Tissue Expanders Suck

When I had my double mastectomy, they inserted devices called tissue expanders in the areas of my chest where my breasts used to reside.  You may not have heard of tissue expanders (ahem, torture devices!). I had not heard of them before all of this started either.

Basically, the expanders are thick, plastic, balloon-type devices. When I first saw the expanders I couldn’t believe that they would be inside my body.

There is a metal port in the “balloon” that enables the doctor to fill the expanders with silicone. After the mastectomy, you go in for fills every week or so until you have the size that you want. Then you leave the expanders in for a couple months in order to stretch and prepare the skin and muscle for implants.

They are pretty uncomfortable. It feels like I am wearing a heavy iron bra that I can’t take off. They feel very hard, like rocks.

The feeling of having tissue expanders in your body is just…really strange. It’s very hard to get comfortable while sleeping. Sleeping on your stomach is out of the question. Even sleeping on your side is a challenge. I try every night. When you move onto your side, the expanders pinch and seem to get heavier. Also at the end of the day, they feel very heavy. Gravity, I guess.

They do look pretty good, I will admit. Especially when I have clothes on, they look just like boobs.

In September, the tissue expanders will be removed and replaced with implants in a surgery called “The Exchange”. The surgeon exchanges the expanders for implants. I read on one blog that a woman called the exchange getting her oil changed. Funny. The surgeon brings different sizes of implants into the surgery to figure out which ones look best. They actually sit you up during the surgery (while you are under anesthesia) to see how the different sizes look. My girlfriends and I recently had a laugh over this..its pretty weird, right?

From what I have heard the surgery and recovery is much, much easier than the mastectomy. And the implants are supposed to be softer, more like breasts and much more comfortable.

I am excited and anxious to kiss these expanders goodbye. 4 more weeks!



A Quick Check-In

I’m baaack! Sorry for the long break and to those who had issues accessing the site. I don’t know how much more I am going to update this blog. In a way, it feels like this thing is almost behind me. I do have one and a half more surgeries to go, but I feel like the worst is over. Honestly, I am pretty anxious to put this behind me and move on with my life. But maybe this blog will help someone else going through this. I have not really decided how much I will update it, but I will probably keep it live for awhile.

For those catching up, the final pathology from my double mastectomy said that my cancer is Stage 1B. That means it was very small (under 1cm) with no lymph node involvement. While no cancer is a walk in the park, this is the type of pathology report you really want to get. The oncologist said that radiation and chemotherapy are not needed.

As a precaution for the cancer recurring, I will take a hormone blocker drug called Armidex for 5-10 years. Its actually considered an “oral chemo” but its nothing like the traditional chemotherapy we hear about. For most, the side effects are pretty mild. So far I have not really had any side effects. For a week I was having bad headaches, but they have subsided so I am hoping they are unrelated.

I still have the tissue expanders in until late September when they will be swapped out for implants. The expanders are definitely a bit uncomfortable, but I am getting used to them.

Most days feel pretty normal. Its a bummer that I have this second surgery ahead…another surgery to recover from. But, from what I have heard it will be nothing compared to the double mastectomy so I am hoping for the best.

It all kind of feels like a bad dream but its almost over!