Friday, 3 February 2017

A Tale of Two Titties - part 2

This post a long overdue update about the results of my most recent surgery in October 2016 - yes I know, I know - VERY overdue update!

It contains some post surgery images, so if that ain't your bag, look away now...

Some people may also be surprised that I've included photos of my 'boobs' in this blog post. To be clear - I no longer have boobs in the conventional sense. I also have no nipples. My 'foobs' serve absolutely no purpose apart from being cosmetic. They have no sexual or functional purpose (e.g. breastfeeding). To me, they are just silicone appendages, so from that aspect, showing photos of them to others isn't a huge deal. I hope that by sharing pictures of my surgery, I can help other women in a similar position and also dispel some of the myths - think the 'oh you get a free bob job! comments....

Including photos on here does make me a little nervous, but that is purely from a point of view that I do appreciate the results of this kind of surgery can be shocking to those who haven't seen it before. The faces of some of my 'before breast cancer' friends when I've showed them photographs of the end result have confirmed this! I do sometimes think that people expect that a double mastectomy with reconstruction is going to look like a pair of perky Pamela Anderson tits, complete with lovely rosy nipples. I refer back to my earlier comment about breaking down these myths.....

Anyway, at the end of October 2016 I had surgery to replace my expander implants with permanent silicone implants. The expanders are temporary implants which are filled with saline and are use to stretch muscle, skin and tissue in preparation for permanent implants. You can read more about this is my previous post - A Tale of Two Titties - Part 1..

This operation was technically less 'major' than the others I've had and therefore takes less time. As a result, even though I was required to be at the hospital at 7.30am the morning of the operation, I actually didn't go down to theatre until almost 2.00pm. This meant I got to sit in my gown and sexy compression socks watching crappy day time TV and reading magazines from 2012 for several hours. But at least I managed to get a couple of mirror selfies in....

I've still not quite got used to the whole being drawn on with black marker thing yet. Makes me feel like one of the Raggy Dolls.

Once again, I had the after general anaesthetic blues. Combine that with complete sleep deprivation, makes me the world's worst patient. I never sleep in hospital when I'm on a ward rather than in a private room. Even the after effects of general anaesthetic, codeine and tamazepam couldn't cancel out the snoring and shouting coming from various surrounding beds throughout the night.

The next morning I chucked a fit (you? Never! I hear you cry) and told them I was going home - a decision which was thankfully supported by my plastic surgeon.

This time round I went home with two drains in, although this time they were only in for a couple of days, rather than a couple of weeks, thank God. I was also completely strapped up and forbidden from disturbing the dressings, which meant no showers for a week - only strip washes. Combine that with night sweats (thanks menopause medication) and i can safely say I felt pretty minging for a week.

Call me strange, but I actually enjoy having my drains taken out. It's like that weird, nice pain - like pressing on a bruise or massaging a sore muscle. However, this time round, the removal felt like someone trying to pull out my rib cage through the hole in my side. I have a pretty high pain threshold, but to anyone walking past the door of that room would be forgiven in thinking I was having my fingernails pulled off with a pair of pliers. 

Having drains taken out is such a relief (aside from the pain). It means you can move about without worrying that you're going to catch the tube on a door handle and rip it out along with pieces of your own flesh.

Unfortunately, the dressings didn't come off with the drains, but were just neatened up and stuck back down again so I had to make do with washing my sweaty body with a flannel and baby wipes. Here is a photo of the new boobies and the icky dressings in all their glory:

And here they are a bit more healed and with minimal dressings:

Yes, that lovely yellow hue is some pretty impressive bruising....

The shape is so much more natural than the expander implants. They feel just like real boobs to the touch - although of course when you open your eyes the huge scars give the game away....

They are a little smaller than I would have liked, however it wasn't possible to go any bigger because I had radiotherapy on the right hand side. My surgeon didn't want to risk stretching the muscle and skin on that side any further. Think of what happens when you go a little bit OTT when blowing up a balloon. Anyway, I'm a runner (well, I'm trying) and having big knockers bouncing around is not particularly conducive to that.

There is some lack of volume on the top of the left hand side (right side on the photo), however this will hopefully be fixed with lipomodelling in the next few months. Put simply, this is when they take fat from your stomach and inject it in to the breast to try and fix any irregularities. I'll probably need a 2-3 of these operations to get the desired result. I get free lipo (kind of)! Well, you have to make the most of these little cancer perks i guess....

One thing I still find very strange about these implants is how cold they feel to the touch. They don't get warmed up with normal body heat, which is particularly noticeable when I've been outside on a nippy day.

