Full Life, Flat Breasts

I am out of the hospital and recovering in beautiful Northern Michigan. My dad drove the eight hours to retrieve me from Cleveland Clinic on Thrusday, and we all made the journey back up north on Friday. While it was a long drive, it really wasn’t too bad and I am oh-so-glad to be in the comforts of home again.

I know I have a lot of cancer patients, particularly breast cancer patients, following my writing. I have had them in mind the last few days as I recover from my mastectomy, and I am mostly writing this piece for them. It is an opportunity to talk honestly about a procedure that naturally was very frightening and anxiety producing for me. It’s also an opportunity to stand up again and be honest and open about who I am and what cancer looks like for me.

Right before I went under for surgery, the plastic surgeon told me he didn’t feel comfortable enough with the margins around my tumor to keep some of the skin on my breasts. In particular, he advised I would lose my nipples. The tumors had been too big and too close to the surface, he explained. I then watched as he marked my flesh with purple pen indicating the areas he would cut away. I found myself staring down at my chest and almost patting my boobs in an attempt to say “goodbye friends.” What else do you do when you know you are walking through a door that will close behind you for good? You give your breasts a little gratitude speech, run your hands over what has been yours your whole life, and then hope they hurry up with the sedatives already.

When I woke up, it was late. The surgery lasted somewhere between 5-6 hours and in that time they took my breast tissue from both sides and 4 lymph nodes from my left side. They did not find any indications of residual disease- which, of course, is fantastic news. They placed the temporary expanders under my pectoral muscles, which will be inflated later on. For now, everything is bound down with bandages and a tight, front-closure bra.  It was all very ordinary and went completely as expected- by doctors’ standards at least.

I will admit, the first 12 hours was challenging. I was in pain, I couldn’t find a comfortable position to lay in, and I was foggy and groggy from being sedated. I worried that first night that this would be a very hard surgery to recover from. But just as I started to fret, the pain became manageable and I started to come back around. I went for a few short walks around the hospital wing, and even ventured down the elevator to the main level. Coughing was painful and it was hard to figure out how to get in and out of bed (you can’t use your arms at all, really). But with Tom’s help, I was able to do everything I needed to do. Every day brought a significant improvement in function, independence, and comfort. I even walked yesterday for an hour and plan to keep moving every day until I go back for my follow-up appointment on Thursday.

The parts I thought I would struggle with the most, the drains and the pain, have turned out to be completely manageable. Tubes leading out from my breasts, one on each side, are responsible for emptying the fluid that collects until the tissue has healed enough so that it is no longer draining. I thought this would be dis-gus-ting and that I wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Turns out, it’s not really gross at all and it’s kind of fun to have something to obsess over and make sure it’s perfectly maintained. If that sounds like OCD, you’re right…so what. I’m going to enjoy the fact that my hyper compulsion to measure output and strip the lines is driven by a personality defect and that I don’t have to suffer and cringe at the thought of this mandatory personal care item.

As far as the pain goes, at this point (5 days out) I’m totally fine. I’m sore, but it’s nothing significant. I feel like I got punched in the chest really hard, but I no longer wince when I cough or sneeze. Between the pain medications and the natural healing process, I have surprised myself at how good I feel. I am very very relieved at this and so thankful to be progressing so well.

Finally, there is the aesthetics. Ladies, I’m talking to you here. Frankly, I look like I was run over by a lawn mower. But don’t panic- this look is temporary. My expanders are empty and things are swollen in some places and deflated in others. It’s kind of a bizarre pocket of time where I know this isn’t permanent and it’s the first step in transitioning to my new body, but I also think it looks weird and totally foreign and fascinating. I have decided to include a photo below because a lot of women were kind enough to share their chests with me post-opertaively and that was so helpful for my peace of mind.  I want to put it out there so other women see me at this phase and then later again to know what realistic recovery is like. I want to give them reassurance to know that their time is coming, too, and that it will all be okay.

So here I am, without breasts. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it either. It just kind of is what it is, and I’m okay with that. Just know these scars were hard won and that beneath them lies a very humbled, very powerful, and very excited woman. Part of losing my breasts is preserving my future. I am so damn happy to have a future. And if the past is any indication, the incredible (and I mean incredible) amount of love an support I’ve received will guarantee that I will have a beautiful and full life…even if I currently have not-so-beautiful and deflated breasts.

Love to you all.

