My First Expander Fill

Sharing is caring!

I’ve been looking forward to this for a few weeks now. It’s the start of the next phase of this cancer journey. I’m no longer healing from the last surgery, I am now getting ready for the next one – with my first expander fill.

It is now six weeks after my DMX when my tissue expanders were initially placed. My surgeon wanted me to wait this long so that I could heal well before starting the expanding process.

The whole appointment was actually quite quick. The filling process took all of five minutes at most. First my surgeon used this little device to find where the magnetic valve on each tissue expander was located in each breast and marked it with Texta. Then he filled a syringe with saline, stuck it straight in and added 50ml of saline to each side.

I did mention to my surgeon that I felt that my boobs were significantly different in size now that they had healed and settled, but my surgeon wanted to just do this first small fill and then next time he will look at the size more and decide what to do to even them up.

Many people had reported that the filling process is painful. You might be thinking that is because there’s a bloody big needle stuck in their boob, but that’s not the case. During the mastectomy, all the nerves under the skin are severed, so now the whole boob is pretty much numb. So sticking in a big needle cannot even be felt. It’s a weird thing to see, because we are so used to needles causing pain.

First expander fill
I can’t feel a thing, even with that big needle stuck in me

The pain from the saline fills is usually the pectoral muscles being stretched. I was surprised to find I felt nothing at all. I expected to be sore for at least a couple of days as the muscles stretched and healed. All I feel is huge!

Last visit my surgeon had said I would probably have only two fills. Now he thinks it will be three. I go back again in two weeks for my next visit. I am a little concerned I am going to end up with boobs bigger than I am used to, but right now I am just trusting my surgeon knows what he is doing. He has to make them bigger first so that there is plenty of room to fit the implants in he tells me!

Here’s what the expander looks like. The injection goes through that soft silicon bit on the top. The base of it is quite solid.

The rest of the visit consisted of my questions, and of course the number one question was can I now travel! “Of course” was the answer – which I had assumed, but I needed to get it confirmed because my travel insurance relies on the travel being okay with the treating doctors.

We discussed the Tamoxifen side effects of blood clots that I had seen a lot of talk on. Many people are told to stop taking it before flights. My surgeon likened it to the risk when taking the contraceptive pill, and that I shouldn’t worry too much, just take the usual precautions such as wearing compression socks, get up and walk regularly and drink a lot of water. I do all these things already, so there will be no change for me.

I also got the okay to take any vitamins I might like to take. I have heard magnesium can help with Tamoxifen side effects, and since I am not eating meat I’d like to get back to taking some iron too. I am going to start with a multivitamin, mostly because I already have them, and I don’t have any Tamoxifen side effects yet. If they do kick in, I will up my magnesium and see how it goes.

The last thing I wanted to know was if I could stop wearing the surgical bra 24/7. I had been cheating a little for the last few days and not wearing it all the time, and he said that it was okay, but unfortunately I still have to wear it most of the time, especially while I am sleeping!

As soon as I got home from the appointment, I made good on the travel thing and booked a cruise to New Zealand for hubby and I for next month. I thought I better not book a big adventure holiday, so the cruise was a sedate and easy option. We got a great deal too because we are booking at the last minute.

I have to say, I didn’t think there was much difference, but when I look at these photos side by side I can see there is definitely more fullness on the sides near my armpits.

Since my appointment my sister has heard back from the genetic counselling people. I have thought all along that there is not a genetic basis to my cancer. I’ve only had one Aunt with breast cancer, not my mother or Grandmothers or Great-Grandmothers.

But my sister decided to look into it, and the big thing I didn’t know was that another Aunt (who passed away years ago from something entirely different) also had ovarian cancer which is often genetically linked with breast cancer. Also in this same “family” of cancers is prostate cancer, which both my Grandfather and my Uncle had – again, I did not initially realise there was a link. All these cancers are on my Mum’s side of the family.

So my sister really wants to get genetic testing. I do not. At least I don’t really want to, but now I am thinking about it. I am apparently the ideal candidate in the family to be tested, and unless I do the test and come back positive, they won’t test her. I also have to remember I have two daughters who might also want to know this for their futures.

Much to think about…..


  1. My sister had Ovarian cancer last year, she had the test for the gene, which thankfully came back negative. This was a huge relief for her four sisters, two daughters, three nieces, and one granddaughter.

    1. Unfortunately that’s half my fear – coming back negative and then everyone gets lulled into a false sense of security. A negative result does not mean no cancer gene, it just means you don’t have any of the cancer genes that have so far been discovered and you were tested for. There are new ones being found all the time.

  2. Can I ask why you don’t want the testing done? If you have a gene mutation,then you’re at risk of ovarian cancer,which is a lot harder to “cure” by the time it’s discovered.

    1. Partly because I have to pay a whole pile of money for the testing (testing is only free if you have enough risk factors, and I don’t), but also because I don’t believe there is a genetic component to my cancer, it’s just bad luck. It also affects more people than just me, and some of them don’t want to know either.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *