Superhero capes

Every scar has a story, many are humorous reflections of childish antics, some are from events you’d rather forget and others, like mine are like a signature. They are the signature of being brave. But what about those days where bravery just doesn’t cut it?

Now, let’s define brave. There can be tears, anxiety and worry with being brave otherwise, let’s be honest, we’d all have very few ‘brave’ moments to reflect on. Bravery is doing something out the norm, going through with something that is scary, standing up to something or someone that is mean. Many women see their mastectomy scars as a reminder that they were brave. They fought off the bully, they prevented the bully or they took a bloody good punch at the bully that is cancer. 

Many women embrace their scars and I do, probably 75% of the time, but let’s be honest,  sometimes the little lacey bra is staying on because I don’t want my clown face scars peaking out! There is a lot in the media about body confidence-too large, too thin, too flabby, too toned- good grief it’s everywhere. Then you have Love Island (which is a guilty pleasure for many) but the men and women on there, my gosh, they are not doing people favours in terms of knowing what a ‘normal’ person looks like. The image of perfection or perceived perfection has taken hold of the media and many are fighting back. In a world of ‘glam’ I think it’s only normal to take a moment and think, hmmm my wavy, bumpy, clown smile scared boobies don’t quite fit the bill! Now don’t get me wrong, I am in NO WAY aspiring or advocating the ‘love island look’, BUT there is relevance (and let’s not lie, some of them look great). Even strong confident people must sometimes have that split second of doubt or worry, especially with things of a personal nature. A scar on your big toe from where you kicked your bunk bed or a scar on your knee where you crashed your bike, isn’t something that stands out to you. But an intimate area such as breasts, well they are quite ‘out there’ in the realms of, ‘peek a boo’, there is no escaping those bad boys! 

People with anxieties and worries, you are still brave. Those that are self conscious, you are still brave. Those that have those bad days, you are still brave. I’m not standing on a hill pretending to be a strong independent  woman who advocates ‘F*ck what people think and what others look like’, I’m just making sure people know, it is ok not to be ok sometimes. It is ok to look at the tv, instagram, YouTube and think, ‘hmm they look good, I wonder if I can look like that’ (despite my best efforts my makeup will never be as flawless as @itssabrinaaa 🙌 but I can try 😂). 

Scars are a superhero cape, they show bravery. But sometimes, they don’t match your outfit or your vibe that day. That is ok.  

 

S x  

 

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Breast or Bottle? Seems to be topic of the day! What about the boobless?

Breast or bottle is the question of the day. It’s on the news with everyone voicing their opinions of what is right, better and advisable for new baby (and new Mum). 

When having a mastectomy the breast feeding situation is an area of consideration. Like all things in life, people have VERY different opinions. For me, it was a short thought process which consisted of, ‘do I want to breast feed when I have children? Hmm well if breast cancer hits and wins, it’s a highly irrelevant question’. On the scales of what outweighed what, living to have children won against hopefully living to then breast feed- not really a coin toss deliberation. I think as Iv got older it’s probably crossed my mind more, as my friends have babies and talk about these things. I do wonder if il be ‘missing out’ on a particular element of raising a baby. However, I still firmly believe that having a Mum around, top trumps the benefits of breast feeding! It’s not a selfish choice, it’s not to be misunderstood as ‘I choose my life above what is better for my future (currently fictitious) child’. I am saying that being alive and well to play with my child, watch it grow up, keep it safe from seeing its mother go through trauma is what is more important to me. You can’t sugar coat life or wrap children up in cotton wool so they are not exposed to the harsh realities of life, but you can protect them from the the things that can be prevented. You wouldn’t put a child on a bike without a helmet and say ‘cycle as fast as you can’. There is a danger there that can be prevented. They might fall off and scrape their knee or require a few stitches, but it won’t be a cataclysmic disaster. Having my mastectomy, with my future children in mind, is like me putting a helmet on their bike ride. Iv protected them. Life is unpredictable and there will be dramas, pains and ‘band aid’ moments, but for this element, breast cancer taking their Mummy, Iv strapped elbow, knee pads and a helmet on my future children.

S x  

 

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Sweating Ice

No I don’t mean melting ice, sweating. Those that have foobs are well aware of the sub zero temperature of the chest... chesticles seems appropriate as icicles are comparable. Now, during a warmer day these blocks remain cold, quite a nice refresher for a grazing arm. However, the sweat... how can something so cold sweat? Never have I been a sweaty person and to be honest nor have I been one to talk about such a thing! Since surgery I have found that the boobs get considerably more sweaty... whilst maintaining their ice cold temperature. I wonder why this is? 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not savagely perspiring from my boobs, but I seem to now experience the under boob sweat issue?! 

Its not the most glamorous thing to share but at least this may inform newbie foobies or sympathise with those who have current perspiring poms poms!  

 

S x  

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Is It Weird Not to Have Your Own Breasts?’

‘Is it weird not to have your own breasts?’ is something I was asked following my mastectomy and different stages of the journey warranted different responses. Initially, I cannot deny, these alien ice blocks did not feel a part of me. They got in the way, I could not move my arms, they looked like they’d lost a bar fight and there were gigantic horizontal plasters over the incisions that went straight across my both breasts. Later in recovery, after the pain and swelling had subsided I had the task of getting used to these ‘objects’. You wouldn’t imagine how many times a day the inside of your arm brushes your breast without you noticing or how folding your arms was such a simple action. Well, they got in the way. When I moved, my arms would hit these foreign bricks sticking out my front, folding my arms didn’t feel the same, there was no squish! However, as the weeks past these actions became simple once more. It is amazing how you adjust and quickly forget that there was ever a change in how you do something the first place.

Every woman is different in how they feel after their mastectomy. For me, overtime I came to accept the changes to what I look like. It is a change but on a day to day basis I don’t think about the fact that they are not my own boobs. The decision to have them removed was to potentially save my life in the future and I would not change my mind for one second. It was the right thing to do.

