Another day, another hospital gown – with “hospital property” stamped all over it (like anyone in their right mind is going to steal it).
I was sitting waiting for my first consult with a plastic surgeon to begin the road to being whole again. They kept me waiting for ages, I’d read and re-read everything on the walls in the room including a baa-baa black sheep poster, the writing on the boxes of latex gloves, a poster about melanoma and a notice about ACC. I listened to and watched dozens of pairs of shoes walk past the curtained-off room (or maybe it was just one person walking back and forth dozens of times), until finally a young, spritely little registrar came in to greet me.
Registrar: “So you’re here for a breast reconstruction? Good. What are you wanting to get out of this?”
Me: “Umm… a new one?”
What kind of question is that? I wasn’t quite prepared for it. I mean, am I allowed other stuff too? No one told me this was a “you want fries with that new boob?” kind of deal.
After a short awkward silence we moved on to the next point of business, whipping my top off to let him take a gander (less awkward, considering how often I have to do that these days). He got out his tape measure and took all sorts of measurements, drew all over me and noted things on his piece of paper, and whilst doing this he kept frowning… I don’t think he realised he was doing it and I just about told him to stop it, but then I’m very shy (event without my boob out) so kept my mouth shut.
There are several different options when it comes to breast reconstruction. In one method, they insert a tissue expander underneath the skin, which they then progressively fill with saline over a few months, which serves to stretch the skin into a boob shape, and once it’s sufficiently stretched they whip the tissue expander out and replace it with a silicone implant. This option won’t be so good for me since I’ve had radiation to my skin (another post coming), which means that it is a bit more fragile than normal. I’m not that keen on an implant anyway, don’t like the idea of having something foreign in my body. Plus, I’ve got heck of a long time to live with it – and we all know fake ones don’t age quite the same as natural ones. I can’t imagine that one standing proudly to attention, while the other is heading southwards will be a good look for the future. The other options are taking muscle, fat and skin from either my stomach (free tummy tuck!) or my back. There are different methods with these options too, and it all gets a bit confusing. There’s not much fat on my back, and the radiation to my armpit reached around to my back too, so he didn’t seem to be keen on that option. Although, he didn’t seem sure there was enough “spare” tissue around my stomach to be able to reconstruct a breast either – “I could always grow some more!” I joked (like he’s never heard that one before. Facepalm).
I must have looked like a difficult case because after the frowny registrar had finished measuring, poking and sizing me up (read: grabbing a handful of tummy fat, then comparing that with a handful of boob), he went and got his senior.
This guy rattled quickly through all my options without taking the time to make sure I knew what he was talking about (I didn’t) and huffed a bit when talking about the fact that I wasn’t keen for an implant. So we started talking about the options around taking tissue from my stomach. I asked how this would affect future pregnancies. He said that it may make the abdominal area weaker, but didn’t seem to give me straight answer. He then proceeded to say that considering that this procedure is cosmetic, and child bearing is a much more important life choice, that perhaps I should consider delaying the reconstruction until after I’ve had my children.
Firstly, this is a HELL of a lot more than just a “cosmetic” procedure. No matter how much I try to pretend it doesn’t really affect me, and how many times my husband says I’m beautiful, it is a constant battle. I long for the day when I can look in the mirror and be symmetrical again, feel confident with little or no clothes on, have lights on sex, wear shoestring straps and low cut tops (not skanky ones though). It affects my self image, my mental health, my wardrobe choices (how dear it!) and my relationship. I’m not just some bored housewife out to get a new pair to fill out her designer tops you know.
Secondly, wait until AFTER I’ve had children to put myself back together again? Already I have to wait another 2 years (hormone therapy, another post, soon) before I can even start thinking about conceiving. Then even if I do get pregnant without too much trying (unlikely, considering what my body has been through), if I want to have a couple of kids, and do some breastfeeding with my one good boob, that stacks up to at least another 7 or so years in the mono boob club. HELL TO THE NO BUDDY!
Of course, the ability to have children is far higher up my priority list than a replacement for my righty, and if it came down to it and I had to choose, I would pick the former, but why the hell can’t I have it both ways? *stamps feet and has tantrum*
I could only articulate part of what I was thinking/feeling at this point, and simply said that I would rather not wait.
As you can probably gather, I didn’t exactly warm to this guy. It was compounded more when he said he didn’t do DIEP reconstructions (apparently this is the one that I wanted, however I didn’t know what he was talking about and had to Google it later). What do you mean you don’t do a particular type of reconstruction? What kind of surgeon are you? I expect the creator of my new boob to be an expert in everything, and I need that person to be someone I have the utmost confidence in. I was about to ask if I could talk to another surgeon then, but I didn’t need to, because he said that he thinks I should see one of his other (younger) colleagues. Thank GAWD.
So, all in all, I didn’t really get much out of my first plastic surgery consultation. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but I’m pleased that I’ve been scheduled to see another, more technically proficient surgeon, who does do DIEPs. Whatever those are…
(DIEP reconstructions I later found out are where they take just fat and skin from your stomach, and leave the muscle alone, therefore resulting in a faster recovery, and far less abdominal weakness, than the traditional TRAM flap reconstructions)