgeries in the past eight months was taxing. My chart would probably look more like a spiral loop, just going around in circles. Add the DVT's in my jugular, subclavian and axillary veins and now most recently, two bouts of atrial fibrillation – another surgery is the least of my worries! Silver Lining – if and when I ever have the reconstruction, I won't have pain as the nerves were all severed in the original surgery. Now all I feel is a pressure sensation.

  3. Adriane says

    I could not agree more with the success picture. I am three days out from tissue expander insertion and honestly I never realized how many other muscles, tendons etc were attached to my breast area. One wrong move and wow!!! Stay strong and do the exchange when your emotional and physicial energy are better. Thank you for your honesty and willingness to have us all read along while you go through all of this. You are not alone, I am going through this too

  4. Holly Mitchell says

    (PS… I really appreciate your success chart… so hard to remember sometimes when you are sliding backwards that it's the LONG TERM result that counts!)

  5. Holly Mitchell says

    Your thoughts and musings are always inspiring. Thank you for sharing! It will help so many people going through any type of difficult situation, now and in the future…

  6. says

    Having a mastectomy changed my body forever. Aches, itching, numbness, tingling, zappy feelings – it is all worrisome and bothersome and yet I trust my docs. It's just that nobody ever tells you about this stuff and then when it happens you think you must be crazy or something. New lumps over the scar 2 years later, is it a lump or just scar tissue underneath? I worry. I feel it constantly (when nobody is looking) but I vowed to stay away from doctors during the month of December. Could it be hormonal? I wait. I wonder. Did it go away? Nope still there. I will get it checked out, just not now.

    I will say that the implant exchange surgery (for me) was a breeze. I had no pain. It lasted 30 minutes. Total. Okay, I only did one breast so maybe a double would be, well, double that! 10 days later I was kayaking and it felt great! No complications. No problem! I have read stories as I am sure you have too. Complications are always a possibility. Aloderm failures, stitches coming apart, hardening, etc. but I hope for the best, and so far so good. I guess for me the single biggest disappointment was that I did not get a new breast. After the bandages came off and I had a new scar (yes, you get new scars too), I cried the whole way home in my car. My thought was, this is as good as it's ever going to look and it certainly doesn't look or feel like a breast naked. It is numb to this day (2 1/2 years later) and although I look normal in my clothes, and that is all my plastic surgeon ever promised me, still I feel a bit cheated. It's important for non-cancer women to know that this is NOT breast augmentation. Those women still have nipples. They can feel their breasts. Reconstruction does not reconstruct what we had before. I have only come to understand this myself after living with this for a time and understanding that the nerves are gone forever. It is a loss I grieve. But it was closing a chapter and saying goodbye in one way to what had defined me for that year and a half. It was time to move forward cancer free. I never let e comment like "oh, but you got new boobs!" or "But you had reconstruction right?" (as if that makes everything all better) go without a full explanation of what actually happens to a woman with breast cancer and to educate women so that they are truly aware. I think all the pink washing strips the reality away of what the raw naked truth really is. Would I do it again (recon?) Absolutely. And you will feel sooooo much more comfortable that with expanders. Trust me on that! I wish you the best!

    • says

      Thanks so much for your amazing note, Koryn! Wow. You are so right on about ALL. You're so right that this is NOT "breast augmentation" – if only. Thanks for sharing, as always!

  7. JoAnn Bloom says

    You, dear lady, are the best! My mastectomy is 2 weeks away and like you I'm thinking here we go again. I am strong enough for the ride and will yield and bend as this road takes me. That is my silver lining. :)

  8. Kelly says

    The expander to implants surgery was SO much better than the bilateral mastectomy/tissue expanders. I took 2 weeks off, and would've been fine working after 1 week (but silver lining to be home with kiddos for another week). The implants feel so much more comfortable…you will be surprised how much better you feel (and look). Good luck; you're almost to the end of the madness!

  9. Kim C says

    Wow! Your image of success is very honest. Most people do think it's a straight arrow and it most definitely is not. I' used' to feel frustrated by people's lack of understanding around this very point. Most don't understand the emotional fallout (so thank you for the image)… I came to realize it was my journey and it's a lonely one at times. No matter how much support we have, it's still our cancer journey and we have to come to terms with it in our own way and on our own TIME. Good news to hear the pain in your breast is normal. At the same time, it must be daunting to think about another surgery.
    It used to help me to visualize myself as a mountain. Solid and unmoved no matter how many storms – rain or snow – the mountain remained – slightly changed and weathered, but whole, grounded and vast. That's you Hollye.
    Have a love-filled day,

  10. C Curtin says

    Hollye, This surgery should be a walk in the park compared to all the other things you have been through. I had my switch out in June and am back to my new normal now. Budget the time to heal, but know that this one is nothing in comparison to the mastectomy. It is still surgery but don't be fearful. You will be pleased. I got the silicone 410s. The ones in the FDA study. They are still foobs, but I think I rock in clothing. Good luck and thanks for all your honesty and inspiration.