Today marks 6 weeks since my last surgery. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good…very full….but good. Originally I thought I was going to have injections into my expander every Friday for 1 – 2 months. What actually happened was I only needed to have weekly injections for 3 weeks!
I’m deathly afraid of needles, so Dr. Harper was kind enough to be aggressive with my injections and make the most of each of the 3 that I had. During surgery, he put 50 CCs of fluid in the expander. Each of the subsequent injections he continued to put 50 CCs of fluid in so I achieved max capacity of 200 CCs in my expander much quicker then I was expecting. One of the many reasons I’m so happy I went to Dr. Harper for my reconstruction process. And with 200 CCs occupying the lower half of my boob, I’m feeling very full these days!
So what does the expansion injection process entail? The whole thing really takes less than 5 minutes. A big syringe is filled with what I assumed was saline. The syringe is connected to a little tube that ultimately ended with what Dr. Harper called a paper thin needle. This is one area where I will have to disagree with Dr. Harper. What he called a paper thin needle looked like knitting needle to me….far from thin. This difference of opinion may have more to do with my insane fear of needles then the actual size of the needle…but to save face, we’ll just move forward assuming it’s the biggest needle ever.
Once the syringe was ready to go, Dr. Harper used a little magnetic device to locate the area of my expander where the needle needed to be stuck through to inject the fluid. After disinfecting the appropriate area, he stuck the needle in and injected all the fluid. And that’s really it….short and sweet.
My injections always took a little bit longer, because I have a tendency to freak out anytime a needle comes close to me. So there were always a few failed attempts before I actually let Dr. Harper stick me. And fortunately because the tissue in my boob was still so numb from surgery, I didn’t really feel a thing in any of the 3 injections. So I pretty much made a big deal out of nothing….typical Nicole style
Being aggressive with my injections meant that I did experience some discomfort over the last few weeks. After my first one, I woke up Saturday morning feeling a lot of discomfort, with an incredibly swollen nipple, and some redness / feverish area on my boob. I was really concerned about possibly having an infection, so Andrew called Dr. Harper to talk through my issues. After texting over a few photos of my boob, Dr. Harper assured me that he thought everything looked normal and gave me a small prescription for an antibiotic just to be on the safe side.
Side note…I have to have the best fiancé in the world because he was willing to text essentially a half naked photo of me to another guy from his phone. Granted, the other guy was a doctor, but still. The things you do for love!
Fortunately, the redness and pain subsided by Monday morning. Nothing really of significance came out of my second injection…I just felt very tight after. My third injection was by far the worse. With the third, my expander was filled to its intended capacity, 200 CCs. Because everything is tightly packed into my boob at this point, the expander was sitting on my ribcage in a rather painful position. For the first 3 days following the injection, I was unable to take a full breath. Each time I tried, I would get a shooting pain in my ribs. It really sucked and I ended up spending the better part of the weekend panting and feeling like I was constantly out of breath.
I thought I was going to have to go in and get some fluid removed, but my skin stretched enough over those first few days and the pressure on my ribs eased enough by Monday to feel comfortable again.
And now it’s just a waiting game. I’m not really sure if the expander is doing what it should be doing at this point. I’ll see Dr. Harper again tomorrow for the first time in 2 weeks to check in and see how I’m progressing. I’m hoping we’ll get my next surgery on the calendar so I can have an end goal to look forward to. I’m not 100% sure that my next surgery will be my last, but it definitely helps to have something to be working towards.
Photos from 140 weeks post chemo are below…