Home and Drainless

YAY! They didn’t keep me in the hospital.

Turns out there was some kind of malfunction of the drain so they removed it. Definitely not sorry to see that gone but it has been replaced with a plastic bag type thing that sticks to the hole in my skin and collects the blood and puss stuff in the bag. Kind of like a colostomy bag.

When we got home from the hospital I was absolutely exhausted and slept the entire afternoon away and woke feeling sore but happy to be waking in my own bed.

So I happily sit here medicated with minimal pain, drainless, Kath and Kim on the TV, dogs quietly sleeping…. Life is good.

I did have a chat to the gorgeous breast care nurse at St Andrews about my pain medication issues and thankfully, there was finally someone on my side and who understood exactly what the hell was going on with me.

Oh and guess what private health insurance entitles you too? A first class, front of the non existent line in the emergency ward. There was not one person waiting in the emergency section of the hospital and was seem almost immediately by the nurse and then doctor. I was given a warmed gown and blanket to put on while I waited the whole eight minutes for the doctor.

So, today I shall not complain about what I do not get from private health insurance but stay tuned for that rant… its coming J

Update on pain, it is still there and still extreme but pain killers are taking the edge off and stop my blubbering.

To anyone who thinks doctors are not entirely truthful as to how long it takes to recover from surgery, I say, listen to them.

My surgeon told me I would need six weeks recovery from this surgery which I thought was preposterous and told my boss as much. I said that I would be happy to take two weeks to recover from surgery and then work from home for the remaining four weeks. Baaaahahahahah what a silly little twit I was.

I will be making the phone call to my boss tomorrow to explain that the surgeon may have had a point in advising I would need 6 weeks to recover from surgery. I just know from previous surgeries that the recovery time was ‘kind of ‘ correct but I could have easily worked from home, just not travelled to work and dealt with walking, pushing and pulling of doors etc.

This time, totally different story.

Pain is still high. Emotions are crazy. Sleeping more than I am being awake etc.

My advice to anyone planning on having this surgery, believe your surgeon when they tell you the recovery time. You will need this time not only to manage the pain but to rest your body. It is also incredible as to how often you use your stomach muscles. Spitting out toothpaste is absolutely excruciating.

I am slightly frightened of sleeping tonight with this stick on bag. I am a bit of a toss and turner during my sleep and dread the thought of accidentally rolling onto my left side and popping my puss and blood filled plastic bag. Gross huh?

Draining the Drain

When you have certain types of surgery, you have drains inserted into the surgical site to drain away the yucky fluid that builds up in said site in the hope to avoid infection.

I had three drains after my tram flap surgery and was lucky enough to have two removed before I went home because they’d stopped draining. One was left in which is on my left side in my lower abdomen.

Well, this drain has been working its little drainface off until yesterday.

Sam has to change the drain bottle when it gets to 300ml and has done this quite a few times since I have been home but after yesterdays drain bottle change, we noticed there wasn’t anything draining. I looked at the drain site where it goes into my body and I can see the stitch that is meant to be inside my body holding the drain in place. Thankfully the drain tube does go a fair way into the body so I knew, ok Sam assured me, that it wasn’t going to come out but, it seems there is a problem.

I have sprung a leak.

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There is yucky fluid all over my side. I woke up in a swamp of fluid. A ghetto of goop. Just disgusting sticky puss looking stuff.

What this means is that I not only have to go to the emergency ward at St Andrews but, I have to wash my hair in the sink and the body parts that don’t have bandages on them. Make myself look and smell human again. I have to find clothes that don’t restrict the surgical sites and pack a bag in case they keep me in.

No, I don’t think they’ll keep me in for the drain issue but perhaps for the pain issue.

Geez I was a mess last night. Like seriously, a blubbering girly snotty redfaced mess.

oh and do you know what I absolutely hate about being a blubbering girly sook? My voice. When I try to speak it is the dumbest sound you have ever heard. All high pitched and gaspy and damn well embarrassing. Not to mention my face as well while we are discussing it. Big red bulbous nose, red cheeks etc. Not a pretty little tear stained face with gentle sobs like the movies.

