Bilateral Mastectomy SHOOT Fritz Liedtke

Photos from 11/22/13, 4 days after a bilateral mastectomy with axillary node dissection, nipple sparing and the beginning of breast reconstruction.

This was not an easy shoot to do, physically or emotionally, but it was important to me.  I wanted to document what my breasts actually looked like right after the surgery so I, and others who might go through the same surgery, would know.  I did not know, at the time of this shoot, that I would need another surgery to get clear margins on the left breast.   Fritz Liedtke and I agreed that he would be the photographer for this very important shoot.  I felt that he would be both gentle and empathetic as I knew his work from an amazing book he created called Skeletons in the Closet, photographing and telling the stories of people with eating disorders.  His work is hauntingly beautiful even within the context of struggle.

4 days post surgery in camisole with drain pouches
4 days post surgery in camisole with drain pouches

 

 

4 days post bilateral mastectomy & beginning reconstruction
4 days post bilateral mastectomy & beginning reconstruction

While it was difficult to look at my breasts for the first time, it was less traumatic than I anticipated.  They looked familiar if not quiet mine.  I was happy to see my nipples, which sometimes cannot be spared.  I could see and certainly feel the expanders under my chest muscles that formed a new temporary shape.  My muscles still spasm around them throughout the day, and you can see a spasm happening in one of the images.  Really not fun, but they will pass.  I elected for reconstruction to begin at the same time as my bilateral mastectomy, and thus I had the option of keeping my nipples.  Had I waited until after radiation this would not have been possible.  Immediate reconstruction made for a more difficult surgery and recovery, especially after chemotherapy, but was important for my mental health, I think.

I’m still recovering, a month later, but I’m happy I chose this path of doing it all at once.  There are other options that work better for other people.  This is just what I wanted and was able to do.  Sometimes there’s no choice in the matter.  The remainder of reconstruction consists of having the expanders filled up with saline once a week until I’m the size I want, or I have to begin radiation.  There is also another surgery to replace the plastic expanders with softer gels, but that will not happen for 6-12 months after radiation.  The breast tissue may need to be reshaped some at that time, or another surgery, as far as I understand.  I’m not clear on all of the details that far ahead.  I’m learning to let go of needing to know.  There is no longer a tumor in my breast or lymph nodes.  That is the most important thing.

 

5 thoughts on “Bilateral Mastectomy SHOOT Fritz Liedtke”

  1. Thank you for sharing this with us Kimberly. It is hard to see because of all the pain you must have gone through, and are still going through, but also enlightening. Always wishing you a smooth recovery, and looking forward to seeing you at Towne again!
    Joanne

    1. Thank you Joanne, It’s scary to show these photos and I appreciate your love and support. I can’t wait to get back to work and the studio as well. Happy Holidays.

      1. I know! you are SO Brave!! But its so cool to know what you are going through dear one.
        Love to you Kimberly! May these be the most joyous holidays for you.
        See you soon!
        I have that wig in the studio for you, but you look so fabulous in your fuzzy blond hair!

  2. That looks painful, but not as bad as imagined. The healing process is already underway. Thank you for sharing.

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