Check out your lumps!

Even after reconstruction such as I’ve had, you need to keep checking your breast for anything that is not normal for you.
My normal has been a bit off kelter recently, but when I found a lump the size of a pea I knew that was not my norm!
Although I had been discharged by my plastic surgeon’s team, I didn’t bother going to my doctor, I phoned my plastic surgeon’s secretary for guidance. She spoke with my surgeon and I was given the choice of travelling through to her hospital or a local appointment. I opted for a local appointment (as when I first ever found a lump, I was still convinced it was nothing to worry about).
My appointment was 0930 on Valentine’s Day and I had made my work aware of my appointment of indeterminate length. My appointment was almost on time, but when I explained my reason for being there I was told I was in the wrong clinic – the follow-up clinic. I needed to be at the new investigations clinic (that’s not what it was called – but I went into stressed-out mode which means I forget everything)! A new appointment was made for me at 1430. Not a good thing when you haven’t told your husband and he is expecting you home for the afternoon!
I had to go home and tell him!
He was fantastic! Scolded me for not telling him in the first place and took me in for my afternoon appointment.
It’s a lot different than it was 11 years ago. It took 6 weeks to find out the results back then! I had a lot of gratitude in me for the swiftness of the feedback, regardless of the result! Which, to save alot of waiting and details here, was benign cycsts (plural). I have to keep an eye on them for any change, but other than that I’m off the hook!
Such a relief! It had taken several hours and OH had had to go home, but all was well.
I walked the few miles into town to clear my head and acknowledge the gratitude of the results. Then caught a bus from town to home and the love it held within.

Alternatives to lipomodelling reconstruction

There is a lot of information available to those of you who want non-lipo reconstruction. Many books have been written on the subject and I have reviewed some of them for Macmillan as a Cancer Voice.

Your options include:-
Implants of a ‘foreign’ nature, such as silicon or saline-filled implants
Autologous ‘implants’ using tissue from other parts of your body, such as LD flaps or TRAM flaps
Everybody who has a reconstruction will probably have a different experience, as each persons body, cancer and treatment preferences will be different.
I do know from what I read that not every person will have the same options available to them. You only need to consider the variety of situations to realise this, for example:-
1) Bi-lateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction
2) Bi-lateral mastectomy with delayed reconstruction
3) Single (left or right) mastectomy with immediate reconstruction
4) Single (left or right) mastectomy with delayed reconstruction
5) Lumpectomy with delayed reconstruction (usually following radiotherapy)
5a) I don’t actually know if immediate reconstructions ever done after a lumpectomy due to the effects radiotherapy can have on implants

Much expert advice and information is available and this is continually being updated. You may find it useful to find out from your surgeon what the options are for you and then read up o it. I on the other hand went about it the other way and read about all the options available and ruled out the procedures that I did not even want to consider (which was most of them in the end). My summary is never going to give you the fullest of information so please do your own careful research.

Foreign implants:
Usually silicon and can be inserted under the skin or behind the muscle on the chest wall, depending on individual circumstances. It may be necessary to use an inflatable implant first to ensure that the breast area will accommodate the final implant. All man-made implants will eventually need replacing (as at the time of writing).

Autologous ‘implants’:
Most commonly from the back or the abdomen. The donor material is removed (usually) with blood vessels still connected. This is then tunnelled under the skin to its new site in the breast. The attached blood vessels keep the relocated tissue alive and increase the chances of a successful reconstruction. I understand that sensations from the relocated tissue are felt in the source site and that muscle movement in the breast may occur when flexing muscles in the donor area.

With man-made implants the surgical site is constrained to just the chest area (and when I say just the chest I do realise that this can be a large proportion of the chest, i.e. From breast bone to beneath the armpit).
Whereas with the autologous implant there will be additional surgery at, and from, the donor site as well.
It is well to remember that all surgical sites will need to be cared for during the healing process to avoid infection setting in and potentially prolonging the time it takes to heal.

Again, I repeat what I said earlier… The information input here is information I discovered when I was researching my own reconstruction. It is not necessarily the most up to date and it is most definitely worth your while investing some of your own time in finding out what is available and also what is most appropriate for your own circumstances. Bear in mind that research into breast cancer is a very active field and developments are leaping forward all the time. You may even get to be a pioneer!

