A picture is worth a thousand words…..that’s how the saying goes.
Sometimes the picture isn’t exactly what we imagine, or how we hoped. My super sister Elle has had a big year and her journey hasn’t played out as she imagined, nor how she deserved. You might remember from my earlier blog, Elle had her own prophylactic bilateral mastectomy earlier this year and she did it tough!
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture says it all……
OUCH! Elle had trouble with one of her flaps, which despite all efforts, all prayers, all hopes, wishes and desires, didn’t recover and eventually the infection took over. With multiple surgeries and skin grafts, Elle eventually lost half of her reconstructed breast.
Elle is brave and beautiful and when I asked her to share a photo of her breast today, she sent me this image….
Elle shared this picture and I think it was actually the very first time she has taken a photo since it healed. It made her teary, it evoked emotion and I am incredibly proud that Elle has allowed me to share it here today. Elle has been recovering well, taking care of her body, getting back into the swing of life and showing incredible bravery along the way.
For the strangers who follow the page, the blog or stumble across it accidentally, I remind you that we share very openly and honestly here. If the images are offensive or disturbing in any way, we don’t apologise, we don’t pretty them up, we don’t beautify reality and we share to support other women and men travelling along a similar path. This is what Elle looks like today…..
Elle is brave and beautiful! Most importantly, Elle has gone from being 85% likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime, to probably never EVER needing to consider that diagnosis. I remember my doctor sharing with me that I’m around 1% likely to be diagnosed since my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, which are stats that our family absolutely LOVE.
Tomorrow Elle goes back in hospital and is undergoing surgery to reconstruct her missing breast. The medical team will insert an implant to round out Elle’s previously reconstructed breast, which was originally made using the fat and muscle from her abdomen. I am writing this blog to remind Elle how truly awesome, brave and beautiful she is!!!
I borrowed this awesome quote from our gorgeous cousin Jodie who recently shared it.
It’s another major surgery tomorrow for Elle and we are all sending love and hugs her way. Coincidentally, another friend of mine is undergoing her own reconstruction tomorrow too, having had both breasts removed earlier this year due to a cancer diagnosis.
Regardless of what their reconstructions look like, they are both brave and beautiful inside and out and I wish them a speedy recovery and can’t wait to hug them both again.
If I’m to be completely honest, which is something I’ve always promised on this blog, most days I don’t even remember that I’ve undergone a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.
Somehow along the way, I think that this blog has allowed me to heal in a way that I can’t even explain myself. Without being disrespectful to those who are travelling along their own journey, I often find myself thinking ‘it really is no big deal’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing down the seriousness of such a procedure. The challenges and changes physically and mentally that come with making the decision are significant, but somehow in this whole journey, I am finding myself not really impacted by it all.
When people ask me how I am, I don’t even think about the surgery. I’m usually thinking about the here and now, the moment I’m in and the surgery is the last thing on my mind.
I know I’m at risk of being judged, and to be honest I’m perfectly OK with that. In reality, when I started this blog I essentially put myself out there to be judged, so I really can’t complain if people want to jump to their own conclusions and judgements about what I communicate here. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I respect that.
I’m at a stage in my journey where I really don’t feel any different to how I did before surgery. I’d even go as far to say that my process was ‘easy’ in the big scheme of things. I had no complications, I wasn’t emotionally unstable at any time and I have never once regretted my decision to remove my breasts. I don’t miss them, I don’t want them back, I don’t look at my body and worry about how it looks and I certainly don’t think that it’s any different to any one else out there.
For a little fun, I even picked up one of these bikini tops recently. If you can’t have fun in life, then what is the point really? Judge away if you must, but at the end of the day, there’s nothing rude or vile about the top, it covers everything up and while it might turn some heads, does it really matter what people think? I have foobs now, so this top really makes me laugh!
Yeah I have no nipples, my foobs feel like rocks under my skin and I have a cleavage gap that you could drive a bus down, but you know what? I’m alive, I’m here and I’m happy.
Some people find it strange that I am so open about it all. From the outside looking in, I can imagine that it’s very unusual for someone to sit there and talk about their foobs (or boobs) so openly. I remember one friend grabbing them in her hands and having a good feel of the firmness, the shape and the overall structure of my foobs. This might seem strange from the outside looking in, but the reality is, they are not breasts and someone feeling my foobs right now is no different to them touching a cast on my leg if I was in traction.
So as I approach the next few months, which will involve me getting my butt onto the bike and riding at least 4-5 times a week in preparation for the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride, leaving on Saturday 30 August, where I’ll ride by bike from Brisbane to Townsville over an 8 day period, I’ll get on with life and live my new normal.
It’s easy to forget what I’ve been through, other than me ripping my top off and flashing the foobs which isn’t likely to happen. The only real indicator is probably when you hug me, it’s hard not to feel the ‘rocks’.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and talk to me normally about it, because although it might seem strange to you, it really is no big deal to me.
Happy 3 month Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy Day to me!! I celebrated with a new party trick……do you want to see it? Although I’m not sure how popular I’d be showing my new party trick off literally at a party!!!
I decided to test out the magnets inside the tissue expanders, here’s what it looked like…….
I know it’s ridiculous right? Firstly what on earth was I thinking? Secondly, who shares an image like that?
Well, if you’ve been reading my blogs for a while now, you would know that I typically don’t leave anything out when it comes to sharing my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy journey. I’d rather be open, honest and real, as opposed to hiding behind closed doors and having people wonder! I did warn you all in my original blog post all those months ago when I said “I’m not for everyone”.
You might remember me sharing an earlier blog about the tissue expansion process. It’s linked in this blog if you haven’t read it.
For 3 months now I’ve had tissue expanders inside my body and I’m now at the size I’ll end up being once my reconstruction takes place. Tissue expanders have magnets in them to assist with locating to point to insert the syringe full of fluid. Naturally, if the syringe is just poked in anywhere, there’s a risk it will pierce the expander, leaving a slow leak in the foob.
