Saturday, October 13, 2012

Expander Fill / Post-Ops

At my post-op appointment Wednesday with the nurse practitioner of plastic surgery, I received my first fill.  They did some filling right after surgery, but this was the first one I was awake for.

First off, she was very happy with my healing so far and said everything looked wonderful.  She said "This looks wonderful.  I know you don't think so, but I do."  She also said she could remove the drains.................................WOO HOO!  I was so excited, because I was ready for those horrible things to be gone forever.  I had no idea how far these tubes were inside me.  They came out right under the armpit and went under the boob and around the top to the breast bone.  The really hard things under my skin that I thought were the expanders were actually the tubes.  Before she pulled out the tubes, she wanted to do the fill.  Here are some videos I found that will help with visuals:  Video 1 & Video 2.  I will say the needle in Video 1 is what they used, but it was actually bigger.  It was like a horse tranquilizer.  She put 50 cc's in each side so I am up to 150 300cc's in the left and 100 225cc's in the right.  They are slowly rounding out some, so hopefully after a few more they will look more like boobs.  They found the port in the expander with a little stud finder.  I didn't feel the needle going in, but I felt a little pressure as the saline was injected.  Now it was time to pull out the drains.  I took a deep breath, and as I blew out in a big puff, she pulled out the tubes.  It didn't hurt, but I could feel them being removed.  It was a strange feeling to experience.  A lot of the tightness I was feeling was relieved with the removal of the tubes.

Now we have the first fill over and done with.  They will continue to do weekly fills as long as they can, depending on how I handle them.  The muscle spasms have been pretty painful.  Sometimes they are just short stabs, and other times they last for hours.  I have some muscle relaxers I take when they don't let up.  They hurt so bad sometimes that I have to stop what I am doing and sit down.  It's almost like a paralyzing pain that hits and takes your breath away.  The drive home was pretty rough and painful.

Thursday I had my post-op with the surgical oncologist.  He also said everything looked wonderful, and I was healing beautifully.  He had the pathology report, and I am happy to report there were no residual cancer cells found in any of the breast tissue removed.  So, I am officially CANCER FREE.  We will never know if the cancer was all removed with my re-excision in March since my margins were only marginally clear, or if the chemo did the trick.  Either way, it's all gone.

Cancer Free.............................sounds strange after all this time.  Instead of saying "I have cancer," I can now say "I had cancer."  Although I was very happy to hear this news, I am so focused on right now, feeling better, and the next steps to full recovery, that it was hard to be really excited.  It is exciting to think about what I have been through and survived up to this point, and how the future steps get smaller as I check things off my cancer treatment/prevention to-do list.    

I am now close to 2 weeks post surgery.  Still taking the pain meds pretty regularly.  Sometimes I can go longer than other times.  I am getting some of the range of motion back in my arms slowly.  Each day gets a little better.  I am still restricted to not lifting anything that weighs more than 10 lbs.  Even if I tried, I would not be able to do it.  Just lifting the laptop pulls, and I can feel the muscles stretching.   

So, my next steps are to continue with the expander fills and then begin radiation.  The big question now is if I decide to go along with doctor recommendations and proceed with radiation.  I have an appointment next week with my radiation oncologist to re-group and go over the next steps.  Part of my hesitation is how radiation will affect my reconstruction.  I would have a 60% chance of future complications with the implant after radiation.  This means I have a high risk that the implant will not be successful in the long term.  Over a 1-2 year period following radiation, the implant could become tight, sore, and lift up towards my shoulder.  If this happens, I would need additional surgeries in an attempt to correct it.  Hopefully following my appointments next week with my oncologist and my radiation oncologist, I will be clear on the risks/benefits and be able to make an informed decision to either proceed with radiation as recommended, or say no.  I have put a lot of faith in my doctors and to go against what is being recommended will be difficult.


  1. Hello I work with Melissa, Christel's cousin. Anyway, my Mother-in-law had to go through the same procedure as you last year and just finished the last step of the reconstruction process. My Aunt had breast cancer as well and she just went to Vinnie's tattoo shop in Frederick he does 3-d nipple tattoo's that look real. I thought I would pass it along. They are both happy with the results. I wish the best to you and your family. I have been praying for you since Melissa told me.

  2. Hello. Thanks so much for the info. Melissa also sent me some info on a person who does the 3D tattoos, might have been the same person. This is something I plan on doing once I am at that point in my reconstruction process so this info will be helpful. I appreciate you shareing. Thanks again and for your prayers!!! - Erin

  3. congrats on being cancer-free!!! finally i cried some happy tears after reading one of your updates! i just love you so much. i watched clue last night and i couldn't stop thinking about how we would all just quote it and laugh the whole time. my entire childhood has memories of you in it. you have no idea how much you mean to me, and i am so proud of what you have been through and accomplished on this journey. you know that i am here for whatever. next time i'm at my parents' house, i'll try to stop by and visit for a bit. WOO-HOOO!