However, life is not always rosy and the although it was the right thing to do there are sometimes, even now 18 months on I catch myself in the mirror and think, ‘these do not look normal’ or ‘can you see the waves in my skin through my sheer top’. It is something that could easily consume you, if you let it. I am not like that, I try and always stay positive but I am only human and sometimes yes, ‘it is weird not to have my own breasts’. If I tense my left chest muscle my whole boob moves and as much as I joke about it being a party trick, it does freak me out. Men spend hours in the gym working on their peck muscles to develop such a skill, why?! There is also the challenge of accepting something you cannot feel. The great game of poking my sides and chest to determine where I still have sensation. There is a clear line where sensation stops, I tested it with a remote control for the television. Tap (gently) around the area to see where I can feel and where I cannot. Ever looked at something I know you are being touched by cannot feel it, a very strange experience.

Is it weird not to have my own boobs, absolutely but my mastectomy changed my life, for the better. They feel part of me now however like all things, my perception is I have good days and bad about my new boobs, from bikini confident to swimming in a t-shirt.

 

 

 

 

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The Changing Room Stare

Growing up poolside meant I spent a lot of time in changing rooms. Therefore getting changed in front of women is not something that bothers me or even crosses my mind as an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these ladies that walks around starkers for a period of time that breaks the comfort zone of everyone around! I get changed and ladies if you see my wobbly bits, you see my wobbly bits. However, recently I was getting changed, minding my own business and I caught the eye of another lady. Now, if we are honest with ourselves we have all experienced that ‘oh no, Iv been caught staring’ moment. Well the lady’s face had this written all over it. I noticed she was looking at my chest and (I guess) trying to work out what was going on with the smiley face scars or perhaps she was trying to locate my nipples- who knows! I wasn’t bothered by it, as when something doesn’t fit the norm it’s natural to be nosey. It did make me wonder what conclusions people must come to. Those in the know, know. Those that don’t must think I had very strange ideals on what I wanted my breasts to look like or was I one of those people that do want to be like Barbie- let’s hope not!

Everyone’s level of comfort will be different when it comes to sharing scars. Some people are very open but others prefer to be private.    I don’t go flashing mine around but when friends have asked what they’re like, I don’t mind showing them. Likewise when supporting women at breast reconstruction meetings, they are there because they want to feel assured and know more. I volunteer at these so people have as much knowledge as possible before surgery. 

If you are on the mastectomy journey and want to know what post op can look like, I highly recommend seeing if your breast team run a support group.  

As for the lady in the changing room, hopefully she came to the right conclusion but also maybe it helped her think to check her boobs, call a friend in need or perhaps it gave her something to gossip about. Even so, talking more and knowing more about mastectomies will help support people, directly or indirectly.

S x  

 

 

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Foobiversary

I could write my foobiversary blog post with sentiments from the heart, filled with serious comments and profound moments from the past year. I have spent 20 minutes trying to start it and deleted 6 starting sentences, so safe to say I will probably not go down that route. Instead I thought I would just go over what has happened this year fooby booby related as a recap and what life is like now. To put the really boring spin on it, my life is pretty much what it was like pre-mastectomy, but now just braless with more ‘perks’ ;) But to leave it like that would be pretty boring and not helpful to those exploring this option or needing to go down this road.

 

In all seriousness, the time has flown. The long nights of lying awake for the weeks following my surgery, I remember thinking that those nights were never going to end and here I am, a year later and they are so far behind me. Anyone who has had a mastectomy is familiar with the ceiling stare. The inability to lie on your side or move easily, the feeling of requiring a heavy duty forklift to hoick you out of bed, bloody hell it’s a drag. But it is done and guess what, it didn’t last forever after all. Those of you going down this road or on the mastectomy journey, yes, it is tough but time is a healer. This is something I have said to lots of the ladies that have contacted me, many who have been mid ceiling stare stage of recovery. Soon enough they have had that euphoric moment where they realise, THE ROLL ON TO THE SIDE IS POSSIBLE, HALLELUJAH! It is a momentous moment in recovery, not because you feel better, you still feel pretty crap but it is that light at the end of the tunnel moment, where sleep is an option once again and comfort is no longer your deepest most genuine wish at 2am.

 

The scars. I remember the very raw realisation that my scars were something real when I had my plasters taken off. I was a 27 year old with blue, purple swollen odd things attached to my chest and scabby, crusty incisions across each foob… what a mental image for you. It was a challenge because all of a sudden you don’t look like you, and you don’t feel like you as you’ve got these weird things that don’t belong to you attached to you, plus you feel like dog poo and it hurts. But again, time is a huge healer. I wouldn’t say I forget but I don’t think about my foobs all the time anymore. At the start of recovery, for about 3-4 months I would think about it everyday, I would look every day, I would see what had changed, I would double check they were still there, I would poke them to see if I could feel it, I would look in the mirror to see if people could tell, I would look at my scars and thing ‘eurgh’… this is not the case now. My mastectomy and foobs are just another chapter in my life. They don’t define my life or rule my life, they are just part of my life and part of me. If you are at the stage where you look, prod and think about it all the time, this is normal and in time it does go further in to the back of your mind. My scars have faded lots and they almost look like faint creases. The foobs are more booby shape, especially with my most recent surgery of fat grafting. They look more natural and have some warmth. The icicle blocks kept catching me off guard when I rested my arms down, those things will surprise you!

 

How do I feel now, like a normal 28 year old girl. Boring isn’t it! But actually, feeling normal again is an achievement and a milestone for those who go through a mastectomy. What is next? I have a check up for my fat grafting in a few weeks. Will I have another surgery if asked? No, I am done. I just want to go back to living life, teaching the great kids at school, stomping around in my high heels and just being me again. I have had my time in a hospital gown, so unless it is necessary, as in completely necessary, I am hanging up the sexy surgery socks and those bloody surgical bras, adios!

