Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Picture You've Been Waiting For (or not...)

You know you want to see them. Don't deny it. I mean, it's the address of the blog, for goodness sake. So I'm boldly going where few double mastectomists have gone before. I'm going to let you see a picture.

Before you go clicking on that link down there, I have to explain a few things. But I know you've already scrolled down and clicked. So I'll capitalize one thing so maybe you'll see it before you even start reading this paragraph. I HAVE NO NIPPLES. Okay, was that big enough?

Now for you rule-followers who didn't click in advance, I'll get on with the explaining.

When Dr. Cooper went to take off my boobs, he made an oval shaped cut, maybe 5 inches wide, right around the top of my cancer breast. Then he took off that skin and discarded it (actually, sent it to the pathology lab) and scooped out all of the breast tissue underneath. I guess I picture it kind of like scooping chili out of a bread bowl, only taking an hour while carefully using a scalpel.

Then, Dr. Baum put a bag of saline inside the empty hole and sewed up the skin that was left. (He also added some AlloDerm to attach to the muscle for support, but if you Google that, you might be disgusted, so I'll let you few curious readers do that on your own.) For some women with normal sized breasts, the bag of saline may have been all that fit. But you all know that I had D cups before, so he was able to put 350ccs of saline inside the expander during my original surgery date. I haven't had any more saline added, and I'm quite certain that I'm fine with what I have right now.

There will always be a scar horizontally across my breasts. However, it will fade with time. After my chemo is done, Dr. Baum with cut those same lines again, take out the saline bags (expanders) and put in my silicone implants. He will also reshape the breasts so that they match a little better and are a little rounder.

If I want to, I can have another small surgery where he can take some of my skin and fashion it into a nipple shape. I don't know how that's done, and I haven't decided if I even want to do it. Paul's fine with the way it is, and I am too, as the new nipples would have no functionality nor feel any different sensations than regular skin. The only reason I might do it is that Maggie and Reese might feel more comfortable during puberty if they look like their mom.

The nipples that can be created are the same color as the skin on the rest of the breast, so if someone wants to have that darker skin there, it has to be tattooed on. Dr. Baum showed me pictures of other patients and it totally ends up looking like a nipple. But I will never forget the picture of one creative (or crazy) woman. Instead of having her nipples tattooed a shade darker than her breast, she had a sunburst put on each nipple. It got me thinking. If I were crazy enough, I could get an Otto on each boob, right?

One last thing for you rule-followers who haven't clicked yet. There's a bandage below my left shoulder. (Yes, it's the left. Since I was looking in a mirror to take the picture, you don't have to reverse the image to figure out left and right.) That is from the surgery I just had a few hours ago to put in my port. Underneath that bandage, and then shallowly under my skin, is a place to access a juicy vein so that I don't have to have IVs in my arm every week during chemotherapy.

Okay, done with the explaining. Here's the picture of what I look like, 20 days post-double-mastectomy.


  1. Wow, Shari, they really look good. Seriously, I was imagining something much more Frankenstein-like to start with. Like many women, I feel like this is something I always have to be prepared for, and now I can just concentrate on choosing the perfect nipple tattoo instead of worrying about having scary boobs.

  2. You look fantastic! I am amazed at how quickly your incisions have healed. I had no idea that a nipple needed to be tattooed for coloring....that seems like an awful lot of pain for a chick that's already been to hell and back. would think that they could find an easier way than that. On the flip side, though, it'd be kinda cool to have 2 tattoos that no one would be the wiser about. Your resilience is inspiring. And I am ever so grateful that you are sharing the details of your journey with us. Should I ever find myself making this same journey, I will have some knowledge to build from and one hell of a role model to follow!

  3. Thanks, Ladies! The reason for writing this blog started out as a way to sort out the information I was being bombarded with. But it has turned into my greatest source of support. (And it's fun!) Each time I post, I have amazing women like you telling me to keep up what I'm doing, so I will. :)

  4. Shari,
    You are a warrior, those will not be scars but the stripes any tiger earns! Our kids go to pre school together and when I see you I am in awe. You rock and are an inspriation to all of us. I have a Race for the Cure team and have done so for the past 7 years. Last 2 we were the biggest and most money raised. Julian has decided to walk for your daughter this year! Here is the link to the team page, we would LOVE your support. We are fighting this for you as you are fighting we are here supporting you. Please let me know what I can do, any time!!!

    Ann Marie:0) Looks like breast cancer picked the wrong woman to piss off! Go get em Shari!!!