1 year ago today I had my DIEP flap surgery.

 

I can not believe that it has been a year since my initial surgery.  This year has gone by so fast.  From being scared about this surgery, and now actually wishing I had known about the PALB2 gene earlier, I am so pleased with the results.  Just knowing that my chances of breast cancer are so much lower and not having to have 4 exams a year gives me a peace of mind that I never knew could happen.

I would like to thank my Doctors, Dr. Atilli (Oncologist), Dr. Jennifer Snow (breast surgeon) and especially Dr. Nabil Habash (DIEP Flap Reconstruction Surgeon).  They all have been so wonderful during this whole process.

I am so pleased with the results.  I am posting before and after pictures below and the difference is amazing.  I don’t miss my original breasts or big tummy at all.  My new girls are my breasts now and I could not be happier.

I see that people do read my blog, but not very many ask questions.  I will gladly answer any question about this surgery, from a patients perspective only.

There are a few things and suggestions that I have learned from trial and error about healing from this surgery.

  1.  Try to strengthen your CORE before surgery.  It helps with being able to get out of bed.  You can not use your arms at first so a strong CORE helps.
  2. Stay positive always.  Your body will heal and everyone heals differently and at a different time table.
  3. Bring clothes to the hospital that can be pulled up rather than down.  Your arms do not move easily and while pulling a shirt up (elastic neck) your arms can just stay by your side and not move much.  Loose stretch pants are the best while healing.
  4. Bring a lanyard with a velcro loop for all of the drains and Doppler Machine wires.  You can wind them up and put the loop around them.  Hanging them from your neck is so much easier on you.  You will use this many times while healing with drains and other machine wires.
  5. There are many sports bras that can be bought at a cheaper price and work very well.  Front zippers were the best for me.
  6. Wear a very thin and tight T Shirt, (with short sleeves and no pockets) under your support bras.  This keeps the edges of the bra from rubbing and hurting your very tender skin.
  7. There are many long line compression briefs that are very inexpensive you can purchase at ordinary stores.  (great for 2nd stage lipo recovery)
  8. If your Dr allows, stretch your arms.  They will be very tight and raising them overhead is painful and it needs to be stretched.
  9. All wounds will heal.  Some are very lucky to not have to do wound care, but it will all heal and the scars are not that bad.
  10. Love your new breasts and body.  They are not perfect, but most of us did not start out with perfect breasts and body.

Well I am winding down this blog.  I sure hope that it helps some people in making this decision and through their healing journey.  I will post additional pictures if I am able to loose the last 20 pounds that I have.  I am curious how weight loss will affect my new breasts.

 

Before and after pictures are below.  If these kinds of pictures bother you please do not view.

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Before surgery left side.JPG
Left side before Surgery
Oct 31 2017 3.jpg
Left side after surgery

 

Before Surgery Right side.png
Right side before surgery
Oct 31 2017 4.jpg
Right side after surgery
BS front.JPG
Front View before surgery
Oct 31 2017 1.jpg
Front view after surgery
Oct 31 2017 2.jpg
The new girls.
Oct 31 2017 5.png
Tummy scar after 1 year and my belly button.

Oct. 15, 2016 Getting ready for Surgery

Like I said before I have read so much on the internet and have tried to use the information I found in preparation for my surgery.  Several suggestions that seemed helpful were to turn the pockets of pants and robes to the outside to hold the drains.  Let me say something first.  I am not a paid person to say anything about the products that I am going to try and use.  The items that I am going to use have come from the stories that other people have told and from my own observations.

I found some shirts at Walmart that have an elastic neckline which I can step into and pull up without using much muscle at all.  I bought a larger size to help with the fit.  Since I am actually older the style does not look too bad on me.  I also found some scrubs with an elastic back and a drawstring on the front.  They will roll down easily to be under my healing scar and are loose fitting.  Since it will be getting colder soon I will need warmer clothes (pants), instead of shorts.

As for the drains I purchased some pouches that stick onto fabric so I put them on the inside front of the shirts to hold 4 drains.  Hopefully I will not have 4 or even none (big dream of mine).  I have a picture of the shirts and the drain pouches (Pink Pockets) with the shirt inside out to show the placement.

surgery-tops

After surgery I will post how well these items did.

I shopped for the stool softeners, Tylenol, and even bought prunes.  The thought of constipation is awful.  Hopefully I can keep it away or at least have it not be too bad.   Small travel case is packed and ready.