I have always been curious about whether the magnets would work through skin, so of course I decided to test it (as you do). While it wasn’t a strong magnetic connection, it did exist and it was strong enough to hold the two magnets into place. The tissue expanders are beneath my peck muscle, which probably explains why the magnetic connection was weak, I do recall the Dr telling me my peck muscles were very strong!
So I met with my Doctor today and we have now booked the reconstruction in. Thursday 11 September 2014 (no Twin Towers jokes please) is the day and while I would have ideally liked it all done and dusted immediately, the reality is that I need to ride my bike from Brisbane to Townsville in less than 14 weeks from now, so it’s no time for surgery, it’s time to bloody train!!
You’re riding to Townsville from Brisbane you ask? Yes, I am!! Crazy I know, but I’m really most excited about the community visits and the lifelong relationships formed between all of the riders along the way. Oh yeah and we need to ride 1600km’s in 8 days!! You can read more about it on the official Bottlemart Smiling for Smiddy Challenge page.
8 days, 1600km’s, this isn’t going to be a walk in the park, it will potentially challenge me more than the surgery has. Check out the schedule:
Day 1 – Brisbane-Nanango, 205km
Day 2 – Nanango-Eidsvold, 242km
Day 3 – Eidsvold-Biloela,175km
Day 4 –Biloela-Blackwater, 240km
Day 5 – Blackwater-Clermont,192km
Day 6 – Clermont-Belyando Crossing, 178km
Day 7 – Belyando Crossing-Charters Towers, 198km
Day 8 – Charters Towers-Townsville, 164km
The Dr has been aware of this ride since the first day we met and she’s always been supportive of my desire to do it. So when we chatted today, there were a few good points made as to why waiting to reconstruct ‘post ride’ is a good idea:
Recovery is going perfectly
Strength and training have resumed to almost pre-surgery levels
Body is fit and strong (I liked the Dr telling me this one)
Tissue expander Foobs are tougher – which translates to them being better for me if I happen to fall off my bike
Tissue expander Foobs are disposable – if they break, we throw them out.
Training time limitations if we operate again now – a few weeks off isn’t desirable mentally of physically
We both agree that waiting until after the ride is best.
So now it’s time to get the roadie bike out to do some serious time in the saddle. My foobs are all healed and safely in place for now, so of course it’s time mess up another part of the female anatomy.
Which reminds me, I’d better place a bulk order for chamois cream in preparation for some mega time in the saddle.
My poor husband! Firstly I remove my breasts, which I’ve since been told were ‘great breasts’ by quite a few friends and followers – and I still blushed even though they’re gone!! Now I’m just about to spend 14 weeks with my vagina planted hard on a seat in preparation for this ride.
There won’t be any blog post images on the journey of my ‘saddle’ I promise, but if you’re curious, you could always Google ‘saddle sores’. To save you the trouble, just imagine that my nether regions, along with 49 others in September this year will look a little like this….
It’s an exciting week for me! On Friday I’m visiting my surgeon for an update. It’s time to find out officially from a medical professional how the foobs are travelling.
If you ask me, they’re fantastic! No movement, no pain, no issues, no problems, it’s all been very low maintenance since the original meltdown when I thought I’d be stuck with the Holy Big Boobs Batman knockers…..
Other than the fact that they look very different to regular boobs most people see, I look very normal and I feel even better. The foobs have just become a part of me and my daily life and to be honest, most days I forget completely that they’re any different to what I had prior to surgery. This is my new normal…..
I’m expecting everything to be perfect when I see the Dr, so until then, there’s not really much more to report.
I decided that I would dedicate my blog post this week to sharing with you what I did this weekend. For me, it was a very special, so special that it deserves to be shared.
I spent my Saturday at a strangers house, a house I had visited for the first time just days prior where I met David and Christa, a couple who are retired and were in need of some help. I learnt that David and Christa were in the process of sorting through the home David grew up in.
David’s parents, Henry and Betty had recently passed away and David and Christa were overwhelmed by the task of preparing the home for sale. This was the home Henry built, the home they lived in and the home they loved and cherished for more than 60 years.
David and Christa wanted to donate Henry and Betty’s belongings to charity and when we were offered the opportunity to help, naturally I jumped at the chance. I am still not sure whether I was more excited at the gift of giving our time, or the by the fact that we were receiving some donations towards our World’s Biggest Garage Sale.
In July this year, we are holding our second World’s Biggest Garage Sale, an event created last year to help raise money for The Mater Foundation, in support of Smiling for Smiddy. In 2013 we raised more than $15,000 for cancer research at our World’s Biggest Garage Sale, so naturally we were always going to make it an annual event.
This year I’ve set the target much much much higher, so I was naturally delighted to be offered the opportunity to assist David and Christa – every little donation helps. On Saturday, exactly 7 weeks before our big event, there were 13 of us who spent the day sorting and packing Henry and Betty’s house.
This is a photo of Henry and Betty on their wedding day……..
We laughed, we got teary and we remembered their lives, two strangers who most of us had never had the pleasure of meeting. By the end of the day, I felt like I knew Henry and Betty. It was easy to see their strong love for one another, they cared for their home beautifully, their gardens were immaculate, their home spotless clean.
The furniture, while old in age, was almost new in condition and their treasured belongings lined the shelves on display to anyone who visited.
One of the highlights for me was turning on the radio, tuned perfectly to what must have been Henry’s favourite AM station. We let the radio play all day, I’m sure that Henry was watching over us as we listened to his ‘wireless’.
With an 8:30am start and a nearing 6:00pm finish, it was a very solid day with little downtime. It’s difficult to find exactly the right words to describe what I felt on Saturday, but this quote definitely sums it up well for me.
