The "After" Photos, Two Weeks and Counting

Some of the more tame photos after two weeks

My flattened belly. You can see the healing scar that stretches from one side of my waist to the other.
My flattened belly. You can see the healing scar that stretches from one side of my waist to the other.
The "before" profile of my belly and my breast when it felt like something real.
The "before" profile of my belly and my breast when it felt like something real.
A front view of the belly scar.
A front view of the belly scar.
The "before" photo of my big belly.
The "before" photo of my big belly.

Please don't look if you have a weak stomach

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I'm not kidding...the following photos are pretty gross.My new belly button had to be created and isn't doing so well. Stuff is oozing out.The center of the bandages shows what was moved from my belly up to my new left breast. The yellow skin shows some bruising.The tube that exits my stomach and drains into this plastic thing that looks like a grenade.From a sitting position, looking down at my new belly and the drain attached to my stomach.The stiches showing on my new right breast.Another view of the stitches on the new right breast. Again, the center of the stitches shows my belly skin. The remainder of the belly chunk is buried under the skin to form a breast shape.
I'm not kidding...the following photos are pretty gross.
I'm not kidding...the following photos are pretty gross.
My new belly button had to be created and isn't doing so well. Stuff is oozing out.
My new belly button had to be created and isn't doing so well. Stuff is oozing out.
The center of the bandages shows what was moved from my belly up to my new left breast. The yellow skin shows some bruising.
The center of the bandages shows what was moved from my belly up to my new left breast. The yellow skin shows some bruising.
The tube that exits my stomach and drains into this plastic thing that looks like a grenade.
The tube that exits my stomach and drains into this plastic thing that looks like a grenade.
From a sitting position, looking down at my new belly and the drain attached to my stomach.
From a sitting position, looking down at my new belly and the drain attached to my stomach.
The stiches showing on my new right breast.
The stiches showing on my new right breast.
Another view of the stitches on the new right breast. Again, the center of the stitches shows my belly skin. The remainder of the belly chunk is buried under the skin to form a breast shape.
Another view of the stitches on the new right breast. Again, the center of the stitches shows my belly skin. The remainder of the belly chunk is buried under the skin to form a breast shape.

Truth? or Not?

Is it better to find out the truth? or keep things happy?

  • Of course, the truth is better. Tell me everything. I want to be there for you.
  • Well, not so much truth. Maybe a little is all I can handle.
  • Screw that! Lie and tell me you are fine so I don't have to hear you bitching. Isn't it enough that you write all this crap down and I'm supposed to read it?
  • Don't worry, I'll never ask how you're doing anyway.
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"So, how are you doing?"

It's two weeks from the day of my surgery and I find it amazing how the body heals itself; how this machinery of cells and energy combine to create skin that recovers and grows and mends. No, I'm not talking "miracle" shit. Don't expect that from me. And anyway, the body mends; the mind generally takes longer. For now, everyone wants to know, "So, how are you doing?"

Do I tell them the truth, or what I'm really feeling? Probably best not to say what I'm really feeling. People don't want that kind of information, do they? If I told them the truth, it would be like the time I went to the synagogue to pick up the kids from Hebrew school and a friend asked, "So, how are you doing?" I paused before answering, assessing what I could say in response. I'd known her for a while and felt we had developed a reasonably open friendship.

"Well, I've got my period, terrible cramps, a migraine and I feel like shit." Wrong answer.

She just looked up at me with surprise and answered, "More than I needed to know, but I hope you feel better soon." It was a lot more than she wanted to know, but fuck it. That was back when I actually got my period; before a doctor told me they need to rip out my ovaries and take away any chance of conceiving children in the future. It's not that I really wanted more children. Mark's too old for a new baby and in any case, I'm in my 40s. I'd be crazy to have more kids. Still, it's just not having a choice in the matter that really bugs me; there's not even room for the child that turned out to be a happy accident.

Well, then why did have your ovaries out, I can hear the argument. With my odds of getting ovarian cancer (one in three, compared to most women's chance of about one in 60 to 70), you likely would do the same.

Now, I have too many opportunities for people around me -- strangely enough, it's usually my mom -- to see an infant in someone else's stroller and comment about how maybe I should get pregnant again. That is painful to hear. I don't say anything. And then, sometimes, they remember, I can't get pregnant. Not even if I wanted to; I can't because of this fucking gene mutation that has left my body ravaged from multiple surgeries.

Okay, too much? Again? Fuck it. If I can't say these things out loud because of societal restrictions, then at least I can spew my emotions and thoughts and fears on these pages. Read the words if you want. Don't if it bothers you. It's everything that's inside in me. I suppose that means my thoughts are like my mother's paintings; her really good ones that hang in museums; the ones that reveal her darker side, not the commercial crap (no, mom, your painting isn't crap. You know that; it's just what we call the art that actually sells in stores, etc.). If I could write my feelings into a song, I would. Unfortunately, I'm not that clever.

You can't tell the truth! That would be rude.

For years, I wasn't allowed to say anything disturbing to anyone. It was during the years after Renee, my sister, was killed. Yes, I say she was killed because when you're a passenger in a car and you don't have control over that car when the driver runs it into a massive tree, then it means you are killed and you don't just die from a disease, or jumping off a bridge for that matter.

For years, people would ask how I was doing after Renee died and it wasn't the right thing to do to tell them the truth. How am I doing? I'm doing shitty. I feel like a huge part of my life has been torn away. It is unfair and ridiculous and cruel. It regularly rips through my mind, heart, stomach, head. It makes me physically ache and ill. It makes me angry that my childhood was ripped apart while you stand there asking such an uncomplicated question that should provide a complex answer.

