February 23, 2011

Pick Yer Poison (more on reconstruction)

Now I won't kid you - this breast cancer, mastectomy, and breast reconstruction "cha-cha" has not been fun. No sirreee.

But... as woman who has always had a small chest (never more than a small "B" cup, even when I was at my heaviest weight) I can tell you that there is one "silver lining" here - and that is the little word:


Yes - since I'm doing this breast-expanders thing anyway, why not go for something a little more, uh, bodacious?


So Dr. Gillian inflated me up to a lovely, curvy "C" cup. Oh.. how divine, especially since I found that the more "full" the expanders were, the more comfortable they were. But why stop at "C"? Why not go all the way?


So I Did.

I went to the max - "D" cups. Oh... mymymymymymy.... I love it. Can't resist checking myself out anytime I'm near a reflective surface. Oo la la! And... when I look down... I can't see my feet anymore. Why? There's considerable acreage in the way (no, not FAT... Brrrrrreasts!)

To be honest, Dr. Gillian warned me that this size might be too much. I've been way overweight, you see, and have been steadily (although slowly) losing weight for some time. Today I'm a dress size 18 (well, the lower end of 18... approaching 16 now). "D" cups at size 18 are pretty big. Hubby says I've got enough saline in me to make me responsive to the phases of the moon (smart arse that he is...). Anyway... these lovely "size 18 D cup" breasts will never get smaller, no matter how much weight I loose.

I did my research. The same "D" cups at size 18 (if they don't shrink - and mine won't) become "DD" size once you hit size 14 and lower.


Too big? Have I gone too far?


I love the curves - and if I end up voluptuous, well, eat yer heart out!

It's been a week now since my surgery. How did it go? I'll tell you more next week.

February 16, 2011

Quilting vs Breast Reconstruction

It wasn't "unexpected". I knew it was coming. But now it's almost here and, darn. Another period of "no quilting" coming for me in the near future.

Last June I discovered I had breast cancer. The kind of cancer it was plus my high-risk status caused my doctors to decide to do surgery - lots of surgery. So I had my remaining ovary removed in late July and three weeks later a bilateral ("double") mastectomy. I opted to go ahead and start reconstruction - and for the last six months have been living with "expanders" in my chest.

Expanders are interesting contraptions. They are sort-of "temporary" breast implants. They have a special port (made partially of metal, I'm told) through which saline solution can be injected - thus "inflating" the bags. The reason we inflate this way is that breast implants are actually positioned under the pectoral muscles (sounds impossible, doesn't it?). Just ramming the implants in would cause considerable pain and possible damage to the muscle. There's also the issue of mastectomies (like the one done on me) where the nipples and areola are removed as well as the "inside" breast tissue. These days there is such a thing as "nipple sparing mastectomies" - but with nasty breast cancer already found, well, nipples/areola are "breast tissue" and therefore subject to possible future breast cancer. So they went. This meant removing quite a lot of skin - and so the expanders are needed to stretch the remaining skin as well as the pectoral.

I've never actually seen one, but I can tell you what they feel like. They feel like partially inflated beach balls. A hideous feeling. At first they were darned uncomfortable. As the inflation process happened, they became less uncomfortable. Now, 6 months out, they still bug me. They don't wake me up at night, they don't ache - but I'm almost always aware of them.

As a matter of fact, I estimate that approximately 20% of my brain is ALWAYS focused on my "breasts" and the expanders inside them.

And if you're wondering what I look like "nekkid" these, well, Uh... not so hot. But that's OK... changes are in the works.

Anyway... as I said above, the expanders are temporary. And now, at long last, it's time for the "exchange surgery" - an operation during which my plastic surgeon (the fabulous Dr. Gillian) will remove these beach balls and replace them with lovely silicon implants (which we will call "permanent" implants although the truth is that they'll have to be taken out and replaced in 10-15 years). Dr. Gillian is, at the same time, going to grab some skin from "somewhere" (I don't know where yet) on me and construct nipples for me using skin grafting techniques.