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Five fears about reconstruction

Having had 2 operations for my breast reconstruction I think I can narrow the list of worries and apprehensions to five key fears:-
There isn’t a specific order to the list, as it changes on my mood and what is foremost in my mind when I think about it.
1) The reconstruction will be a failure and I could end up having gone through surgery and all that it entails with no benefit whatsoever.
2) The procedure will not only be a failure but I will have a worse appearance than before I started.
3) The reconstruction will hide any recurrence of cancer returning and it will not be find in time to deal with it effectively.
4) The procedure will have complications and I will end up with severe health problems (other than cancer related) to live with.
5) I won’t make it through the surgery and I’ll never see those I love again.
After that last one there’s not much else to say! Boo!

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Get your bras VAT-free*

This was first posted over on my personal blog but I think it would be useful for readers of my bralady blog too!

I’ve been living with the diagnosis of breast cancer since 30 October 2000. In that time I’ve seen a lot of hospitals and experts due to moving around the UK quite a bit.
Not once has anyone told me that as a patient who has had a lumpectomy (and this applies to mastectomy patients too) if I buy a bra specifically made for someone who needs a prosthesis (ie with a pocket or pockets) that I am entitled to have my purchase charged to me at a VAT-exempt rate under Group 12 of Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994.
Bearing in mind that it is now 11 years since I had my diagnosis and I only found out this important piece of information 6 months ago – that is a lot of extra VAT that I’ve been paying unnecessarily. I understand that health workers of all types (Drs, nurses etc) are busy people, but it doesn’t hurt to produce a leaflet of facts that apply to every patient and give it to them to read in their own time! I know it’s not just me, as a Bra Lady I fit other ladies who have had breast cancer and I haven’t come across anyone so far who has been aware of this fact!
At a time when money can become a precious commodity due to being unable to work – information such as this can be vital in helping ends meet. Not only that, but mastectomy bras are slightly more expensive due to the additional work involved in adding the pockets, so the VAT exemption brings them down to a comparable price-range. It is worth investing in mastectomy bras as they are a great deal more comfortable for ladies who have more sensitive skin following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I much prefer them even now as I still find I have sensitive skin even all these years later.
Ladies, make sure if you have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy that when you buy pocketed bras – you ask for them to be exempted under Group 12 of Section 8 of the VAT Act 1994 and sign the appropriate document to confirm your eligibility. If the vendor selling you the bra doesn’t know what you are talking about, do what I’d do – educate and then shop elsewhere.

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BraLady goes to School

Bra Lady East and North Yorkshire will be back in School – Scalby School, Scarborough to be exact – on Saturday 3 December 2011 at the school’s Christmas Fair.

Fittings will be available, as will lots of bras to choose from.

New Chloe Black Mode Mastectomy Bra
Black Chloe Bra

Make sure that you take the opportunity to pop along and see Julie in person and either have a fitting on the day or book one before Christmas to make sure that you look extra special this year!

Looking forward to seeing you on the day, Julie

Directions on how to find Scalby School can be found on the school’s website under the Contact Us tab

Get your bras VAT free* (if you’ve had a lumpectomy or mastectomy)

I’ve been living with the diagnosis of breast cancer since 30 October 2000. In that time I’ve seen a lot of hospitals and experts due to moving around the UK quite a bit.
Not once has anyone told me that as a patient who has had a lumpectomy (and this applies to mastectomy patients too) if I buy a bra specifically made for someone who needs a prosthesis (ie with a pocket or pockets) that I am entitled to have my purchase charged to me at a VAT-exempt rate under Group 12 of Section 8 of the Value Added Tax Act 1994.
Bearing in mind that it is now 11 years since I had my diagnosis and I only found out this important piece of information 6 months ago – that is a lot of extra VAT that I’ve been paying unnecessarily. I understand that health workers of all types (Drs, nurses etc) are busy people, but it doesn’t hurt to produce a leaflet of facts that apply to every patient and give it to them to read in their own time! I know it’s not just me, as a Bra Lady I fit other ladies who have had breast cancer and I haven’t come across anyone so far who has been aware of this fact!
At a time when money can become a precious commodity due to being unable to work – information such as this can be vital in helping ends meet. Not only that, but mastectomy bras are slightly more expensive due to the additional work involved in adding the pockets, so the VAT exemption brings them down to a comparable price-range. It is worth investing in mastectomy bras as they are a great deal more comfortable for ladies who have more sensitive skin following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. I much prefer them even now as I still find I have sensitive skin even all these years later.
Ladies, make sure if you have had a lumpectomy or mastectomy that when you buy pocketed bras – you ask for them to be exempted under Group 12 of Section 8 of the VAT Act 1994 and sign the appropriate document to confirm your eligibility. If the vendor selling you the bra doesn’t know what you are talking about, do what I’d do – educate and then shop elsewhere.