Those who asked didn't really want to know the truth because they couldn't, nor were they expected to, do anything to make me feel better. They wanted to hear I was fine, getting along better every day. But only time eases the pain of a death. And time has eased that pain in many ways. It doesn't take away the pain, only helps you not think about it too much so you can go on living without the person you thought you'd never be able to live without. It was nice of all those faceless people to ask how I was doing after she died, and I apologize if I was a bitch; if I wasn't as polite as I should have been in response to your polite, obligational question.

Time. Here I am again hoping time is on my side and will heal the physical side of my recent surgeries, as well as the mental aspects of losing parts of who I am.

I already showed you the "before" photos. If you dare, take a look at the "Two Weeks Post Surgery" photos. You may be curious as to why I show some of the more personal parts of my body...

First and foremost, I want other women who are considering this surgery (bilateral mastectomy and TRAM Flap reconstruction) to have a clearer understanding of what they are getting themselves into.

Secondly, it may seem strange, but while I would have never considered showing my breasts (uncovered) on the internet in the past, now these masses of skin attached to my body don't really seem like breasts to me just yet (if ever). They don't look the same, nor do they feel the same.

Granted, they are still bruised and swollen, but with parts missing (areola and nipple), they simply don't seem like breasts to me. Especially since they are now filled with what used to be my belly. You can see a small part of my belly in the center of all the bandages. The remainder of my belly meat is tucked inside, under the skin to form a breast.

Eventually, when they resemble breasts, they will never lactate, never experience the sensation brought about by a lover's touch. Instead, they will likely feel numb or no more sensitive than running your fingers across your elbow.

I'm really not trying to sound bitchy or angry. My mother says I do. I hope you'll accept my story for what it is; my experience.

So, how am I doing after two weeks? The reality...I hurt all the time. I'm afraid to move my left arm too much because of this one extremely painful spot that reminds me of the surgery any time I put the slightest weight on that arm, outstretch the arm, or try to rub my hands together when washing and drying them (a terrible situation for someone with OCD). My skin is numb and extremely sensitive simultaneously (or it's everything under the skin that screams with sensitivity and pain and I just can't tell). I'm tired of not being able to stand up straight because of the "Bride of Frankenstein" scar running across my belly that pulls my torso towards my legs. I'm tired of being out of breath when I walk around my house, and generally tired of being tired. I want to feel well again and stop taking all these pills. I miss sleeping on my side or completely reclined. I miss being able to drive (actually had a dream about driving the other night and woke up so happy that I'd been able to drive again), but I hate going out in the car; I travel with several pillows protecting me from seat belts hurting my chest and stomach wounds, and I'm terrified of bumps in the road that jar my body and create pain. I miss being able to hug my kids or my husband because everyone is afraid to hurt me. I'm worried about my husband's stress level taking care of me and the kids (although, he says he is more relaxed being at home). And I'm terrified about him returning to work next week and leaving me alone with the kids when I'm still having trouble getting around.

Well, one good thing, though; I can actually shower myself again. Yippee! I suppose it's better to leave on a high note.

Okay, enough! Again, you ask, how do I feel?

"Oh, I'm fine. Yup. Getting better every day."

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Comments 7 comments

fortunerep profile image

fortunerep 7 years ago from North Carolina

I am so glad you are doing better and it takes courage to share what you have shared. I also understand about your sister, I went through the same thing,. Keep it up, stay healthy.

dori


Joelle Burnette profile image

Joelle Burnette 7 years ago Author

Thanks, Dori. I'm sorry you and your family had to go through this. It's a difficult path.


MUTHU 7 years ago

LOAD KRISHNA BLESS U.................


Kathy 7 years ago

Thanks for sharing your story. I do want to know the truth. I am thinking of having the tram flap done now. I had bilateral mastectomies in jan, 2007, and am tired of having no breasts and tired of trying to fing the right prosthetics, not being able to wear regular bras and certain types of shirts, and general discomfort with my body image. I just turned 50 this summer. Did you think it was worth it? Do you wish you didn't have it done? Thanks


Joelle Burnette profile image

Joelle Burnette 7 years ago Author

Hi Kathy, Yes, I would do it over. I started writing a response and it turned into a story... "Regret or Delight?"

I remember how miserable my sister was when she was flat on one side and had a breast on the other. I would definitely look into this procedure if you have the option. You may not be a candidate if you don't have enough skin in the tummy area--I didn't have that problem. Personally, I wouldn't want to deal with prosthetics and I didn't want to have implants after watching my sister with all the hassles they bring.

Let me know what you choose to do...just make sure you have a top notch surgeon who can make your new breasts look as natural as possible.


Nancy Lee St Louis 6 years ago

Hi,

Thanks for sharing. I will be having the Tram Flap surgery on Monday Oct 26, 09. I had a masectomy left breast in Feb 09. I am anixious and nerves all at the same time. I guess my big concern is getting a hernia. Did you have the mesh put in? Of course the pain is always a concer - but I know it won't last forever. Anyhoo, just wanted to say your story really did help me and I am sure everything will be fine. Keep getting stronger!


Joelle Burnette profile image

Joelle Burnette 6 years ago Author

Nancy,

I'm glad my story helped. I also was concerned after hearing about the possible hernias, but no, they didn't put in the mesh. So far, everything seems okay in that regard.

The weirdest feeling is the muscles criss-crossed across my chest going up to my new breasts. I make an effort not to strain my stomach muscles too much, but you'll notice a huge change the first time you get sick and begin coughing a lot...it feels like someone is grabbing hold of your torso.

I wish you the best of luck on your surgery and recovery. You'll be in my thoughts.

Truly,

Joelle

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