Isn’t it ironic that the shirts we wore on the weekend were adorned with a heart…..
It was an honour to be offered the opportunity to help sort through and pack up Henry and Betty’s house. I’m going to thoroughly enjoy watching their lifetime of treasures continue their own journey in the hands of other families when they snap themselves up a bargain at our event.
Our two girls couldn’t help but pick some little trinkets out for their own collection, so they both handed over their own pocket money to pay for their new treasures. I know they will truly looked after and now we have our own little piece of Henry and Betty in our family home.
I feel so fortunate to have the amazing support from the team of volunteers, my friends, who gave up their weekend time with their own families to help our World’s Biggest Garage Sale. This quote sums it up perfectly….
It’s been 10 weeks now since by Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy and about time I provided an update on how things are progressing in my life after surgery.
In all honesty, things are getting back to my pre-surgery routine and I must admit that most days I completely forget that I’ve even been through the procedure. Don’t get me wrong, when you see me naked, it’s clear what I’ve been through, but in reality there are not a lot of people who see me naked!
When I am naked, such as in the cropped image below, I really don’t feel ashamed, embarrassed or different to any other woman of any shape, size or colour. Previously, if I was to look at this picture of my body when I had breasts and nipples (and I won’t post that image here in the public domain), I’d probably have started to pick on my ‘abnormalities’, you know the things that don’t meet up to the ‘standards’ thrust upon us in the media.
Right now when I look at this image, I just see ‘normal’.
When I undress daily, I no longer notice the scars and I certainly don’t see the foobs any differently to how I saw my breasts before they were removed. Yes they’re hard, they are at times uncomfortable and they definitely don’t function in the same way as my boobs once did, but they are just ‘normal’ to me now.
I’ve been out and about more too, including a several engagement parties, a dual 50th birthday, a twins 40th and whether it was in or out of the moon boot, I’ve had fun and enjoyed reconnecting with my beautifully supportive friends and family.
Some conversations and catch ups have seen the foob topic discussed, and I have often found myself coming back to one similar point in all of the discussions. Life after surgery is ‘normal’ again. While I don’t want to take away from the enormity of what’s involved in a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, nor do I want to dilute the procedure itself, I am just keeping calm and carrying on. I underwent major surgery, it’s invasive and not without serious risk, however if I’m to be truly honest with you and with myself, my personal experience hasn’t really been ‘that big a deal’.
I love that my friends feel comfortable asking me questions, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to do this blog in the first place. One of my main motivators was the fact that I didn’t want people to be ‘weird’ around me after the process was all done and dusted. Some of my friends look at my foobs, some ask to see them, some even touch them (which I’m perfectly fine with) and some don’t even notice anything different at all. I’m certain that a large proportion of my friends don’t even have time to read my blog, so a lot of people I see regularly probably have no idea of the journey I’ve been on and I actually love that too.
Our little family is just carrying on with life and none of us really even notice it much these days.
I look back on the blog to remind myself of what I have been through and it honestly feels like a lifetime ago. Some of he most popular posts in the blog process have surprised me, with by far the most read article being the blog written by a good friend of mine. It’s titled ‘You’re removing your boobs? A Man’s Perspective..’. It’s truly a special post, and I think that I love it most because it helps me see it from someone else’s perspective.
Another popular post was definitely the one I shared with our girls in it called ‘Their Perspective’. The innocence of their understanding of the journey, their honesty, their faces – it all melts my heart and I’m so grateful that my husband talked me into writing the blog in the first place. I think we have the most amazing girls in the whole wide world!!
We all celebrated a special milestone late last month, which was the very important event of it being our 15 year wedding anniversary. In our family, we have a little tradition where we make personal cards for one another, and I share with you the amazingly thoughtful card I woke to on our special anniversary morning.
We went out to dinner as a family, enjoyed company with each other and even snapped up a little couple selfie, including the ‘forks’ in the background thanks to our cheeky eldest daughter.
I know how lucky I am to have this guy in my life, he’s been an absolute dream when it comes to supporting what I’ve done.
The next step in this process is my scheduled visit with the Doctor later this month. We will look at how the foobs have coped with the expansion and a decision will be made as to when the reconstruction will take place.
Until then, I’ll continue to train daily, keep busy, work hard and get on with life. I’m so very grateful to have you come along for the journey, thank you.
Let’s get one thing straight before I start on the body image topic……….
I’m not perfectly toned, nor am I fabulously fit. I have dimples and pimples, jiggly and wobbly bits. I have ‘bingo arms’ when I wave my hands wildly to attract the attention of our girls in crowds and my cycle legs are so thick at the top that I they rub together when I swim. I even do my swimming laps in a tri suit rather than my ‘speedo’ one piece, just so I can avoid red welts on my inner thighs as I kick.
My thighs seem to cleverly store any excess body fat and I’ve always complained about it.
There’s actually a story I share with friends every now and then involving my adoring husband. You see, we have an ‘honesty policy’ in place and so it never bothered me when he said to me one day……
“F*!k your thighs are meaty!”
That’s right, you didn’t read it wrong, my fantastic husband of 15 years said those exact 5 words to me.
I didn’t have a comeback, he’s right, I have meaty thighs so how can I argue with that? I certainly don’t have the much coveted thigh gap, in fact until recently, I never even knew what a thigh gap was.
As I was writing this article, I couldn’t believe the timing when I found a link to a page that Olympic Gold Medalist Anna Meares commented on. Anna’s renowned for her leg strength and let’s just be bold and put it out there…..Anna’s the Queen of ‘meaty thighs’.
I also have stretch marks and moles, way too much hair in some places and if you’ve ever seen my feet, especially after racing in a triathlon, you would be excused for wanting to run away! And finally, despite our children rating my abs as the ‘best in the house’, I definitely don’t have abs of steel!
Why am I even telling you this?
Well it’s strange……..