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Sam picked up the script from the chemist that my surgeon had organised for me but, I was too frightened to take them in case I ran out again but the pain was excruciating by this time. My last lot of pain killers had been taken in the morning and it was now after 5pm and I could barely breath let alone do anything else.

So, I did it. I took two tablets and then cried and cried and cried. I cried because of the pain, I cried because of how difficult it was to obtain the pain killers, more tears because of the pain, tears because Sam has to put up with me, tears because chickens are being sold for $3 per kilo at Aldi and I think they are selling those beautiful birds for too cheap (it might be here that the pain killers had started to kick in).

As you can see, it is quite the roller coaster of emotions at the moment but I recall from my mastectomy days when the pain was almost as intolerable, my surgeon considered popping me back into hospital. I do not partially love the idea but I hate the pain that I have too. I also recall that I didn’t become a pain killer addict and I got through it as I will this time too.

So, for the moment, I will sit and enjoy my cup of coffee and try not to think of how cheap chicken is in the supermarket and how they deserve more as do the chicken farmers, but only the free range chicken farmers because we all hate the cage chicken farmers  and take a few pain killers.

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Talk soon xx

The Pain of obtaining Pain Relief

How does someone become a prescription drug addict? I can’t even get a prescription without a lecture that goes on for so long and I feel like I am asking for a kilo of methamphetamine instead of some painkillers.

Pain relief

It is so very frustrating to be told constantly when in hospital to mention to a nurse when in pain and don’t try to be strong or to push through the pain. But, when you do that, you get a ‘look’ from a nurse, a few questions as to if the pain really is as bad as I think, lectures on addiction, constipation etc.

Now that I am home recovering from surgery, I get the ‘look’ and lecture from the local doctor who has told me she will not be looking to fill my request for this particular pain relief (oxycodone aka endone) should I require any more and will look at an alternative.

Lets get something straight. I have had a huge flap of skin taken from my stomach and placed onto my chest. A big blob of fat, muscle and blood vessels were then placed with this flap to create a new breast. The skin on my stomach was then streeeeeeetched to cover the big space now created by the missing flap and all sewn together.

Yes, I do think I am in enough pain to justify some hard-core pain killers thanks.

I know it has been a week and a half since my surgery but for goodness sake, I didn’t have my tonsils removed. I had some pretty major surgery that I think justifies the need to take these painkillers.

I know there are many people who have become addicts of these painkillers and I know they are very addictive (if you can actually get a script) but I really feel that there are times when the medical profession has to step out of their ‘all fit in one box’ mindset and realize there are some people in genuine pain. There are some people that really need these pain killers.

Why do I have to be made to feel like a criminal or drug addict when requesting a script for some pain relief? I have a drain sticking out of me, can’t walk straight for very long, can’t sit or stand for long periods of time. I think it is pretty obvious that pain relief is required.

Anyhoo, that is my rant for that situation.

I am expecting some backlash from this blog because yes, there is a terrible epidemic of prescription drug addicts and they purchase these on the black market or doctor shop etc but, my point is, not everyone is doing that. Some people are in genuine pain. I think anyone who has suffered serious pain will totally understand where I am coming from.

Thankfully I have a gorgeous cleavage to look down upon to make me happy for a moment and to remind me that this was my decision to have the surgery. I do tell myself to ‘suck it up’ about twenty times a day but in between these times, I’d like some pain relief thanks.

No, it isn’t time to see my new boob, maybe next blog 😉

i have boobies

My Dirty Little Secret

Hi There.

Sorry for not dropping in earlier but I didn’t know how to discuss what happened to me on the night of my arterial ligation surgery which prevented my Tram Flap Breast Reconstruction occurring on the 22nd of July.

Here is how it played out.

