Frankenboobie

That’s what I think every time I see an ad for the Frankenweenie movie!

Months ago, a few of my reconstructed friends offered to bare their chests so I’d know what to expect.  I marveled at this sweet (and odd) gesture.  Now, I get it.  Not only do I feel disconnected from my top half, but it’s like a laboratory experiment I think others would have to see to believe.

But don’t be afraid to scroll down!  Everything here is G-rated.

Oct 12 - sunken chest #3My upper chest looks sunken 3 weeks after surgery.  Dr. Woods says the hollow areas will fill out a bit when I get permanent implants.  Port scar on my right.

Cording after axillary dissectionTight bands of tissue have developed under my left arm.  They pull and hurt when I move, so my range of motion is still limited on the left (although gentle stretching seems to make it better).  I can feel this big one down past my elbow.

Apparently, this cording, or “axillary web syndrome,” is a possible side effect of axillary dissection and a risk factor for lymphedema.  This week, I have an appointment at Turning Point for physical therapy.

Hair 2 months after last TaxolAs for my hair, I’m clearly brunette again.  My eyebrows are out of control and I have eyelash stubble that makes me look like I’m always wearing eyeliner.

Emotionally, I still have some bad days.  You’d think I’d be happy as a clam now that the worst is over!  But we’re all just worn out.  Joey said he knows I’m getting better because he used to be exhausted all of the time and now he’s only exhausted most of the time.

The kids struggle, too.  Our son wants to know when I’ll be able to ride bikes or play tennis with him.  Our daughter asks when I’ll teach Zumba again.  And if the cancer will come back.  These same questions play in a loop in my own head.

It’s an ongoing lesson in being grateful for what we have.  Which, of course, is plenty and a lot more than most!

So, on that note, here are a few recent developments we’re celebrating:
– Except for occasional numbness in my toes, my feet are back to normal.
– I can apply deodorant under my arms if I use a cotton ball (many people are thankful for this one!).
– I can sleep on my side again.  In fact, I was so comfortable this morning that the kids nearly missed the bus.
– I was able to reach for my latte in the Starbucks drive-thru today.  Priorities, right?
– Prozac!

My next appointments:
10/23 Dr. Woods for Expansion #2
10/24 Turning Point for physical therapy
11/1 First follow-up after surgery with my oncologist, Dr. O’Regan

Nicole

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. It’s a snowy Saturday in Colorado and I just noticed axillary webbing in my right arm pit this morning. Of course, no one ever mentioned this as a possibility to me… My BMx was two and half weeks ago and I only had four lymph nodes removed. But now my chest area has fluid build up and this lovely (sarcasm here) webbing. How long did it take got yours to resolve? Or has it? PT how often? If you have time to answer that’s fabulous. If not, I completely get it so no worries. Hope you’re well.

    • Celeste – I just found your message and emailed you with a response. Please feel free to contact me with ANY questions! Best of luck to you. Nicole

      • Thank you for your thoughtful reply! I very much appreciate it. I have been applying castor oil to arm pit and abdominal area (which started the day after I wrote the above comment!) then adding moist heat packs to the area and it really seems to be helping. It has not gone away but has not gotten any worse. The doctor will not Rx PT until all adhesion is complete. Just today he decided he would write perscription to be filled next week. The idea of the lymph vessel cracking ~ uggg! sounds terrible. But instant relief sounds great too. I have been having seroma on right side as well and just had it drained for the second time. I think it will be the last time as well. It was 60cc of fluid last week and 15cc today :) Thank you again for your kindness <3

  2. Chip Chase says:

    Wonderful to get the updates and see the progression. Challenges and roadblocks,but progression!! We love you and think of you daily. The 4 C’s

  3. None of us will ever be able to fully appreciate what it has been like for you, but hang in there! The worst IS behind you, and all the freaky frankenboobie experiements will be over soon, and your Christmas present is knowing it will get more and more comfortable. Those suckers will eventually relax and your body will be better than ever.

    I am glad you are documenting all this, because a year from now, as you are riding bikes with your kids and teaching zumba and art lessons, etc., it will be hard to recall feeling so blue.

    Germ (snicker) is right — you look amazing — those eyelashes, eyebrows and HAIR. 1/2″ a month. At least it is coming back brown and not shiny silver (like mine)!!!

  4. Claudia Johnson says:

    Hey there, Nicole,

    Yep, I agree – you are definitely a sweetie!

    If it’s any consolation, my upper chest always looks sunken in!

    We all love you!

    Claudia

  5. Jerry Guyant says:

    progress sweetie progress — you look beautiful….those nice dark eyebrows!! We love you. Mom and ‘germ’ (ha, haven’t said that in awhile :-))

    Best of luck w/ expansion 2 (are you sure you NEED it – grin grin) and even better luck — can you spell
    R – E – L – I – E – F !! — with Turning Point – I would love to be going with you to that just to check out that place. Keep your chin up and just think how few weeks it has been since that major major surgery – look how far you have come!

    Maybe Sam would like you to don a wig for Halloween? purple witches one – or is there one attached to your hat? How bout just doing Zumba STEPS with Sara. I can envision the joy on her face. LOVE LOVE LOVE topped with a dose of patience potion :-)