 

Life now… I can run down the stairs without holding my boobs (ladies, we know what I mean), I can wear a backless dress and not worry that my boobs without a bra look like saggy pancakes and ultimately I have taken the reigns on my life and reduced my risk of breast cancer. An opportunity that challenged me but I am ever so grateful for.

 

S x 

 

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Thigh Foobs

....or Fat grafting to Chest Wall if you want to be medical.

 

It is 4am and having spent the last two hours trying to get back to sleep, I have admitted defeat. Having my blog app on my phone has enabled me to make use of this ‘gain time’ in recording my journey so far with the fat grafting. The Selfridges and House of Fraser app have also been a great support during this rather long evening, however one pair of wedges purchased at 3.30am is probably one too many as it is! Especially as I feel that my legs might fall off if I wear a pair of heels currently. Never one to exaggerate, much. 

 

I think I may have underestimated the whole fat grafting thing. Having the original mastectomy surgery as a comparison perhaps led me in to a slight warped sense of security. ‘It will not be as painful, it will not be as hard, recovery time is much quicker’ were some of my thoughts going in to surgery. Waking up after the fat grafting, ‘bugger me, that hurts’… and that is the polite way of putting it!

 

The process. Usual routine, check in at the hospital, still call it check in, not sure what else you call it, get taken to your bay/room to start the wait for surgery. I was scheduled for an afternoon surgery so did not need to arrive until 11.30. Although this was good in terms of lie in potential the morning of, it did mean hunger…. Oh, the hunger! Having had a small bowl of sultana bran at 6am and then restricted to clear fluids from there onwards, by 2pm I was no longer hungry, I was hangry, oh so very hangry!

 

 

 H-ANGRY  

H-ANGRY  

During the wait, I was seen by the surgeon and the anaesthetist. They go through the common questions and risks and then the surgeon marks you up with the magic marker. I looked like I had cartoon ears drawn above my foobs, it was a classy look.

 Foob ears 

Foob ears 

 

I cannot tell you about the surgery, as I may have been there in person, but not in spirit. Waking up in recovery was a blur and why doctors insist on coming to see you and tell you important things in recovery is beyond me! Can I remember the instructions I was given, absolutely not, I could barely read the time on the clock in front of me, let alone take in what my post op instructions were? When I got back to my room there was pain, lots of it. I remember lying there and saying ‘may have slightly underestimated how much this would hurt’. They took the fat from my thighs, and boy oh boy do I know it! We have all had a bruise that when stroked ever so gently, you that instant sick feeling, the pain is like that but you have the feeling of about 20 bruises on each leg. My chest aches, but I would not say it was painful. It twinges now and again (4 days post op), but that is about it. Walking does not make it any worse in my experience, sitting down is a careful process as if you get the wrong part of your thighs down first, BAM you know it! Few days down the line and the pain is certainly manageable. I am pottering around, not at any great pace, but I can do most things, including the dishwasher, much to my dismay.

 

My biggest challenge is sleeping. On my side or front is a no go, so it is very much a case of staring at the ceiling. I have built myself a fortress (you are never too old to have a den) which has helped me lean my legs to one side and stop me rolling. It helps, but clearly not tonight!

 

The dressings. These will vary depending on your surgical team. Some women have these, some women have them taken off early, some are bound to wearing spanx for weeks. I have large tight sticky bandages around my legs with blue padding underneath. On my chest, I have plaster tape over gauze that makes me look like I am auditioning for a role in the next X men film. The leg bandages are starting to lose their stick through general walking around, putting trousers on and maybe me trying to pull at them a little to see what It is like underneath. I have been told to wear tight running type trousers or spanx. I have one pair of running trousers, which I have probably worn more these past few days then I have in the past few years! I have ordered some spanx from good old next day delivery ASOS as my runners certainly need a wash. Ah and I forgot, the surgical bra is back. I now have two, lucky me! This one is still that sexy nude colour in stretch material but this one has more shape than the last. I was not told how long to keep it on… or I may have been told in recovery, but again useless time to be given guidance. I have a follow up appointment to have my dressings removed on Thursday so I thought it was a safe bet to keep it on until then.

 

 My X-men symbol sneaking out the top there... 

My X-men symbol sneaking out the top there... 

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The dressings being on the rather large side and my thighs being swollen is proving a little taxing for my wardrobe. I return to work on Thursday and the challenge will be to find attire that does not make me look like I have had a week off to do ‘legs only’ at the gym, but also something that hides the X-Man symbol that comes up to my collar bone. Could do without a heatwave as I will be covered top to toe!

 

The good bit.

 

Post op diet. I was instructed at my consultation that post op I would need an insulin fuelled diet. A what, yes, a sugar fuelled diet, now that is something I can do. Anyone that knows me is well aware that I regularly eat a whole pack of fizzy cola laces before briefing at 8.25am. My office desk will regularly feature marshmallows and I always have a secret stash of chocolate or sweets in my classroom desk too… in case of emergencies, obviously. Therefore, I have taken my post op instructions very seriously. The sweet cupboard (yep we have a sweet cupboard… 3 shelves, terrible I know) is well stocked. My beautiful friends and family have also supported me with this. One lovely friend has even got me 1kg of heart shaped marshmallows! Love her! Not feeling 100% is not really helping with my need to eat sugar, but I am trying, next step Malteasars. Pitfall, summer is here. We go on a cruise mid August, hello beach body, not. Rolly polly Sarah coming down the deck!

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Impact/Outcome

 

Who knows currently. Everything is swollen currently,  my fat above my implants is bigger than the implants themselves and they are also sporting a nice greeny yellow bruise colour. Hopefully by the end of the week or after a few I will be able to see and report how it has taken. As for the state of my thighs, who jolly knows. That will be a great surprise to look forward to at the clinic.