So... soon, very soon, I'll be heading to hospital and Dr. Gillian will do her best to make me her masterpiece. As much as I hate the surgery, I'm soooooo excited to be getting through this next stage.

However... well... as I learned last year, you can't quilt with an IV drip in your hand - AND... even once I'm out of hospital... I'll have quite a few restrictions on what I can and cannot do with my arms (most noteably, not lifting anything that ways much more than a couple of pounds). That pretty much rules out quilting for a while.

How long?

Anybody's guess.

February 9, 2011

Quilt 5: Quilting the Border Panels and Using A Template

I'm working away on Quilt 5 (which I think I last mentioned in September 2010). It's coming along nicely - and although January in Australia doesn't seem to be the best month for quilting (it's summer here), I'm enjoying finally getting back to stitching after my little break over the holidays.

Because of the squirly design I ended up with for this quilt (again - the subject of the September posting), I've got an unusually wide border on this quilt. The width of it pretty much demands some kind of fancy stitching, not just endless rows of quilting. So... I'm using my most-complicated (to date) stitching template.

Here's the template:

And here's the resulting stitching (on the back of the quilt):

As you can see, I've opted to go with a greatly contrasting thread on this one - I really wanted to see the stitches on the back (they're almost invisible on the front of the quilt). I like the pattern and am gradually getting more comfortable with the template. As I did with an earlier template, I've threaded multiple needles and have (5 in this case) and have them all going in the quilt at the same time. Of course, this leads to multiple stab wounds because I've got all 5 needles in the same general area - but I'm getting better. And the dark fabric doesn't show the blood.

One thing that is driving me nuts is the marking pencil I'm using.

Up till now I've been quilting on light coloured fabrics, so I've been able to use my fabulous "disappearing ink" marking pen. But the ink is a medium pink colour (before it fades) and doesn't show up at all on dark fabrics. So I've had to use something else. I have a white pencil (which doesn't fade automatically, but can be brushed/wiped away after you're done) and although it marks well enough, the pencil itself is wearing down weirdly.

Here's a photo of the tip:
As you can see, the template is cutting into the "lead" of the pencil. The problem with this is that it wears the tip out quickly - the tips keep breaking off in chunks and then I have to keep resharpening. At this rate, this little pencil isn't going to be marking many quilts.

I've tried to mark with a "light hand" (ie: not pressing so hard) but it doesn't really help.

February 2, 2011

Boring but Pleasant

At the end of 2010 I sat down and thought about what I wanted for 2011, and I made a list. Not a list of "New Year's Resolutions" (that time honored thing we do and then chuck the first time we don't feel like the 'whatevers' we said we'd do - or not do). No... this was a list of things that I want to do.

That I really WANT to do.

Such as "see 1 movie a month" and "read 1 book a month." See? Fun things. OK, I've got one or two "challenges" on the list, but mostly my plan for the year involves learning to relax and enjoy life a little more. After the endless rounds of doctors and surgeries last year, not to mention the agony of watching my beloved mother-in-law pass away, well... let's just say that 2010 involved practicing how to roll with the punches. So, OK. I did that. Now I'm ready to rediscover joy and peace in my life.

Looking over my list I decided that the things I'm planning for the year are "boring but pleasant" - and so this has become my theme and mantra for the year:

Boring but pleasant.
Boring but pleasant.
Boring but pleasant.

I had "exciting" last year and didn't care for it much.

So now I'm well into 2011 and although not everything I'm touching turns to gold, I can assure you that I am following the theme.

And - now well into February, I've finally picked up my quilting again. I'm still working on the small teal-and-navy "throw" that I started well before my first surgery, but it's coming along splendidly. I'm quilting the border panels now - and working with my most-challenging-to-date stitch template.

I'll tell you more about that next week.

Until then, I'll still be working on:

Boring but pleasant.
Boring but pleasant.
Boring but pleasant.