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Final visit to the oncoplasty clinic

November 1 2011, my final visit to the hospital – Mr S was to come through on the one hour drive to the hospital, but a package we were expecting to be delivered has not arrived, so I drive through on my own. It’s a frustrating drive, due to MOD vehicles slowing the speed of traffic on narrow winding roads and I get to the hospital 2 minutes before my appointment and cannot immediately find a parking place! Parking fee eventually paid I run round to the clinic from a car park further away and gasp my way to reception! Then I wait for three quarters of an hour for my name to be called!!!
I see a Doctor that I have never seen before, who doesn’t introduce himself and who on inspecting me and deciding that as much can has been done as can be, does not offer me anything else to balance me out (I had expected to be offered a reduction on my healthy breast – not that I would have had one – but someone else in my place may have done!)
He advises me that I am discharged – back to my Doctor and to see my GP if anything further needs addressing.
That’s it
The End!

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Items to take into hospital with you… (via Julie Short)

Seeing as it is breast cancer awareness month (and if you tweet, look out for this hashtag #bcam), I thought that a blog about what to take into hospital may be of use.

This is one from my personal blog about my cancer and reconstruction.

https://julieshort.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/five-things-to-take-with-you-when-you-go-for-lipofilling-on-your-breast/

This is as much a reminder for me as it is a list for you, the reader. I find that my memory doesn’t seem to want to work so well sometimes (I could say it’s chemo-brain, but I think it’s too long since I had it, to get away with that!).

Let’s see what I can come up with

1. Paperwork – you’ll need the consent form (if they send it in advance), complete with all your allergies, previous medical treatments, doctors details and your other key information. If they didn’t send the form in advance, make sure to take all this information with you.

2. Change of clothes – this time I’m going in as a day patient, but I’m still intending on taking a change of clothes in case I’m kept in overnight (heard that if the anaesthetic has a profound effect on me, this could be likely!). So that would be nightdress (not too tight over the upper torso, underwear, not my favourite bra (indelible ink does not come out of favourite bras!) and MAGIC PANTS for after the op. I’m also taking a bra extender (easy to find when you are a BraLady!) so that I can wear my bra a bit looser after my surgery for a while. I was told that if I needed a post-surgery bra, the hospital would provide one (which saves me taking one of my stock items and having to replace it).

3. Wash bag – whatever you like to take in yours, take! I’ll be taking the usual bathroom accessories, along with a towel.

4. Emergency Cash – last time I didn’t take much cash with me, not that there was a shop to spend it in. But if I’d had access to some funds I may have been tempted to try and get a taxi home. So it’s always useful to have access to some emergency funds.

5. Mobile phone – mine was so much a life saver! I was able to organise my escape, sorry – lift, from the hospital back to home. It also kept me occupied with writing my blog and playing brain train games.

And, the list recommended on the hospital website pretty much covers all that (see below):

  • Nightclothes
  • Dressing-gown
  • Slippers
  • Personal toiletries (including soap, toothbrush, face cloths, shampoo, comb, hair brush and talcum powder)
  • Bath and hand towel
  • Soft drinks (I’ll also be taking some individually wrapped “green tea” teabags)
  • Reading material
  • Tissues

Some “if appropriate” items:

  • Spectacles/personal aids
  • Denture pot and cleaner
  • Sanitary towels/tampons
  • Disposable razors
  • Shaving cream
  • Small amount of money for newspapers etc

As a footnote, I was handed some leaflets at my pre-op assessment which recommended a good scrubby-up bath and hairwash before you go in, to minimise the bugs that are taken in with you on your body. I’ll be taking that advice of course.

See you on the other side!

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Mastectomy bras and clothing

These are some of the bras and clothes that you can buy with pockets ready for a prosthesis to slip into:

Those which are front fastening are ideal if you have reduced mobility, for example due to arthritis, you will find that you are able to put on these bras without struggling.

All are available to order, some may not yet be on bras4all – however they can still be ordered – contact your BraLady.

