Adventures in Breast Cancer! Update 1


Today I met with the plastic surgeon. First off, I liked her. Instead of talking, she listened to what I wanted and explained the options. My hope going in was to have a simple reconstruction with a small implant where a temporary skin expander is inserted under the chest muscle and gradually filled with small amounts of saline over time. After the skin is stretched, the permanent implant is surgically placed (months down the road). This, believe it or not, was what I hoped for rather than having a flap of skin and muscle brought over from the back (latissimus dorsi procedure) or an abdominal flap (aka TRAM). Both surgeries are much longer in duration with added pain and recovery time. I don’t want added pain and recovery time.

I was warned, though, that because I’d received radiation twelve years ago, whether or not the skin expander process could be performed would be at the discretion of the plastic surgeon who’d have to make the call as to whether my irradiated skin would be a good candidate.

To backtrack, after first coming to grips with the idea of a unilateral mastectomy and reconstruction (which wasn’t easy), I spoke to a dear friend of mine, T, who’s been through mastectomy/reconstruction. She urged me to seriously consider having a bilateral mastectomy. This threw me into a bit of a tailspin. It’s a pretty serious thing to get one’s mind around. But I did give it serious thought. And I went online and read what other women had to say on the topic. In most cases, unless there’s a genetic predisposition that comes back positive for the breast cancer gene, it comes down to one thing: individual choice. (Oh, goody.)

So I spoke to my oncologist to get her input. I thought about how young I was when diagnosed the first time; I’m still considered young for this recurrence. I also considered that there were a lot of years ahead of me in which I’d be worried about the possibility of recurrence on the “good” side. I’ve already been through one biopsy on the good side two years ago. Basically, it’s a roll of the dice, but I’ve made the hard choice and decided to have a prophylactic mastectomy on the right side.

The good news: my plastic surgeon was willing to go ahead with the skin expander process but warned me that there may be complications, and once she’s inside, if there’s too much alteration to the chest muscle because of the radiation, she’ll have to go ahead and perform the back flap procedure.

My next step now is to meet with the general surgeon who will perform the bilateral mastectomy. In the next week or so, the two surgeons will coordinate a surgery date which will most likely be four to five weeks from now. My recovery – well, the first week will suck, no doubt. But I have a very sexy nurse who knows how to cook. I have no idea how long I’ll be off work. My best guess is two to three months.

"Now, "A" is more jiggly at parties, but "B" changes sizes with your mood…"

The whole reconstruction process will take about two years. (Yay me.) And I’ll end up with something on my chest that will be – I’m not sure exactly, but they won’t be filled with pencil shavings, I know that. And “T” warned me that because they’ll be these strange foreign objects, I might go around flashing them to people; like she has because she feels disconnected from them. In her words, “They’re some trippy sh#t.”

So if I flash you, don’t be surprised...

I will leave off with words of wisdom from another dear friend “C” who underwent mastectomy/reconstruction...

“They’re just boobs.”


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