Breast Reconstruction, Cancer Diagnosis, finding peace with cancer, Medical Updates, Post Treatment, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Update: Boobieversary, Cancer Camp, Retreats, & Book

Hiya friends! It’s been a while since I’ve posted a full update on what’s going on in my cancer world. I’m ecstatic to report: NOTHING. Ahhhhh, sweet nothing. Nothing new…nothing crazy…boring is my new fav thing when it comes to cancer. I am now 2 years cancer-free baby! Can you believe it?

It’s 6-month follow-up time. I met with my breast surgeon which entailed a very thorough boobie exam (is it strange that I wanted it to last longer?). I made sure to contort my body in various ways to highlight all of the weirdAF stuff that I feel around my breasts: lumpy tissue, band-like things in my armpit and under my breast, tightness, etc. I LOVE that ZERO stress lives in me about these new bodily discoveries. Because of my ongoing practice of inquiry, my mind just can’t put a scary label on any of it.

My job is so simple: bring body + weird stuff to the experts. Await the next direction.

The breast surgeon confirmed that it’s all just scar tissue and that everything is healing beautifully. I can continue to go to town with self-massage and stretching to break up the scar tissue. This month, I’ll also have follow-ups with my oncologist (bloodwork + feel up) and with my gynecologist (MORE feel ups + vaginal ultrasound which monitors the uterine lining and cyst on my ovary). Man, these boobies sure are seeing a lot of action! Speaking of….

Happy 1-year Boobieversary to Me!

Today, on May the 4th be with you, my girls turn 1. I am astonished by how much they have changed during their first year of life. They now let me sleep peacefully through the night from all angles – even on my stomach! They’ve adapted well to my active lifestyle and also know how to chilllllll out. They are beginning to look more like identical(ish) twins rather than fraternal googley-eyed sisters. They love touch – especially nightly massages with coconut & essential oils. They have their own personalities and quirks – I’ve just learned to accept and appreciate them for who they are and for what they’re not (full of cancer).

Cancer Camp, Retreats, & The Book

I took my girls to another cancer camp a few weeks ago in Austin where they learned to surf! Yes, surfing in Austin is a thang. The trip was led by First Descents, the same organization who hosted the week-long whitewater kayaking trip last summer. It was such a treat to hang with a group of young, fun cancer survivor/thrivers, spend time in nature at a gorgeous glamping spot, and then attempt the art of surfing. 

YO…surfing is HARD! In the few times I actually got up, I became so freaking excited…that I would then again lose my balance and bite it.

It. was. so. fun.

We are all planning to have a reunion kayaking trip in June.

Last weekend was our 2nd annual Inner Peace Retreat ~ a weekend of yoga, The Work of Byron Katie, organic meals, and a sweet, sweet community. The location was serene and beautiful, and I am so impressed by everyone’s willingness to explore the stressful beliefs systems that keep us from enjoying the beauty of life. I’ve been keeping retreats local for the past few years while going through treatment and I’m now inspired to get back to international retreats. Costa Rica always calls to me and we’ll see what else is possible!

This Monday starts a new online class series called “Making Peace w/Disease” which I co-facilitate with my friend, Helena, who has HIV. Like me, she has used The Work of Byron Katie as a way to experience disease as a wise teacher, a gift. There is still space if you’d like to join!

I love my work. It feels off to even call it that.

Going through treatment has helped me hone in my practice and career around Yoga & The Work and I’m loving that it’s becoming more and more mobile. This summer will be spent in Colorado where I can both continue to work with private clients over phone/skype AND finish my book. Also leaving free time for hiking, kayaking, and hanging with family & friends (and avoiding the crazy Texas summer heat! Woot! Woot!).

The writing process is a fascinating mental adventure and if you’ve been reading my blog, you know how healing it’s been for me to write and share. Well, it’s pretty darn funny that the moment you put the label of “book” on writing…the inner critic sure does come out to play. And yell. And terrify me. Luckily, the content of what I am writing about – how to find peace & joy with cancer – also serves me in dealing with the crazy places my mind goes about writing a book.

It’s a waste of my time! Nobody is going to read it! I’m a horrible writer! 

