Since my first attempt at my breast reconstruction failed after my bilateral mastectomy with partial reconstruction last year I’ve been terrified to have a 5th surgery on my chest. But now that I’ve completed chemo and my first 3-month cancer screening came up clean, I really want to get on with my life and put all this behind me. But I can’t. Not while I still have to look in the mirror and see scars across my chest and not while I have my chemo port implanted in my chest.
After going back and forth in my own mind about when I’d build the courage to have another surgery, when my oncologist would sign off, when I could make time to be down and out for a few weeks (possibly longer), when my surgeon could get me, and a whole bunch of other things – driving myself completely crazy, I made an appointment with my plastic surgeon. I purposely scheduled it for today – the day after meeting with my oncologist – and didn’t really tell anyone about it – until now. I decided instead of me trying to figure out what my oncologist and plastic surgeon would say, I’d just ask them.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up about being able to get it done if I was going to have to wait longer.
I’m happy to report, yesterday my oncologist signed off and my plastic surgeon agreed that we could do it. I have to see my primary care for one more physical just to make sure I can get through the surgery, but that should be fine, so my breast reconstruction is scheduled for March 7.
After talking with my plastic surgeon at length, discussing everything that happened last time, how pain pills don’t really seem to work for me and how I’m very, very sensitive to pain, he didn’t think I’d be able to handle the more invasive breast reconstruction. He told me to “hear him out” because he knew I didn’t want the tissue expanders, but given my history and the facts they’re really the best option. So, reluctantly I agreed and we’re going to try the breast tissue expanders again – except this time he’s going to put them over the chest muscle instead of under it. He thinks this will work better in my case and even be less painful.
I’m nervous to get those freaking expanders put back in after what happened with them last time. But when he started talking about what the other surgery would entail I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I’ll admit it – I’m weak! I’m very sensitive to pain, and like I said, pain killers don’t really work for me.
This surgery will take about 3 hours and … I think it’s outpatient … Wow. I asked so many questions, I can’t believe I forgot to ask that one. I’ll call Monday and check – I’m still fighting the “chemo brain.”I’ll also have those damn drains again for 7-10 days and it should only be about a 2 week recovery. So, if all goes according to plan, it doesn’t seem that bad at all.
Then, after I heal from the surgery I’ll go back in weekly to begin the breast expansion process. They’ll stick a needle filled with saline in each of my breasts and slowly “fill me up” – about 100 CC’s per week, if I can handle it. Once my breasts are expanded to the size I want (or what the FDA regulates it at – whichever comes first), then I’ll have another surgery to have the expanders removed and my silicone implants will be inserted. He’s hopeful that we’ll be all done with everything by June/July – but that is going to depend on me and my body. I’m really prayerful that my body won’t reject the expanders again and I won’t have all that pain again.
Then, I will eventually have nipples 3D tattooed on. That parts not covered by insurance, but I am trying to get myself back to as normal as possible. Prices vary, but it appears – at least in my area – to average about $400 per breast.
I’ve got lots to do to prepare for surgery, but I’m getting another step closer to being healthy and “normal” again.
My mom will be coming back out for a few weeks to help me out; hopefully she can come a few days early so we can have a little fun before the surgery.
After this, I’ll only have my hysterectomy left and then I’ll truly be able to put my breast cancer behind me for good.