I was laying in the little room you are put into before you are taken into the surgery room. My anaesthetist Dr Christopher Higham from Stace Aesthetics popped over to say hi and to run through his spiel. He is really lovely and we chattered for a while and everything was going just peachy until he went to walk away and asked me a question over his shoulder on his way out.

The question was actually more like a statement:

Oh Amanda, you don’t smoke do you?

I just looked at him. I didn’t answer straight away and he then turned to face me head on and we were eyeballing each other when I squeaked out a ‘yes’.

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Didn’t the world just stop everything in that instant! It honestly felt like the nurses stopped their pottering, the noise of the phones and chatter was suddenly gone and Dr Chris Higham was suddenly almost nose to nose with me and said these few words.

You stop smoking NOW Amanda. Now.

Turns out that for the reconstructive surgery I was due to have two weeks after this arterial ligation, has a 12% success rate on smokers and my surgeon Mr Jim Kollias will not operate on a smoker.

Once Dr Higham had finished telling me off, Mr Kollias then popped in and gave me his opinion on all this too and by now, I was quite emotional as you can well imagine.

Thankfully the ligation surgery proceeded and I was back with my husband in no time. I did have to stay in hospital one night, which was fine enough.

Pain wise it was up there and it took a little longer for the pain to reduce than I had expected but it was bearable pain.

Mr Kollias came to see me before I was discharged and stated he will not do my reconstruction until I had been a non smoker for at least six weeks. I was shattered. I felt so ashamed of myself. I hadn’t been happy to have taken up smoking AFTER my cancer treatment when I had been a non smoker for so many years and now I was ashamed and sad and really quite embarrassed.

I am pleased to announce that I have not had a cigarette since that conversation with my doctors.

Mr Kollias rescheduled my surgery for the 3rd of August, 2017.

The reasons for not operating on a smoker for this type of surgery is due to the little blood vessels that get moved from your stomach to the chest area will usually die in a smoker because there isn’t enough oxygen getting through. Dr Higham said to see a ‘dead’ reconstructive breast was awful but also, the time and energy spent reconstructing was an absolute waste. This also includes the use of nicotine replacement therapy, that isn’t allowed either. Due to the microsurgery that is preformed in the Tram Flap Reconstruction, your body needs all of the oxygen it can get and nicotine takes that away from you.

So, it was an instant quit. No cutting down, no weaning, no nicotine replacement therapy. No smokes.

It occurred to me that I had two choices. I could smoke OR I could have a reconstruction. I couldn’t not have both.

Thankfully I had been reading Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking a few weeks leading up to surgery so I was one step ahead. I quit using this book more than five years ago when I smoked around 50 cigarettes a day!

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I did join a quit smoking facebook page as well for the extra support as was feeling quite emotional having taken up smoking more so that quitting (at the time) and decided to use the facebook page as a bit of a sounding board. There is always that one person isn’t there that has to be mean or negative.

One of the ladies responded to my facebook statement about my surgeon refusing to operate on my until I had been a non smoker for six weeks and promised I would never smoke again about how she had plastic surgery implants and there was no a problem being a smoker and proceeded to tell me my surgeon was ‘full of shit’. Wow. Ok, way to go lady, thanks! I replied politely and mentioned breast implants are a totally different kettle of fish compared to tram flap surgery but thanked her for her comment all the same.

Anyhoo, there you have it. My dirty little secret is now out.

I wasn’t actually going to write anything about this because of being so ashamed but then I though, what if someone else genuinely doesn’t know about the dangers of smoking leading up to, and after the tram flap surgery? My surgeon didn’t even know I was a smoker (obviously) because he had asked if I was a smoker when he first met me two years ago. Why would he ask a non smoking cancer patient if they had taken up smoking? There would be no reason for him to do this. Yes, I did write I was a smoker on the admission forms for the hospital so I am not really sure who actually reads these but that is not the point. The point is, be 100% honest with your surgeon because you could be wasting their time, your time, money, etc.