Ever since my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, I am suddenly less concerned about how my body might appear with all of its imperfections. In some strange way, I am now very accepting of my dimples, the thighs, the excessive number of moles, the bits that in the past might have bothered me, and while I don’t necessarily love them, they are what they are and they’re a part of what makes me, me.
I realise in reflection as my foobs settle into my body, that it doesn’t really matter what it all looks like on the surface. It’s just a facade, much like the exterior of a house and it’s meant to deteriorate with time.
I know, I know, didn’t I know this already? I’m 38 for goodness sake, I should know better! I do know better! Yes, I’ve hear it all before….
“Beauty is only skin deep”
“It’s what’s on the inside that counts”
“Don’t judge a book by its cover”
I support and agree with these statements and I even use them with our own girls.
You see, regardless of what I’ve been told and regardless of what I think I believe, I still admit to falling victim to thinking I need to live up to the unattainable images of beauty thrust upon us on a daily basis.
It’s hard to avoid and I’m feeling like it’s time I put my 2 cents in.
In the past I’ve been critical of myself, critical of these little things about my body which I haven’t liked. I think as women we are often caught up in worrying about measuring up to some sort of ‘unrealistic’ expectation that we have in our own minds of what we ‘should’ look like. We don’t ever seem to celebrate the great things about ourselves, it’s very taboo to say something like ‘gee I really like my awesome looking arms’, or ‘wow, don’t my legs look great in these jeans?’. We aren’t even OK really with other people paying us these compliments either. How many times have you fobbed off a compliment from a friend or stranger? On the other hand, how many times have you accepted and truly believed something nice someone had to say about your appearance?
That unattainable and unrealistic beauty is so bloody prominent in the media, it’s photoshopped, perfected, primped and primed and even when we are meant to celebrate a ‘fat’ celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence, we’re living in fairyland people, J-Law is NOT fat.
I Googled her measurements just to see what people consider ‘fat’ out there. Can you believe that she’s just 63kg? 63kg is FAR FROM FAT!!! This is probably an older weight too, because I’d be very surprised if she’s over 60kg’s these days, she’s looking much thinner than this previous image of her.
Has she too succumbed to the pressure of Hollywood and media?
Regardless of what she’s done, the reality is that media loves perfection. That image of unattainable beauty.
Celebrate Cellulite I say! Why are we so ashamed of it? If you don’t believe that we are, then why are there magazines out there publishing articles and images like this?
Why on earth does it matter if Lara Bingle has cellulite? And is it such a bad thing if she does? I loved her Instagram response to the image! She said “This image is perpetuating self doubt in all women in the name of making a quick buck.” Now I’m not a fan or follower of Lara Bingle, so I’m not getting on my high horse to defend her. What I am though is a women with cellulite, who’s pissed off that the media makes it out to be some sort of biological disease.
It’s just cellulite and society makes women feel inferior, imperfect and completely inadequate if we have it.
What about this image of Scarlett Johansson? Is it such a problem that she has some dimples in the back of her legs? In fact, if I had a picture of my body in a bikini, it would probably look a lot like this one from the rear…..
Just for the record, I also Google’d Scarlett’s measurements and we are freakishly similar in height, weight and overall body dimensions. Sad thing is that of all the photo’s in our family collection, there’s absolutely NO WAY I would have ever allowed one to be taken of me on this angle. This in itself is ridiculous!
I just might have to get myself into my bikini and pose all ‘Scarlett’ style out near the pool so I can line us up together to make my point! Maybe I can convince all of my friends to do the same!!
In reality and just looking at the surface, never before has my body looked ‘worse’! With no nipples, big scars across my chest and foobs where my ‘normal’ looking breasts once were, strangely, I love my body now more than I ever have. This has been an unexpected outcome in the journey of me undergoing the bilateral mastectomy and I love it.
It’s a little disappointing that it’s taken me this long to learn how to really feel comfortable in my own skin, but now that I’ve reached this point, I couldn’t be happier. It’s time to take me, my cellulite, my stretch marks and my moles and we’re all going to live it up big time as we learn to truly enjoy the healthy and long life we have ahead of us.
Never before have I truly appreciated the deeper meaning of ‘it’s what’s on the inside that counts.’
Now if only I had an image to post here of my gorgeous imperfect body to truly make my point. I’ll have to get the camera out next time I’m relaxing by the pool in my bikini.
So, it was a week ago now that I poured my heart out to the world by sharing my first teary moment since my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. If you missed the blog, you can read it here: Holy Big Boobs Batman!
I look back at this now and have two thoughts…..
How very honest and open for me to share my true personal feelings at the time.
What was the big deal?
Isn’t it funny how time can heal all wounds? I watch the You Tube video link now and while it’s how I felt at the time, I can say that my statement of ‘time will tell’ at the end is true.
It’s only been 7 days since my final expansion, 7 days since I wrote the blog and 7 days since I recorded the You Tube clip and things are vastly different.
You can decide for yourself from the comparison shot, but I think it’s fairly obvious in my gym shirt!! It’s the same top, the same location in the house, the only difference is the lighting, with one image being taken at night, the other just 7 days later in the morning. The hooters no longer look like they are going to topple me over if I was pushed from behind!!
If that’s not obvious enough, check out the difference with the shirt off!! It’s a much more realistic looking bust now. Even my sister admitted to me tonight that the photo of the left looked a bit freaky when she first saw it. She agrees that the image on the right is much better and I’m with her, by foobs look much better now.
When I posted the update on my Previvor Facebook page, I spotted my husband checking out the comparison multiple times in disbelief. Given he has seen them everyday since they were huge last week, I guess he didn’t really notice the settling, but I definitely did. It was also apparent when some of my friends, both male and female, started to comment that they didn’t look ‘very big’ in real life compared to the photo’s that I shared. One friend even wondered whether I was using some sort of special filter to make them look bigger in the photo!! I have no doubt that some ladies would love an ‘instant expanding’ filter on their camera, but definitely not me!