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Feed me!  

A Birthday 'Pear' 🍐

28 sounds so much older than 27, I know in the grand scheme of things, 28 is youthful (yes lets nod and all agree) however it does make me stop and think about the rollercoaster that was being 27. A mastectomy at 27 is not exactly something that I had wished for or even imagined blowing out my birthday candles years before, but I am very fortunate to have been able to have this choice in my life. Most people in their twenties travel and party… my boobs travelled (away from my body) and I had a party to bid them fair well, I think that counts.

 

 

Birthdays are odd aren’t they, you celebrate joining the earth, surviving another year and getting closer to grey hair and wrinkles. My birthday this year I can say I made something out of being 27, I reduced my risk of breast cancer and gave myself more birthdays to celebrate in the future. I also became a wife… a magical moment and commitment. Being 27 was busy!!

 

There are always next steps in life, sorting out my dents/gaps whatever you may wish to refer to them as, is mine. Those pesky gaps that just seem to wave at me if I wear a V-neck or a more sheer top. For those that are not on or have not been on the mastectomy journey, dents/gaps are somewhat an alien concept to you. Imagine you have wallpapered a wall, but the wall underneath has not got a smooth finish of plaster, you can get little dents appear. Another comparison- a slight pot hole in the road, that over time may grow deeper.

 

Filling these will be done through lipomodelling, sometimes called fat grafting. I will do a separate blog and page on this to add to the Mastect Expect website closer to the time. I have had my consultation and felt very reassured. Following my own instructions, I took a pen and paper to avoid walking about and then remembering all the questions I had.

 

1 year older, not much wiser…

 

S

 

 

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When the foobs say 'I do'...

So realistically my wedding and honeymoon info are not going to give mastectomy patients much help, it may indulge the nosey parkers out there, but in terms of breast cancer surgery... not entirely relevant.  

However, I can let you know how my foobs behaved on the day and my experiences with them in a hotter (much hotter) climate.  

The day, well my original dress crisis from my final fitting was relived on the day. The 'gaps' you could see... well I could see, not sure others could, were out on display. The tape that we had organised to stick it down had gone astray, therefore it was action stations for the venue and family to find body tape that would hold my dress to my very bare upper chest. Damn not having breast tissue and fat when you need it!  Thankfully I had 'tit tape' by the dozen, however it only held for about an hour and my hair kept getting stuck to it, ha! In the end I gave up, embrace my new shape and gaps. It is what it is, it wasn't going to ruin my day. Luckily our fab photographer Marcus Charter was in the know and ensured that any gap shadow photographs were avoided. The only snap that was taken by a guest (and actually one of my favourite because of the natural state we are both in post confetti walk) with the 'gap' on show was this one...

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Something to be mindful of is that foobs do not hold heat. I had noticed this in the UK, but let's be honest, there isn't much heat to be held. So whilst we were sunning ourselves in 35 degree heat it became very obvious that the foobs.... remained iceeeee cold! It's a very odd experience, it takes you back to the 'foreign object' phase of recovery.   Your body is glowing (polite word for bloody hot and sweaty) and your chest, well, chest freezer is an appropriate comparison. It becomes almost a novelty, lie out in the sun, feel like you're on the surface of the sun... nope, still freezing. Go on a bike ride (yes bike ride!!!) and feel like your whole body might melt in to a big heap... ice! Very odd. 

Moving on to what I can do now, probably more useful to the active type, on the holiday it was obvious at how much strength I had built. Physical and psychological. 6months ago I couldn't get myself changed or open a pot of coffee... 

A few weeks ago, I swam, kayaked, drove a blinking heavy quad bike and felt confident in a bikini. All things that were certainly not achievable half a year ago.  

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Progress from a mastectomy is both physical but also psychological. Finding a bikini was tough, because at the time of shopping I was still at the alien blobs on my chest stage. But now, after a few good purchases from ASOS, I felt ok. Maybe it was because I was surrounded by strangers rather than those that would be looking to see changes, but even so, it worried me for a split second, that was all.  

Those of you in early stages of recovery or about to go in for their mastectomy, It's a journey, and like all journeys it has pit stops, quick parts and frustrating traffic jam feeling parts.  

Hope you all had a lovely Easter.  

S x

 

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International Women's Day...

We are women, we have breasts. Yep I said it and threw it out there and guess what sometimes, our boobs go wrong. Tits up tits. 

I write and work on Mastect Expect because I want to make it ok to talk about. It's nothing to be ashamed about or something to whisper about. The more openly people can talk about boobs and what might be different, wrong or a worry, the safer we are making ourselves.  Whether you want to ask how to check yourselves, is this normal, what happens now, what will it look like? All of the questions that go through your head but not necessarily come out your mouth. I want to help women get to a point of saying these out loud. It doesn't mean you are being a wet lettuce about it, it means you're standing up and doing something about it, about your boobs!  

Mastect Expect looks at mastectomy surgery and I have tried to put all the details possible on there. Yes it is only my experience and what I have learnt from others but it's a start to helping someone going on the journey. I have put my experience, thoughts, feelings and also pictures, which working in a secondary school was a bold choice as there is no stopping teenagers running wild on the internet. However, I think it's important for women to get the support they need. 

Having breast cancer surgery is a frightening time for people, but let it be ok to talk about. Whether you have big, little, pert, saggy or even lop sided, breasts, breast cancer and surgery is something that is ok to talk about. Just because your boobs may be working against you or even if you have to get rid of them altogether, you are still a strong female. 

Empower women.

Happy International Women's Day.  

 

S x 

 

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Wedding Dress Foob Meltdown...

I promised I'd document my mastectomy recovery and how it does and does not interfere with my life. On a day to day basis, 6months down the line, they don't even cross my mind. Sometimes they do in terms of a top that doesn't quite compliment... or on the flip side, a top that certainly does compliment.  

