• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 146 (Thoughts on Breast Reconstruction)


    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  3.00 miles;  Running Total: 64.68 miles)

    Day 146 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    The discussion on the reconstruction process with the plastic surgeon has been on my mind a lot since Tuesday.

    It isn’t easy to wrap my head around.  I wonder what I will look like.

    So of course I turned to Google.

    I searched “single mastectomy with tissue expander” and “single mastectomy after reconstruction”.  I’m sure Google gives you worst case scenario, but even so, there are some really scary pictures out there.

    It helped to talk to someone who’s been through reconstructive surgery. For the sake of her privacy I’ll call her Mary.

    Mary hasn’t been through cancer treatment, but she did have a double mastectomy. Mary tested positive for the genetic mutation that puts her at a significantly higher risk of getting breast cancer in her lifetime.

    One of Mary’s family members had already been diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mary herself went through every biopsy under the sun until one day the doctors found pre-cancerous cells.

    Mary had had enough of waiting for breast cancer to find her. She was, at the time, watching her loved one go through cancer treatment so she had a very clear picture what treatment was like.

    So Mary opted to have a double mastectomy.

    I think this is the same sort of decision that Angelina Jolie made headlines with when she had her double mastectomy. Angelina Jolie caught a lot of hell for ‘seeking attention’ by getting a double mastectomy when she hadn’t yet been diagnosed with breast cancer.

    I don’t know Angelina Jolie’s thought process, but if her story is anything like Mary’s then I don’t question her one bit for the choice she made.

    Mary was kind but honest in answering my questions about the surgery and reconstruction process.

    Before undergoing her double mastectomy, Mary said she looked at a lot of pictures and asked a lot of questions, too. She said there are a lot of misconceptions about the reconstruction process.

    People who hadn’t been through it told her, “Oh, you’ll just get a boob job. That’s not so bad.”

    Mary told me that breast reconstruction is nothing like a ‘boob job’.

    When a woman has cosmetic surgery to enhance the size of her breasts, there is breast tissue left. This acts as padding to help the breast feel softer and more natural.

    During a mastectomy that breast tissue is removed. So when it comes to breast reconstruction there’s no padding to make the implant feel natural.

    Mary told me I’ll never like the tissue expanders (the first step in the reconstruction process), but to remember that they are temporary. The sole purpose of the tissue expander is to create a pocket beneath the muscle for an implant later.

    Mary said the tissue expanders are hard and don’t feel natural at all. They essentially look like Barbie boobs.

    This was less than thrilling news, especially since I’m only having a single mastectomy. I now have visions of a Barbie boob on one side and a kid ravaged boob on the other for six months to a year before the final surgery takes place.

    Mary said that the final implants do feel more natural than the tissue expanders, but they’ll never feel as natural as … well … natural breasts.  This is because of the missing breast tissue.

    Mary’s surgery was performed by the same surgeons that I’m working with. She reassured me that both doctors are excellent at what they do, and reminded me that the plastic surgeon’s goal is to make sure I’m pleased with the outcome.

    It makes me feel a little better to know there will be one person focused on how I feel about myself, not just on the cancer.  So maybe (*fingers crossed*) the results will turn out better than I’m picturing.

    I asked Mary if she was happy with how she looks now.

    She said yes, but cautioned me that she has learned to live with the fact that her breasts would never look or feel the same as they were before surgery.

    Today’s silver lining: The surgery discussions aren’t over and nothing is final yet.

    I know there will be more meetings with the surgeons to discuss their approach to surgery. These preliminary meetings are just giving me a rough outline of the process to come.

    I also know that worrying about surgery won’t do me any good.  Especially since I still have two rounds left of chemotherapy.

    Still… This is all incredibly difficult to wrap my head around.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.


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