Because some of the skin was taken away on the left hand side to create a smaller pocket to match the right hand side, I've been left with what is called a hypertrophic scar. These are made when the body produces too much collagen to repair the skin after injury. It means the scar is quite red and raised and is also quite painful as it's full of damaged nerve endings.

After the dressings were taken off: 

The scar now:

Compared to the nice neat scar on the other side, it's pretty gnarly!


The irony is that the nice neat scar is on the side that has caused all the trouble. That side has been cut and dissected and fried with radiotherapy but it still coming out on top in the looks department.

I've been given some silicone gel by GP to put on the scar to try and improve it's appearance. It's supposed to be like mega concentrated Bio Oil but without the price tag as I don't have to pay for prescriptions (another small 'cancer perk').

Apparently it also has emu oil in it. Whatever that is.

I'm going to keep persevering with the gel, but I think I may go down the mastectomy tattoo route to try and cover it up. So if there are any tattoo artists reading this who would like to try and pretty up my Frankentit, then please do get in touch!

After a phone call from the hospital on Thursday, my first lipomodelling op is on the 6th of Feb - all being well!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

A Tale of Two Titties - Part 1

Just a quick update from me. After what seems like FOREVER (OK - seven months) I'm finally due to have my expander implants exchanged for permanent, ones on Thursday, provided no trifling elements like antibiotic resistant superbugs get in the way.

The last appointment I had with my plastic surgeon was a few weeks ago when I discovered that my left expander had this time managed to completely flip over. Not content with doing a full 360 turn, it had now decided it preferred facing my rib cage than my pectoral muscle. Because it was also uncomfortable due to the metal port banging on my ribs, I was pushed up the waiting list. Every cloud and all that.

Although in theory this operation is more straightforward than previous ones, it's still major surgery and my surgeon has a bit of work to do to try and make me look like less of a car crash. They have been honest with me that it's very likely I'm going to need lipomodelling in future to try and even out the result and make it look more natural, so it won't be the last of the procedures I have. Lipomodelling is where they essentially remove the fat from one area of your body and inject it in to the breast/s to fill in any irregularities and improve the look of the reconstruction. If they can take it from my menopause belly, I'm definitely down for that.

The implants I have in at the moment are expanders - temporary implants that are filled with saline over a period of time to stretch the skin and muscle in preparation for the insertion of permanent implants, which look and feel more natural than expanders. The expanders look and feel pretty 'fake' and have magnetic metal ports on the top of them through which saline is injected:

My plastic surgeon has her work cut out a little bit to try and make my Frakentits look - well, less like Frankentits and more like something a bit more aesthetically pleasing. Boobs that kind of sit on my chest in the same place, rather than one up under my chin and the other round my waist (yes, I'm exaggerating) would be a good start.

The mis-match between my foobs has nothing to do with my plastic surgeon's skills (she's ace) but to do with with a number of other factors that couldn't really be avoided. One is that I have had radiotherapy on the right side - the cancer side - after my mastectomy and reconstruction. This has meant that the skin and muscle has contracted and become very tight. It literally does not move, no matter how much I jump up and down. Also, there was a large discrepancy between the volume of my right and left breast. When the tissue was weighed after each mastectomy, the left side (non-cancer side) weighed almost twice that of the right side. I guess I was already a little bit of a freak of nature before all this cancer business! The difference in the volume and also the fact that more skin had to be removed on the right side to get rid of the tumour means that the skin pockets that are holding my implants at the moment are very different sizes. There is a lot more room in the left side, which probably accounts for the implant's predilection for spinning and flipping over. 

There is basically very little they can do to fix the skin on the right hand side. The radiotherapy has created irreversible changes in the muscle and skin. The implant has literally been filled to almost breaking point. So the left side will have to be modelled as much as possible on the right hand side, which means removing some of the skin flap there to create a smaller pocket for the implant to go in.

It means I will potentially be left with tennis ball tits but on the flip side, I may save money on bras. That silver lining again right? One down side however is no matter how much weight I put on my boobs are not going to change size. Therefore, I'm going to have to keep a very strict eye on my diet and level of exercise. Marilyn Monroe may have been a size 16, as I get told very often (I'm not a size 16 by the way. Yet) but she didn't have scarred, wonky boobs and a crap hair cut either. Diet and exercise is my way of trying to control the collateral damage, as futile an attempt as it may be.