Yesterday however was the most recent (and certainly only one for a while) meltdown. Yesterday was the day my wedding dress arrived in the shop for me to try on. A very exciting experience and the dress is just beautiful. However, there were tears... not overwhelming excitement of getting married tears either! Whereas before trying on the in store dress I was 'clamped' in so all looked fitted and there was no foob indicators in sight, my top half is no longer playing the game. Unfortunately my foobs don't 'fall' in to the material as normal boobs would. They sit there all perky and rigid, which I am sure in 10 years time I will be grateful for. But right now, they are not my friends. Never ever would I have thought that I would miss side boob. That's right, side boob! I need side boob to fill the great big bloody gaps! We tried putting a bit of padding in there to 'lift'... well that just ended up in the giggles as they lifted, but just emphasised the problem. The lift... well hello perky but my goodness, the gaps just grew! That idea was short lived, although humorous. My Mum and sister assured me that to anyone looking, you couldn't tell. But my goodness, I could tell. It stood out like a bloody sore thumb to me. The result- tears! Just the look you want when stood in a beautiful dress and veil- red eyes and nose! I think it was more of a shock as I hadn't even thought that the boobage would be an issue. I was mindful of it when I last tried it on, as I was only just post op. But now, life is normal (relatively) again. I didn't consider it would even be an issue. 

Victoria at the bridal shop is fabulous and she told me all the wonderful things seamstresses can do. Luckily I have an appointment today to have my alterations, so let's hope they can work their magic. As much as I was told that you 'can't tell', to me, I'd spend the whole day readjusting and checking that it wasn't obvious, and let's be honest, I think il have enough going on without worrying about my fooby gapage!   

 

S x  

 

 

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Spontaneous Response to Decision...

A question I get asked a lot is 'what did you do and how did you feel when you made the decision to go through with a mastectomy?' I have given many interviews with the sensible responses, which were true .... as or me it was very logical& on the surface this is how I dealt with it.

However, how did I cope? Well I was fine taking about it, researching it, preparing for it but... I did however spontaneously decide to have several inches of my hair cut off very shortly after getting the news!!! Different people do different things in those 'moments'. I think, for me personally and upon reflection, I needed to feel 'in control'. Life was moving very quickly and I needed to do something to show I was the boss- chopping my hair off seemed to be how I 'coped'. It also meant everyone was more focussed on my hair change, that became my talking point. At the time, obviously to me, my mastectomy and spontaneous behaviour were in no way linked. But looking back on it now, there is definitely some correlation there!!! 

Its just something to be wary of, especially if you are strong willed/bloody minded like me!  

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Bleugh...

So one thing I found since my op is that my immune system seems to be shot to pieces. Now, I am no doctor but I imagine it is a combination of the op, the week back in hospital and all the many many antibiotics I have consumed over the past few months. Which upon reflection, is a lot! So this may be very specific to me, but then again it might be common. 

Even now, it seems if I do a weeks worth of work, ok, so the week before last I perhaps over did it with approx 55-60 hours of work in the week, knocks me for six. My body just shuts up shop and out comes flu like symptoms. Shivers, temperature, all sorts. My body and brain do not seem to be on the same wave length of getting on with life as usual! Everyone else gets a sniffle, BOOM I get flu. It is a tad frustrating. Especially as I am a bit of a nerd, and do love my job, as it's getting to a point I am not winning against my immune system! Taking a day off is something I really hate doing, especially as Iv had a considerable amount of time off this academic year already due to recovery. Other teachers I'm sure can appreciate the overwhelming guilt of missing precious A-Level lessons and feeling of letting them down. Along with other classes and a year group finding their feet. I am determined to push through!! 

Another experience I have had is a skin infection, some form of bacteria that led to my face... yes my face (great) being all red and flakey. Apparently this was a reaction to what my body had been through and all the antibiotics I had had in my system. It was most on my eyelids, which was a real bugger when I received 2 amazing eye shadow palettes for Christmas! They had to be put to one side for a few weeks. A prescribed topical cream did the job, but it was another example of an after effect that wasn't overly pleasant... or expected for that matter. 'Er yes I have a bacterial infection on my eyelids because of my mastectomy'.... well you'd just laugh wouldn't you! How stupid! 

I have realised that this reads as exceptionally moany and pitiful which isn't the intention. Well, I admit I may be using it as a venting platform too. But ultimately, it's just a heads up that a bit of a vitamin C increase and google of immune system boosting things might be a good plan. At the end of the day, what harm can it do? 

I did try 'pinterest' an image or quote about the immune system as an attachment, all I could find were ones about how cuddles can help relieve anxiety and boost the immune system... -I feel like crap, I don't want a bloody cuddle, I want a solution! Completely appreciate that some people may believe in this and it may work for them, however I would be lying if I said it was my kind of thing!! 

In all seriousness, there are so many people in the world that have it so much worse and who I am sure, are so much braver. Men and women out their have illnesses or treatments that do attack their immune system, so it is important to by mindful that having the flu and flakey skin is nothing in comparison. This is what keeps me from moaning to high heaven about it. But I thought it was something to flag up just so all those undergoing a mastectomy or currently recovering, could be aware.  

 

S x  

 

 

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A broken leg is obvious, what about a mastectomy?

If someone breaks their leg, it is fairly obvious what they will need help with. You can appreciate what would be difficult in that situation, also they have a big white or even multi-coloured cast on it to remind you. But what about a mastectomy? What will be the struggles and what help would be most beneficial? Loved ones, from friends to family and partners will want to help, but they are unsure on how. I thought I would write a post aimed at them.

Obviously everyone’s personal circumstances will be different in terms of who they have around to support them during recovery, but at least this way, those of you that want to support someone going on this journey have a little guidance. Also the level and intimacy of the support will be down to your relationship.