A big positive I found this week was the fact that I can now wear strapless shirts without a bra, and the double bonus is that there’s no risk of ‘high beaming’ when I’m cold. I have mentioned it a few times, but let me remind you that I LOVE LOVE LOVE no nipples!!
Moving on from the size and convenience of my foobies, I am more excited to have made my official comeback to training last week, just 2 days after my expansion. It was officially ‘foobie fitness’ time. Please note that it was only when I received the ‘official’ call from the Doctor to confirm I was OK to resume training.
I ventured out to the Nundah Criterium Track the very next day, which is only couple of Km’s from our place. I’d usually ride down, but given it was to be my first official ‘outdoor cycle’, I thought it would be wise to drive down for training. The session with the Tri Alliance Queensland squad is always fun and it was great to see some familiar faces, along with some new faces too. The track is fantastic for training, with a very smooth surface, perfect for my first foobie cycle. It’s also protected from motorists!! The only condition I had from the Doctor about cycling was ‘to not fall off’, so the crit track is perfect for this.
I took it nice and easy, spinning around for the session, with an effort or two in there to see if my body could handle a little speed on the bike. While I didn’t break any records, everything felt great and I gained some confidence in my post surgery body by training with the team. It’s often argued that the best part of training is the coffee afterwards, so naturally some of the team met for a coffee after the ride. We were in my ‘hood’, so it was nice to meet at the local Retroespresso Coffee for a delicious brew.
All that stress about taking the foobs out in public wasn’t necessary. While I filled my Smiling for Smiddy cycle jersey out a little more than I have in the past, the foobs weren’t obviously ‘fake’ and tucked nicely into my regular top. Foobie fitness winning in my book!!
Next came my Wednesday PM session. I was on a roll!! I decided that now that I had clearance from the Doc, I was pretty much going to see what my body could do. I took myself along to Kosama Fitness for the ‘Foundations’ class, which is a 30 minute intense session involving anything from kettle bell swings, to push-ups, TRX, squats, rope slams and a variety of other core and strength exercises. I managed to successfully survive the session and decided that I would stay on a roll and train until I had a sign from my body to slow down.
Well almost a week on and I haven’t stopped yet. Under the guidance of some great coaches and trainers, I’ve been able to fit in a fantastic foobie fitness schedule since Wednesday last week, including about 10 -12 sessions and things don’t look to be slowing down. I was even snapped in the Kosama finisher on Saturday, where we were rope slamming as a group at the end of a tough Afterburn class.
I usually try to do an AM and a PM session from Monday – Thursday, then an AM session Fri – Sun. Don’t tell the coach (he’s not likely to read this anyway), but I even managed to sneak in a 3rd session yesterday, heading to the pool for my very first swim set since surgery. There’s no need to panic though, I only swam 1KM and used it as a recovery swim after gym. Coach Ray made sure I didn’t push it and wouldn’t let me use paddles, nor swim more than the 1KM I said I’d do. He’s a pretty special guy!!
All in all, it’s been a great week, vastly different from how I was feeling this time last week after my mini-meltdown.
A high over the weekend was definitely my outdoor cycle on the ‘actual road’, which was done with some beautiful friends from the tri squad. We chatted the whole way and enjoyed a coffee (of course) together afterwards.
Then we decided to back it up with an indoor wind trainer session on Monday morning. Wind trainer sessions are tough, so to take our minds off it, we cycled to Chrissie Wellington’s spin set for 90 mins of intense and motivating fun.
I have some pretty amazing friends in my life, which I already knew prior to having surgery, but I must admit that throughout my recovery process, I have been reminded almost daily of the special bond I have with some of the amazing people I train with. I have missed them so much during my time off and I absolutely stoked to be back!!
It’s now 5 weeks after my bilateral mastectomy and everything has been absolutely amazing so far. If you have been following my blog, you may have even picked up that I have had some minor feelings of guilt at how brilliant my recovery has been, especially given I was up and about within hours of my surgery and I have been pain free since day 1.
I haven’t been sad or cried even once, nor have I had any feelings of anger or remorse about the decision I made. I’m loving my body more than ever, despite the big scars across my chest and the absence of my breasts and nipples. I’ve returned to training, been for a few runs, I’m back at the gym and I have even been back on my bike for some hard sessions on the wind trainer.
All in all, it has been a near perfect recovery. Yes there was that little mishap with me wetting the bed one night, but after reading many messages of support from friends who have had similar little ‘accidents’ themselves, in the big scheme of things I have had an absolute dream run.
That is until yesterday!!
Yesterday I cried! Actually, I didn’t just cry, I bawled my eyes out as I talked to myself out loud in the car on the way back from seeing the surgeon. I even broke down in front of some friends when I went to pick our girls up from a play date! It was very out of character and really weird to experience.
Why was I so upset?
I feel ridiculous even complaining about it. So much so that I was even tempted to just sweep it under the rug and ignore the fact that I had a full blown solo meltdown just minutes after my final expansion.
In fact, I feel so silly about it, that I hadn’t even spoken to my husband about it at the time I was preparing this very blog.
The expansion went perfectly well, once again there wasn’t any sign of pain and the increase in size was smooth sailing. The amazing surgeon increased my chest by another 100ml on each side, to total 230ml in each breast. This is still quite a lot less than the amount of breast tissue removed from each side, so anyone would think that I would be happy, right?
I’m still not sure!! I sat in the car for around 10 mins after finishing with the Dr, with the time spent taking some ‘after’ shots of my chest post expansion, a tradition I started pretty much from day 1. I like to keep a record of the visual journey, so the before and after shots are pretty normal. No reason for tears, that’s for sure.
So why the tears?