Awwww….Can I absolutely know it’s true? Nope. Do you know what is true for me? I feel called to write it. I have no clue what will come of it. I just know I need to write it. What happens next is not up to me.

I notice some days the writing flows out like (grade A, unfiltered) maple syrup onto warm, fluffy pancakes (gluten-free + organic of course). Other days, I impatiently stare at a blank word document on a screen. Bueller? Bueller?

There are times I LOVE what comes out of my head onto paper. Wow, she’s amaaaaazing. Other times…not so much. And yet, the writing continues.

As for the future of this blog – I’m open! I may continue to write monthly posts or maybe I’ll put it on hold until the book is finished. It’s not like me to “not have a plan” so that’s exactly what I’ll be doing. Challenge accepted.

Any questions or topics you’d like discussed? If so, feel free to post in the comments or email me at bethany@bethanywebb.com. Sending LoVe to you this summer!!!

xoxo,

Bethany

Work with Me

Schedule a Private Session over Phone or Skype

Create a Customized Workshop or Retreat

Join Making Peace w/Disease Online Series: May 7-June 11

 

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Follow-ups, the Boob Whisperer, Clear Scans, & Summer Fun

It’s been 2 1/2 months since my final reconstruction surgery. Recovery has had its’ ups and downs ~ physically, mentally, & emotionally as described in my last post about meeting big emotions. Although I technically finished treatment on May 4th ~ it really hasn’t felt that way.

In addition to the crazy places my mind went, all of my follow-up appointments happened to fall during the month of June: my plastic surgeon, breast surgeon, oncologist, & gynecologist, as well as my physical therapist twice per week. Add a CT scan and a vaginal sonogram to the mix…June was rockin.

It helps me to remind myself of WHY I have these appointments. They are FOR me. To support me, to make sure things are healing properly, and to monitor this body so it can continue to be free from cancer. My job is to show up and continue to free my mind of cancerous thinking.

I love physical therapy (aka private yoga therapy paid by insurance).

I was able to work with the amazing Tiffany again ~ she is the one who helped me with cording after my mastectomy. I call her my “Boob Whisperer” as her main goal was to help my boobs become more even by breaking up the scar tissue from radiation. I didn’t realize how much the tissue underneath the skin was affected from radiation until I got my final implants ~ the scar tissue has been pulling leftie up and out.

I’m not going to lie ~ I was NOT cool with my new boobs at first. Leftie was a couple of inches higher and if you were standing to the left of me, my left nipple would be looking straight at you saying, “Hey – I’ve never seen life from this angle before.” Rightie looks pretty good until I flex my pec muscle ~ it then shrivels up into a squashed raisin. I can get self-conscious of it when I’m in certain yoga poses and when I’m intimate with my husband.

I also adopted a daily practice of obsessively staring them down in the mirror, examining their weirdness from every angle, comparing them to my gift-from-God original breasts, and then crying. A lot.

As healthy as this practice was, I realized another approach would be more beneficial for my sanity. Investigating my stressful thoughts about body image using The Work of Byron Katie: “I want them to change. They should be even. I want my old breasts back. They are not attractive. It’s not fair.”

These thoughts weigh heavy on my heart. They block me from seeing the miraculous healing that’s taking place. Can I love my body just as it is? Yes, I can love it in all its glorious weirdness. Do I need to despise my body in order to take action? No. I can do my part from a place of peace – ask the surgeon questions, go to physical therapy, do my home practice, buy flattering bras, be gentle with myself, and commit to my inner work. There’s also the option of a revision surgery in December which was recommended by my surgeon. I’m open. We’ll see.

This is all an ongoing practice for me ~ I am a work in progress. And what’s cool is although there are moments of struggle, I’m still living a very full and happy life.

I am looking and feeling better every day. My energy is coming back. I have NO doctor appointments for 3 WHOLE MONTHS (a new paradigm!). And best of all, my last CT scan was CLEAR!

I learned that according to doctors, I have been in remission for over a year already! The start date is the day I was pronounced with “no evidence of disease” which was after my mastectomy & lymph node dissection on 4/18/16. The words “in remission” and “survivor” don’t really fit for me ~ I prefer “cured” and “thriver” unless there’s proof otherwise.