The obvious one- a lift home! Like any surgery, driving is out the question. Also, get the car door for them (they are heavy, believe me) and also pop the seat belt on for them. Turning round to grab it and then plug it in may be difficult. 

So what about at home…

Getting changed- depending on whether or not reconstruction has taken place and then also what kind of reconstruction- the support needed for changing clothes will vary. However, I struggled with pulling up trousers and then the obvious getting anything over my head. That covers pretty much all outfits! Remember- always put arms in/take arms out first once wearing one button up tops again. Then help with getting it over the head is needed. Always be gentle. 

Helping getting up from chairs- do not yank your loved one out of a chair etc... that will not end well! Avoid placing arms under armpits too, you may end up with a strong kick to the shins as a response. It could be helpful to gently help your loved one shuffle forwards with a little pressure on the back, or holding the side of the arm carefully to offer some support.  

Whilst dressings are still in place showering is a no go. Help someone wash, washing their head too, they will need help doing this for the first few weeks. Getting hands high enough to lather is impossible. Those with hair will also struggle to brush and tie hair up too. Being helpful will develop your hair dressing skills!  

Cooking- chopping, grating, untwisting etc is difficult, plus recovering from a mastectomy is blinking exhausting!! A great help would be preparing some meals. If you are not their to cook, prepare meals that are ready to put in the oven (not heavy) would be useful.... however they may struggle to open the over door- assess this situation first.  

Housework- it will be a while until they can hoover and clean, what a shame. Therefore some spring cleaning, putting a wash on etc I am sure would be appreciated.  

After a a few weeks has passed, recovery is still difficult but independence can start to grow. To help, move cups/dishes out of the top cupboards and put them on the kitchen surface. This way there is no stretching needed. 

Other types of help... 

Phoning, chatting, popping over with cake (cake is always a good plan for me), bring a good DVD collection, arrange taking them out for a coffee or cinema trip. Bringing merriness (is that a word?) and a distraction is great. With being limited in movement and independence can be a real drain, dwelling doesn't make it any better so keeping your loved one occupied is good. At the same time, let them sleep!! It's exhausting, seems odd as    they are limited with what they can do etc, but their body has been through a marathon, it needs a lot of down time. 

Just a few ideas on how you could help. I have had a few partners email me about what they can do or what they should expect. If you are in that position or know someone who is, I am happy to help over email etc with any questions. 

5 months down the line... I am still claiming the need for cake and slack with house work... ;)  

 

S x  

 

 

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From 2016 to 2017...

 

It is that time of year when people look back at their year, review what has been and then look forward to making the next year better. There are many ways you can look at your year, you could focus on all the great things, or focus on the negatives. I suppose it depends on your outlook on life. Some people have highlighted that I perhaps cannot wait for 2016 to be over with. My first response, was ‘God, yeah’, but the more I have thought about it, the more this exaggerated response has disappeared.

 

2016 has been filled with it challenges, however, that is life.  Life is a bumpy road. I have learnt a huge amount from the different obstacles I have faced this year, and there have been situations where I have gained wealth of knowledge, experience and understanding.

 

Looking back, and just focusing on one of the obstacles, I have come to feel grateful. Some may think this is an odd thing to say having had major surgery only a matter of months ago, that has come with all its ups, downs, pains and complications. However, I am grateful that I had this choice. No, it was not a walk in the park and I was not jumping for joy about the whole experience but I was fortunate enough to gain the knowledge of my risk and do something about it. I had the opportunity to stand up to cancer before it hit. This is not an opportunity many people have and something that I think about regularly. It is for this reason that I feel grateful.

 

This gratitude is also extended to the response and support I have had. A rocky road was so much easier to go down with the support from friends and family. It is not the material aspect of it, however the endless supply of chocolates and treats were a plus point! It was the messages, the phone calls and the care that people showed. They asked questions, they did not make me feel pathetic or vulnerable. I am grateful for the laughter that was shared and the evenings of DVD marathons because leaving the house was not on the cards that day. The extra mile people would go to; it has made me feel lucky to have such people in my life.

 

Another positive is how my mastectomy has uncovered Mastect Expect and my strong desire to help others in relation to the mastectomy journey. Being a teacher, I do have an innate drive to educate and help others (along with being bossy and slightly controlling). This experience has helped me channel this drive in to raising awareness about mastectomies and helping others in similar situations; joining the fight against breast cancer. I am touched at how much interest Mastect Expect has had and the support that I have had from people around the world and it has truly inspired me to explore how I can take Mastect Expect further. It has been an honour to have started working with others that do such fantastic work to help those who have breast cancer in their lives. This has ranged from the women themselves and loved ones. In addition, the response from many of my ex-students regarding the information it has given them about their parent’s experience has been overwhelming. I am so pleased that I have been able to help educate and raise awareness about mastectomies to such a wide audience.

 

So, am I pleased to see the back of 2016?

 

I will wave it goodbye whilst remaining positive and grateful for all it has taught me. It has been a year of change. Ok, so my bra size and nippleless firm oranges are the obvious changes, but the others are the lessons learnt and new doors opened. Obviously, I probably shouldn’t have a whole blog post about evets of 2016 and not mention my engagement- clearly that made 2016 a very good year indeed! Wouldn’t want to think that I had forgotten that- impossible to forget with the home office filled top to toe in centre pieces!

 

2017, bring it on. For all of you who have had challenges this year, or face challenges next year… life is a bumpy road but it is how you choose to tackle these bumps that matters or can make the difference (there is a terrible joke there somewhere about choosing to chop my bumps off, but that would be terribly distasteful!! I can already sense my Mum reading this and raising her eyebrow and exclaiming ‘Oh Sarah’)

 

S x 

 

 

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Playing scar 'peek-a-boo'

This week has led me to discover a post op wardrobe challenge. Now, it's not seasonal at all, but I do have two good reasons to be trying on my bikini collection!