I was trying to work that out for myself as I was driving home, unsuccessfully trying to wipe them away before they rolled down my cheeks and onto my shorts. Thank goodness for sunglasses!! I managed to not look too strange waiting for the traffic lights to change, but to be honest, at the time I didn’t care. I wasn’t happy and I was letting it all out!!
And here’s why…..
I hated how big my boobs were!! There, I said it! I realise it must be ridiculous to read, but I was bawling my eyes out because my foobs (fake boobs) were freaking enormous!! They didn’t hurt and nor were they uncomfortable, I didn’t really have any physical reason to cry, but I just couldn’t help myself. Holy Big Boobs Batman!!
I was grabbing at them, holding them in my hands at every available opportunity. I would try one hand, two hands and if I’m to be completely honest, I think if I had another half-a-hand, I could have used that as well.
Yes they’re hard, I knew that would be the case. Yes they’re big, I also knew that would happen. So why was I so upset?
After giving it some thought, taking some reflection time and chatting to a friend about it, I think I was really upset because they’re just so bloody big!!
I’ve had big boobs (natural, perky and pretty much near perfect boobies) in my late teens. Back then everyone wanted big boobs. Not too big that you were picked on at school, and not too small for very much the same reason. Mine were bigger than ‘normal’ for someone my size, but they were great! I loved my boobs for about the next 10 years, before they started to become a pain in the ass when I was running or participating in sporting events. Thankfully over time they disappeared and became a nice little B cup.
When kids came along they grew enormously again (do remember me saying I could lick them while pregnant? True story!), but they deflated nicely back to a more ‘loose’ and mum like B cup. Now that I don’t have them anymore, I’m somewhat more comfortable sharing a full frontal ‘all natural’ selfie which was likely taken just days before they were removed.
Since my early 30’s I have come to love and appreciate my smaller bust line, so the shock today of having an instant bust again really knocked me about.
I confided in a friend, I asked whether I was being silly, I even sent an image of the side-by-side comparison……which to be truly appreciated should really be clicked in to see a larger image of the transformation.
Some very wise words and good advice came my way. “Just wait until it’s all done, enjoy them and strut your stuff, they’ll only be this big for a short amount of time”. Great advice, except for the fact that I need to wait 6 weeks before seeing the surgeon again.
Am I more upset at the way they look?
Am I more upset at the delay in not having the exchange done this month (which was my goal)?
Am I more upset that this means a delay on my ability to start training for the Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride I’m a part of in August?
Am I more upset that I won’t fit my clothes? That my foobs look very obviously fake now and that I’m stuck with them for at least the next 7-10 weeks, depending on when I can be booked in for surgery?
Am I more upset that perhaps the reality might be that I won’t be able to have the reconstruction until after I finish and return from the Smiddy ride in September? Is there even enough time to train if I add in another surgery late May/June and then take 3-4 weeks to recover again before I can resume training?
This means I’m potentially stuck with these foobs for 6 months!!! OMGoodness, I want to cry right now! Here’s a full frontal view of exactly what it looks like……remember, to really appreciate the difference, click on the image and check out those knockers!!!
What’s the big deal you ask? I can hear the great advice from friends and family already playing over in my head……
Gee Yas, you really are whinging a lot for someone so positive!
They don’t look that big!
You chose to have this surgery done so why complain? (something my little Miss 7 reminds me of all the time – and she’s right!)
At least you won’t get cancer.
You knew they were going to be bigger before they could do the exchange.
It’s all part of the process.
Just wait and see what it turns out like after your exchange.
It will be done before you know it!!
It really is no big deal I know. I think I was just so upset that my plans (playing out in my head) are now all out the window and I’m now faced with between 6 weeks and 6 months of waiting……waiting…..waiting…..
I even skipped gym this morning because I was in so much shock at how HUGE my boobs looked in my regular training gear.
I’ve picked myself back up off the ground, but I will admit it was a bit of a struggle. A big part of me just wanted to cry all night long, go to sleep, wake up and see my perfect little flattish chesty there when I woke up.
I decided to talk about it with Leigh and also Layla and Libby today. The look on their faces when I showed them my bare breasts says it all. I’m not the only one that thinks they’re ginormous!!!
This was the look on Libby’s face when I showed her…..
Her initial shock was apparent. She couldn’t believe how big they looked, she poked and prodded them and we laughed together about how big they are now.
This was the look on Layla’s face when I showed her…….
She literally laughed! That hand over the mouth is very real, she thought they looked hilarious and then her big brown eyes widened with interest as she had a little feel and commented at how hard they were.
As for Leigh, I finally got around to showing him 24 hours after the expansion. He too looked closely at them and commented about how high they sit up. He grabbed them and was shocked at the firmness, but when he said that he might need a ‘closer inspection’ tonight, I realised that no matter what they look like, whether they’re real or foobs, with or without nipples, most men really do have a soft spot for boobies. His exact words when he saw them though were ‘ay caramba’.
In keeping with my promise to remain open and honest throughout the whole process, I recorded a video immediately after my expansion yesterday. It’s very real and raw, I fought hard to keep the tears at bay and while I’m really risking ridicule for my weakness towards such a small issue, I have decided to honour my word and share it.
Click on the image below to watch the You Tube footage.
It’s not something you hear women say regularly, but yes, I’m upset that my foobs are so big, but I know it’s part of a journey and I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off and suck it up until this journey is complete. I’m heading out in public tomorrow to train with the Tri Alliance Queensland squad, I hope I fit into my cycle jersey!!
I feel so much better for sharing my feelings and getting it all off my chest (no pun intended).
Thank you for your continued and unconditional support.
Before I had my surgery, I knew that there would be questions from friends about the process. I have always been prepared to share my journey openly and honestly, with the unconditional support from my amazing husband of 15 years, Leigh. Leigh was the one who inspired me to finally keep a blog, so he’s been very understanding and supportive of the information I share, in the method I share it, pictures and all!! I will admit that he does momentarily ‘cringe’ every now and then at some of the things I share, and let’s face it, when your wife asks this question…….”How do you feel about me writing a blog about post bilateral mastectomy sex?”, you really are entitled to the odd cringe here and there.
