“OMG. They’re HOW big?”

When I first started having conversations with friends about my decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction with implants, the usual reaction was: Are you going to go Dolly Parton on us? Granted, most of these comments came from my male friends.

My answer was always simple: No! Large breasts are not conducive to an active lifestyle. Especially with triathlon. Of course, they may be slightly beneficial in the swim — added buoyancy — but they would definitely become problematic on the bike — surely they would interfere with my aerodynamic abilities? And the run… well implants are just unnecessary additional weight.

A week after surgery, once the drains had been removed, I was finally able to get a feel for the size (not by physically touching them, but by how my clothes fit over them). And I was worried. And there may have even been a few tears… Why? Because I was worried I was too big.

Large Breast..noooo

Am I the first person in the world to cry because my breasts were going to be too big after getting implants?

The sinking feeling of worry in the pit of my stomach was only amplified when I had to return to the specialty bra store for another post-operative bra, and I was measured for a D size. A D!

A little sparkle of hope shone through when the lady fitting the bra mentioned it would take 2-3 weeks for the swelling to completely subside. So fingers crossed this D is really a swollen C.

It’s amazing what can spark different emotions through this journey. For me, it’s usually in reverse of what would be expected. When I had the double mastectomy I was actually calm, happy and relieved; and now that I have had my final reconstruction I have been worried. I think most people would be excited about having their final implants.

With each day, and a little more reduction of swelling, I’m finally joining the “Excited About My Implants” club.

Standby for the next post where I’m worried and panicked that they’re too small…

And according to this assessment, I’m should definitely be a C; you know I don’t like to complain.

Bra Size Chart

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The Luck Of The Irish

Today is St Patrick’s Day, and a bunch of four-leaf clovers would have been a welcomed gift for my family. And not because today was my surgery.

The early morning alarm went off and I woke to my usual pre-op thought:  reminding myself not to eat or drink anything! Whilst getting ready Mother received an unfortunate call — my grandma had suffered a second stroke (the first being earlier this week).

We have (or should I say Mother has) a tradition of ensuring I’m highly entertained on the car ride to hospital — musical mash-up singalongs at 5am are her favourite. But this morning there were no singalongs; we had our heads down on our phones researching flight options for her to make her way back to NZ to be with gran. It turned out that the best options was an 11:20 flight that morning, which meant that it would be a drop and run for me at the hospital; they would have to make the hour journey back home to quickly pack before another hour journey to the airport. A bigger and more stressful day for The Olds.

I know it was a hard decision to make, to not be there with me, but it was the right one. The saving grace was that Trevor was already there waiting at the hospital and happy to assume role of carer and entertainer. And he excelled at both roles.

Now this may sound strange, but I love getting changed into hospital robes. It does not bring about feelings of fear, but rather comfort. Because I know what will follow will be a benefit to my health. And  I also love the compression stockings and wrap-around leg massage device that helps with circulation. After Mooloolaba, they were both a welcome treat and I couldn’t get them on quick enough.

Without much waiting around — the joys of the private system — I was on the stretcher and getting my cannula in ready. Dr O’Mahoney was excited to hear reports of my race on the weekend, but also concerned about my readiness to operate due to the news of my grandma. I assured her I was ready.

And then it was time. Time to be put to sleep with classical music filling the operating theatre. My anaesthetist has good taste. I was about to ask him what he was playing but  1…2…3… and I was out.

The worst part of an operation for me is waking up in a groggy state. The nurse caring for me in the recovery ward aptly made a comment that it may have something to do with my ‘need to be in control’ nature. When treating my pain, which was sitting at an 8 out of 10,  I asked if I could have some pain medication that wouldn’t make me sleepy. I had the choice of sleepy meds or nauseating meds. I chose nauseating meds.

As usual, whenever waking up from an anaesthetic I seem to assume the role of a comedian. So when a nurse asked another nurse if she would like a cup of tea, I thought it was my place to butt in and say: “Yes, she’s been working hard.” Oh to be a fly on the wall in the recovery room.

With sheer determination and stubbornness I managed to snap out of my groggy state and was wheeled back to the ward by 12:30, much to the delight of John and Trevor who had been waiting patiently. In my room awaiting me were some beautiful flowers and an abundance of beautiful messages of well wishes – I felt very loved. Although my determination and stubbornness was short-lived and before long I was back dozing off.

The afternoon passed by hourly check-ups and half-finished conversations. Word spread that there was a triathlete in the ward, but only because my blood pressure was consistently low (which is common with fit people) not because I still had my race number on. I’ll take that.

After a few continuous mid-story naps John made his way home, after what had been a long and exhausting day for him. Trevor remained and assumed the role of bed controller/pillow adjuster/un-packer/water-glass filler/chicken cutter/toothpaste squeezer….And much more.

I thought the luck of the Irish had finally arrived when my night nurse came to introduce herself, who, in a strange twist of luck, is Irish. But even after a cocktail of sleep-inducing drugs I’m wide awake at 1am. Not so lucky.

To avoid going stir crazy staring at the ceiling, I decided to pull out my iPad and watch some previously downloaded Ted Talks.

And this is what I stumbled across: Debra Jarvis – Yes, I survived cancer. But that doesn’t define me.