1. When we are not quad biking and pretending to be adventure seekers on our honeymoon in April, I do intend on spending a large amount of time on the beach with cocktails- therefore bikini is a must.  

2. More seasonal... if we wrap tinsel around it... hot tub! Over the Christmas period a dip or two in the hot tub at Mums will be high on the agenda. 

So, with these upcoming events, I thought I would try on my bikinis and double check that they still look/fit ok. Well, it's a good job I did. The two issues I stumbled across was padding... which used to be a friend of mine, and scar coverage. 

As many women would agree, a little bit of padding in a bikini top is warmly welcomed. The extra padding helps you have a shape, a little lift and compliments your natural jubblies... or deceives on what God gave you! Well, padded bikini tops have a predetermined rounded shape, which is great when you want to squish and lift your boob in to a cup. Ladies, we've all done the obiligatory 'lift the boob' so it sits a bit higher in your bikini top. However now, the shape of my bikini cup is different to the shape of my foob. Where a natural boob would 'fall'  in to the bikini cup and you could tighten the top and back string to make it fit... there's no doing that now! Where my new 'firm oranges' have a lovely rounded shape, there is a gap between them and my bikini. If I tighten the top strings around my neck, all it does it lift the 'oranges' north... if I was going for a Katie Price look, then I'd be loving life, however it's not quite what I am after!   

Next attempt, the halter with no padding. Should be quids in here. So the lack of padding works well, no gaps at the top, winner. But, the triangle shapes of either side are not being understanding of the fact my foobs now have a longer diameter. The diameter of each foob is much 'perkier' and longer. Also, just to highlight the diameter even more each has a lovely scar straight across the middle that looks like each foob has an equator line. So, what I found was that the triangle of the bikini top did not cover the scar completely on both foobs. I could shimmy one side to have a good coverage but then I'd look to the other foob and then BOOM the other scar would be peeking out slightly. So what it amounted to was a game of peek-a-boo with my scars trying to stretch the triangle material over each foob. I managed to position both so there was full coverage, which will probably work for the Christmas hot tub as the only action I intend on doing is lifting a prosecco glass. The honeymoon however, I feel I may be giving other swimmers an extra show whilst dolphin swimming! I think this can be resolved in just buying a bigger size of this style. Not the end of the world. But it does mean that my obsessive 'must have a new bikini every holiday' collection has lost its worth! 

On the upside, its sale season. A bit of online sale shopping should sort the issue out. Being a firm fan of shopping, this is not a hardship at all. It's more of a case of a sarcastic 'oh dear, I will need to buy some new bikinis, how annoying'. But for some people I appreciate this may be another frustration. 

I hope you all have a very merry Christmas and wish you a happy new year.  

S x 

ps. ASOS currently have a great bikini sale! 

 The bikini pile on the festive duvet - slightly contradictory 🎄🕶

The bikini pile on the festive duvet - slightly contradictory 🎄🕶

Stop Sign

A few days ago it was exactly 3 months ago I had my surgery. I cannot believe how quickly time has passed, especially as during the initial stages of recovery it felt like the experience was going to last forever. When I look back at all the things I could not do after the operation, and how much I can do now, it does make you think about how far you have come. I have written before about how small everyday tasks become moments of achievements. Like grating cheese… that was last week’s star moment. The flip side of it is that you feel like you are back to yourself and therefore get on with life as you did before. Well, that is my experience/how I have been going about things. I have always been a huge advocate of getting on with things, no fuss and no wallowing. However, I have faced a stop sign this week that has reminded me that even 3 months down the line I am still recovering. Some how or other I have hurt myself down my right side. Not directly on foob… because they don’t feel at all! But round the side of my implant then the area directly adjacent round to near my back. When I move my arm is really hurts, almost a similar scale pain to a few weeks post op. It started as a dull ache on Thursday evening and has gradually got worse. My gut feeling is iv perhaps torn or pulled the muscle. Obviously I am not a doctor, but it seems a logical explanation. I think I may have done this whilst going about my normal day at work, possibly lifting my photocopying- serves me right for being a bit keen with having the January A-Level mock papers copied. Pain is pain, and something that I am sure can be easily dealt with. After everything, a bit of pain is not something that is going to make me crumble and cry. However, what I have found harder (don’t get me wrong, it bloody hurts) is the fact that I haven’t actually done anything to warrant an injury. Whether I am in denial or desperately trying to move on, I just want to be back to my normal self. Things like this stop me or should I say remind me, that I am perhaps not quite back to myself or a full bill of health. I just want to be me. I want to be able to get on with work, career around the corridors and do whatever challenge faces me that day. On the more humorous, but still very important note, I want to be able to go Christmas shopping and buy all the naff stocking fillers and presents. I love a good internet shopping session, but you just don’t quite find the same little gems as you would in the shops. Unless people want feathers and anything else that is light to carry… the little gems might need to go amiss this year.

 

I think the crux of this blog is that I am so much better and trying hard to get on with life. But I think I need to appreciate that these things take time and I can’t just bounce back immediately. The more I try and do this, or the more I try and pretend nothing ever happened, the more accidents will probably happen. So perhaps my biggest challenge or one of them at the moment, is to learn to take it easy… or at least easier. I am very much an on the go person. I love a bit of multi-tasking, learning, rushing around and having a jobs list. But perhaps right now, that’s not the best thing for me. It is almost Christmas after all, the season to be jolly. I am sure there is a jolly and jubblies joke there somewhere…

 

S x 

The Doors of Doom

Returning to work you have the general anxieties of what will people say, will they know, will I be tired, will I hurt myself... the norm. What I didn't think about was 'will I be able to get through all the doors?'. Obviously this is highly dependent on where you work and what you do. I spend a good proportion of my day waking/striding with purpose around a school. However, what I did not even stop to consider was how heavy school doors are! Majority are fire doors... which in a fire would do a bloody good job of staying shut and secure... I would be safe...as long as I am on the right side of it. Classroom doors have handles, of which some do not open with ease and then you have the doors with codes!! So, you have one hand typing the code in whilst the other attempts to yank it open at the same time it releases. Well, it's got to a point where I stratigaically hover until a teacher or worse, a student opens the door and I glide on through like there's nothing odd at all. I don't feel that this is a sustainable method of moving around the site!! Those who have not had surgery will easily say 'just ask for help', well yes that is the sensible option but actually, how ridiculous and embarrassing is it that I cannot open doors? 

