For Women Only! (Men, read at your own risk.)
This blog is really just an elaborate ruse to say thanks to my own private comedy company: our daughter, Ingrid. Between my husband and her, their lot in life is to make me see the bright and humorous side of everything.
And so began my day with the plastic surgeon. Ingrid agreed to accompany me to give her womanly wisdom on the subject of reconstruction.
I mean, really, should that be cause for laughter? Only when you can see that God is saving you from something far worse and, therefore, whether or not to add a stand-in for a soon-to-be-removed breast qualifies as joke fodder.
First, there's the fact that I had to weigh in ... again! Horrors. But the nurse laughed. Ingrid laughed. I removed my glasses, shoes, and anything else that I could without being indiscreet ... and laughed. At one point, I think we probably discussed how much weight I would lose by having my breast removed, but ...
I may have been raised in the 60s, but I am a bit on the reclusive, modest side. I get a tad embarrassed at the doctor's office, and this is really pushing it for me. Because next came "measurements." And I don't mean "around." Picking a focal point ("my eyes are up here!"), the reconstructive surgeon measured to the center of each breast. So no ... not twins of a gazelle. More like distant cousins. And remember when Mark had to get his eyes lifted a few weeks ago because of "ptosis"? That means "sagging to the point of falling asleep." The same term was used for those "twins."
You might guess, if you know me well, that I am risk-averse. I'm practical to a fault, usually. When I initially met with the mastectomy surgeon, she made it sound like reconstruction would be done at the same time as the mastectomy. Well, sort of. The only thing that would be done at the time of first surgery would be to install an "expander" in the space, which (much like a dental expander) would need to be tweaked each week to accommodate the next surgery for actual implant. Remember the risk-averse? Yeah. More than one surgery is not my idea of recovery.
Basically, there are three types of reconstruction open to me. Since I must have a complete mastectomy (sorry if all of this is TMI), I can either leave it as is (no reconstruction), implant a saline sack, implant one of two different types of silicone gel sacks, or opt for autologous reconstruction.
The best thing I heard all morning was when the reconstructive surgeon was discussing the autologous type of reconstruction. Frankly, it makes my knees go weak just thinking about it. Skin and underlying fatty tissue is removed from either the abdomen, buttocks, or inner thigh, and used to form the new "breast" and then inserted where an implant would go. But wait! He said I didn't have enough to work with. Hahahahaha! I guess that one oversized love-handle wasn't enough to go on.
Then there is the saline implant. Much like implanting a water balloon. Picture that, if you will. I laugh just thinking about it. I asked him how many he did of those each year, and he said, "One." What? Well, yeah ... that mind picture. However, they are probably the more "safe" of the two types of implants, because if there is a rupture, the saline just gets reabsorbed into the body. Right after your chest deflates...
So then there is the gel implant. One is smooth, and moves around under the skin (creepy) and the other is textured and stays put. So, why wouldn't you want the one that stays put? Because all that texture tends to gather problems that the lymph system wants to war against.
Most women opt for the "gummy" type of gel. I have two friends (who will remain anonymous unless they want to out themselves) who got these gummy gel implants. One describes it as feeling like something is constantly strapped to her chest, never quite feeling natural (gee, I wonder why?). The other affectionately calls her breast "Sponge Bob Square Boob"! Go ahead and laugh ... it is hilarious. This can happen due to scar tissue build up around the implant.
Then he treated Ingrid and me to "before and after" photos, complete with tattooed nipples (why do I not like to even say that word?). This is an ingenious and excellent way for someone who has been through the reconstruction process to have a sense of normalcy.
But since when have I been entirely normal? My initial surgeon wanted to make sure I got together with the plastic surgeon to go over options. I've done that now, thank you.
To reconstruct or not is an extremely personal decision for each woman. I belong to a FB group called "Pink Sisters in Christ." All 3300 of us are somewhere in our breast cancer journey: newly diagnosed all the way to 10 years NED (No Evidence of Disease). I want to thank a friend of mine for turning me on to the group, because it is a treasure trove of encouragement, wisdom, and women praying for one another. I love it! Thank You again, Lord, for your praying people!
Every one of the women in that FB group is unique and has their own reasons for how they decided on recovery and reconstruction.
I will keep my scar.
It will be a constant reminder of what God has saved me from. There are plenty of alternatives out there to show the outside world that I look "sort of normal." But I will never be normal again. That makes me tear-up just a bit. So ... someone tell me a joke. I would like to laugh my way through recovery.
Thanks again, Ingrid, for being my morning comic relief. I love you (and pray you never have to go through this yourself).