You may have noticed the date of this publication and realized that I have now had my surgery. You are right! I did have the surgery but I’ll tell you about that another time real soon.

Hello Titty

 

The New Boob – Part 1

Please be advised I have permission from my husband to post the photo at the end of the post of my ‘war zone’ post breast removal – pre boob reconstruction site.  🙂

 

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Here is a photo of my gorgeous daughter who never fails to make me smile whether I am in her presence or simply just thinking about her….. so, lets start my New Boob blog part 1

Right, this is the start of a multi part series on my new boob.

My aim is to cover a few things.

  1. Why do I want to reconstruct my breast?
  2. Why don’t I want to reconstruct my breast?
  3. What does the ‘bomb site’ look like right now?
  4. How is it going to be reconstructed?
  5. The high price of private health insurance in Australia. Are you totally covered?
  6. The physical, mental and financial pain
  7. Working for an understanding company
  8. The support from co-workers
  9. Some other ramblings in my head

It has been over two years since I lost my left breast to stage three breast cancer. Now, it is time for a new and improved model to move on in.

There will be no technical terms going on in this post, or even future posts because seriously, who can remember all this mumbo jumbo the surgeons and doctors and anaesthetists use so I shall be me and use normal words and terms.

Thankfully, I was strong enough to lose the weight required by Mr Kollias who so delicately demanded I lose (You are too fat, I can’t work with this (as he grabs my stomach and wobbles it up and down and round and round) he says to me on a few occasions). Thankfully I have no feelings and his words have no emotional effect on me. This is one thing I really do like about my surgeon. The actual thing about him finding it difficult to work on me wasn’t so much about me being fat but that I was ‘solid fat’ and not ‘floppy fat’. It is easier and tidier to work with floppy fat as opposed to solid fat.

I initially really struggled with making the decision to have my breast reconstruction because, get this, I didn’t want to lose my new body. The flat left side where my cancerous breast used to live suddenly became a really important part of me. The scar and little plump fake cleavage is something that I have actually grown to love. I don’t love having to wear a prosthetic everyday in my bra as it can get quite warm and cumbersome and now that my body has changed, the prosthetic breast (called Dolly) and the right saggy baggy boobie just don’t match. No one else can tell and I know this but I can tell and it looks bloody stupid but, it is me. The new and improved me. So, why do I need to change it?

Anyhoo, I really wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through more surgery, pain, financial strain (I am going to get to this bit a little later) and the time off work.

My new husband, the man who has seen me through all of this breast cancer bizzo, had a serious talk with me (that is a very rare thing in my household) about having this surgery. He said, and he is right, that it would be a very beneficial thing for me to do for my mental state. He sees how uncomfortable I am if he walks in on me in the shower, when I get up in the morning (yep, am a nudie rudie sleeper), and when I am braless.

Usually, I don’t give a hoot what people think about me, of my dress sense (or lack there off), the car I drive, what my hair looks like and even some of the things that come out of my mouth. It has surprised me that I am still, after two years, uncomfortable being naked in front of the man who has been with me through thick and thin, good times and bad, in sickness and in health – o hang on, this isn’t my wedding blog hehe. But you see where I am going with this don’t you?

I really had a long think about what he had to say (again, a rare thing in this household hehe) and he is right (I know! Strange hey?). I do need to do this for me and my mental health. I know I am not going to be looking like I was before and that is definitely not what I am after. My goal here is not to replace what was taken from me.

What I am after is a feeling of balance (hehe) and comfort. The new breast is going to be built from the fat from my stomach. There will be no implants or expanders because I feel I have more than enough recourses in my body to create what I need here.

Before anyone gets on their moral high horse and decides to have a go at me about the implant/expander thing… I have absolutely no issues with either of them at all. In fact, pre-cancer life, I had considered having implants to give my girls the much needed lift they required, so shut up and get back in your box! There is nothing to get all huffy about.

Anyway, back to what I was saying, the fat is coming from my stomach to build my new left boob. This occurs on the 22nd of June.