Onwards and upwards, I see it as a work out and a way of stretching and building my chest muscle back up. However, there are a few doors and one especially that I actively avoid. I can't reverse and shimmy through these ones, so I do a token pull with both hands and then wedge open with my foot, then slide on through the smallest gap possible at the quickest speed- if anyone sees me I do look like I'm doing some sort of dance or strange ritual. Not the most professional sight! 

On the upside I haven't been run in to by any enthusiatic children running around the blind corner on to my corridor! Silver lining!! 

 

S x  

 

 

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'I feel a bit like a child who has a star chart each time I achieve a simple task..'

8weeks post op and recovery is going well. Ignoring the blip a few weeks post where I took a trip back to hospital for 5 days, everything else is going well. 

Those that follow Mastect Expect on social media will know that on a daily basis I come across things I can now do, but also other things I still cannot do. In the grand scheme of things and to your average Joe, these things are trivial. Such as scooping ice cream, is it the end of the world I can't do it? Not really. Did it annoy me, well yes, I wanted ice cream! Successes are great though, I feel a bit like a child who has a star chart and each time I do something I couldn't do previously, it's a real proud moment of getting 'that star'. Like putting my coat on, I will admit I will miss being treated like a true lady who has someone put their coat on for them, however it is a genuine feeling of achievement. Unfortunatley, I can now tug just about hard enough to open the dish washer, so I suppose not all successes are to be celebrated. 

In terms of how I feel, I am certainly starting to feeling more myself. My energy levels are on the up (I won't be running a marathon anytime soon mind you) and my general cheeriness is much better. I have however caught a horrible cold, it may just be a nasty one, or it's hit me particularly hard because I'm not quite 100% yet. It does feel like Iv got man flu, I won't lie, Iv whinged like it's man flu, and having only just had a mastectomy you'd have thought I'd have other things to whine about!! 

How things look... 

Not bad at all, the scars don't particularly bother me too much anymore, I'm conscious of them, but they don't stimulate overwhelming emotion. All I seem to think about now is how they managed to get each 'boob' out that size scar?! It's not tiny, but it's not humongous either... not going to dwell on the logistics of that one though- gross. 

I no longer have bumps or bruises, I do have however, pesky stitches still that are sticking out my skin. Some have gone down slightly, some are more committed to making me look like a Halloween costume. They just look like under the skin spots, one is quite sharp and the hypochondriac in me is waiting for it to burst through the skin like some horror movie- pretty sure it won't, hopefully!  

I am still getting used to how they feel and where they are. I know that sounds silly, I know where my chest is, but I have found when attempting to hug, I over shoot and squish them unexpectedly. I had read but only just felt it for myself about my 'foobs' as some call them, do not go with your body temperature. They are always cold. In a hot bath, cold brick boobs, jumper layers... cold chest, it's just very strange!! 

For those in early recovery or soon to be having a mastectomy, an update on the timetable of can and cannots....  

CAN- dress myself no problem, drive, be vaguely helpful in the kitchen, lift milk, sleep on my side (ish-not quite snug)

CANNOT- open jars or anything that require lifting, be fully active without needing a rest, lift the laundry basket or open the tumble dryer (what a bummer) and pull heavy doors open  

Getting there!  

 

S x  

The dress…

I braved the bridal shop yesterday, with the anxiety of whether the dress I had originally liked, would still be ‘the dress’. I was also exceptionally nervous about whether I would be able to try the dress/dresses. Although holding my hands above my head is now something I have mastered, wriggling on poofy, tight, jewelled, laced, tulle, fitted dresses (putting all the different kinds on here in case my fiancé reads it and attempts a guess at what it may look like) is not something I can say I have tried at home! The Bridal House in Aston Clinton have been amazing, and Victoria, the lady who has helped me with my dress fitting has been nothing but supportive, understanding and accommodating. It is not every day they get brides in to try on dresses with sore boobs!

I tried on lots of different options of dresses, just to ensure that when I tried to final one on (‘the dress’) I still felt it was the perfect one. The dresses were all beautiful and actually there was a close contender to the original I had picked, until I tried on the last… and it is still, ‘the dress’. In terms of the practical aspects of trying the dresses on, most were ok and some needed a jolly along to get down over my boobs. The brick boobs, I keep forgetting, do not squish like the old, so whereas before the dresses slid on over my chest and with a small wiggle or pull it would gracefully fall… this time, some dresses just gathered above my chest! That is a lot of dress to have gather in your face!

I was measured for my dress, and I am excited that it has now been ordered. All very real! It will be ready for any minor alterations mid March.

The only aspect I struggled with yesterday was my energy levels. Being at the shop for almost 2 hours wiped me out. I got home, had lunch and then slept for just over 2 hours! I am not sure if that really classes as a nap or an actual sleep. I am still working on building up my energy levels so I can generally survive doing everyday tasks without then morphing in to a zombie. 

Has my mastectomy affected my wedding dress shopping? Not at all, if anything it made me appreciate the beauty of my dress even more. My new chest does not define who I am, I still look like me, I am starting to feel more like myself again… will I feel like an actual bride, I don’t think that will hit until the actual day! 

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