1st yoga selfie & beach trip with my girls

I have lived in Texas for 17 years and every summer, I have cursed the heat. Last year was the summer of expander boobs and radiation. So now, I’m embracing spending as much of summers in “Not Texas” as possible 🙂

This summer seems to have a water theme! I just went to Vero Beach, Florida to visit my family. Walking the beach, body surfing, kayaking, and relaxing with my family was the perfect transition.

It finally feels like treatment is OVER!

Tomorrow, I’m heading to cancer camp (YES – that’s a thing!) hosted by First Descents in Montana for a white water/kayaking adventure with my friend, Michelle. We met in Spain 10 years ago and she was diagnosed 6 months after me. How funny it is that at one time we were touring Spanish vineyards, sipping Cava, & partying in clubs all night…now we text boob pictures to each other and ask questions like, “How much hair do you have left? How are your boobs doing? Can I see them? Do yours ripple like this?” as well as so many words of encouragement. I can’t wait to see her.

After Montana, I’ll spend a week in Colorado and then in August, a romantic trip to Tulum with my husband. I am so looking forward to this time with him where we can just be a young, regular ol’ couple, in love, in paradise, in celebration of a new chapter of our life. We’ve been through a lot over the past few years.

Self-care continues with daily movement, inquiry, and eating organic, plant-based meals + fish & eggs. I’m mostly free of gluten, soy, dairy, & processed sugar. If I splurge, it’s for pizza, wine, and chocolate…and it’s worth it! More on my lifestyle diet here.

To boost my immune system further, I’ve started to get into medicinal mushrooms like Reishi (which I took as a supplement) and Chaga (which I drink as a tea or add to coffee). I still love acupuncture and go once or twice a month and after my trips, I’ll start massages with an oncology-trained therapist.

I’m offering some REALLY cool online class series, workshops, and retreats in the fall. Join my mailing list or FaceBook page if you’re interested. It feels SO GOOD to be back in the swing of things.

Much LOVE to you and have an amazing summer!!!

 

Upcoming events…

Inner Peace Retreat ~ Yoga & The Work in Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky: Sept 7-10

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: Sept 30 (Dallas)

Exploring Mind/Body ~ Yoga & The Work of Byron Katie: October 21 (Ft. Worth)

6-week online series! Making Peace with Disease through The Work of Byron Katie: Dec 4 – Jan 21 

 

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Breast Reconstruction, Cancer Diagnosis, Medical Updates, Surgery, the work of byron katie and cancer, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Update: Prepping for the last Hoorah ~ Breast Reconstruction

OMG. It’s finally happening. After almost 2 years of cancer treatment, the finale is just around the corner. Breast reconstruction (ie – new boobs!) is scheduled for May 4th! AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! I am one big bag of emotions ~ overjoyed to be DONE, really DONE, with treatment (except 5-10 yrs of hormone therapy) and ecstatic to meet my new breasts. Yesterday I was driving between yoga clients and broke out into tears. I’m in awe. Wow. It’s really happening. I really did this. So proud of me!

What. A. Journey.

My thinking is also anxious ~ how will they look? How will they feel? Will I like them? What if something goes wrong? Dear God, that was a lot of potential “complications” I signed off on…including my own death!

And impatient & boob obsessed ~ are we there yet? Time for new boobs? I want them now! New boobs….pause. Come back to your breath. Inhale. Exhale…Boobs, BOOBS, boobs, NEW BOOBS!!!!

This past week, I had my pre-op visit with my plastic surgeon and underwent testing (bloodwork & EKG) to ensure this body is ready to go! We talked about the type, size, & projection of my implants. I’ve chosen to go with his recommendation of the newest round “gummy bear” implant ~ it feels the most natural, is leak-proof, and lasts the longest (20-30 years). I held one, squished it around, put it under my shirt, and tossed it up and down. Pretty nice…

The way he chooses the size is by measuring the width of my chest and then I have the option of choosing the projection ~ how far forward my boobs are (low, medium, high, ultra high). He was really into the ultra high, but after looking at photos ~ I’m going with high because they look more natural to me.