Royce Heather Mastectomy Bra – R975P

Royce Heather Mastectomy bra
Royce Heather Mastectomy bra

Sizes: 32A, 32B, 32C, 32D, 32DD, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40DD, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42DD

Colour: Heather/Ivory

Matching Royce Heather Short – R944 available

Royce Heather Short
Royce Heather Short

Sizes: Small, Medium, Large

Colour: Heather/Ivory

Royce Jasmine Bilateral Pocket Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra – R423


This is a really pretty bra the photo does not do it justice at all!

Royce Jasmine Bilateral Pocket Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra

Sizes: 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 34E, 34F, 34FF, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 36E, 36F, 36FF, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 38E, 38F, 38FF, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40DD, 40E, 40F, 40FF, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42DD, 40E, 42F, 42FF, 44B, 44C, 44D

Colours: White, Black Skin

Royce Lingerie Chloe Bilateral Pocketed Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra R893

Royce Chloe
Royce Chloe Mastectomy bra

During October 2011 Royce will donate £1 per bra to “Against Breast Cancer” for every Chloe Bra purchased (including the new Black version, below).

New Chloe Black Mode Mastectomy Bra
Royce Chloe Black Bra

Sizes: 32B, 32C, 32D, 32DD, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40DD

Colours: Grey/Cream, Denim Blue/Cream

Royce Lucy Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra – R855P

Royce Lucy Mastectomy bra
Royce Lucy Mastectomy bra

Sizes: 32B, 32C, 32D, 32DD, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40DD, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42DD

Colours: White

Di Murini Rowena Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra- DiBra

Di Murini Rowena Post Mastectomy bra
Di Murini Rowena Post Mastectomy bra

Sizes: 32C, 32D, 32DD, 32E, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 34E, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 36E, 38C, 38D, 38DD

Colours: Black, Ivory, Pink, Red

Royce Comfi Pocketed Bra – R595

Sizes: 34, 36,38, 40 & 42

Colour: White

Royce Georgia Pocketed T-Shirt Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra- R886

Royce Georgia pocketed t-shirt bra
Royce Georgia Pocketed T-Shirt Mastectomy / Post Surgery Bra

Sizes: 32B, 32C, 32D, 32DD, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40DD, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42DD

Colours: Black, Skin

Anita Vanella Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra – A5760

Anita Vanella Post Mastectomy bra
Anita Vanella Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra

Sizes: 32A, 32B, 32C, 32D, 32E, 34A, 34B, 34C,34D, 34E, 36A, 36B, 36C 36D, 36E, 38A, 38B, 38C,38D, 38E, 40A, 40B, 40C,40D, 40E, 42A, 42B, 42C,42D, 42E

Colours: Black, White

Anita Alicia Post Surgery / Mastectomy Bra – A5756X

Anita Alicia Post Mastectomy bra
Anita Alicia Post Mastectomy bra

Sizes: 32A, 32B, 32C, 32D, 32E, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34E, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36E, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38E, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40E, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42E, 44A, 44B, 44C

Colours: White, Black/Titan, Sand-Rose

Anita Sera Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra – A5349

Anita Sera Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra
Anita Sera Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra

Sizes: 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34E, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36E, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38E, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 40E, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 42E, 44A, 44B, 44C, 44D, 44E, 46A, 46B, 46C, 46D, 48A, 48B, 48C, 48D, 50A, 50B, 50C, 50D

Colours: Black, Skin, Bordeaux, Crystal

Royce Silver Front-fastening Post Surgery / Mastectomy Pocketed Bra – R736

Sizes: 32C, 32D, 32DD, 32E, 32F, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 34E, 34F, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 36E, 36F, 38B, 38C, 38D, 38DD, 38E

Colour: White

Anita Isra Post Surgery / Mastectomy Front-fastening Pocketed Bra – A5315

Sizes: 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 44A, 44B, 44C, 46A, 46B, 46C

Colour: White

Anita Salvia Front-fastening Post Mastectomy Bra – A5322X

Sizes:32A, 32B, 32C, 32D, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 38A, 38B 38C, 38D, 40A, 40B, 40C, 40D, 42A, 42B, 42C, 42D, 44A, 44B, 44C, 44D, 46A, 46B, 46C, 48A, 48B, 48C, 50A, 50B, 50C