Before that, I am into surgery for my Mr Kollias to clamp two arteries in my groin in preparation for the big kahuna surgery. This is what I am actually most worried about. Cutting open my groin on either side to clamp arteries and stitching me back up scares the bajeebus out of me. How painful does that sound? Anyone who has had severe period pain will be nodding their head right now. So, that is a five to six day recovery apparently. This will only be day surgery though which is a nice thought.

The next surgery, the big bazooka boob surgery, will be the 22nd of June. This is where the fat from my stomach will some how be schimmied up to my chest and a new boob will appear. I get a tummy tuck “Thrown in as a bonus in the deal” and a wiz bang new belly button.

Oh the haters are hating right now!

Enter – Lucky you have no feelings Mrs Wilkinson – because, as Mr Kollias examined me a few weeks ago, he confirmed my fat stomach was floppy enough to do the surgery with, my two year cancer check was clear, my lymphedema was being managed but, there was a problem with Miss Right Boob.

‘Oh, we can’t leave the right breast like THAT!’ where his words, ‘Oh, I’ll have to do something here’ he says has he flattens the breast, pulls at the skin, shakes his head. I really do wish to remind him sometimes that I am laying here WITH this breast attached to me! Sometimes I wonder if he forgets there is a person attached to the breasts he works on. Thankfully he and I have been friends since day two of cancer (just over two years now) so I can take his chatter.

That means, rightie is getting a make over too. She will be plumped up and made a little younger and prettier again. Another little bonus of this whole cancer crap I guess.

Here is the potentially uncomfortable image that may offend some viewers. This is my ‘love’. My part of the body I have grown to love and cherish, hide and feel ashamed off. This is the ‘war zone’ where the potential killer lay waiting to do its job before it was destroyed by the Army consisting of many people but the man out front was Mr Kollias, he was at the front line, taking out the bad guys and saving my life.

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I shall finish this part 1 segment of ‘my new boob’ with the following

  1. A tummy tuck is NOT A GREAT BONUS (I had cancer you idiot, the only bonus is life!)
  2. Having a minimum of six weeks recovery will NOT be a welcome break from work you fool! (I had almost a year off work trying to beat this bitch called cancer!)
  3. Income insurance will NOT keep our mortgage, bills, hospitalization, medicines, animal food, people food, general living expenses covered
  4. Having perky breasts is also NOT A BONUS. I would take my pre cancer life back any day thank you (dickhead!)
  5. No, having a ‘boob job’ or ‘reconstruction’ does not make it all worth it.
  6. Private Health Insurance will NOT cover the costs of this (further information on this will be covered in Part 2)

 

Interesting Information

The following information is taken from the website www.breastcancer.org

Once you take tissue from a donor site on the body, such as the belly, it can’t be used again for breast reconstruction. So if you’re thinking about prophylactic removal and reconstruction of the other breast, you might want to make that decision before you decide on reconstruction. If you have TRAM flap reconstruction on one breast and then later need reconstruction on your other breast, tissue for the second, later reconstruction will have to come from your buttocks, inner thighs, or back. Or you can have reconstruction with an implant.

Because skin, fat, muscle, and blood vessels are moved from the belly to the chest, having a TRAM flap means your belly will be flatter and tighter — as if you had a tummy tuck. Still, a TRAM flap does leave a long horizontal scar — from hipbone to hipbone — about one-third of the way between the top of your pubic hair and your navel. In most cases, the scar is below your bikini line. After the skin and fat are removed from your belly, your surgeon may place an artificial mesh material to cover the area where the muscle was removed and then close the abdomen. If mesh is used, it stays there permanently. Your navel is then brought back out through a separate incision and reshaped.

Shane Neaves and Chloe Neville

So, every bride I know wants the best photographer for their wedding. Unfortunately, mine became a little too busy three days leading up to our wedding and without panic, I mentioned this on the Adelaide Wedding Chit Chat page and wow, did I get a HUGE response.

