Friday, September 20, 2013

Torture Expansion, I mean Tissue Expansion, is complete

I explained a little bit in prior posts about reconstruction after a mastectomy. But here's a quick recap... all of the breast tissue was removed during the surgery, then temporary implants were placed behind my pectoral muscles, and I'll get a final set of implants (still behind the pec muscles) in about six months.

The temporary implants are called "tissue expanders" because they start small and are slowly filled with saline via a port over several weeks to stretch out the pectoral muscles to hold a final implant later.

For you visual learners, here is what that looks like... 
From John's Hopkins

So for the past several weeks I've been seeing my plastic surgeon for "expansions" or "fills" of my tissue expanders. We had to complete all my fills pretty quickly because no more fills can occur during or after radiation.

Remember how I said the tissue expanders are behind the pectoral muscles? Yeah, so that means the tissue expansion process hurts like b*tch. Like seriously, I thought I had a high pain tolerance until this. For several days after each expansion any movement I make that engages my pectoral muscles hurts like crazy. Just when I'd start to feel almost better, I'd get another expansion.

This week I had my final fill, and I'm so glad to be done because this one hurt the most. It's been three days since the fill and it still hurts to take a deep breath. Oh and my back hurts a lot too because those muscles are trying compensate for the strain on the pecs. Wonderful.

This would all be manageable, but I have a 16 pound baby to pick up and carry around! It's not that I can't pick her up, it's just that each time I do I feel a lot of pain. She's so cute though, it makes up for it.
Hi Elise!
Sorry if this was a whiny post, but I'm just sick of being in pain, and I'm sick of people saying "at least you get a free boob job." Believe me, if boob jobs were this painful, no one would get them.


  1. I absoutely can't imagine. A teacher I worked with went through the same thing with needing complete reconstruction, except in one of her surgeries something got infected. It was literally months before she could come back to work. She was in so much pain.

    I know you can't wait for all of this to be done, praying for you always.

  2. I have been praying for you on this journey. My mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time and will be undergoing a mastectomy as well as some reconstruction from her previous surgeries. I hate cancer!

  3. You are allowed to feel any way you need to. What you have been through and are still going through is painful beyond what most people could do. I have been keeping you in thought and prayer. I can understand the pain of the tissue expanders a little bit. I had one in my left arm, along with 13 surgeries, to remove a precancerous enormous birthmark. They needed to stretch my skin to a full expander to be able to excise the birthmark. When it filled it expanded outward, but also inward pinching off all the nerves in the arm. I remember the fills very well. I hope it is okay that I shared that. I don't equate your tissue expansion, chemo, radiation with my arm surgeries. Wishing you the best.

  4. ugh, I can't imagine how much pain you must be in. Glad this portion is over for you.

  5. Hugs, I can't even imagine how hard those expanders would SUCK. Glad you're finished with them and hoping that you start feeling much better SOON.

  6. Oh that does sound so painful. I can't understand why anyone would think that is fun. I worked with a gal who had hers augmented and I remember seeing the incisions and it just looked so painful. She did it during a week long break from school, but I remember she had to take more days off because she just couldn't do it. Hope you start feeling better soon!

  7. Thinking of you. I know you're ready to put all of this behind you and move forward. xoxo

  8. Oh my goodness - you are TOTALLY allowed to complain.
    I had breast implants put in (cosmetic... not medical) in May - and it HURTS LIKE CRAZY. Mine are behind the muscle too. But I was 100% healthy, and didn't have a mastectomy so I can't even imagine what you are feeling. Sending lots of love your way!!! xo

  9. Oh wow I didn't know there was so much to the process. Glad you are done w/ that part of it!

  10. You are not being a whiner! I laughed when you said, "I thought I had a high pain tolerance until this." Me too! I had my babies with no pain meds and it was not a problem but THIS! Ugh, I am 2 weeks post mastectomy with expanders and I am telling the surgeon to put the implants in. We started at 300cc and that is enough. I don't really care that I will be disproportioned- I can't take this anymore.