I am quite nervous about what the result is going to be. I've been waiting for this for so long - one of the final steps towards reclaiming and rebuilding my life.  I'm worried that they are going to be too uneven or small or scarred. As I said, earlier they have been honest with me that the result after this op may still need more work and further procedures. I'm trying to prepare myself and limit my expectations, but it's hard. This whole cancer malarky just feels like it's never ending. It's like running a race and seeing the finish line in the distance, but every time you start to near it, someone moves it further away. 

Anyway, this didn't turn out to be as short an update as I had imagined! Fingers crossed there are no hitches between now and Thursday and that it is a step towards looking less like a motorway pile up and more like a minor fender-bender instead. 

'it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...'

Ain't that the truth, Charlie!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

The Undateable

In the wake of yet another guy arranging a date with me and then treating me to radio silence as it draws near, I needed to write this blog post to get things off my (fake) chest. Apologies in advance for the ranty nature of this piece of writing, but to be honest I think it's justified.

People quite often ask me why I bother even trying to date:

'Ah, you don't need to worry about that'.

'Does that really matter in the grand scheme of things?'

'That's the last thing you need right now'.

For some reason, many people feel that I shouldn't want or need the things that 'normal' people do. To look and feel good, to be successful, to have money, to want companionship, love and intimacy. People living with cancer and it's aftermath should just be grateful to be alive and not be concerned about the minutiae of everyday life. Existing should just be enough for us - to want anything more than that is just frivolous and silly. I find that this attitude normally comes from those who go home to their big house, nice cars, loving husbands and cute children..... People who haven't had cancer don't leap out of bed every morning yelling about how glad they are to be alive - why is it that those of us who have had cancer are expected to do so? If anything, we want as much as possible from life, as we know how fragile and precious it is.

And as shocking as it may sound, people who have had cancer can be flirtatious, sexy and fun. We want to feel attractive, date and - shock horror! - have sex (sorry mum!). We don't just sit at home, being all cancery and festering inside our mangled and scarred bodies, thinking about how grateful we are just to be alive.

Believe me, I'm not 'desperate'. I don't 'need' a man. I don't need to date. I don't need or seek validation in being wanted or attractive to other people. I don't suffer fools. I will not allow myself to be mucked about by anyone, particularly men. At the first sign of any nonsense, I'll knock it on the head. I'm too old for game playing and life is too short and my time too precious to be wasted.  

I am fiercely independent. Perhaps sometimes to my detriment. I rarely ask for help, I keep my cards close to my chest and don't often tell people around me how I really feel. 'Oh me? I'm fine' seems to be a staple of my vocabulary at the moment. I'm happy to spend weekends alone, and travel and holiday by myself. My own company does not scare me. I've handled cancer and treatment as a single woman- believe me I do not 'need' to be in a relationship. But, like most people on this planet, I'd like to be. Humans are social animals. We're not meant to spend our entire lives alone. 

I mostly try to date using online dating sites, as soul destroying as they are. I've had a few people ask me why I don't use 'normal' channels to meet someone instead. What are 'normal' ways of meeting potential dates these days? Its highly unlikely I'll meet anyone through work - I just don't work in that kind of environment. When I go out, I do it to spend time with my friends, not to try and 'pull' someone. I'm not 18 anymore. And a guy walking up to you in the street whilst you're just minding your own business is quite frankly, creepy and sometimes unsettling. I've done the whole meeting someone through friends too and that ended badly.  I know that online dating does work, once you sift through the layers of knobheads. I met  someone online who I was with for two years. I have friends who met on internet dating sites and are now married. I'm still clinging on to that shred of hope, however thin it's becoming!

Oh, and the trite 'it'll happen when you least expect it' comments - they are patronising at best, especially when they come from your happily married friends.....

Dating in your mid thirties is an ordeal without out a doubt. Add serious illness, major surgeries and life changing treatment in to the mix and the word 'ordeal' doesn't even touch it. I've alternated between having a reference to cancer on my dating profile and having nothing on there about it. When I first started dating again, I was still having treatment. My hair was just starting to grow back. Bit trickier to explain away the tufty, scalp, wig wearing and frequent hospital visits.

One perceived benefit of alluding to it on my dating profile was that it was there right in the open. Boom. No messing about. Let's separate the men from the boys shall we? Get rid of the timewasters. Sadly, I've discovered this is not what happens at all. When I've mentioned cancer on my profile, I've had men message me to ask me what kind of cancer I've had. That's the first question they ask. Is there a list of cancers that they would find more acceptable than others?? When I've pointed out that that isn't the best way to begin a conversation with someone they've never met before I've been subjected to a barrage of abuse.

When men have found out I've had breast cancer, I've been asked whether I've have had my breasts removed, can I still have sex, do I have big implants? And the old - 'Oh yes my mum's dog's auntie's cousin had that and she died' - yeah thanks for that mate - nothing like a bit of positivity is there?

When I don't put anything on my profile, I feel like I'm hiding something. But then, why should I declare my medical history on my dating profile? Not to mention wanting to avoid the stream of stupid questions about my tits. This then brings up the dilemma of when to drop the C-bomb. Casually mention it on the first date? '

Date: 'What would you like to drink?'

Me: 'Glass of white wine please. Oh, by the way I've had cancer, had both my breasts amputated, I'm in a chemically induced menopause, there's a good chance I can't have children of my own and may die in the next five years. Cheers!'

Do you wait until you've started to have feelings for someone, then risk getting hurt when they decide they can't handle it? Or start a relationship with someone whilst feeling like you're deceiving them?

It's easy to find out whatever you want about people online these days. Believe me, I have it down to a fine art. I've been very open about my diagnosis and treatment, mainly in the hope that my experience will help others. The downside of that means that with a little digging, potential dates can find out more information about me that I would necessarily like them to know at that point. The most recent guy found my Instagram account, proceeded to tell me how 'inspirational' I was and how excited he was to meet me, arrange a date and blank me when I tried to contact him the day before.

I've had so many men arrange dates with me, then disappear closer to the time. I've been stood up several times, once by a guy who 'didn't like the fact I wore a wig'. I've had excuses made - 'I've lost my job' 'I'm getting back with my ex girlfriend' blah, blah, blah. I've had the guys who make out they are 'cool' with it, they can deal with it, it makes no difference - they promise you the world, then disappear at the first sign of trouble. Cancer is scary and people don't know what to say or how to behave. Cancer and sexy are not synonymous. I find that once people know, they no longer see you as a person, but as a disease. It's harder in your mid thirties as it's rare people have ever known anyone their own age undergo treatment for cancer. Most people associate cancer with old people, sickness and death. Not with youth, vibrancy, fun and attraction.

Yes, many of these men may just be flaky immature f*ckboys who can't even commit to a gym membership, never mind anything else, but when you've been rejected over and over again, you start to get a bit of a complex. When did we lose decency and compassion for other human beings? If you decide you don't want to date me, then fine. At least have the decency to tell me and be honest. Unless you've been abducted by aliens or are lying at the bottom of a well somewhere, then you can text and cancel a date. I've been through enough shit over the past 2 years, That girl you arranged a date with then didn't even have the decency to cancel but blanked her instead? She's a real person, with real feelings. She gets sad, she cries. Her already fragile self esteem takes a beating each time this happens but she manages to pick herself up and try over and over again. Think about the fact that person on the screen is not just some image on a website, but is actually a human being who deserves to be treated with respect.

I've even had friends tell me 'well, its a big thing to take on'. One person even said to me 'it'd be good if there were specialist dating sites for this kind of thing'. Ah yes, then we cancer people wouldn't be contaminating all you healthy individuals with our sickly bodies and faulty genes would we? In fact, why not just euthanize us all at diagnosis? It'd save the NHS loads of money as well. I know that wasn't what was meant by that comment, but seriously....

I've been ill, not committed a murder. I haven't been beating up old ladies or drowning kittens. Cancer isn't catching. None of it was my fault. I'm not looking for someone to 'take me on'. I want to meet someone who is adult enough and has enough emotional intelligence to be able to accept that cancer was something that happened to me. It's part of who I am, but it doesn't define me. I want to meet someone who can accept it and deal with it like an grown up. Who doesn't see it as a 'burden', but actually thinks I'm pretty damn special for getting through it. I don't think that's to much to ask, is it?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The bare necessities - Amoena: a review


This is a bit of a nerve wracking post for me as it includes photos of me in my underkecks. However, I didn't feel I could write a fully genuine and helpful post about post mastectomy underwear without actually showing what it looks like on areal person! So, that is purely what the photos are for. Not for titillation or compliments. Just me, doing ma thang -  and hopefully helping others in a similar situation whilst doing it!

Well it's finally happened! I'm being paid for my blog! Well kind of. Ish.

I was contacted last week by a PR company on behalf of Amoena, a company which specialises in lingerie, swimwear and clothing for women who have had partial or full mastectomies. They also sell a range of nifty accessories such as breast prostheses and scarily realistic stick on nipples. I'll be having me some of those at some point I think!  I'm guessing they adhere to the skin pretty well or it would give a whole new meaning to the term nip slip....

