Well, it really has been a minute – or more like a few – since my last post! In February, I promised an update as well as a blog featuring my chef friend’s new spring menu – and failed on both counts! I know, I suck. But sometimes life just, well, is life. And every day comes, whether we are ready for it or not, huh? So let’s go back and do some catching up, shall we?
As my readers know, last July, I began the reconstruction journey, even after I adamantly declared that I wouldn’t do it. Most days I regret starting the process, but it is what it is and all I can do now is look forward, rather than behind. I had implants, very small implants, put in, just so that I wouldn’t be caved in anymore and could wear a swimsuit without embarassment – to me AND my family! Well, unfortunately, the implant on my left side – my radiated side – developed a staff infection, and by September I was pretty sick and the plastic surgeon had to go back in and remove it. When THOSE bandages came off, I was devestated to see that I was now even MORE caved-in than I had been before starting reconstruction. Deeply depressed, I cried a LOT; and upon return to the plastic surgeon post-op, he promised me that he could and WOULD make it look better, that it could be done (because I seriously, at that point, had my doubts). He said we would have to wait several months for things to heal again before we started over, but that there was an option that did not entail putting anything else foreign into my body that could be rejected again. He told me about a procedure called “Fat Grafting.” This is where he first goes in and liposuctions fat from whatever area of my body that I want him to (and PLENTY of people graciously offered theirs to me as well), and then in the operating room they spin the fat to separate it from liquid. Once they do this, the liquid is discarded, and the fat is then injected into the breast area and molded into a breast. The only catch about this, however, is that some of the fat may not stay in place and take on the blood vessels around it, but rather just dissolve back into the body; and it would take several procedures, because only so much can be transferred at one time. So I was in – I didn’t care how many times we had to do it (or so I thought), because hell, liposuction AND build-a-boob?? Let’s do it!
My first procedure was January 29th, and I was not at ALL prepared for what I would wake up to physically – neither the severe pain nor the huge, shocking purple bruising that came with the liposuction. The pain from THAT surgery was way worse than even the initial double mastectomy, and the recovery time was about twice as long. He harvested fat from my belly and my sides (ie: love handles), and after the bruising went away, I WAS rather pleased with having a smaller gut, despite all of the pain it took to get it. I was a little disappointed, as was the doctor, in the outcome once again on my left breast (if you can call it that). He had had trouble, when injecting the fat during surgery, in getting the large scar to loosen and expand. It had been opened and closed four or five times previously, so it is pretty tight. Our plan was, in between that procedure and the next, for me to try a fairly new system called the Brava – a sports bra of sorts with a suction device, designed to pull the skin out naturally through suction, rather than inserting an expander under the skin (which, as a foreign object, I wasn’t willing to do). The wait-time in between procedures had to be at least three months, the surgeon told me, so that the fat had a chance to take on blood supply. About two months after the first fat transfer, my nurse called to tell me that my insurance wouldn’t cover the Brava system, because it is so new and considered “experimental.” If I wanted to do it anyway, it would cost me about a thousand bucks. Um, no thanks. So now what??? They told me I could proceed and do the same procedure as before, and he would work on getting the scar out a little more this time. So surgery was scheduled and I prepared for round two.
The second procedure was April 30th, and this time I was prepared for what was coming – but I really wasn’t. This time, he said he only had a little that he could take from my belly, so I told him to take from my thighs. Dear God. He got most of the fat from my thighs, he later told me, and that was a whole ‘nother kind of pain. I woke up in a compression garment that went from just above my knees all the way up to my ribs. Whoa. Then on top of that, my chest was tightly wrapped in ace bandage, and between the two things, I could barely breathe! I used my cane for a couple of days due to the thigh pain when standing, sitting, walking – pretty much moving in any form or fashion! But I’m almost three weeks out, and have been up and about for almost a week now – much sooner than after the last time. Last time I didn’t drive until I was two weeks out; this time, I drove myself one time after about five days, but then waiting until my 1 week (and a day) follow up appointment with the plastic surgeon. We were both a bit more hopeful this time when we unwrapped my chest, as there is definite movements outwards of the big, main scar, and the semblance of the beginnings of a tiny breast or pec even. We are hoping that one more procedure will do the trick, two at the most – and that is a huge improvement over what he initially predicted with EIGHT procedures! So yeah, I am finally seeing an end to this whole ordeal, and I’m looking forward to being able to wear a swimsuit this summer without too much embarrassment, as well as on our family cruise at the beginning of October. Now I want to focus on my health, and toning up after weight loss and liposuction…and hopefully this whole cancer nightmare will be behind me forever, never to return!