Warning : one for the TMI files
For part IV of this series I am doing a little photo essay on my reality, my journey with IBC in which you will get to see pictures of “Gertrude” as she was as I was going through initial treatment and also my mastectomy scar etc –
Once upon a time (July 2008 to be precise) I was 45 years old getting used to YD not living at home. I had long curly hair
I was overweight and had rather large breasts. I had been proactive and had a mammogram at 42 years of age (before the free screening age) and had always kept an eye one my breasts -felt for lumps etc and so was feeling confident that I was not at any great risk of anything creeping up on me, that I would find any breast cancer before it got too far.
I knew nothing of Inflammatory Breast Cancer so when my breast blew up all big red and funny looking, I had no idea that I was looking at cancer – “didn’t have a clue what it was but it couldn’t be cancer” -you can read more of my diagnosis story here -very soon I was sitting here
My breast to quote my official diagnosis in medical jargon was oedematous and erythematous with erythema over at least 75% of it. In layman’s terms that translates to had a swollen and red breast with redness over at least 3/4 of my breast. My nipple had inverted and the aureole around was raised, puckered and had changed colour
The picture above is of Gertrude just after I had my third of 6 taxotere and herceptin treatments the breast has subsided a little bit and my aureole around my nipple doesnt look as bad as it did but I had had to go from a G cup underwire bra to an H cup maternity bra just to get something that was soft and supportive enough to wear while I was having treatment as they weren’t going to perform a mastectomy until it was more under control.
The picture below is of both my breasts for comparison. The marks on the side of ‘Gertrude’ show that even wearing the bigger bra size, after a day of activity there was more swelling and even that bra pushed into the swelling in my skin. The bump in my skin above my other breast is where they inserted the portacath.
I never completely lost my hair – in this picture I was due a ‘haircut’ of the soft gray fuzz that was left. – wouldn’t you know it – it was only the gray hairs that didnt fall out
In April 2009 I underwent a mastectomy and axillary node removal– I had a reduction and a benign lump taken out of my remaining breast and now wear a prosthetic silicon breast in my bra – so that when I am out and about in public people see this
However when I am at home and want to be comfortable quite often I will walk around without a bra and therefore one-boobed
And when I look in the mirror when I am getting dressed this is what I see – the scar reaches from my breastbone, round beneath my armpit and finishes around on my back –you can just see the end of it to the left of the side-on picture
Why have I put these pictures on my blog – because I felt it was time to. As much as I tell people that my breast blew up etc they have no real concept of what that meant. I know there are a few other pictures out there on the web but in the interests of me keeping the theme of real breast cancer awareness I thought I would put what it was/is really like for me in the hopes it will help someone else.
I also know that some people I know IRL are interested in what my scars look like but don’t want to ask to see them so here they can look and I won’t know unless they leave a comment . LOL Since being diagnosed I have lost a lot of my inhibitions about things like this. I had an appointment at the beginning of October 2010 with my breast specialist that had originally diagnosed me and we were discussing the fact that taking my top off and letting doctors and medical students look at my chest has become quite routine for me.
And that after one recurrence already they are keeping such a close eye on me that isn’t going to change anytime soon … and every three weeks I am sitting in one of those chemo chairs, just like I first did August 2008, doing my best to insure it doesn’t come back.