What to expect for your 2nd phase of Reconstruction

May 19, 2015

14 months of living with a rock hard tissue expander in my chest! 14 months of having one breast bigger than the other, 14 months of not sleeping on my stomach, 14 months of not wearing bras… (well actually, that wasn’t so bad…)

I couldn’t be happier to say that my 2nd phase of reconstruction is now complete! What does that mean? Goodbye tissue expander, Hello implants!

Here’s a quick recap! In February 2014, I had a full mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Basically, after my oncology surgeon removed my breast, the cosmetic surgeon took over and built me a brand new boob, using AlloDerm (cadaver skin) a tissue expander and a whole lot of talent! He also added a little implant in my right cancer-less breast for symmetry! It couldn’t be perkier!

After that, I only had 1 expansion. That’s when they fill your expander up with saline to stretch out your skin, creating a pocket for the implant. Pretty much like filling up a balloon with water. Because I didn’t want ginormous boobs, 1 expansion was sufficient.

Then in May 2014, it was time for radiation! Yes, that means I did radiation over a tissue expander. Something many doctors don’t usually recommend, but my surgeon’s theory was, “If ever radiation makes it collapse, we’ll just fix it in the 2nd phase!”. Luckily, my skin handled it well and there weren’t any complications.

So why the wait? Well, my surgeon recommended that we wait at least 6 months for my skin to heal inside and out before cutting it open again!

The holidays passed, my breasts healed and it was time for my consultation!

As you know, time flies and on April 29th, 2015 it was time for my 2nd phase of reconstruction.

So heres what to expect!

Pre-op Tests

Like any surgery done under anesthesia, you have to do your pre-operation tests at least a month before. But it’s as simple as a blood tests, a swab in your nostrils and a short check up with a doctor to make sure you’re okay.

Topless Photoshoot

I’m not sure if all surgeons request this, but I had to take topless pictures! I guess he uses it to compare and make sure that he creates something that looks as natural as possible. At least I hope so… lol.  I also did it before my mastectomy, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to a topless photoshoot. So not my industry…

Scrub a dub dub

The night before your surgery, you need to shower with a disinfectant soap sponge that the hospital provides you with from neck to toes. Wake up extra early the next morning because you’re going to have to do the same thing the morning of  your surgery.

Fasting

Once the clock strikes midnight. No food, no water! So be sure to hydrate yourself and have your favorite meal the night before. If you can choose the time of your surgery, the earlier the better!

Outfit of the Day

First thing first, strip down completely and get into your OOTD. One hospital robe closed at the front, another over it closed at the back. Then another type of yellow robe to be placed over paired with cute little slippers (Ok more like hair nets on your feet… but ya!). Why so many layers? I’m not quite sure… but all I know is that the surgery room was freezing! So you’ll appreciate it.

Questions! Questions! Questions!

Make sure you are patient that day, because you’re about to be interrogated by at least 4 different people, asking you the same damn questions over and over again. Allergies? No! Heart complications? No! Any metal is your body? No! NO NO NO NO NO! I’m perfectly healthy… I just had cancer!

Sweet Dreams

After a long wait, chilling in my hospital bed nearly falling asleep. I finally got rolled into the operation room. My surgeon used a marker and drew a few lines, the anaesthesiologist inserted my IV, next thing you know an oxygen mask was placed on my face and someone says sweet dreams!

It really feels like you’re sleeping. And when you wake up, you’re back in the room you were initially waiting in and you have no idea how much time has passed, or if anything was even done! But then, the pain begins!

The Pain

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you feeling?” the nurse asked.  “Seven…” I replied. “That’s a lot!” she said. “Well it freakin’ hurts” I replied. And so she handed me more pain killers. Anyone who’s skin is cut up will definitely be in pain no matter what. It feels like I was stabbed in the chest (not like I know what that feels like…).

They also took my port-a-cath out while they were at it! So basically, my entire chest area was sore.

Sitting / Standing up is the worst! Gravity is a B*tch! They cut me up just beneath the breasts, so obviously when the implants go down due to gravity, it puts pressure on the cuts.

A mastectomy is definitely more painful, but at least then, you stay overnight hooked up on that good stuff. But after your 2nd phase of reconstruction, you gotta go home! So they keep you until you can stand. Expect a very painful car ride home… especially in Montreal! Those damn pot holes are a problem…

The Recovery

For those who follow me, you know that my TEDtalk was 3 days after my surgery. I was praying that I wouldn’t be in pain by then. My prayers were answered.

I must admit, the first 24 hours are dreadful. The next day is quite difficult. But on the 3rd day, I was able to stand without moaning. It was still uncomfortable, but not painful. I couldn’t really lift my arms up high hence why my hair was a hot mess for my speech! And yes, I did my Ted Talk wrapped in bandages as you have to keep them on for 7 days.

I’d say it takes about 1 week to recover completely from your 2nd phase of reconstruction. But don’t go out and start heavy lifting. Give your body time to heal and wait for those stitches to dissolve (I’m still waiting!).