When I first met with my plastic surgeon, he handed me a pamphlet of his work and I remember one woman in particular stood out: Samantha. Samantha’s boobs are amazing. Give me Samantha’s boobs. Yes, please. Ironically, Samantha was actually the name of my alter-ego when I wore my sexy wig during chemo. Destiny? I think so.

My surgeon confirmed that mine would be similar to hers and that she is actually now a bikini model. New career in my future?

Breast Reconstruction Surgery

The surgery is much shorter (about 2 hours) and the recovery is supposed to be much easier than the last. He will go into the same scars from the mastectomy and make a smaller incision, remove the tissue expanders (SEE YA and won’t miss ya AT ALL), and replace them with the implants.

What’s super weird is that while I’m off in a deep, drug-induced sleep, he props me upright in the bed and tries on about 5 different implant sizes to see what looks best. And no, Travis can not watch this part and give the final “Ok.” Apparently that might be traumatizing for a husband.

He will then liposuction fat from my love handles and put it into my breasts for extra padding between the implant and skin ~ it also helps to shape the breasts. I have been diligently working very hard on building this fat with the help of nightly Coconut Bliss ice cream..I’ve gained 15 lbs back from my lowest weight in chemo, 108. How crazy weird is it that in less than 2 weeks, I will be wearing my muffin tops in my breasts???!!!

I try not to think about the procedure details too much…it creeps me out. Actually, it’s my thoughts that are creeping me out. The procedure doesn’t even exist yet. It definitely takes a certain type of stomach to do this work and I’m grateful for the expertise of my surgeon and his staff. And even more grateful that I get to show up, go to sleep, and wake up with new boobs.

The finals will be softer, closer together, and more natural looking than my expanders + the same anti-gravity perk. And they will not be perfectly symmetrical ~ because of radiation, the left side will always be a little higher and tighter than the right. Hopefully things will be pointed in the right direction. Or maybe I’ll end up with a set of googley eyes. We’ll see!

So now it’s my job to just let go and trust.

Getting Ready

In preparation for the surgery, I am also eating more pineapple and papaya ~ they have natural enzymes (bromelain & papain) that help the body heal faster and reduce scarring. I’ll also be taking 30c of Arnica ~ a homeopathic remedy for healing from trauma, bruising, etc. the day before surgery and for a few days after.

Other than that, my welcomed distraction has been planning our Inner Peace Retreat which is NEXT weekend in the Austin Hill Country! So the weekend before surgery will be spent doing what I love: relaxing in nature, teaching yoga, exploring inquiry, eating delish organic vegetarian meals, and connecting with an amazing community of like-minded folks. And I get to lead it with my dear friend and fellow facilitator, Susan…she’s amazing! I anticipate a lot of silliness & laughter, coupled with insightful, life-changing Mind/Body work. Still a few spots left if you want to join!

The property is Living Waters on Lake Travis ~ it’s where my husband and I were married 6 years ago. We loved it so much that just a few months after the wedding, we asked the owners if we could move there, take over, and grow it into a thriving retreat business. Which it now is! We rocked it for 4 years before returning to Dallas. The first week of May is our 10-year anniversary of being together + our wedding anniversary. So it’s safe to say this time at Living Waters is special to me in so many ways.

My mom will be coming in town for the surgery to help me (she is the best nurse ever!) and to celebrate the end of our journey. She has probably been to Dallas 6-7 times over the past year and a half. Her unwavering support, ability to anticipate my needs before I’m even aware of them, and compassionate care has helped me IMMENSELY throughout this process. It sounds cliché, but I have couldn’t have done this without her. Actually, I could have…but I would have gone completely cray cray on many more occasions. Love you, mamma.

Recovery is about 5 weeks, yet I should be driving within 3-5 days and can lift up to 15-20 lbs. I plan to take 2 weeks off of work and then play the rest of May by ear. Many women have shared with me that the pain isn’t bad at all ~ they’re off heavy pain meds within a day or so, yet I’m also well aware that the pain level from the last surgery was wayyyyy more than I expected. So I’m setting aside the time to just be…

Ok, friends ~ YOU have been with me throughout all of this! Can you believe it? It’s happening!!!! Thank you SO MUCH for your continued encouragement, support, & inspiration. Send some healing vibes to me the morning of May 4th.

