going under the knife

I’ve been all over the map in regards to writing about my surgery. It’s happening in two weeks. I’ve never had any surgery before, so the whole thing seems like a big deal to me. Also, it’s pretty personal stuff and I haven’t known what I will have wished I kept to myself versus what I am sure I want to tell you. My inclination is to tell you everything. But then I think, If I had been born with weird boobs, I never would have blogged about them. So why would I be so open about this surgery? I have found that people genuinely care about what’s happening to me, many folks don’t know the difference between a double mastectomy and a “boob job”, and writing about it helps me face my feelings. So, I’m going to blog about my weird boobs (probably more than a few times). You’ve been warned. 

Drum roll please….On December 7, I’m having a bilateral mastectomy, axillary dissection and immediate reconstruction. I’ll break that down. Bilateral mastectomy: They are removing all the breast tissue from both sides and removing both nipples. They have to remove the nipples because the cancer is Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Nipples are nothing if they aren’t ductal, so they are at high risk to carry cancer. Also, because I had cancer extensively in my axillary lymph nodes, I have to have an “axillary dissection”. That means that they are removing somewhere between 8 and 20 lymph nodes from my arm pit. Lastly, the “immediate reconstruction” means that they will place expanders in place of my breast tissue. These expanders are like water balloons with a port. The port gives access, or a channel, so that a needle can deliver fluid. They will gradually fill the expanders–over the course of 6-8 weeks–with saline. These expanders will be in place through radiation, but are temporary. I will have another surgery to swap them out for silicone, around six months after radiation is complete.

It has taken me months to make peace with this surgery. If there was one word to describe how I’ve felt, it would be horrified. Not only will I look different, I will never have feeling in my breasts again. I have a middle toe that goes numb if I stand in the cold too long and that drives me nuts. I can’t imagine having a rather large dead zone in the middle of my body all the time. But, I’ve met a lot of women who have been through this and they laugh, and love life and this isn’t the biggest deal to them. I’ve lost my hair and my health and yet, my husband still loves me. I know he’d rather lose my breasts than lose me. I think my kids would agree. So, it’s settled. This is all ok. It’s for a good cause. I’ve had lots of time to get used to it and I’m no longer horrified. In fact, after hearing my surgeon say a few weeks ago, “I anticipate that when you wake up from surgery, you will be cancer-free,” I’m almost looking forward to it.

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6 thoughts on “going under the knife

  1. Dearest Jenna,
    Thank you for telling us how surgery was going to proceed. I did wonder about the process especially the reconstruction part because I never knew anyone close enough to ask.
    I have had too many surgeries to name and by saying that I want to let you know that it wouldn’t matter if it was my first or 15th. They are all different and each experience was unique and it depended a lot on the surgeon.
    I’m grateful that your surgeon thinks that you will be Cancer free. That would be the best news ever.
    As for surgery, make sure you stay on top of the pain. Don’t be afraid to tell them you hurt and how much. Honesty is the best. Because if you don’t rest you can’t begin to heal. In grateful too that you have Brent in your life. He’s been a shining example of love in sickness and in health.
    I love you and will continue tob pray.
    Love,
    Amanda

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  2. Jenna,
    Praying for you to be free of every ca cell! Will add prayers for this surgery and recovery, including that you will like your new “boobs”
    Thanks for sharing your heart with us.
    Love. Sheila

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  3. I has a double mascetomy in 2010. I understand your grief. But I will encourage you also. Reconstruction is amazing and the new breasts will soon feel a part of you. Prayers as you go through this process.

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  4. Hello Jenna, This is Tiffani, Bekkah’s sister-in-law, one of the many people you met at Bekkah’s benefit this past Saturday. I just wanted to say how nice it was to meet you and for you to attend for Bekkah. You are the only person who can truly know what she is going through, and although we all clearly wish neither of you had endure this horrible thing called cancer, I am so very thankful that she has been able to have you to help her through this. We will keep you in our thoughts and prayers!

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  5. Hi Jenna. You don’t know me…but your friend Sarah has shared your story with me. I used to train with Sarah and she would kick my butt in Pilates before she moved halfway around the world. She knows that I had a double mastectomy in 2009. I was 40. My son was 7. Yes. There are things in life that are much more important than your boobs. Like staying alive. But it’s ok to mourn the loss of a big part of your body. We tend to try to be brave and say it’ll be fine.. But some days it sucks. The numbness is weird. It’ll take some getting used to.. But then one day you’ll be out and think ‘wow! I didn’t think about my boobs all day!’ And then those days become more frequent and yes, the new boobs become part of you. I have noticed over the years that I have an increased sensation between my breasts. That part is not numb. I know some things are private…but my husband kisses me there…you’ll adapt. You will change in ways you didn’t know you needed to or wanted to..but it becomes part of you. Some days you’ll feel incredibly strong and brave and other days will be hard. If you ever want to reach out to me ask Sarah for my contact info. I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I know exactly what you’re going through. I found it helped to talk to other women, especially women I didn’t know…I guess because it was less emotional for me. Take a deep breath and take one moment at a time..
    Jennifer Finn ❤️

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  6. Hi Jenna:

    From someone who has been there, done that in the past year – try and focus on the positive. Everyone kept telling me you will look like you’re 18 again with your new boobs! No more bras if you don’t want to and you can go as big as you want! I went about 1 size bigger than I was – again everyone was saying this is your chance a a free boob job so make sure you are happy with them.

    Will you be getting the nipple tattoos too? I got mine about a month ago and was showing them to all my sisters and nieces at Thanksgiving (that we had in a church hall so was a little weird flashing everyone in church! :)) I have let Neely know that if you want to see what they look like, just let her know and we can get together so you can see the finished product.

    I know it takes some getting used to but just keep focused that you are over the hump and hopefully it will only get better from this point on. Can let you know of some of the other things that are to come if you are interested, but take it one day at at time!

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