Anyway, the lady who contacted me asked if I would feature a new range of post mastectomy lingerie on my blog in return for a free set. Of course I said yes. What woman would turn down the offer of a free set of lovely new under crackers? So the other day I receive a gorgeous new set of lingerie through the post. I went for the Angelique non-wired bra set in Apricot.. Here is a picture of said set after it arrived:

The set I received is slightly different than the one pictured on the site as the cups are smooth rather than embroidered. I'm happy with this however as I think smooth cups often look better under tighter clothing.

Caveat alert! This post is a review of lingerie made by a company which specialises in underwear and clothes for women who have had mastectomies. As I have had immediate reconstruction after my mastectomies, I'll be focusing on the suitability of this lingerie for those in a similar situation. It's difficult for me to comment about how it would fit someone who has had a mastectomy / mastectomies without reconstruction. However, the specialist design of the bra hopefully means it would be suitable for reconstruction and non-reconstruction ladies alike.

I currently have temporary expander implants in after my double mastectomy that differ in size and shape. This is for a number of reasons. They include the fact that more skin had to be taken away on the right side when the tumour was removed so leaving a smaller implant pocket and that the radiotherapy on the right side has caused the implant and tissue around it to contract. So one boob is practically up under my chin, whilst the newer one is a more softer and natural shape. Eventually they will be exchanged for permanent implants that will give a better shape, hopefully in a couple of months time.

However, in the meantime I am pretty lopsided. It was difficult to give a bra size when asked by the PR company but I took a shot in the dark and luckily it was a pretty accurate one. The set fits pretty much spot on and is incredibly flattering.

After a double mastectomy with expander reconstruction, it's very difficult to find bras that don't leave you feeling very sore by the end of the day, let alone ones that actually look good as well. Gone are the days of buying cheap underwear sets from Primark or H&M. I need a good quality bra which provides the right amount of support with a good level of comfort. I can't wear underwired bras as they irritate the scar tissue under my expanders. I can't wear non-padded bras because the difference in size and shape of my breasts is too apparent. And i can't wear too much padding as it leaves little room for my implants to sit properly and well... it just looks ridiculous.

I've had to resort to wearing a lightly padded, non-wired training bra from Next. It's looking pretty grim as you can see:

Yak. But it's the only bra I can find that gives a decent enough shape to hide my lopsidedness and doesn't leave me wincing in pain at the end of the day. And, yes I've tried to buy a new one but it seems Next have stopped making them. I can't fathom why.....

Time to move on from my Bridget Jones bra to the new one.

The bra that forms part of the set I received is underwired with lightly padded, formed cups. It has pockets in the bra specially made to hold breast prostheses if you use them - or any other breast forming implement you may wish to use!

I don't actually wear any prostheses because of my expander implants but I found that the pockets are great for wearing the good ol' chicken fillets, which I sometimes sport to try and even myself out.

The bra itself fits really well and definitely disguises much of the difference in the current size and shape of my foobs (fake boobs....):

You can still see a slight discrepancy between them, however it's a huge improvement on the Nora Batty bra. And it looks a lot prettier too!

One of the things that is most important to me at the moment is how underwear looks under clothing and how well it evens out my foobs! Well, its not as if anyone is seeing anything under my clothing at the moment. Except for my surgeon and well.... that doesn't really count!

The good news is that the form of the cups means that this bra gives a great shape, even under tight clothing:

 Pretty neat, right?

The bra and knickers are a gorgeous summery colour with detailed embroidery, which makes for a pretty, feminine set of lingerie:

I went for the size 12 in the pants - mainly because I'm now nearing a size 12 thanks to my medication and I also hate my knickers to be too tight. No VPL here thank you very much. 

The knickers fit as well as the bra does - there's no lumps or muffin top or bulging back fat. In fact, the whole set looks party darn peachy. Or apricoty. If that was a word.

Deep breath. Time for a photo of me and my menopause belly. Yikes. All in the name of helping my fellow (wo)man I guess......

It's not a great photo but I tried my best!

After a single or double mastectomy, finding attractive, pretty underwear that is comfortable and doesn't leave you incredibly sore at the end of the day is so difficult. However, it's arguably the time that you need it the most. Body confidence can be very low after such significant changes to your body and your self image takes a huge nose dive.

As many women will know, wearing a pretty set of lingerie under your clothes psychologically feels as lot better than your old greying pants and saggy bra! Regardless of whether anyone else is going to see it or not, good quality lingerie can help you to feel a million dollars. Or in my case a fiver rather than a two pence coin!

It does make such a difference to find feminine underthings that are also comfortable and disguise any missing boobs or misshaped implants. It helps you claw back a little bit of 'feeling like a woman' again, after cancer has taken so much of it away. The price of this underwear is higher than your standard high street brand, however I do genuinely believe that in this case you're paying for the quality and specialist style.