Give ‘Em Hell

5 Days Post Mastectomy

28 Comments Add yours

  1. Suzannah says:

    Katie, this is suzannah an old client. You may or may not remember me but you made a huge difference in my life. This is my father’s phone, his name is Harris and he stopped by your office to say hello and give you another thanks only to find out you are currently going through treatment. My mother is a survivor of leukemia, she has been in remission for the past 14 years. We are sending you love and good vibes, you are so strong I know you will get through this. We are thinking of you and we wish you a quick recovery. We are both grateful that you came into my life. Much love. Suzannah and Harris Kal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Susannah! So so good to hear from you. I could never forget you! I am so happy to hear that I made a difference in your life, and I’m also glad to hear your mother was successful in her battle with cancer. Thank you so much for reaching out. It means so much to me 💗


  2. Rose Rademan says:

    You are still cute as hell, my new idol..Thank you for sharing this journey with all these strangers/new best friends. I’ll continue praying,
    You’re such a rock star pain-wise too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh boy! What a compliment! Thank you so much for giving me the boost, Rose!


  3. Jill Kline says:

    Katie, you are amazing! Thank you for inspiring us all and helping to decrease fear in those that need it. I know Katie personally and had the pleasure of being her teammate and classmate. She is truly a strong, dedicated, determined, and beautiful woman! Keep fighting, Katie! You got this, girl! Praying for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jill! Thank you for the sweet note. It’s so great to hear from you! XOXO


  4. Heather Watts says:

    You are amazing! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Words cannot express the gratitude I feel as I read your post! So amazed by your strength. xoxoxo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for saying so! I really appreciate that 🙂


  5. Diane says:

    Keep fighting, Katie. The worst is behind you and there are many blessings ahead of you. Two most important young ladies waiting for their mom at home!
    I am a BC survivor (2x’s) and life is very good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Diane!


  6. Kathy says:

    Katie, thank you for sharing your story, my cancer is stage 4 and has spread to my bones I. am having a single mastectomy on Thursday 10th. I’m not gonna lie but I’m a little nervous about it. Your story and experience has put my mind and heart a little bit easier. Your courage is amazing. Again thank you. Stay strong and fast recover.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathy! I’m so sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I’m glad to hear my story has helped a little, it’s good to be in good company, right? I’m really continuing to do well post-operatively, and can tell you that it’s really not too bad. I wish you the best in your battle and welcome you to stay close as you fight on. Best wishes.


  7. David Mazurek says:

    Katie you are beautiful inside and out you are the strongest young woman i know you have helped so many people throughout your survival i don’t know if you know this but you have and not just those who have cancer i know this because Iam one of them. We all have problems in one way or another your strength and will to survive give others the same. Thank you for that. I wish you a fast recovery and safe trip home .Give’em Hell Katie. Love you Uncle David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Uncle David. We love you so much and your support has meant everything to Tom and me. Love you!


  8. Cassandra Nelson says:

    So proud of you! This is a huge step for any woman, and you are handling it with such grace! You continue to be an inspiration to all who know you… thank you for sharing your story with the world! Cancer seems to touch everyone in some way.
    You are so strong and amazing! Sending lots of happy thoughts your way. Xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. kate c. says:

    You’re a powerful force. Thank you for sharing your life with so many of us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Cynthia Spethman says:

    Katie, your brave open heart is such a force. Baring your body in the woods is so bold and strong. You continue to amaze me and obviously many, many others. Stay strong and thank you for sharing this chapter of your life with all of us. Love you and so glad Tom is there for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Rene Tyree says:

    You are amazing! Thank you for letting walk this path with you… it’s been humbling and full of love.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kyra Baker says:

    Katie, Thank you for sharing. You have a beautiful soul & I wish you a very speedy recovery. Stay Strong.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kelly Browe says:

    I am so incredibly proud of you! Keep fighting and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers! Love you girl!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Kate Bryan says:

    You are an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your story and bravely sharing the very “real” results❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Noreen Crowley says:

    Katie, so glad this part is behind you. You are a beautiful woman inside and out and I know you will continue to forge forward with the positivity and determination that you have displayed through this journey. Prayers continued for you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. You are amazing and thank you for sharing your story and your photo. Giving hope to the fearful is a beautiful and powerful gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Cindy Ruis says:

    Katie, you’re beautiful inside and out! Prayers of praise over your path report!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Kara says:

    Katie I’m so so happy you are doing well. You are beautiful inside and out. Thank you for sharing. It helps with perspective if what you are going through. I hope you have a great recovery and healing process. Keep your spirits up you will get through this with flying colors. Continued prayers all day everyday. xoxo 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  19. jennifer corbett says:

    your amazing katie!!! your a beautiful person inside and out. your in our prayers

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Linda T. says:

    I’m so glad you are feeling as well as you are, and the surgery is behind you, Katie. Keep healing, and continue with the great attitude – I know you will. That is what has gotten me through my year, and honestly, when I look back at my year chronicled in pictures, the year had so many wonderful moments that eclipsed the tough ones. I have a feeling that you feel the same way, and will continue to do great. Thanks for sharing your battle! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Pam S says:

    Katie, I’ll show you “mine” anytime! You’re amazing and you and your family WILL get through all of this! 0nward😊

    Liked by 1 person

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