As I have been going through my breast cancer experience over the last year, I have found comfort and motivation in sharing my story with you all. This post will show my bilateral mastectomy pictures from start to finish, all in the one post.
Have you joined a breast cancer support group on Facebook but been completely overwhelmed by some of the posts? It’s fantastic that these groups are an open forum and all sorts of questions, worries and issues are address, but sometimes they can be too much, in fact downright scary.
If you would still like to join a support group on Facebook but not be faced with some of the scarier aspects when you don’t want to see them, come and join Positive Breast Cancer Stories. Here we share positive stories, celebrate milestones and encourage each other rather than deal with the technical information.
I know that when I was first diagnosed and still in that phase of trying to decide on the best treatment for me, I couldn’t get my hands on enough information. My favourite thing to read was the personal stories. Sure, medical opinions are important, but they miss the personal touch, how women who are going through this REALLY feel. Results are often glossed over, or there’s just so much medical jargon it’s impossible to understand. I am not a medical professional, this is just my story, from my perspective, with my opinions. (Please check anything I say with your own doctors to see if it suits your situation. Everyone of us is different)
All the photos in this post can be found in other posts on my blog, but I wanted to bring them all together in one post, particularly to share with newly diagnosed women who want to see the steps from start to finish. I often shared my photos on Facebook too, but tighter restrictions has made that impossible, so to be able to give one link will be more helpful.
If you haven’t read my whole blog (yet ) then here’s the quick version of my diagnosis and treatment.
I found a lump! My GP sent me for a mammogram, ultrasound and biopsy. Nothing showed on the mammogram or ultrasound (I have dense breasts, do you?) and the biopsy came back as inconclusive. There were some bad cells, they just weren’t sure if they were cancer or a papillary lesion. I chose to have the lump removed surgically, and it was after that, in October 2019, that I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). I did not have clear margins so would need another surgery.
This time I chose a bilateral mastectomy (DMX), and started immediate reconstruction with expanders. You can read about my decision here. I had my DMX in December 2019. From there everything went smoothly. Exchange surgery to UTM (under the muscle) implants was in April 2020 and I had my nipples reconstructed in August 2020. I had my nipple tattoos done over two sessions in January/February 2021.
My Bilateral Mastectomy Pictures
I didn’t take any photos after the lumpectomy – there really wasn’t much to see. My incision was around the edge of my areola and therefore was almost invisible. I didn’t have any bruising or visible external signs, and by the time the bandages came off two weeks after surgery it was like I had never had surgery. At certain angles a dent could be seen in my boob where the tissue had been removed, and perhaps my cleavage (what little there was!) wasn’t quite so defined, but it wasn’t obvious and didn’t bother me at all.
This photo below was about two hours after I came out of theatre after my bilateral mastectomy. I was surprised and very happy to see that I wasn’t flat. I had known my surgeon would partially fill the expanders, but I had seen so many other people with partially filled expanders that still looked flat, and that’s what I was expecting. (The pink stuff is the disinfectant my surgeon likes to liberally splash around as you will see after each surgery. The black is the Texta he used to draw on me.)
This is about 36 hours post-op. I wasn’t allowed to shower, but I had been able to clean a lot of the pink and black off of me by now. The tape on each side below my boobs is where my drains are coming out of my body, two on each side.
I had my first expander fill done at around the six week mark. I then had two more fills done at two week intervals. I had 50ml added each time. I don’t think there is a huge amount of difference, but there is definitely more fullness at the sides and even the cleavage looks more pronounced.
About six weeks after my final fill I was ready for my exchange surgery where the expanders were taken out and implants were put in. This surgery was actually brought forward so I could have it before the covid-19 restrictions on elective surgery commenced. I was the last elective patient my surgeon operated on for weeks. This photo was taken just after I came back from surgery.
This photo was taken 24 hours later.
My next surgery was five months later in August. I had my nipples reconstructed and my left implant was swapped for one 50cc bigger. That side (the one on the right as you look at the above photo) was visibly smaller than the other once the implants settled into place. I probably would not have worried about getting it fixed, but my surgeon suggested it since I was going in for the nipples anyway. Now my implants are 415cc on the right and 465cc on the left.
This photo was again taken immediately after the surgery. The black spots are not blood, but holes cut in the gauze to protect my new nipples.
Two weeks later the dressings came off. My new nipples were not pretty. I knew they wouldn’t be at the start, and that over time they would shrink, but they were still quite shocking to see.
The next photo was taken exactly one year after my double mastectomy, almost four months after my nipple reconstruction. My boobs are by no means perfect, but this is a relatively good reconstructive result and I am okay with them. I will be even more okay as my scars loose their redness entirely.
Here’s a side on view. My nipples are just big enough to have some projection without being so big that they are obvious in all my clothes.
I think now my boobs look much better in a bikini. I don’t even mind that the scars show a little.
Even though I was finished all of my surgeries, I was not quite finished. Next up was nipple tattoos! Or to be more precise, areola tattoos. These will add colour and be the final finishing touch! I had to wait at least three months after the nipple reconstruction to do this.
The tattoos are done in two stages. The first stage is adding a base layer of colour. The photos below were taken before and after the first session.
This is right before the tattoos were done. I was worried my scars might still be too red, but they were okay
The second stage of tattooing was done about five weeks later. The colour had faded significantly before this sitting. Now it would be built up again and a few little 3D elements added.
And right after the second session of tattooing. Again these are a little darker than they will end up, but no where near as bad as they were after the first session.
I will give these a few weeks to settle fully, and then add one final photo. Finally, seventeen months after this all began, my reconstruction is complete!
Want to read more of my story? Here are some of the key posts
- Lumpectomy and Finally the Results
- My Bilateral Mastectomy with Tissue Expanders
- Exchange Surgery – From Expanders to Implants