Category: Reconstruction - The Funny Thing About Cancer
 
So lately I've been thinking more and more about getting my nipples done.

No, I'm not doing actual nipple reconstruction that will leave me with a bump for a nipple.  This would leave me with permenanat "high beams" or "tic tacs" in my bra... and I'd say the lack of worrying about my nipples showing through clothing is one of the few good things of cancer.

So no actual nipples for me.

Instead, I'm interested in doing "3D nipple tattoos".  Don't worry, they hopefully won't require special eyeware to "see" the 3D effect.  Instead, the tattoo is hopefully so well done, that most people won't notice that I'm nipple-less.

Still confused?  Here is a photo of work done by Vinnie Myers (a tattoo artist who does this alot):
Picture
Tattoos and images from Vinne Myers
Disclaimer 1: those are not my boobs.
Disclaimer 2: I will not be posting photos of my boobs... my husband would divorce me if I did so.

Anywho, those are just tattoos!  There is no actual nipple!  Anyone else think that's kinda crazy?

So that's what I deam of getting done someday.  There is just ONE problem.  There aren't many 3D nipple tattooists out there.  Seriously.  I'd say less than 20 that advertise any experience with this in the entire US.

And I really don't want to have gone through this entire reconstruction process to have someone mess up my foobs with bad tattoos.

So I'm currently hunting for the perfect tattoo artist. 

But the conversation is kind of awkward.  You call the shop and here is what the conversation goes like:

Me: Hi!  I'd like to get a tattoo.
Tattoo person (whom I imagine is hairy and biker-y): Ummm.  OK.  Of what?
Me: Nipples.
Tattoo Person: Nipples?
Me: Yes, nipples.
Tattoo person:  Ummm... Okaaaaayyyy.

OK.  I'll admit it, I haven't actually called any tattoo parlors.  In part because I've convinced myself that my initial conversation will go exactly as I've laid it out above.  I'm sure that I'm totally wrong.  And that most tattoo parlors are used to getting strange requests.  And yet, the thought of making that call makes me mildly ill.

So I'm relying on email instead! 

I emailed an artist just today.  Her name is Megan Hoogland and she is an award winning tattoo artist.  And she lives in... mankato?  I have no idea how I managed to find such a gifted tattoo artist in our small-ish town of 40K people, but I'm hoping she responds with something other than "nipples?  That's the wierdest request I've ever gotten..."

Anywho.  I'll let you know how my "interviewing" goes.  And I'm sure I will blog about any upcoming tattoo parlor trips before they happen... if I ever get up the guts to get it done.
 
One of my first posts on this blog was about how I am like Harry Potter.

Today's post is about how I hope to be like 'Mater.  You know... Tow-Mater.  From Cars?  If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you obviously do not have a 3 year old boy at home.  My son Loves the Cars movies.  Loves. 

So we've watched Cars and Cars 2 once or twice (or 10 or 20 times...).

In Cars 2, Mater has the chance to get his dents removed, but declines saying that each dent and scar represents a memory of his good friend, Lightening McQueen.

In essence, he is proud of every scar and dent because he "earned" it.

Today, after going through all my surgeries, I look... different.  I have some scars and dents of my own.

My boobs, when covered by clothing, are pretty effing perfect (if I say so myself).  I mean, my plastic surgeon ROCKED it.  And he's very proud.  He takes alot of photos.  I think he shows them to all of his plastic surgeon friends.  And then they all ooooooo and ahhhhh over my awesome rack (in a purely professional, non-sexual way) and then clap him on his back for his awesomeness.

I'm only half joking, my surgeon is very proud of his work, which is much deserved.  I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he had photos of my foobs framed and hung up in his office.

Anywho, back to the point. 

When covered, my foobs are rock star quality.  They're beautiful.  They're perky.  They're round.  They look great.