(standby for a future blog on the ‘sex’ topic too, but I have promised ‘no pictures’ on that one!!).
So almost immediately when the blog was first announced online, I was thrilled to receive a call from a really great friend of mine who wanted to know some more information. With guaranteed anonymity, he has agreed to share in his own words, some very raw emotions and thoughts about this entire process from his perspective. It’s only natural that men feel very differently to women when it comes to ‘boobs’, so without generalising too much, I think it’s fair to say that most men at some stage in their lives ‘love’ boobs.
‘You’re removing your boobs?’
What really goes on in the mind of a man when his friend announces that she’s willingly going to have both of her breasts removed?
I hope you enjoy reading this guest blog as much as I did!
In his exact words…….
“As I’ve followed Yas and her journey so far, I wanted to put some words down on how I’ve felt about the whole situation. Perhaps more a blokes perspective on the whole thing, but let’s go back to the very beginning to when it all began.
The first time I heard of Yasmin’s journey, much like many others, was the launch of the Previvor page, I was puzzled but not surprised that Yas was once again taking on another challenge…….What was it going to be this time? Another Ironman? An Ultra Marathon? Massive seemingly unachievable fundraising targets?…….Nope..Yas had made the life altering decision to take ownership of her future by deciding to have a Bilateral Mastectomy. As a bloke, it dawned on me exactly what this meant….Yas was having her boobs removed? I felt my emotion well up inside. I was sad and fearful for her. I was sad that she had been faced with making this decision in what seemed to me to be so unfair. Yas gives everything to all those around her. Nothing too big an ask, no task too small. She is a rock for many people. All-in-all I WAS BUMMED.
I gathered my thoughts and decided to read through the blog gaining a better understanding or perhaps a more educated one, on exactly what was happening and why.
Now I’m a person who loves the grey area of life. I constantly have so many questions running through my mind and it’s a part of me I’ve learnt to thoroughly enjoy. So the questions that immediately started entering my mind went something like this….
Am I going to lose my dear friend?
Is there a risk?
Is Leigh cool with this?
How does this surgery happen?
What happens to the nipple?
Is she going to get big fake replacements?
Now please excuse me for some of those, but I am a man (not an excuse I swear). I immediately jumped on the phone to talk at length with Yas regarding all my questions.
You see, we all love Yas for being Yas. She’s an open book and was more than happy to answer all my questions, so as the conversation flowed, more and more questions came out. I left the conversation so overwhelmed with happiness for Yas. Inspired by a women with so much strength. The most important thing for Yas was to be around for the girls and Leigh. Now for me, on the surface that seemed like the best answer possible, but I started thinking about how she must be feeling deep down about exactly what was about to occur to her body?
We are all a little sensitive to varying degrees about how we look in the mirror and I had no doubt Yas would be too. For the life of me though I just couldn’t understand where she managed to gather the courage to put herself out there in the most public world of Facebook. Perhaps this is a question that many of us will never understand, as we would likely never ever put ourselves out there as Yas has.
Now as the weeks went by, and as the Previvor page was being updated on a regular basis, Yas was starting to post pictures of herself with less and less clothes on.
Now as her friend, I was feeling a little uncomfortable with each passing week, thinking “Is she really going to get her boobs out for all to see?” But why was I being so coy? What is it that makes me feel funny about seeing my friend’s boobs in the name of raising awareness? And what is it that makes a boob a boob? A strange question I know, but this is a conversation Yas and I had that I’ll get back to a little later on.
By this stage I was feeling really excited for Yas as her strength was infectious and poured out in her blog. Every photo, both pre and post of Yas has one thing in common….She always has a big beautiful smile on her face. Even after surgery she was still smiling with her half glass full attitude. With a focus on nutrition and being as fit as possible, Yas went into surgery in the best possible condition she could have hoped for……….and then we all held our breath.
Through the world of Facebook and thanks to Yasmin’s amazing husband Leigh, we were informed she was out and all was ok. PHEW! But wait, that’s not enough for Yas. The next thing we knew, there she was in all her post op glory, bandages and all with another photo. Looking like she had a hangover of endless proportions, Yas was clearly off with the fairies but as usual smiling none the less. In no time at all Yas was back on the blog reporting how great she was feeling and enviable photos of her amazing post op meals. No doubt aiding in a speedy recovery.
I, like most of Australia, had seen a few weeks earlier the outrageous nature of haters of the lovely women from Under the Red Dress Project. I was fearful and protective of my friend not wanting her to face the same trolls that have nothing better do with their time then hate on people from behind a keyboard.
This is the photo of Beth Whaanga, which caused controversy worldwide just 2 weeks before Yas had her surgery. Yas and Beth connected and became friends. Yas has since had her own Under the Red DressProject photo shoot, where Yas will appear in her own before and after image to support the project. (Stay tuned for that one!)
Next thing I knew there was the Previvor update. I knew the photo was somewhere on the lower half of the page. I paused and like pulling a band-aid off quickly I scrolled down and there was Yas in all her post op glory. Yas even included a You Tube video of the big reveal, which can be viewed by clicking here.
Now, I’d seen some images earlier of women having been through the same surgery so I sort of knew what to expect, but this was different. This was my friend. The first thing I noticed when I watched the video was Yasmin’s smiling face again. Ever so happy, strong and vibrant. When I looked at Yasmin’s chest where her boobs once were, I felt relieved. Relieved that it was all over for her and her beautiful family. Relieved that I knew she’d be around for many years to come, relieved that she seemed in no pain at all.
I WAS HAPPY.