If you are able to, I definitely recommend giving yourself a little bit of a well earned treat and investing in a set of knickerbocker glories from Amoena. Once I have my permanent foobs in place, I know I'm going to find to very hard to resist doing a complete underwear drawer overhaul! Or maybe that should be 'under'haul.......

Monday, 4 April 2016

What a boob....

After my third operation in 18 months, I now have no real breast tissue to speak of. I'm just like Angelina Jolie. Though without the beauty, fame, money and gorgeous husband. Obviously.

I'm not a BRCA mutation carrier like Ange, however based on my age and the fact I have already had breast cancer, the geneticist I saw in 2014 put my lifetime risk of a new breast cancer at 25%. This is twice that of the average women in the general population. Based on this, psychological (the constant at worry of finding new lumps and bumps) and aesthetic reasons, I argued my case for a preventative mastectomy. To be honest, my team are pretty good and I didn't have to argue too much - I think they know me too well now  - dog with a bone springs to mind. Or woman with a boob.

My risk of a new breast cancer has now been decreased to about 2% - lower than the average woman in the general population. However, it doesn't have any bearing on the one that I have already had. In other words, I still have as much chance of dying from that one than I did before this operation. Whatever that chance is I don't know - for once I'm preferring to live in ignorance (for however long that is) and have chosen not to discuss my prognosis with my team. I know some people find this a strange way of thinking, but prognoses are based on often outdated statistics and can have little relevance to individual situations. I'd rather not scare myself any more than is entirely necessary! 

The operation was delayed until this year, rather than being done at the same time as my first mastectomy because the priority then was to deal with the cancer that was there. My team understandably wanted to avoid risking extra surgery which could cause delays to my treatment.

I managed to enjoy an amazing six weeks travelling in Vietnam and Cambodia at the beginning of this year - which I'm going to write about on a separate blog - during which there were no hospital appointments or prodding and poking (well only in a good sense!). It was an incredible feeling to just be 'normal' for a while. To spend time on beaches and sightseeing rather than sat in hospital waiting rooms. The only time I had to get my boobs out was in a bikini. Bliss.

However, my return home was met with another hospital stamped letter informing me that my surgery had been booked for the end of February (leap day to be precise) and that my pre-op assessment was due the next day. Therefore, I dragged my jet lagged arse down to the hospital the day after I got back from my travels to spend over two hours having blood taken from my poor shriveled veins. Yes, I had to spend over two hours at the hospital whilst attempts were made to take blood from my arm, the back of my hand and finally from the inside of my wrist. Needless to say I would have much rather have been sleeping off my jet lag than being repeatedly jabbed with needles. 

As well as the quest to get blood from my wizened, chemo-ruined veins, the pre-op also consists of the taking of swabs to check for MRSA, which unfortunately in my case came back positive and led to my surgery being delayed. Here commenced five days of scrubbing with a corrosive pink shower gel and sticking stuff up my nose to try and rid my body of the little bugger. And also days of my head being up my arse and not knowing which way is up, waiting for yet more results. Luckily the re-swabs came back negative and my surgery was confirmed for the 14th of March. It seems so backwards to actually be excited and happy to have it confirmed you're going to be having another bit of your body cut off, but as I've learned, the strangest things are a cause for celebration in the breast cancer world. 

Apart from the usual 'what if i don't wake up?' panic and messaging my friends about what I want my funeral to be like, the morning of the operation was pretty uneventful. After the operation was pretty uneventful too, to be honest. Not a great deal of pain and sadly therefore no morphine drip. Dammit.

I even managed to take a selfie form my hospital bed.

 Ah, the calm before the storm. What followed was an entire night deprived of sleep (ironically hospitals are not the most conducive to restful sleep) - followed by a complete and utter meltdown the next morning, culminating in a very sympathetic Breast Care Nurse finding me in total and utter hysterics - I'm talking gulping-not-able-to-speak-or-breathe-properly crying - and hugging me until I managed to calm down. I think the complete lack of sleep played a huge factor, but it was almost as if the complete reality of what I had chosen to do to my body had sunk in all at once. However, a talk with the BCN, a move to a private room and good ol' temazepam helped the rest of the my hospital stay pass a little more uneventfully.

Because I only (!) had a mastectomy this time and not a node clearance as well this time, I only had two drains instead of three, one of which was removed before I left the hospital.

This photo was taken just before the nurse removed one of the drains - the important things first obviously! 