New Boobs

400cc implants and a sexy new cleavage! I was originally an itty bitty B-cup, and now I’m pretty sure I’m a full C. I have yet to go get measured at VS.

It’s amazing what doctors are able to do these days. I must say… I’m impressed! What does it look like? Well my left breast has a horizontal scar across it. That’s where my tumours were removed. I also have another scar beneath the breast, because my surgeon didn’t want to re-open my old scar since it is sensitive from radiation. The same scar on the right was reopened for implant adjustments in my cancer less breast. So that’s a total of 3 scars on my breasts and a 4th scar where my port-a-cath used to be. Oh and then there’s a 5th scar in my cleavage from my scooter accident in Koh Samui… but that’s a different story…

As soon as I heal a little better, I’ll give you more details on the results!

I hope this gave you a better idea on what to expect for your 2nd phase of surgery!

Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and Facebook where I give you live updates and short inspirational stories. Like this post on the day of my surgery:

surgery day
Full caption: 
Expander OUT, Implants IN! 2nd phase of Reconstruction and last surgery everrr: COMPLETE! ✔️ YAY to new boobs!

But wait… BEFORE I receive any comments about how “lucky” I am for getting a free boobjob. Can I just say… This is not the same! And I have to admit… I will NEVER understand how women can purposely put themselves under the knife to “fix” their perfectly healthy breasts! As I write this in PAIN, as I stress about not feeling 100% for Saturday’s TEDtalk and not being able to workout to the fullest for a month (when I was just starting to get fit again). It boggles my mind that women are blessed with good health & beauty, yet still opt for cosmetic surgery.
I am not lucky because I got free implants. I am lucky because many women with breast cancer CAN’T do reconstruction post-mastectomy (Their bodies reject it) ! Today, I’d like to commend these warriors for learning to love their flat, scarred chests regardless. Together, let’s never forget that WE are lucky to be alive. New detailed Blog Post on “What to Expect for your 2nd phase of Reconstruction.” coming soon on NALIE.CA #breastcancersurvivor #mastectomy #reconstruction

Help me help others! Share this post so it reaches anyone who’s about to go through the same! 

Thank you! Be kind to yourself.

xo
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Ps: Have you been through your 2nd phase of reconstruction? Got any advice for others? Comment Below and Spread the Love.

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8 Replies to "What to expect for your 2nd phase of Reconstruction"

  • PinkStinks
    May 19, 2015 (8:43 pm)

    Id be happy your alive!! I had this all done increase in size etc. but this was not a boob job!! It was a chance at second round of life and who knows for how long. So please do not glamorize breast cancer!!

    • Nalie
      May 19, 2015 (9:10 pm)

      Yes! Definitely a second chance to feel normal. I don’t think people mean to glamorize breast cancer. I believe some people just don’t get it… and don’t really know to what to say sometimes. So they try & “be positive” by saying Oh you’re so lucky to get a boobjob. But they mean well. They just don’t understand the reality, which is why I’m out to spread awareness. 🙂

    • Nalie
      May 19, 2015 (9:12 pm)

      Yes! Definitely a second chance to feel normal. I don’t think people mean to glamorize breast cancer. I believe some people just don’t get it… and don’t really know to what to say sometimes. So they try & “be positive” by saying Oh you’re so lucky to get a boobjob. But they mean well. They just don’t understand the reality, which is why I’m out to spread awareness.

  • Angela
    July 3, 2015 (7:45 pm)

    I have been so grateful to follow your journey. You are a few steps ahead of me, but I, too, had a mastectomy, TAC and will finish radiation next week. My expander is still in until reconstruction. I’ve been so frightened through this process and have found your videos to be invaluable. It’s one thing to read blogs – many from ten years ago – but your videos gave me comfort. Actually seeing things and hearing your honest descriptions, with your gorgeous smile through it all. Truly, thank you, Nalie. I wish you all the best.

    • Nalie
      July 7, 2015 (10:57 pm)

      Hi Angela!

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment. Congratulations for everything you’ve achieved this far. Radiation is almost done? How exciting!!! I’m so happy to know that my videos have helped you in any way! Thank you for motivating me to keep this blog going. I really appreciate your sweet words. Best of luck in your healing.
      Here for you always!

      Your friend.
      Nalie

    • Scooter ✓ᴰᴱᴾᴸᴼᴿᴬᴮᴸᴱ
      January 21, 2017 (11:52 pm)

      Oh. God. Pray for…. these.

      • Angela
        January 22, 2017 (2:58 am)

        ??

  • Arleen Hernandez
    January 15, 2017 (12:46 pm)

    After my Bilateral Masceptomy I was sent home! How Brutal I was in so much pain I could not believe I was sent home. My surgeon said he wanted me to rest at home so no one would bother me with vitals every hour. Hum I was up your right the first 24 hours is Brutal.