I’m sure people will find these photos gross, and even say that I’m sharing too much. And that’s your right to think and say that, but it’s also my right to share my story and my photos. I want other women who are facing breast cancer and the possibility of a mastectomy with breast reconstruction to know what you’re instore for. And like it or not, these photos are an important part of my journey. No matter how ugly or repulsive you may think the photos are, you can simply look away … This is my reality.
**Warning: Medical images some may find offensive (and I’m sorry if you feel that way, but that’s your problem – my breast cancer, mastectomy and 5 surgeries are my reality)
Taken Monday, March 6, 2017. These are the scars from the first 4 surgeries (April 20-May 25, 2016). I hated looking in the mirror and seeing these scars. And up until March 7, 2017, everytime I looked in the mirror, I felt like Frankenstein was staring back at me and I lost all of my self-esteem.
Taken Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 right before going in to have my breast tissue expanders implanted – again. I was so scared because of all the issues I had last year when I had this procedure done, but I couldn’t bare looking at my Frankenstein-chest anymore and I couldn’t take wearing the prosthetic breasts, either.
The evening of March 7, 2017. I was supposed to go home after my 3-hour surgery, but I was in too much pain and very nauseous so I was admitted to the hospital. They had four tiny nurses who thought they’d be able to move me to my bed. Nope! In my heavily intoxicated (medicated) state I was not about to let that happen. They’d have pulled and caused too much pain… So I told them to let me try to get over on my own. Luckily I’ve been walking and working out daily and although the top of my body didn’t work, I was able to use my lower body to scoot my way to my bed and the nurses were able to get my top half over – I’m sure they were relieved!
I was on morphine, valium, Percocet, antibiotics and Tylenol so I hardly knew my name. I hate being admitted to the hospital, though, because they come in and wake you up like every hour and ask how I feel… Smart-ass Dana wanted to say, “you just cut my chest open for the 5th time in less than a year and put big ass deflated balloons in and sewed me up… How do you think I feel?” Heavily sedated Dana just said “OK” and dozed back off.
I hadn’t eaten since about 8 p.m. on Monday and I was being pumped full of medicine, not to mention being under general anesthesia for over 3 hours; I was famished. I kept asking for crackers, just to get something in my stomach because the meds were making my nausea worse. Of course the more crackers I ate, the more thirsty I was, so the more water I’d drink.
I had to use a bed pan at first (yuck), but I wasn’t able to walk. That was a disaster that I will spare you the details of! But finally, about 11 p.m. I was able to get up, with nurses assistance, and go to the bathroom on my own. I knew then that this time was going to be better than last time. Last year I couldn’t even sit up on my own after 2 days and the idea of walking was completely out of the question. I remember feeling so much HOPE! I would always go to the bathroom before being given my narcotics, but about 3 a.m. when they woke me for meds I forgot to use the bathroom. I dozed off for a few minutes and woke back up because I really had to go. I don’t remember this, but the nurse told me the next morning. Apparently I called the nurse and told her I had to use the bathroom and she came in and was helping me get up and fixing the many tubes hanging off me and talking to me and apparently I kept saying “No. No. No.” And then told her to go get a nurse to help me. She was like, “I am a nurse and I am helping you.” I got a good laugh and apologized and she just laughed too and reminded me of how many pain medicines I was on.
Finally, the next morning I was able to get out of bed on my own with no assistance and I finally got breakfast. I’m not a huge fan of hospital food, but that was the best waffle I ever had. I hadn’t eaten in over 36 hours and I could feel the medicine in my stomach.
Taken Wednesday, March 8, 2017, the day after my surgery, after I finally got breakfast a few hours before being discharged from the hospital.
March 8, 2017 in the car on the way home from the hospital. A pillow is necessary because the seatbelt would have killed my chest because I was still in a lot of pain.
I got home and about an hour later, my company sent me an Edible Arrangement! It was a great gift! (My mom was being silly holding it!)
I had two drains on each side and 2 vacuum drains on each side, so for the past week, I’ve had 4 tubes coming out of me; 2 on each side.
These are the vacuum drains. I didn’t get a picture of the heavy black boxes that were attached to them. They keep the purple bandages tightly over the chest incisions so there is no way anything can get in and cause infection to the incisions.
These are the drains, there is one on each side. The drains are under each of my arms. The tape covers where they are sewn into my sides to keep them covered for 2 reasons. First, so they don’t leak blood and fluid onto me, and secondly, to avoid infection by keeping them covered. I have to safety pin them under my shirt, but the tubes still hang down a bit, but at least it covers the bulbs that are filled with blood/fluid. It’s disgusting and I hate these things. Taking a shower is very difficult because there’s nothing for them to clip onto and it hurts if they just hang, so you have to be very creative and careful when showering. Also, I have to be careful when I’m sleeping because last year one of the tops came off in my sleep and I woke up in a pool of blood. That was disgusting! Thankfully that hasn’t happened this year (please, knock on wood)!
By the 5th day, my chest was itching so much, every time I moved my chest would itch and itch but I couldn’t scratch it! That was horrible!
This was taken Saturday, March 11th. I was finally feeling pretty decent and my best friend came down for lunch and a short visit. I was able to get up and get myself dressed and visit for a few hours! It was a great day!
This photo was taken Sunday, March 12, 2017. I went from feeling great one day, to not even being able to get out of bed at all the next. I’m still on so many pain pills and antibiotics and I must’ve slept wrong because I woke up in so much pain so I took my antibiotics and Percocet without eating breakfast first … And I was so nauseous and dizzy all day long Sunday. I stayed in bed all day and night.
Today I had my first follow up with my surgeon and he told me everything is healing pretty good. I got to have the 2 vacuum drains removed, but the other two drains have to stay in for at least another week because they’re still draining about 40-60 ML of fluid per side day each, and they need to be less than 20 ML, but preferably less than 10 ML before it’s safe to remove them.
Taken Monday, March 13, 2017. A little less than a week after my surgery. I didn’t know it until today (because I had the vacuum bandages on), but my surgeon filled my expanders with 200 cc’s of fluid on each side and he repaired some of the scars on my chest so now I don’t look like Frankenstein-Chest! Also, by the time the tissue expanders are removed and the permanent implants are inserted, they should cover those scars!
Taken on March 13, 2017 on the way home from my first follow-up with my surgeon.
Tomorrow will be one-week since I had my surgery and it’s been quite the roller coaster ride. But I’m slowly getting better and soon this too will be put behind me, just like my breast cancer and my chemotherapy.
God continues to bless me and make me stronger and more determined to survive this and share my story – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Cancer is ugly, mastectomies are ugly, chemo is ugly, surgeries are ugly … Surviving is beautiful. Opening up and giving unrated truths is beautiful. This disease may have affected you, or someone you love, or it may one day. Telling your story is a beautiful thing. Cancer affects everyone differently, some suffer in silence, some want to share…I choose to share because when I was deciding on treatment and what to do, I searched and searched for real information from real people. I didn’t want statistics or information from a medical website, I wanted real stories. So that is why I share mine.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve had a horrible journey and more times than not, I wanted to quit, to lay down and die. But I SURVIVED and I feel that this horrific journey made me even stronger than I could have ever imagined and every day that I wake up, even if I’m in pain, I feel so blessed that God deemed me worthy to survive, fight, and share my story.