The one that stood out the most to me was a gentleman by the name of Shane Neaves. He has obviously been photographing for quite some time but just struggled to get into the wedding industry because of the Bride and Groom expectations of having a portfolio. He didn’t have one and was struggling to get his foot in the door

He came through for us time wise and financially. Here was an opportunity for photographers to take advantage of our situation, needing a photographer three days out from our wedding but Shane didn’t. He offered his services at a ridiculously cheap price, provided an offsider, Chloe, and spent hours with us and our guests.

Thank you Shane for spending the day and night with us and for providing our beautiful photos.

 

 

 

Thank you again both Shane Neaves and Chloe Neville for your wonderful work.

 

xx Mrs Wilkinson

Hello Mrs Wilkinson

We did it! We got married and it was wonderful. It was simple. It was perfect.

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I gave up on the ‘magic tree’ in Kuitpo because it wasn’t available for my new, short notice wedding date and also, EVERYONE is marrying there now!

We opted for a small and simple back garden ceremony and reception which we both felt more our ‘style’ than anything else. Yes, money is a big issue but also, we wanted to be able to mingle and celebrate with our guests as well. So, a 50 person guest list consisting mainly of family with a few friends, catered by a lovely local company called D&D Catering Co, nibbles prepared by my now Mother In Law, help yourself drinks stations and lots of lovely smiles and well wishes.

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Did it all go off without a hitch? Hell No! It started with Sam accidentally calling me his ‘Awful Wedded Wife’ instead of ‘Lawful Wedded Wife’ and, I put the wedding ring onto his wrong hand! We didn’t even realise until after all of the formal photos were taken hehehe.

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Photo below was taken at the exact “Awful Wedded Wife” moment! Oh how the celebrant and my soon to be EX-Husband are thinking this to be soooo funny! Maybe we should have practiced the words before the wedding like our celebrant Sharyn Colliver suggested 🙂

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There was a small kitchen fire that the guests took care off, a few broken glasses, a moon boot required for an old Achilles tendon injury to one of our guests, music station hijacked by the younger crowd….. but, it all made for a wonderful day.

I was very fortunate in having my amazing neighbours John and Clare offer their beautiful home for us ladies to get ready in, and for Clares Bloomers doing the bouquets, and they’d left me a gorgeous note on their blackboard. I left them a lovely array of clothes, make-up, perfume, etc to be collected the next day.

My long time friend Nicole gave up her entire Saturday to provide me, my mum, my daughter and my sister our lovely faces and hair 🙂

Another lovely lady who gave up her time and said YES to singing our songs on the day was the very talented Steph. Steph and I had worked together many years ago and although I had never heard her sing before, one drunken evening I sent her a message asking if she would be willing to sing at our wedding. Thank goodness she said yes because she was amazing. She sang “At Last’ by Etta James as my mum walked me ‘down the garden’ and then sang “Better Place” by Rachel Platten and “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” (The Delta Goodrem Version) as we signed our paperwork.

Food! The food was amazing not only by the amazing caterers but also my MIL and the amazing cake maker Tash from The Sweet Tooth Factory.

 

Yes, it was an emotional day but of course, a happy emotional day. Whilst there were many family and friends missing from our day, I was so humbled to have received voice messages, face time all the way from Bali, text messages and cards.

I hear all the time from brides who say they want to do it all again, that it was the most amazing day etc. Yes, it was an amazing day but NO, I do not want to do it again hehe. I love a wedding, adore food, love a few drinks with friends and family but, one wedding is enough for me thanks.

Thank you to everyone for their amazing well wishes and happy thoughts. It was really nice to focus on a happy, positive event given the last couple of years.

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Amanda PS edit

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So, that’s it. I am now a very happy wife to Mr Sam Wilkinson.

Next stop, reconstruction surgery in June 2017 and then, our four week honeymoon in November!

 

xx Mrs Amanda Wilkinson