Brave and Beautiful

Posted in News

A picture is worth a thousand words…..that’s how the saying goes.

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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……

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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….

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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  The medical team will insert an implant to round out Elle’s previously reconstructed breast, which was originally made using the fat and muscle from her abdomen.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.

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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.

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My super sister is doing it tough; her rough ride to recovery is far from pretty…….

Posted in News

Sometimes in life, things go perfectly to plan.

(WARNING: Some may find images in this blog disturbing)

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I look back at my own personal journey with my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and am grateful for the smooth ride.  You see, everything – and I mean EVERYTHING went exactly how I expected it to.   Get fit – check!  Surgery – check!  Recovery – check!  Return to normal range of movement – check!  Then repeat for the reconstruction stage of my surgery 6 months later – check!  Check, check, check!!  I look back and realise what a dream run it was, even with the unexpected broken foot 10 days prior to my mastectomy, then the little ‘mishap’ during my recovery.  After re-reading the two blog post links myself, I realise just how lucky I was to not stumble really along the way.

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Let me tell you this though…..My super sister is doing it tough!

I would trade my own personal dream run right now if it meant that my super sister Elle could have the same experience.   Elle’s surgery was in March, almost a year to the day after mine.  For the past 8 weeks though, Elle has been doing it tough!  Yesterday Elle went in for yet another surgery, her 4th operation in just 8 weeks and her road to recovery has been anything less than ideal.  The Dr’s are happy with the overall outcome of Elle’s initial surgery, her breasts were removed completely (via her nipples, which like me, she chose to not retain).  Elle’s breasts were then reconstructed out of her own body via the Tram-Flap procedure, which basically means they took fat and muscle from Elle’s abdomen to reconstruct her breasts.  As you can see from the image below, other than the blemish on her right breast, Elle’s shape, size and natural looking reconstructed breasts are pretty much PERFECT!  They look and feel (yes, she let me touch them) perfectly real.

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This is where the ‘dream run’ ended for Elle.

Elle’s a tough cookie, she’s the middle sister in our family, which immediately means that she can take pretty much anything and remain strong and determined.  I still wish I could turn back time to our childhood and reverse some of the nasty ‘big sister’ treatment she endured from me.  Elle is kind, caring and probably one of the most generous people I know.  She would give her time (and last dollar) to help others, even if it mean sacrificing herself along the way.  It’s just not fair that she is now suffering so much with her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy recovery.  The ‘blemish’ on her right breast deteriorated and isn’t a blemish at all, nor is it bruising, Elle was suffering from necrosis, which effectively means her cells were dying.

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My unconditional sisterly love may not help Elle recover.  My prayers, hopes and wishes to take away her pain and suffering don’t seem to be working, so I have resorted to writing this blog to share some of Elle’s journey.  It hasn’t been easy, Elle and her ‘childhood sweetheart’ Ben have 3 fantastic children who are surely doing it tough right now too. We’re a close family and her kids (the two boys and the gorgeous little blondie on the right of the image) are absolutely fantastic!  For 8 weeks now they’ve had to watch their usually active and involved mummy suffer and it is surely taking a toll on them too.

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Spare a thought today in your busy life to send Elle and her family some love, thoughts and prayers.  Elle’s going to be in bed for the next few days, recovering from her latest surgery – she’s had yet another skin graft from her leg in the hope to save her reconstructed breast.   While it’s too early to know what Elle’s breast looks like after this particular operation, take a look at the final image in the collage below.  While not likely to win any awards for the prettiest image in the world, it’s raw, it’s real and it’s an honest and open account of what Elle has been through.  The open and incredibly ‘sore’ and raw wound is what the last skin graft looked like after it was complete.

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It’s not pretty and it’s not fun and my super sister Elle deserves a break and she deserves it now.  Please send your positive thoughts her way today.  Everyone choosing to take the journey to proactively remove their breasts needs to know this…..

Things might not always go to plan, but ultimately the end goal is to cheat a disease responsible for taking so many lives prematurely.  Elle has cheated breast cancer and we are all incredibly grateful for that, but my super sister deserves a break from her troubled recovery starting today!!

Thank you for your love and support.

xxxx

My Super Sister

Posted in News

It’s been a while since I have written a new blog post and if I’m to be completely honest, I’ve been a little scared.  Scared and scarred both in about equal amounts. I’ll elaborate more on that at another time.

Most importantly, I’m writing again because tomorrow is the day one of my younger sisters is undergoing her prophylactic bilateral mastectomy.  Elle (a truly Super Sister) is 18 months younger than me, she’s a brilliant mother, a wife to Ben (they are childhood sweethearts) and she’s been a loyal follower of this blog since it started in January last year.  I owe it to Elle to start writing again, especially given she is one of the BIG reasons behind me starting it all in the first place. Elle is the super cute blonde one on the right in this photo…..

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As her older sister, I always wanted to ‘be there’ for Elle, so I’m hoping that in some small way, sharing my blog has helped Elle reach this day – the eve of her own surgery.  I know she loves this photo of us all dressed the same, they were our most favourite dresses.  Elle (the middle sister) is in the middle below….

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Elle has always going out of her way for anyone and everyone!  She is the sort of person who would give away her last dollar or her last meal, Elle is the first to put up her hand if you need something and she is forever helping other busy parents when they need a helping hand.  Tomorrow is a BIG day for Elle and I’m excited for her to finally be here.

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Elle doesn’t know I’m writing this blog tonight about her, so I won’t share anything too personal without her permission.  One thing I will share is how proud I am of Elle.  You see, Elle bravely stripped off for me a year ago to reveal her breasts in a family portrait style photo I posted in an earlier blog.  I had this crazy idea to help me when I was nervous about posting my own breasts on the blog and I somehow managed to convince all of the girls in the family to share a photo of their breasts with me for the family portrait.  Check the photo out below…..

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Statistically, 5 or 6 of the 7 women pictured here are likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.  With my breasts gone and Elle’s about to go, we are both beating the odds and cheating an almost certain future breast cancer diagnosis.

Tomorrow as Elle undergoes her 8+ hour surgery, we will all be thinking about her and hoping for a smooth and trouble free process.  Elle’s surgery is more complicated than mine, with her having the TRAM Flap procedure.  The TRAM Flap, or Transverse Rectus Abdominous Myocutaneous flap: is a type of reconstructive surgery where fat and muscle from the abdomen are used to recreate breast tissue.

The main advantages of a TRAM flap include:

  • One-stage reconstruction to re-create the breast to its full volume
  • Utilises your own natural tissues
  • Permanent and long lasting reconstruction – does not require change or replacement compared to implants
  • Looks and feels natural
  • Moves and age with your body
  • Provides best symmetry with a natural breast on the other side

Although the operating time and recovery period is longer than my original surgery, it is a one-stage reconstruction that gives an instant permanent result with your own natural tissue.

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I’ll be thinking of Elle tonight and all day tomorrow and sending her all the pain-free vibes I can muster.

She’s an amazing woman and deserves a trouble free, pain free speedy recovery.  We all love you to the moon and back Elle, can’t wait to support you through your journey.  xxxx

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