I've had the same kind of reconstruction as last time. A tissue expander which will be filled gradually over a period of weeks. The aim will be the replace both tissue expanders with permanent implants a few months down the line.You might just be able to see that the implant hasn't yet been filled. It currently resembles a party balloon that's still hanging on the wall two weeks later because no one can be bothered to take it down. It means I'm currently very lopsided and hibernating a lot of the time because most of my clothes look terrible and I can't currently wear my Spanx because the drain site hasn't healed. If I do go anywhere (usually to the hospital) I'm dressed like an aging Goth in baggy black clothes that hide my boobs (or lack of) and my menopause belly.

Because the veins in one arm have been annihilated by chemo, and the other arm is a no go because of my node clearance and risk of lymphoedema, I also had to have a cannula in my foot. This was thankfully was put in when I was under anesthetic and completely none the wiser:

They even cut a little hole in my sexy anti-embolism stockings to accommodate it.

The many attempts at cannulising me - both failed and successful - left me with some cracking bruises which haven't yet faded entirely three weeks later. Here they are in their glory when I returned home from hospital:

 I think the foot bruise definitely wins the prize.

Like last year, I came home from hospital with one drain, but unlike last year had a number of problems with it. The first came when I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and noticed that the pipe had become detached from the drain. Hence a 2 o'clock on a Sunday morning trip to A&E clutching a plastic bag full of drain bottle and drain bottle juice. I have to say that the staff at Birmingham City A&E were brilliant and I was in and out with a brand new drain bottle within an hour. The same can't be said for Rotherham A&E where I ended up on Good Friday evening after I noticed the vacuum had gone on the drain bottle whilst staying at my mum's. Basically, the drain bottle has to have a working vacuum on it to ensure that the fluid is drained from the operation site and in to the bottle.

After waiting for almost two hours without even being triaged, with a broken drain and fluid leaking out of the drain site and through my clothes, we were told there was nothing they could do at that hospital to help me and basically we should just sod off elsewhere. By this point I was crying very frustrated tears, so when a bystander chipped in with 'she needs t'calm 'er sen down' - he felt the force of my post-surgery-fed-up-with-cancer-and- hospitals-and-everything-else wrath. 

Over six hours later and a trip to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, I was sorted out by a very thorough surgeon who basically glued the drain tube to my body and taped it up to create a seal to stop the vacuum on the bottle from failing again. 

Needless to say, I was not sorry to see the drain go when it removed (after much picking off of glue and tape) by my surgeon on Wednesday. Unfortunately, ever since then I've had quite a lot of fluid coming out of my drain site, meaning I'm constantly having to patch it up with dressings to stop it soaking through my clothes. Yeauch. Warning - gross photo of a dressing coming up:

Despite this, the rest of it seems to be healing OK (touch wood). Physically, I'm sleeping A LOT and still manage to feel completely knackered. My chemo brain seems to have inexplicably got worse since my op - the most recent example being me leaving my credit card in the chip and pin machine in the supermarket the other day.  And just to say - if you message me and I don't message back it's nothing personal (well depends who you are..;-)) - likelihood is I've just forgotten to reply - so please don't hold it against me! I really do appreciate people checking in and asking how I am.

Mentally, things perhaps aren't healing so well. I guess the assumption might be that because this time around it's something I've chosen to do, rather than the choice being forced upon me, it's easier. It really isn't. When there is cancer there, it's an easy choice to make - you just want the breast gone. When you've made a choice to remove what is at present healthy tissue with nothing wrong with it, the sense of loss is greater and more acute. I've spent a long time shedding tears and doubting myself and my decision. These feelings are even more pronounced when I look in the mirror and see what is left of my body. I can't tell you how much I wish that I had not had to go through this. But believe me, if I felt there was any other option that I could live comfortably with I would not have undergone this surgery. No one would put themselves through more pain, scarring, lack of sensation, risk of infection and countless hospital visits if they felt that there was another feasible option.

It's knocked my already fragile self confidence back down into the minus numbers. It's another loss of something that makes me female. Along with the fact I have to take medication that suppresses the production of the very hormone that makes us women, just to try and stay alive. I very regularly envy women with 'normal' reproductive systems - i.e. ones that aren't trying to kill them! 

Guilt is a very prevalent emotion right now too. I feel guilty for moaning about when lot when there are women who didn't even make it this far. I know I'm luckier than many of the women I've met over the last 18 months. I hate that I just can't be happy and thankful right now. Maybe those feelings will take over the negative ones the more time goes on.

I feel guilty for continuing to be a burden to my family. I feel guilty for still not having much to give to my friends, for not having 'got over this' yet - for still being the cancer bore. 