Colour: Champagne

Di Murini Rowena Pocketed Camisole

Di Murini Rowena Pocketed Camisole
Di Murini Rowena Pocketed Camisole

Sizes: Small, Medium, Large, Extra Large

Colours: Ivory

Di Murini Pocketed Babydoll- DiBD

Di Murini Pocketed Babydoll
Di Murini Pocketed Babydoll

Sizes:  32B, 32C, 32D, 32DD, 34B, 34C, 34D, 34DD, 36B, 36C, 36D, 36DD, 38B, 38C, 38D

Colours:  Black, Red

Nicola Jane Pocketed Swimsuit- 9168

Nicola Jane pocketed swimsuit- 9168
Nicola Jane pocketed swimsuit

Sizes: 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 42, 44

Colours: Black

Nicola Jane Pocketed Lace Vest Top – V008

Nicola Jane Pocketed Lace Vest Top
Nicola Jane Pocketed Lace Vest Top

Sizes: 34A, 34B, 34C, 36A, 36B, 36C, 38A, 38B, 38C

Colours: White

Nicola Jane Pocketed Vest Top – V007

Nicola Jane Pocketed Vest Top - V007
Nicola Jane Pocketed Vest Top

Sizes: 32A, 32B, 32C, 32D, 34A, 34B, 34C, 34D, 36A, 36B, 36C, 36D, 38A, 38B, 38C, 38D, 40B, 40C, 40D, 42B, 42C, 42D

Colours: Black, Coral, Purple, Turquoise, White

Any of our bras can be pocketed, for a prosthesis, if they do not have them already, at a small additional cost.

Don’t forget that your bra should fasten firmly around the band on the loosest hook and eye. Make sure that the straps are not so short that your band rides up your back. If you’re fastening on the tightest hook and eye order the next size down and increase your cup size. For example:

34DD will be 32E

If your bra doesn’t come in DD then:

34D will be 32E

Special Reader Offer: Quote YO11JSP at checkout to receive your online order postage free.

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Post reconstruction 3-week follow-up appointment

I went to my 3-week follow-up on 26 July 2011. This time I decided I wasn’t going to over pay on the car parking! I found myself a space and then went into reception and asked for a) change for the meter and b) an idea of how much I should put in the parking ticket machine. I was told to put the minimum in and any time over that would be their responsibility. As I had enough change (give or take 10p) that was not a problem for me.

While I was waiting for my appointment I wrote a bit for one of my blogs, which wasn’t much as I wasn’t waiting long.

I had been hoping that Ms M would see me, as I knew that she advocates wearing “magic pants” for only 3 weeks (don’t forget this is 24/7!). However, I saw Ms B (I don’t know whether she is Miss or Mrs, so I’m erring on the side of caution and using Ms). When I asked Ms B before I left hospital 3 weeks before this appointment about how long I should be wearing them, she categorically said 6 weeks.

Now, in December that wasn’t a problem. But now, in July and August, it’s not so good!

Regardless, I asked the question again. The response was: “It is up to you! However, you do still have some bruising and lumpiness. I recommend that you continue wearing them until both the bruising and lumpiness have gone. Well! That’s the sort of comment that ensures that I wear them for 6 weeks. Who wants to have lumpiness for the rest of their life? So it looks like I’ll be sweaty and uncomfortable for another 3 weeks then!

Ms B was very pleased with the healing of the various wounds on my abdomen and breast when the taping was removed. She advised that the stitches would disappear completely over time.

I did mention that I was aware of more dimpling over my scar than I had seen since my previous operation. Ms B said that she felt that I was too observant and that the overall result was very good, so far. I admit that I have to agree with her. I am very critical of my appearance and perhaps I should relax a little. Nonetheless, there is a small dimple evident when I lean forward!

As I haven’t much fat left on my abdomen, we’re waiting till my 6-month appointment to decide if any further surgery is likely. Personally I think it is the end of the line for me as a) in my opinion I don’t have enough donation fat available for the procedure and b) Mr S really doesn’t want me to put myself through any more surgery. When I mentioned this to Ms B, she did agree that any surgery was a risk and that it should be taken into consideration. We agreed to re-look at things in November when I return for my check-up and see how much fat has been retained in the breast.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, that my breast fat stays put and isn’t reabsorbed back into my body. I’ll let you know what happens in November; unless something else noteworthy happens before! If you have any questions that my blog has raised and think I may be able to answer them from a patients perspective, please let me know and if I can, I will let you know. If I don’t know, I will see if I can point you in the right direction.

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