Naked... it's a different story.  I have some big scars.  BIG scars.  HUUUUUGE scars.  On one side, the scar is probably 4 inches long and goes horizontally accross my breast (where my nipple used to be).  On the other, it's roughly in the shape of a C (a really crooked, "a toddler wrote it" looking C).  Because I had a lumpectomy... and then a mastectomy.  The doc was afraid if he made a wholely separate cut that the skin between the scars would not get enough blood flow.  So he connected them... which makes it look like a C.

Most days, I really don't care about what my boobs look like.  They do their job.  They fill out my clothes.

But some days, I struggle.  OK... not "some days", I can tell you exactly which days.  When I'm in the gym locker room. 

*cue scary music*

Once again, I feel like a high schooler.  Those days every girl dreaded when they would have to change into gym clothes in front of all of their peers.  And we all learned the crazy contortionist ability to change bras under T-shirts.  You ladies know what I'm talking about!

Well, today as a 31 year old, when I go to the gym locker room, I feel like I'm back in high school again.  Instead of just changing and ignoring all the other women there (like I used to), I'm back to attempting to be a contortionist... and at 31 years of age, I am NOT as flexible as I used to be.

All because I am painfully aware of my scars. 

Why?  Because unlike boobies, which every woman has... no one else has scars like mine.  Trust me, I've looked around, I haven't seen a single missing nipple or scar.  My boobs are now "one of a kind".

I still don't know why I'm so shy about it.  I mean, I've never caught another woman sneaking a peek.  I've never had anyone react to my breasts at all.  I'm pretty sure no one has even noticed.  But I dread the day that someone does.  I dread the "double take" that I'm sure will come.  Some woman being overtly shocked at the appearance of my breasts. 

And that is how I wish I was like Mater.  I wish I was proud of my scars.  I wish instead of seeing my scars as blemishes, I wish I looked at them and saw it as a badge of honor. 

One of the other survivors I've spoken to pointed out that my scars, if they ever draw attention, are an excellent way to educate other young women.  When she goes to the gym, she changes just like all the other women.  If women ask her about her scars, she tells them her story.  She reminds them to do self-exams and that cancer can hit at any age.

When I heard that... I had a bit of an epiphany.  An "aha" moment. 

No one else has my breasts... and I do not want them to!  Early detection of cancer can make the difference between life and death.  Or giving the choice between lumpetomy and mastectomy.  Or chemo and no chemo.  Early detection is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING when it comes to cancer.  If I can inspire a handful of women to do their self-exams regularly, it will be worth any embarassment I may feel.

But ugh.  Lemme tell you, saying is easier than doing.  I'm still a little embarassed, but I'm working on it every day.  I no longer change bras under my shirt (much to the relief of my joints).  I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with the idea, slowly gaining some confidence that even if some woman DOES give me a double take, I will be able to look her in the eye and be proud. 

My scars have a story.  A story to be shared in hopes that it can bring positive change in another person's life.  Let's just hope I'm brave enough to share when that time comes.
 
Just wanted to let everyone know that my surgery on Friday went well.

I'm alive.  And in pretty much no pain.

My biggest complaint is that hangy down thingy in the back of my throat is swollen and sitting on my tongue (damn intubation).  Which I don't know if that sounds as miserable as it feels... but it's kinda like having a giant snot ball sitting on your tongue in the back of your throat.  Yeah... that sounds pretty miserable.

It's gotten better... so it's not as miserable as it was.  Hopefully by tomorrow or Wednesday, my hangy down thingy (aka my uvula?) will be back to normal size and shape.

That being said... I think if my biggest complaint about my exchange surgery is that I have a swollen uvula, I'm doing pretty darn well.

In other exciting news, my foobs are no longer hard!!!!  Which is wildly exciting.  And they MOVE!  Hip-hip-hooray!

I don't think I can express how good it feels to have boobs that both move and are soft.  I don't think I realized just how uncomfortble the expanders were until I got my implants.  It's like during chemo when I didn't realize how crappy I felt until it was all over and I felt better again.

But all in all, I feel great and now I just have to wait for the swelling to go down to see what my foobs will really look like.  Pretty exciting!