I feel guilty for slobbing around and sleeping a lot and basically not contributing anything useful to society. 

All this emotional turmoil and complete lack of confidence has lead to me being some what of a hermit at the moment. I'm more or less hibernating right now - like a tortoise. I definitely possess the energy and get up and go of one right now that's for sure! Someone wake me up when it's all over will you?

Monday, 22 February 2016

Top Ten Tinder 'oh no, he didn'ts'

After a brief foray back in to the ridiculous world of online dating, I felt that I wanted to write a post with a different flavour than my usual ones. It is quite possible I have had the worst luck over the last nine months with internet dating. I seem to be a total pillock magnet (Me? Bitter? Never!). Also, as a woman living with a life threatening disease which has irreversibly altered my body, I get to experience pillocks of the extra special variety.

Oh yes, the right man may come along one day and change my mind - blah, blah -but until then I reserve the right to be completely sceptical abut online dating.

I'm not the only one. The following post has been compiled using not just my own opinions, but those of many other single ladies I've spoken to.

Don't get annoyed, lads. Just a bit of friendly advice. After all, it's all about the bantz, innit? YOLO. Don't hate the player, hate the game. Or something.  

Top Ten Tinder No No's (for men) 

1.    Kids 
Including multiple pictures of your children on your Tinder profile is a massive no-no. You may be proud of the fact you have managed to pass your genes on to the future generation, however this is a dating site, not a photo shoot for your family Christmas card.

2. Men with fish

We're not sure when or how the current epidemic of men holding fish photos started, but our desire to go out on a date with you will not be affected in the slightest by your ability to catch something for our dinner (even though you’ve probably nipped to Tesco and got your mate to take a photo in front of your garden pond). Give us a good old chippy any day of the week. 

3. Multiple drunk / fancy dress photos

Let’s face it -anyone who is anyone likes a good old dress up once in a while. And a beer or two. But if your entire dating profile consists of you in varying themes of fancy dress outfits and / or repeated photos of you looking slightly worse for wear, this doesn't make you look like a 'fun guy'. It makes you look like a bit of a fool who hasn't quite grown up yet. We're looking for a date, not a babysitting job.

4. Men with cars/bikes

Again, you may be proud of your machine, but for the majority of women, the type of car you drive will have no bearing on whether we want to date you or not. Unless, or course, you are Marty McFly. 

5. Photos with loads of mates

Ah, the ‘here is me with twenty mates’ photo. When deciding whether to swipe right or not, knowing which one of the llikely lads you actually are helps. We’re after a date, not playing a Spot the Ball competition. 

6.Gym mirror selfies / topless selfies

It’s very laudable that you work out and how sweet you are to show us your gainz, but the cloud of testosterone wafting from these photos makes our eyes hurt. Try leaving a little to the imagination, lads. If we want tickets to the gun show, we’ll ask for them. 

7. Photos with women

Whether it’s your sister/best mate/ mum or auntie’s sister’s boss, photos of you with other women on your dating profile is a no. We don’t want to be wondering who that woman is you have your arm draped around before we go on a date with you. Save that for when we’ve got access to your Facebook profile.

Oh – and you might think that photos of yourself surrounded by PR models makes you look desirable, but really, wearing women like accessories in your pictures actually makes you look like a bit of a creep. 

8. Wedding photos

We’re not sure why men include photos of themselves on their wedding day on their Tinder profile. It smacks of one of three possible scenarios – 1. You are desperate to show that one day, once upon a time, someone wanted you. 2. You and your wife are looking for a third wheel to spice up your sex life or 3. Your mates have put you on Tinder for a laugh. Whichever one is true, for the majority of women it’s going to guarantee you a big swipe 

9. Quotations / memes

You may think that filling your profile with photos of inspirational quotes instead of actual photos of yourself will make us believe you is all deep and shiz innit, but mainly it just makes you look like you have something to hide.

And the sexist jokes and comments about how mean women are because they never go for the ‘nice guy’? They make us want to stay in and pull our leg hairs out individually with a pair of tweezers, rather than go on a date with you. 

10. No photos

Next time you want to have a productive conversation with someone, try sitting on the other side of a door whilst doing it. Don’t think that would work that well? Same goes in an online situation. If we have no idea who we are talking to, we are not going to feel comfortable engaging in a conversation with you. It also smacks of someone who has something to hide – normally or wife or girlfriend. So, unless you actually look like a white silhouette of Tin Tin or you’re the invisible man, having a photo on your profile is a definite advantage when trying to get women to speak to you.