A 16-minute brilliant speech. A speech that anyone that has experience any type of trauma in life — not just cancer — should listen to.

And here are two brilliant lines from her 16-minute speech…

“Only a small part of the cancer experience is about medicine. Most of it is about feelings and faith, and losing and finding your identity, and discovering strength and flexibility you didn’t even know you had. It’s about realising the most important things in life are not things at all, but relationships. And it’s about laughing in the face of uncertainty …”

Thank you Ted Talk.

Goodnight (hopefully).

A little bit about Triathlon. A little bit about Cancer.

Yesterday was Mooloolaba Triathlon, my first Olympic Distance triathlon (1500 swim/40km bike/10km run). I had always planned for it to be my last race of the season before I went under the knife for my final surgery. And as the timing turns out, that final surgery is tomorrow  — the last surgery in my cancer journey *jumps with joy*.

First things first: Mooloolaba.

Now you would think that someone who trains most days, every week, sometimes twice a day, would feel prepared. But for some reason, the past few weeks I have been filled with doubt. Had I done enough? Of course I’d done enough to finish the race…but I’m competitive (with myself), so ‘just’ finishing was never going to be enough. I want to finish with a good time. Had I dreamt all those 5am alarms for training… was I just delirious and sleep deprived, or was I fit and ready?

My main concern was my preparation for my bike leg. I hadn’t had much training on my new fancy-pants TT bike, would I even be able to ride it? Last week, leading up to Mooloolaba, my concerns were only amplified as news of a cyclone forming off the coast surfaced. I was already nervous about my biking abilities on the exposed highway as it was, so how would I manage with the additional extreme weather conditions. News didn’t improve and reports of rain and strong winds Friday night only fuelled my fears. All I could do was eat my bowl of pasta and try not to worry – surely it would pass by Sunday.

Saturday was compulsory bike check-in day. Trevor (MOH) and I made the one-hour drive from Brisbane, and as we approached the coast the trees told me what I already knew: it was windy. And the sea looked angry with waves crashing in all directions. My nerves were not being calmed. It was to be my first race using my fancy-pants TT bike, but with added gusts of wind, all I could picture was me being blown off the bike. Trevor assured me this would not happen…

After a good nights sleep and many carb-loaded meals, I woke up excited. Tri suit on, race number tattoos on…it was time to trek back to Mooloolaba. It wasn’t long until excitement turned to nerves and the conversation in the car started to drop off.

After a few detours due to road closures, we were parked and on our way to transition to get organised for the race.

Trevor, doing such a great job as support crew, found out some vital information for the race: the swim course had been changed due to the conditions! Although the water looked calm and flat (phew), there were strong currents further along the beach. So, to make it safe for the competitors, the 1500-meter swim was now a loop finishing near the start line, with an 800-meter beach run back to transition (instead of a 1500-meter swim along the beach).

I still struggle swimming; I’ve lost a lot of power due to my pectoral muscle being cut to house the expander. And unfortunately things may always be this way, as my implant will also take residence underneath my pectoral muscle. I’m confident, and hopeful that in time, I’ll regain the power required to be a front-of-the-pack swimmer, instead of a mid-pack-please-don’t-be-last swimmer…

 

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I made it out of the water in a surprising time of 28 minutes and jolted along the beach. Just as I approached the stairs to reach transition and to face the music of the bike leg, I heard the commentator over the loud-speaker say, “The winds are starting to pick up for those heading out on the bike.” Are you serious! Did he really have to say that!

Once on the bike all my concerns diminished. I felt like a pro powering along on my aero bars (although I’m nowhere near as fast as pro!). Forty kilometres of straight, flat, fast, smooth highway… and not much wind! Hallelujah. The course was a good test for my fancy-pants bike and the person atop of said bike. Although I may look at investing in a seat that is a bit more forgiving…

 

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Back of the bike and only a 10km run to finish off the day…only… Running, no worries…I got this. I soon found out that too much confidence is never a good thing. One kilometre into the run I was struck with stomach cramps — maybe I took carbo loading too far? Or maybe it was the hot, melted gel that was sitting in the sun during my bike leg that I consumed as I ran out of transition? Who knows. But it was not enjoyable. And the “why am I doing this” thought quickly entered my head.

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I had given myself a “comfortable” goal finish time of 3 hours, and with three kilometres left in the run I knew it was definitely within reach. So I reassessed my goal time. By how much could I get under 3 hours? I crossed the line after 2:53 of racing.

As I crossed the finish line, and finally made my way out of the recovery zone, I was greeted by Trevor, my number #1 support for the day, with additional recovery supplies of water, Gatorade and engery bars. He did well too.

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With my last race for the season over, and the number tattoo scrubbed off my arms and legs (they don’t come off easily!) I am now faced with the task of packing a bag for hospital tomorrow. I am by no means nervous or worried; I know I’m in good hands. Also, why do I need to worry when so many others are taking on that emotion for me.

I’ll be in hospital for up to a week, a little longer than I first thought. So it’s turned into a mini holiday at St Andrew’s. The best thing (for me) is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants is conveniently located around the corner from the hospital. I have already warned The Old’s and Trevor that there may be a few detours required prior to visiting. Seems reasonable?

Time to pack.