Another funny story about my surgery.  Remember how my doctor told me to bring a picture of boobs?  Well I went and got myself a playboy (kinda awkward experience).  I looked through it and didn't love anything I saw.  So I took to the internet to see if I could find any good photos... also a new experience. 

FYI googling "boobs" brings up some interesting websites.

Anywho, I found a photo of boobs that I admired.  I showed the photo to Chris and he agreed that they were nice.  Another thing I never thought I'd do... surf the web for pictures of naked women and then show them to my husband.  Thank you cancer!

So anyways, it's Thursday night.  I just showed Chris the picture.  And I suddenly realize Chris does not have a printer.  SHOOT!  I've gone through all this work to find a photo... but now I have nothing to print it with!  Now what?

Did you know Target has photo printing machines?  Yep... that's right.  I loaded that photo on an SD card, took it to Target at 9:15 on the morning of surgery and printed it off.  Don't worry, I cropped the photo strategically so it only showed the woman's torso... b/c I thought that would be less awkward? 

Can I just say how awkward it was to print off a cropped picture of a naked woman at Target?  I'm pretty sure when the girl handed it to us she was thinking "PERVERTS!"  And I wanted to be all "I swear!  I'm not a perv!  This is for a MEDICAL PROCEDURE!" But then I figured that'd just make me sound wierder.

Anywho, lesson learned: when looking for pictures to give to your doctor of your perfect foobs... make sure you have a printer handy b/c it is never comfortable getting said picture printed at Target (or any other store).
 
What?  Your doctors don't tell you to do that?

My doctor did.

OK, maybe not in those words.  Allow me to explain.

Next Friday is my exchange surgery.  This will effectively complete the major surgeries of my reconstruction.  If you could see me right now, I'm doing the running man.  And my boobs aren't moving b/c they're awful expanders that are hard and never move and I can't wait to get rid of them!!!!!!!!

Yes, I'm excited.

Since my surgery is next Friday (the 9th), my surgeon wanted to meet today to look at my boobs.  Seriously.  He missed them, it'd been a couple of weeks since he last saw them.  OK, I'm joking about that part.  But I do mean it when I say that he wanted to look at my boobs.  Basically it was a meeting to discuss what I want the final product to look like.  Is there anything that I'm currently unhappy with that we can fix? 

So I took my top off and he measured and poked and asked questions and then showed me implants so I could get an idea of size.  People, let me just take a second to say... I have INSANE boobs right now.  I have over 700ccs of fluid in each breast currently.  I think I knew that, but when confronted with an actual implant that is THAT LARGE I was like "CALL BAYWATCH!  I'M READY FOR MY CAMEO!"

Anywho, back to the story, we discussed size, some changes, implant shape, etc. and then he took about a thousand photos so he can review them before surgery and remember what we want to do (which I took for code meaning that he's proud of his work and he wants to show it off to other doctors).

And then before I left, he gave me some homework.  If I can find a photo of some boobies that I like and want... he will hang it on the wall of the operating room and do his best to match 'em.

Soooo... basically I need to go buy a playboy? 

And once again cancer has brought another first into my life.  The first time a doctor has ever recommended porn as part of a treatment... never saw that one coming!
 
Today was my very last caulk gun appointment! 

I am DONE with getting my expanders filled.

And my boobs are HUGE!  I am at work.  So I will not attempt any photo shoots that might help demonstrate their actual size...

Maybe later.

I think these photos might have to involve fruit or some other form of prop.  Maybe melons?  Or what other euphemisms could I put into action?  Balloons?  Jugs?  Hmmm.  This could make for some entertaining photos.

Good news is that my ACTUAL implant will be about 120cc's smaller than where they're currently at.  The doctor said we had to over-inflate so that there is a "pocket" for the implant to "drop into".  I'm looking forward to having slightly smaller boobies again.

On the upside, my large ta-tas got checked out by several college students today when leaving the university hospital.  And as any other 30 year old mother will tell you, getting checked out by single twenty somethings makes you want to say "HECK YEAH!  I still got it!" 

