Friday, February 8, 2013

Good Boob / Franken-Boob & My Post-Mastectomy Video

It's wild to think that it has been exactly one year since this post-op video was shot. I had just undergone the first surgery of my life: Left mastectomy with immediate reconstruction, axillary lymph node removal and a breast reduction on my right side (aka 'The good boob').

Once again, my small voice is due to how high I was from the pain medications and I think it goes without saying: I am pretty f&%#ed up in this video. If only someone had just styled my hair a bit I think I would have appeared a little more together!

Behind the camera is my Mum, who was out from Ontario for a few months last year to accompany Mike in my care. At my bossy-pants request, my best friend Tanis entertains me by drawing a beach scene on the white-board in my room. And Mike stoically sits in the chair next to me and occasionally spoon feeds me the mushy hospital slop that, at the time, I thought was actually tasty.

To say that this operation (and the healing afterwards) was traumatic would be an understatement. This was major surgery for me. My body did not know what hit it... and the days following this video my body rebelled in a way that I had feared going into this whole breast cancer mess. A combination of shock and bad reaction to drugs... I can definitely sum up this time in my life as one of the worst experiences I have had to go through.

I recently was asked by my Dad if I had to do this whole year over again if I would have done anything differently. Although there are times that I find myself fearfully poking and prodding 'The good boob'... wishing I had just done a double mastectomy instead... I know that at the time that the cancer was still in me, the decision I made was the right one. I can't beat myself up about it and I certainly cannot have regrets. And to be honest, the recovery from the procedures that I did have was enough for me to deal with anyway. I don't think my body and mind could have handled much more than that!

Watching this video a few weeks ago for the first time since it was captured was like watching myself as a child and wishing I could go back and save her. I cried at how helpless I sounded and quite honestly felt so very sad for my old self... the me that had not yet gone through the hell of recovery, chemo and radiation.

And now a year later I am still waiting for the rest of my reconstruction. I am still having difficulty with my arm range. I still can't use a razor to shave my left pit because of the numbness. And I am still not quite adjusted to this fake, cold, uncomfortable breast. But I am grateful for it. I am lucky to have had such amazing surgeons and to have been a candidate for the immediate recon that I was offered. I am also extremely grateful for clear margins and the fact that only 1 node out of 12 had cancer in it.

Today I look back at what I have had to face. Trying to accept all the change, the trauma and the fears that still remain. Trying to be at peace with this new body. Trying to be OK with the choices. Trying not to worry about the ultra sound that was ordered yesterday to inspect a few pea-sized lumps on the mastectomy side. Trying not to be anxious about results. And I am quite honestly looking forward to the completion of my reconstructed boob...

When I look in the mirror today I see the jagged scars, the darkened patches from rads, the flaws, the caved in area on my chest, the hole where my drain was, the gash of skin in the T section of the incision that resembles a crater. My natural boob looks out of place because the implanted one is so round and massive looking... which right now I am wondering if that's due to delayed inflammation from radiation.

Either way, I have dubbed my reconstructed breast 'Franken-boob' for obvious reasons. I've pondered getting a fancy tattoo instead of a fake nipple like some woman do to cover it all up. But my paranoid over-cautious self reminds me that I might always want to see what the skin is doing. I wouldn't want coloured ink covering up any redness or possible skin stuff down the road.

So for me, it is best if I just make Franken-book look like a boob.

And as I mentioned in the post-op video... I am still waiting to find out if making it look like a real boob does in fact mean that my left side will always be permanently nipped out. Hmmmmmm..... ? Plastic surgeon appointment with Dr. Van Awesome is next week to find out.


  1. I also kept one boob and poke it often to check for lumps and bumpy. Good luck with Dr. Van Awesome, and with the ultrasound. ~Catherine

    1. Thanks so much Catherine!

      Sometimes I am grateful to just have one real boob still... But yes...checking up on it is something I can't help but obsessively do now.

  2. Another courageous and inspiring heartfelt post from Ashley Blair Doyle.

  3. Ashley thank you for the great post and for sharing this video. My heart goes out to you and all you have been through and continue to have to go through. There is no end with cancer. You are so very special and I am so glad we have connected. I am sure cancer won't ever consider messing with you again. always, your friend, Michelle.

    1. This means a lot to me Michelle. You're one special lady yourself! xo

  4. Hey Ashley,

    I just saw that you were following my blog, and clicked through to see who you were... And here I am, again, recoiling from another kick from cancer to the gut. First off, way to kick cancer's ass AND face (i loved that!). Second, I just had to let you know that I so feel your pain about the radiated franken-boob. Have you tried myofascial release massage treatment for it? I know it doesn't feel like a pain that massage would help, but I was so surprised by how awesome it worked for me, when the pain killers didn't. It took a while to find someone trained in post surgical breast care that I liked, but now that I have, and she's good as gold.

    Your story has made me, laugh, cry, cry some more, and most importantly remind me I'm not in this on my own. If you're into reading another blog on the subject, check out my cancer cousin Carissa's blog what's in it for me (WIIFM cancer) cancer. She lives on the Island as well...

    I know we don't know each other, but I'm rooting for you. Keep kickin ass!


    1. Hi Ashlyn... I don't believe I am familiar with your blog! Or maybe I am fully chemo-braining and forgot that I had visited it before!

      Either way, very nice to hear from you and to hear the tips about massage. I have been doing my own self-massage thus far... I see my PS tomorrow so hoping she can shed some light.

      You are on the island? I on the Sunshine Coast... in Vancouver often for appointments.

      Thanks for stopping by... I am rooting for you too! xo

      - Ashley

  5. This is great, while reading it I felt like you were literally in my head pulling this stuff out. My mastectomy surgery was also the worst thing I have ever experienced and you are so correct, it was more than traumatic!!! I also kept one boob and i am so glad I did. I really loved my breasts and losing this part of me just killed me. It is so awesome to be able to read this and know there's someone out there who understands exactly how I feel. Thank you