August 26, 2016

I had my ovaries removed yesterday. Just a day surgery but had a hard time with nausea.  They were careful to make their cuts where it would not affect the DIEP flap surgery.   At least I can let them know how I reacted to the Anesthesia so maybe in Oct it will not be so bad.  They had me smell peppermint to help with the nausea and it seemed to work.

Aug 23, 2016

On a different note I am having my ovaries removed this Thursday due to the many calcifications on them. My risk for Ovarian Cancer does not raise much with the PALB2 gene but I am tired of the constant Ultrasound I need to have on them and since I am finished with menopause I thought it would be better to just have them removed. They cannot do it at the same time so I had to schedule it at least 8 weeks before the DIEP Flap surgery.   It will be laparoscopic so it should not be that bad. I had a hysterectomy in 1995 so this should be an easy surgery, I hope.

First blog post

nannie-and-byron

August 6, 2016

My name is Annie and I am 60 years old and about to start my DIEP Flap Journey,

My younger sister had breast cancer 12 years ago and was tested for the BRCA1 and BRAC2 gene and was negative.  We were all excited about that.  Well last year the oncologist called her and said that there was a new gene, PALB2 and wanted her to be tested for it.  She was positive so we all began the process of testing.  Brothers and Sisters.  So far all that have been tested are positive.  Odds are 50% but we seem to be at 100% so far.

Decisions needed to be made and suggestions were to be tested every 3 months, rotating with an MRI and Mammograms or have a Prophylactic Double Mastectomy.  Since my odds are 1 in 3, the thought of having tests done 4 times a year was not something I was looking forward to.  I have very dense breasts and always get the letter afterward stating that because of the density of my breasts it is hard to actually get a great result from the scans.

My husband and I made an appointment with the Breast Surgeon at TX Oncology SW Ft Worth,  Dr Jennifer Snow.  While waiting for the appointment we were sitting in the waiting area and watched as women came in for their chemo and other treatments and that actually helped us make the decision.  I did not want to be older than I am right now and having to go through Chemo and surgery.  Our decision was made before even talking to Dr. Snow.

Dr. Snow was wonderful in her exam and discussion of the options I have for the procedure.  She explained them very well and after an exam she told me about the DIEP flap procedure.  I have enough skin and tissue (fat) to do the procedure. She gave me a brochure from one of the surgeons here in Ft. Worth but said to do research for myself also.  I did not want to have implants and have to have them replaced at a later time.  I want to be finished with the reconstruction within a reasonable amount of time.

I called a friend who is a CRNA and talked to her about the choices I have in Ft Worth. I told her that they recommended Dr. Nabil Habash (http://txdiepflap.com) and she said that she knows him.  She has known him for quite awhile and likes his demeanor and ability.  I did some more research on him and found out that he has been doing this procedure for quite awhile with a less than 1% failure rate.  I probably read everything about DIEP flap surgeons in the State of TX and spent many nights searching as many blogs and stories I could find.   After much soul searching I decided to call Dr. Habash’s office and make an appointment

I was able to get an appointment with him the next week and he is wonderful.  He tried to explain the other procedures to me but I had already watched a 2-hour video of an actual DIEP flap surgery and was positive that I wanted to go this route.  He examined my breasts and tummy to make sure that I was a good candidate for the DIEP Flap procedure and he said that I had plenty of tissue to make me the same size I am now, a 40DD.  I asked to be made smaller.  As a man I do not think he understood why but I am tired of being so big.  He is going to make them smaller and back to the beginning of the race or not so close to the end of the race.

I am scheduled for surgery for Oct 31, 2016. I chose to wait until then so I could be done with my busy season at work.  We do a lot of physical work in Sept and Oct and did not want to stick my Company with accounts that needed work done.  My job is slow during the months of Nov, Dec and Jan so that will give me 3 months to be able to recover and be able to lift 50 lb. again.

I have to loose 15 lbs. by then also. I have lost 5 but it has been hard.  The work I do puts on muscle during this time of year.  I will add to this more as I think of things and post pre op pictures before the surgery.

Since this blog goes from last post first you might see the wound care and think that it happens to everyone.  Most people heal without any trouble but some, like me, do have trouble because of age or skin problems.  Mine was  because of being so big and wanting to reduce my size.  Please do not be discouraged by the pictures because as of 3/17/17 everything is completely healed and the scar should be gone after stage 2.  So completely satisfied with my results.

You can leave comments if you would like.