I visited my Reconstruction Surgeon – Dr. V – yesterday. He is young, stylish, engaging and forthright. And he is Dr. X’s next door neighbour in the medical building. Dr. V shook my hand as he welcomed me into his large and beautifully decorated office and Heather beamed her best smile.
“I’m Dr. X’s favourite patient!” I announce. “He sent me to you … said you were the best!”
While it’s months before I can do any reconstructive surgery on my breasts – I have to be cancer free, finished chemo, healed from radiation, and strong enough to withstand another gruelling surgery – I am in for an initial consult.
I want to know what my options are.
I wished to God I had of asked Dr. X to spare my nipple, but he sliced right through it. I had two tiny, barely discernable scars on that breast from an accident during my childhood. They looked like a snake bite. Ten years old with budding breasts, I was sitting by the campfire in Vermont with friends and family one Friday night, toasting and eating marshmallows. I popped the perfectly browned but not burned, gooey ‘mallow in my mouth, and was about to stick another one on the fork. All of a sudden, my lawn chair collapsed and the fork pierced my nipple. Tears. Crying. Mom took me away to take my tshirt off to inspect the damage, cleaned the wound and offered chocolate as the consolation prize. I was fine, but carried the tiny scars for life. You wouldn’t know they were there unless you looked hard for them.
Dr. V asked me a detailed history of my Triple Negative Breast Cancer, surgery, chemo and radiation protocols. We discussed my general good health and how I had handled the lumpectomy and sentinel node removal. I scrolled through the photos on my phone to show him the photos of me celebrating St. Paddy’s Day only one week after my surgery. He laughed and said “Excellent! A fast healer! You have a great attitude.” All the doctors and nurses tell me that. I’m going to make the most out of this cancer journey … even get better boobs from it!
Dr V. asked what I wanted to gain – or lose – from the surgery.
“I don’t want to have to buy a special bra size.” I said. I’m already into a 36D and really like the stores where I (And Andrew!) shop for my lingerie. I don’t really want to be much bigger … just have everything lifted and puffed. And the angry scar slicing five inches along the right side of my rigth breast to be minimized. Since I have had cancer and breast surgery, my reconstruction – to both breasts – is covered by my health care.
If I do go up a size … I don’t want to go down … it will only go to a La Vie en Rose 36DD.
Perky new breasts are one of the few perks of cancer.
Dr. V took me into his examination room and left me to undress. The lights were on and the blinds were open. I wondered if the people across the the street got their jollies looking in …
I stripped down to my undies and put the gown on with the opening in the front. Aladdin came back in to take a look at my breasts. We discussed how the nipple is slightly off centre now, and the upper right is concave due to the extent of tissue (a baseball) removed. My tumour was 3.5cm and Dr. X went right down to the chest wall muscle to take everything out.
He laughed at the tattoo Dr. X gave me … four months later and I still have a faint blue mark from the nuclear blue dye injected into my breast to locate the sentinel nodes. Dr. V then had me stand against his wall in just my undies while he photographed both breasts at three angles. Funny how comfortable I was in front of the camera …
I redressed and rejoined him in his office to discuss the options.
I am pretty sure I will be going with soft silicone implants in both breasts to lift everything and create some “amazing cleavage” … as Dr. V described it. We will also remove fat deposits from my tummy and place those in my breasts. The fat remains … and brings along stem cells which will help my breast skin heal from the radiation burns. While the scarring won’t be as extensive as 3rd degree burns, I will have some textural changes to the skin after radiation, so I have to be prepared for that. If my belly fat will help cure it, then let’s do it! WIN:WIN!
With that we shook hands, and he told me to make an appointment in a few months after I had completed my radiation. I smiled and said “See you in a few months!” and practially bounced out of his office.
I poked my head into the office next door to see if Dr. X was around, but it’s Friday … his surgery day … so no luck.
There is part of me that is nervous to add implants – and I am still weighing the pros and cons – but I am 75% convinced that I am going down this path. While I have heard some horror stories in the trenches of the cancer Facebook groups, I’ve spoken privately to dozens of ladies who are thrilled with their reconstruction. I’m too young to be without fantastic breasts.
And I am thankful that we don’t have to rebuild from the ground up. Although – let me tell you – the 3D tattooing that they can do to recreate nipples is nothing short of art and science.
I am female, and my breasts define my sexuality. I want the best ones I can have.
Thankful & Hopeful … and staying abreast of reconstruction options,