May the fourth be with you…NEW BOOBS!

 

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Breast Reconstruction, Medical Updates, Side Effects of Cancer Treatment, Surgery, Uncategorized, yoga therapy and breast cancer

Life with Tissue Expander Boobs

After my double mastectomy last April, I remember reading an online article about how women are now forced to live with prosthetic body parts because of breast cancer. I thought to myself, “Wow, that sounds horrible. I guess I’m really lucky that I didn’t need to go through that too.” I even felt a little shame about it, “I got off pretty easy.” I had an image of these women in my mind: they are suffering, cancer victims.

Flash forward 3 months…I had just finished radiation and was planning a month-long celebration vacation. This was the first time I was flying post-surgery so I asked my plastic surgeon if there was anything I needed to know about traveling with tissue expander boobs ~ ummmm….do they set off the security alarms? Can they blow up at a certain altitude?

He said there’s nothing to worry about and his office could give me a letter explaining that I’m in breast cancer treatment. As I read through the letter in the waiting room of his office, my heart skipped a beat:

“Bethany is undergoing breast reconstruction and currently has prosthetic devices in her chest.”

Wait a minute. Say what? Prosthetic devices?

Pointing to my tattas, I asked the assistant at the front desk, “Are these prosthetic devices?”

“Yes,” she responded.

I burst out laughing. There I was imagining these poor victimized women with their prosthetic body parts and guess what? I’m one of them!

But yet, I’m not a victim ~ it’s not so bad having temporary anti-gravity boobies (which by the way, don’t blow up on airplanes). Are they weird as hell? Yes. And with clothes on, they look like boobs with an extra perk.

So…What are Tissue Expanders?

Tissue expanders are temporary implants that replace women’s breast tissue after a double mastectomy is performed (often, and in my case – it’s done in the same surgery). The outer layer is much harder than a regular implant and there is a small round area at the top of the expander for filling. They serve 4 main purposes:

  1. It emotionally supports a woman as she gets to wake up from surgery with some sort of breasts.
  2. They stretch the skin to prepare it for the final implants/breast reconstruction surgery.
  3. They hold the skin in place as it goes through radiation, which can shrink/tighten the skin.
  4. So the woman can be overly excited to receive her final implants because gosh darn…they’re gonna be better than these!

I also think tissue expanders could use a new name. Please choose from the following:

Boobs of Steel

Fembot Tattas

Basketball Boobies

Bionic Super Hero Breasts

Boobie Fill Tuesdays ~ the Expanding Process

From A to D ~ watch my boobs (and hair) grow!

Starting one week after surgery, I visited the plastic surgeon for weekly boob fills on Tuesdays. This is another way of saying that I got to see my boobs GROW a half or full size every week!!! He places a syringe full of saline in the top of the expander (the silver part). I don’t feel any pain ~ just a little pressure ~ and then sure enough ~ bigger boobs! Yes, I did take a video (how was I his 1st patient to do that???) and no, I’m not sharing it here.

I really enjoyed experimenting with different boob sizes. The expanding process happens until you reach your desired size, which for me is a small C. Anything larger than that would look a little too porn star on my small frame. He then blows up the “used to have cancer” side to be a size larger because it will be going through radiation which shrinks the skin.

So I spent the summer of 2016 with a leftie super boob!

The Hardest Part for Me…

I had heard from most women that tissue expanders weren’t painful ~ they were weird and uncomfortable at times ~ but not painful. So I was surprised to experience some pretty intense holy shit pain during the expanding process. Like I mentioned before, the fills were not painful. It was the time between fills. Because my tissue expanders are placed underneath my pec muscles, my pecs received an intense stretch when I got a boob fill. This then put extra pressure on my rib cage and surrounding shoulder girdle muscles. During this time, I also had a rare complication called “cording” which made it difficult to fully move and stretch my left arm. The fact that I’m a tiny person may have made it more difficult too. What supported me the most is physical therapy, yoga stretching, breathing, and yes – pain medication. Once again, I was confronted with my thoughts about medicine and you know what? It helped me immensely.