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do
As the weeks ticked by, Yas being Yas, soldiered on with a spring in her step and a skid of her scooter out and about raising awareness, being a mum, wife and business women. You just can’t keep a good woman down and Yas confidently returned to her beloved sport and friendship circle within Triathlon within a few weeks of surgery. My jaw dropped to the floor when I read this, but what an amazing woman.
Now lets talk about what makes a boob a boob?
I said earlier I have a mind that loves the grey area and this is one of those questions that Yas and I spoke about, which all started over Yasmin’s decision not to take the risk of saving her nipples. To me at first I’d never really thought about it, but then I asked myself if it really makes all that big a difference? I grew up in a household filled with women. I heard all the moans and groans from my sister and mum about having small boobs and not feeling great in ‘this or that’ dress which would look so much better with a full C.
So I get that women choose to have implants post op perhaps just to make them feel womanly again (although I’m sure it goes much deeper than that to a place men are yet to work out. I think its the same place that “no babe I don’t need any help” and in the next breath “why aren’t you helping” live).
Why is it that as a society we applaud a woman who looks beautiful in that red dress, but remove her clothes to reveal her boobs with no nipples and we turn like a pack of wolves? We revere women with ‘fake boobs’ and post op scars when the choice is made for cosmetic reasons, yet we don’t condone a woman with no nipples, implants and post op scars when making the choice to save her life. I JUST DON’T GET IT.
In that red dress they both look the same, but when naked, as a society we turn the cheek. So is it all about the Nipple? Is that what makes a boob a boob? I guess that’s a question that each individual will make for herself. One that only Yas can make for herself, one I’m sure will be had with her loving husband and family.
My overall opinion remains this….
How can we put those down that are brave enough to stand up and expose themselves for no greater purpose than to spark conversation, to make us stop and think, to raise awareness and the profile of a cancer’s taking the lives of those closest to us? To all the men and women making this life changing and challenging decision, I stand and applaud you.
Ladies, do your happy dance, wear the shit out of that red dress and strut your stuff like a super star because to your family and friends you truly are.
To my dear friend Yas, you are a star that shines brighter than any I know. You are an inspiration to your family and friends, a woman your daughter’s will admire. Thank you for being you and allowing us all into your life, to follow and grow with you along this journey.
You are loved a cherished by us all”
WOW! How do I top that? During the guest blog writing process, I must admit I was nervous as to what my male friend would write. As much as men claim to not understand women, it really does go back the same way with men. We have no idea what goes on in your minds most days, so I had no idea what to expect!
When I read his thoughts for the first time, I will admit I was nervous, but as I continued through each paragraph, I just wanted to give him a big, warm, bestie hug!! Seriously, how lucky am I to have friends that care for me this much?
All I can really do is say ‘thank you my beautiful friend’ for opening your heart and your mind with such raw and real truth.
While his name will remain unknown, he has shared this journey in a way that has helped me appreciate friendship deeper than ever before.
And by the way ladies….just for the record….his guest blog post has far exceeded mine when it comes to the ‘word count’, which just goes to show, men do love to communicate as much as we do!!
One month following my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and I’ve had my first fill. What is a ‘fill’ you ask? I should probably use the correct term, which is tissue expansion.
Officially, the breast reconstruction with implants process that I’m undertaking is referred to as a Two-Stage Breast Reconstruction.
A two-stage breast reconstruction with implants is a very popular option. This procedure can be done either at the time of mastectomy or at a later stage (delayed).
How It Works
A temporary breast tissue expander is placed in the chest. Over a period of weeks, the doctor gradually fills the expander with saline, which is similar to saltwater. During this process, the skin gradually stretches and grows to make room for the implant as it expands. The idea is that the body will slowly adjust to the growth of the implant in the same manner a woman’s body adjusts to the gradual growth of her abdomen when she is pregnant. The tissue expander looks like this….
When the breast tissue is completely removed, the tissue expander is then placed under the peck muscle and in my case, the tissue expander was filled with a small amount of saline in it. I had 50ml of saline put into each tissue expander at the time of the original surgery.
Some interesting things you might not know…….
The weight of my actual original breast tissue on the right breast was 314g and the left breast was 275g
I now have 130ml on both the left and the right side
My chest circumference pre-surgery was 84cm, post surgery 81cm (50ml L&R) and post tissue expansion # 1 it’s 86cm (130ml L&R)
When you hug me, my chest is as hard as a rock!
The expanders are temporary and will be replaced with a saline implant once the expansion process is complete
I’m still pain free and feeling like everything is on track for a full recovery. I tried to take a before and after selfie, but I’m not so sure that you can see a significant change. This is my ‘before’ photo in the car just moments prior to my appointment. The ‘after’ shot didn’t really look much different, so I decided to take a topless side selfie, which appears further down.
I’m pretty flat chested in the photo above and to be honest, I have become quite accustomed to it. The expansion process itself took just a few minutes and instantly I had a whole ‘hand full’ on each side. As I mentioned above, you can see the expansion best with the side-by-side comparison shot.
It’s still relatively small, so I’d expect that with another fill or two, it’s going to be well and truly big enough.
I will admit, the whole reconstruction process is still more foreign to me than the bilateral mastectomy itself. I’m worried that once I have an expansion, that I’ll end up being bigger than I want to be and there’s no going back from there. I trust my surgeon implicitly and I know she’s going to ensure that I don’t end up looking too top heavy so my clothes no longer fit me. Once the tissue expansion process is complete, the expander will be removed and replaced. The end result will just be a small reconstructed breast without a nipple, enough so I fill out my existing clothes and natural looking ‘foob’ (fake boob).
I’ll finish today with a short video of my results following the first tissue expansion.
It comes with a disclaimer for those who are a little squeamish about seeing surgical wounds. It’s in no way meant to be anything other than an informative update for those who have supported me through the past 4 weeks. I’m now well on my way to a full recovery and I thank you for your continued support.