{02} Surgeries

Lumpectomy
Your surgeon may or may not explain this, but a large percentage of women who proceed with a lumpectomy will require a second surgery because the pathology results will find that the “margins are not clear” which means some bits of cancer still remain.  Surgeons carefully teeter between getting the bad stuff while leaving as much of the good stuff, but it’s a very tricky dance.  I would not have changed my actions despite the fact that I had to go back for more, but I would have appreciated it if I’d been better prepared with the possibility.

My second point is even more important in the “preparation category”.  Do NOT count on any definitive treatment plan UNTIL your surgery pathology results come back and you are sitting down face to face with your oncologist.  What happened with me and almost every woman I’ve met who has gone through BC treatments has the same story; We were told early on (usually by our general surgeon) that because of XYZ, we would get to skip chemo, but weeks later we’d walk out of the oncology consultation completely shell-shocked with the news that chemo is without question recommended and encouraged.

I’m not sure how this disconnect is happening between doctors, but in the end the burden of preparedness and test of strength falls on our shoulders.

Mastectomy
It’s a frightening word, but it doesn’t mean the end to beauty, femininity, sensuality, or sexiness.  I’m not sure what to say, other than you’ll find ways to appreciate your new beauty when you look in the mirror.  There will be changes and scars but I find some twist of pride when I look at them.  Yes, sometimes I pout and wish my old breast was back, but it can’t be, so I make due with all of the blessings that I do have in my life.

If you require a drain after the surgery, it’s not that bad.  I had a special bra that held the little plastic bulb and maintaining it was easy.  It sounds much worse than it is, and even my usually squeamish husband had no problem helping me.  Even a few days after surgery I attended a big party with my drain and bandages and no one knew because I wore one of my favorite sweater-coats and everything looked normal.  Just be careful with hugs in the beginning!  While the drain was in, we washed my hair in the kitchen sink everyday and I took a shallow bath with a washcloth to get all of the body parts.  It was kind of a nice, quiet time for me and my husband.

When it came time for my surgeon to remove the bandages and drain I was very nervous.  I had read that the drain removal can be uncomfortable and my surgeon stood over me psyching me up with “Are you ready? Are you ready!? Ok, take a deep breath because I’m about to start!”  Gee, Dr. B thanks for the calming pep talk!  Within two seconds he stood over me holding the drain and I looked down and said, “That’s it!!?? I didn’t even feel it come out!!”  The lucky irony is that most of my breast nerves were removed with the tissue so it was easy.  Find the silver lining right!?

Reconstruction
For me, I was adamant and fortunate that I qualified for immediate implant reconstruction during my skin-sparing mastectomy.  It was important to me to wake up from surgery with some kind of “breast mound”!  If you’re facing this decision, I know you’ll make the best choice for you and your circumstances.

Early on I found the most helpful forum, Young Survival Coalition, and on that forum I found a few photos of a woman who had amazing breast reconstruction!  Once I saw her finished results, I knew I could do it too.  But, I do want to emphasize that based on all of the images I’ve seen, her results are NOT typical and most usually don’t end up as pretty.  But I knew if she could have that done by a SoCal surgeon, than I could too if need be.  On the forum she showed her face, but I felt the need to give her some privacy since I’m reposting the images.  The first image is without nipples and the second is with.

I’ve been pleased with my implant, despite the fact that I have endured some capsular contracture (the scar tissue is clamping around the implant) and I credit the health of my skin and recovery to the organic sesame oil that I’ve applied to my chest for months before, during and after surgeries and I still maintain that habit today.  The oil is rich in Vitamin E and I’m certain it’s soaking down into my cells and helping my body to heal and maintain optimal health.  My bras are a bit greasy from it, but who cares!

Lastly, I’d like to say that despite my two surgeries and new shape, I haven’t lost “me”.  I can still wear bikinis with no one knowing, I can still go mountain bike riding down single track trails, I can still paddle my kayak until I have blisters on my hands and I can still feel sexy in my favorite low cut dress that shows a peak of cleavage.  What I’m trying to say is once all of the nonsense passes, you’ll be back on track, and just maybe you’ll be an even better you!

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