Life with Tissue Expanders

After the filling process was complete, the pain disappeared. The expanders did a great job of holding the skin in place during radiation. Now I am in “the waiting game” for my final surgery which is scheduled for May 4th. My plastic surgeon tends to wait longer than usual for the final reconstruction ~ 8-12 months after radiation. Since the skin can shrink during and even months after radiation, the longer time frame gives my skin plenty of time to fully heal, which will lead to a better aesthetic outcome and a less likely chance of complications, such as rippling and capsular contracture. I figure that I’ll have these boobs the rest of my life, so what’s a few extra months?

During the waiting game, I am still living a full life. I don’t really notice them much until I look in the mirror for my nightly ritual of massaging oils & lotions onto the skin to help the healing process.

Do I regret choosing this surgery?

To be honest, I have had moments where I have questioned my surgery decision. There has been a natural grieving process for my breasts ~ they have permanently changed (and they were pretty fabulous before!). I’ve had to be gentle with myself through many tears. Sometimes I feel insecure and not “natural” or as “feminine” as I used to be ~ more on this in a separate blog post. My mind has told me “A lumpectomy would have been easier. I made the wrong decision. I won’t like my final breasts.” Yet, is that true for me?

Actually, it’s not true. A lumpectomy + radiation would have made my left breast much smaller, so I would have needed to do breast augmentation on the right side to match (this involves more scarring as my right nipple would be removed and moved up). I am also reminded that my natural breast tissue was incredibly dense and lumpy ~ it was difficult to decipher the cancer lumps vs. natural lumps. I don’t know if I’d ever have cancer again, but I was guaranteed to have lumps again which means I’d need to go through a lifetime of “find the lump/mammo/ultrasound/biopsy/wait for results.” There are many ways to spend my time and if I have the option, less time in a doctors office works for me.

So…Do I regret it?

NO. I’m happy and grateful for this path. It’s the right choice for me. Without the stress, I’m free to be completely entertained by my boobs of steel. I show them off quite frequently. In fact, I recently spent a day at the Ten Thousand Waves Spa in Santa Fe and soaked nude in the women’s natural spring hot tub. I felt free, confident, and at peace. The other 2 women in the tub left 2 minutes after I arrived, but hey ~ no need to build a stressful story around that. I had the place to myself for 2 hours!

When a woman asks me, “what do they feel like?” I usually immediately grab her hand and place it on my breast or I’ll offer to show her what they look like in the bathroom.

When someone hugs me, they often ask, “oh – am I hurting you?” Dude – I’m the one with the hard-ass, indestructible bowling ball boobs that dig into your chest when we hug…”Am I hurting you?”

PS ~ they can NOT be used as massage tools. I tried with my husband and he wasn’t into it. However, they CAN be used to hold a plate of food while watching Netflix.

They keep me in my yoga practice. Daily stretching, movement, & some strengthening is choice-less for me.

I am also free to LOVE the anti-gravity bonus…you see, I didn’t realize just how much my natural boobs yanked on my shoulders & neck until I had weightless breasts. There are tiny, strappy, tank tops and bras that I can now wear and I LOVE it! Most of the time, I don’t even need a bra (except to cover my nipples in some shirts).

They don’t move. At all. So rebounding on my trampoline doesn’t hurt anymore. I don’t need to wear 2 sports bras while running (ok, I actually don’t run…but if I did, major support was needed!). So I created this facebook video to showcase this talent…

 

Final Surgery ~ May 4th!

I am beyond stoked for my final surgery, which is coming up in less than ONE month! Time has actually flown by and I am so okay with that. I have had fun designing my final breasts with my husband ~ we googled boob images online and showed my plastic surgeon. PS – googling boobs can bring up some pretty disturbing images…

The final ones will be much softer, closer together, and more natural looking. I will actually be able to have cleavage again! I’ve longed for the day I can look down and see a butt crack on my chest again. I plan to wear a lot of slutty clothes after May ~ tube tops, backless shirts, bikinis…bring it!

I choose to focus on the bright side of this process, the cancer bonuses and what I’m learning about myself. How I’m becoming more loving, accepting, and patient with my body and mind. How I can find humor in anything. This isn’t painting an airy fairy image over everything ~ it’s actually reality. And when I’m feeling down, The Work of Byron Katie brings me back. It’s a kind universe.

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