Even if it was my synthetic boobies that were getting all the attention, I will still take credit for it... because I can.  Not like the plastic surgeon will mind if I claim credit for his hard work...

Anywho.  Just wanted to celebrate my VERY LAST tissue fill.  Next, in about 6-8 weeks, I will be getting my exchange surgery.  So basically Santa is coming early and he's bringing me a brand new set of boobies!  Hurrah!
 
So it's been awhile.  I figured I owe everyone a bit of an update.

First, the boobs.  I've had 4 fills now (with that awful caulk gun) and think that I'm juuuuuust about right in the boob size department.  Which, by the way, is alot harder to figure out than you might think.

Going into this, Chris and I agreed that all I want is my pre-baby/pre-lumpectomy boobs back.  They weren't huge, they weren't tiny, they were juuuuuuuuuuuuust right.  BUT... it's been awhile since I've seen my old boobs.  So I'm having a tough time remembering what they looked like :)

To complicate things even more, before surgery, I had one D cub boob and one B cup boob (at the same time).  So my internal metric of what the "right size" is has been totally compromised.  I keep looking down at my foobs (that's cancer talk for "fake boobs") thinking "are these too big?  are they too small?  They look smaller than I remember... but what if I end up with boobs like Pam Anderson?!?  I SO do not want to be "that girl with the huge tits".  Do I dare to go bigger?"

I know, I know, why not just go try on one of my old bras?  That should solve the problem easy peasy right?  WELL there's a small problem with the SHAPE of my foobs.  They're just big round balls that sit on my chest.  So I could try on a B cup bra, a C cup bra, and a D cup bra... and they all kind of fit.  Since my foobs have no "squish" factor, it's difficult to know if my cup overfloweth :)

So... every week between fills, I go through a routine of trying on bras, seeing what's comfortable, trying to figure out are they "big enough?  or too big?" 

To top it all off, a few fellow survivors I've met have said they were disappointed after the exchange and felt like the end result was too small.  And I don't want to be disappointed.  I want to come out of surgery/recovery thinking "damn these are pretty!  It almost makes cancer worth it!"  (OK, nothing makes cancer worth it, but since these are my "consolation prize"... I wanna get it right).

Long story short, I think I finally hit the right size.  Not too huge, not too small.  So in another small fill or two (they overexpand so that there's some extra skin for the implant to drop into), I'll be ready for my exchange.  Which is VERY exciting :)

So that's enough about foobs. 

Time to update you on something MUCH deeper... HAIR!

Two days ago, I passed my 2 month "anniversary" from my last chemo treatment.  And check out all this hair!!
Picture
And even better... I put on mascara for the first time this week!  I HAVE EYELASHES AGAIN!!!  You have no idea how much I missed my eyelashes!  I think I missed my eyelashes more than my hair...

I think in 2 more weeks, I might have enough hair to style it... or get a haircut??  maybe?!?!?

Guys, I am SOOOOO looking forward to my first haircut!  I know some survivors avoid EVER getting their hair cut for MONTHS after chemo, but I'm looking forward to having a "style" again.  Plus... my hair stylist gives the most AMAZING head massages.  AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!  I can't wait!!! 

And to top it all off, Chris is currently in the process of moving to St. Paul.  OUR REQUEST FOR COMPASSIONATE REASSIGNMENT WENT THROUGH!!!  I currently have a uhaul trailer sitting my driveway.  Chris got home last night.  We are officially done with Mississippi!

*sigh* 

I kinda feel like life is starting to go my way again.  Granted, by saying that on my blog, I've probably jinxed it.  But I can't help it.  Life is GREAT!  Really, REALLY great!  I'm just going to keep my fingers crossed that it stays that way. 
 
Remember how I told you that they use a caulk gun to fill my boobs?

Well I finally got proof.
Picture
It's LITERALLY a caulk gun. Thought I was joking huh?
Picture
And here it is loaded with the syringe. Funny looking huh?