WARNING: There is a photo at the end of this post of The Ugly. It’s a photo of what is my reality right now. You don’t have to look at it, I’m not forcing it on you. But I’m also not hiding from it. We’re all adults here. I choose to share this, you choose whether or not to look at it.
Summary: In September of 2022, I was diagnosed with Paget’s Disease of the Breast. Further tests showed I had widespread cancer in the right breast. On January 9th, I underwent a bi-lateral mastectomy with axillary node dissection and the first part of two-phase reconstruction. (All breast tissue is removed with some skin being spared. The pectoral muscles are cut, and tissue expanders are placed—behind the muscle in my case. Over time, the tissue expanders will be filled with saline to stretch the muscle and skin in preparation for exchange with implants. In my case, some amount of saline was injected into the tissue expanders during surgery, so I didn’t come out of the surgery “flat.”). That night, I developed a bleed on the right side. In an effort to slow this down, I was wrapped super tight in a compression wrap for a bit over an hour. Tuesday morning I went back into surgery where the right side was opened back up, tissue expander removed, bleed fixed, and new tissue expander placed. I went home late Wednesday afternoon in a compression bra and a compression wrap. I felt surprisingly very well and looked forward to recovery.
The Good: lots of good here. My pathology report came back with clear margins and lymph nodes. Hurray! I am cancer free, and I do not have to do radiation or chemo! We are extremely happy and grateful and had a little celebration! Happy dance, and we never forget this!
More good-my Jamie is beside me and taking such good gentle care of me.
I’m also well loved by my friends and have received beautiful flowers and encouraging cards.
I’ve had visits and meal deliveries from close-by friends, and I’ve received monetary donations from far-away friends.
Lots of good! I know it and appreciate it with all my heart.
And this is where you should quit reading if you don’t want to see some tough photos.
The Bad: I arrived home Wednesday evening. By Thursday we noticed bruising around the bandages on my chest. No biggie because I bruise fairly easily. It was deeper Friday, and that night Jamie noticed a very small open spot on my left side. We put a call in immediately (at 10pm) to my doctor’s office. We were instructed to put antibiotic ointment on it and keep it covered until we saw the doctor on Monday. On Saturday morning, a second larger spot opened up below the first, and another call was made to the doctor’s office. Same instructions, but this time we also received some information on the possibility of necrosis.
The visit Monday to the doctor’s office was devastating to me. My bandages were removed, and the bruising underneath them made the bruising we had been able to see above them pale in comparison. The darkest spot in the photo below is the second spot that opened on Saturday. If you look closely just above at 1:00 position, you can see the tiny first spot that opened Friday night. This is the left side; the right side was harsh but not quite this harsh.
Where do we go from here? It depends on how much of my skin lives and how much dies. Long slow healing time. Possible surgery to cut away dead tissue. Possible surgery to do skin grafts. Possible surgery to take a flap or flaps of skin from other parts of my body. Possible loss of my tissue expanders if a large area of tissue dies. Possible surgery to do a flat closure instead and forget about reconstruction. We just don’t know anything at this point. I have my next appointment Monday morning at 11:00, and we hope to have a better idea of the direction in which we’re moving.
This is the point you really need to quit reading if you don’t want to see The Ugly.
The Ugly: this is my reality right now. Our reality, because Jamie is right there with me. Twice daily bandage changes and medication application. This is in addition to management and cleaning of two drains. This is NOT what a bilateral mastectomy with tissue expander placement is supposed to look like at two weeks post surgery.
I try to stay positive and optimistic and do most of the time, but some moments and some days, the best I can do is just refuse to sink. And some moments, I’m just devastated all over again. I’m doing the best I can do.
So there you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly.