Reconstruction: shopping for a new boob


Reconstruction was the last thing on my mind when I had breast cancer 25 years ago. With a 1-year-old and stage 2B breast cancer that included a rather large lymph node, I was much more concerned about living than having two breasts. In fact, I told them I wanted them both off, but they wouldn't do it back then. From what I understand, it's a common procedure today for a young woman who wants both removed to have a bilateral if it's justified. I just didn't care about my breasts. They were trying to kill me, and I wanted to be around to raise my daughter. Immediate reconstruction wasn't done as routinely then as now, and since I went in initially to do a lumpectomy with radiation (which changed when my surgeon found long finger roots and one big positive lymph node), we hadn't planned for it. I sort of mentioned reconstruction after surgery and was told, if I remember correctly, that I needed to wait a few years to recover from chemo. Now, I have to be honest here. I have the sense that someone told me they wanted me to wait to see if it came back, but I may have been telling myself that. I did choose to be reconstructed a year after surgery because of my daughter. At 2 she was beginning to notice body parts and that mommy had a "boo boo." I didn't want her to grow up with my boo boo in her face and wasn't going to banish her from my bedroom. I also noticed that I felt lopsided. So, around a year after they took it off, I started shopping for a new boob. There are many decisions to make when you begin shopping for a new boob--first is the plastic surgeon.Now, shopping for a plastic surgeon is not like looking for any other doctor. Plastic surgeons are artists and just as you travel the gallery circuit when you are looking for just the right piece for your entryway at home, you need to spend a lot of time in the ladies room for show and tell for the art of the plastic. When I found my plastic, I was overjoyed. He had pioneered some of the surgeries I was considering; among plastics, he was Picasso. The next thing in your shopping basket is the kind of surgery you want. When I found out they could make me a new breast out of my stomach, I was elated. I had been saving it for just such an occasion. When I told the plastic surgeon what I wanted, he pointed at the exam table and told me to hop up and let him see if we could. Whaaaa? See if we could? I had a stomach that needed to go away, and I needed a breast. What's the problem?Well my C-section scar was the problem. If he cut across it, he told me, it would destroy the integrity of my stomach. Now that was a real shock since my stomach had no integrity. It would sell out to the first piece of chocolate that walked by. But no, he said, the stomach muscles stayed where they were.So I was back to his first recommendation, which was to move my back muscle to the chest wall and put a small implant under it, which we did. You know, taking off the breast didn't hurt because they cut the nerves. But the reconstruction hurt a lot until I was introduced to the morphine pump. This wonderful invention had a button that allowed the morphine to flow. I used it solicitously until I found out it wouldn't let me overdose and then it became my best friend. I went home a week or so after surgery and gradually the pain left and I got used to having two breasts again. They matched fairly well since I had convinced the insurance company to pay for lifting the left breast to match the right. Now that was an interesting phone call!After replacing the implant the next year all went smoothly until 2007 when I was diagnosed with DCIS in the left breast, and I faced another mastectomy and reconstruction. Boy, that was when the fun really started. More on that later.

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