Ok with October starting tomorrow the “pink washing” will begin in earnest. So with that, I’m going to talk about some things breast cancer patients hear upon diagnosis.
I’m starting with the “but at least you’ll get new perky boobs” because honestly before I started going through treatment and living the life of a breast cancer patient, I too thought the same about new boobs. At the time of consult, they (the physicians) make it sound sooooo easy to “replace” your breasts….and you’re so focused on surviving that for me anyway, I listened more closely to what treatment I was going to have to go through.
At my one on one consultation with the plastic surgeon I was offered two options- implants or creating breasts from my own tissue. Well, at the time of that consult I didn’t have enough of me to create breasts from my own flesh so the option became implants. I was advised that during the surgery for my double mastectomy, expanders would be put in place in order to stretch everything for the future implants. Again it was made to sound simple and normal.
Fast forward- waking up from my double mastectomy I was surprised to look down and see that I was nearly the same size as when I went under. That should tell you how small I was!! The first fill of the expanders wasn’t bad- until the cramping of my chest muscles started. The pain came from the stretching of the muscle and tissue that the expanders were causing. At my second fill I expressed my concern about the ridge of the implants causing pain on my ribs. I was assured that the implants themselves do not have that hard ridge.
I put all of that out of my mind as chemotherapy started. I dealt with the pain along with all the side effects of chemo. Eventually I started talking to other women who had gone through both implants and reconstruction with their own tissue. I realized that there were more stories about problems and issues than “I’m happy with my…”. Still I thought ok it’s not going to be as simple as I was led to believe.
Through treatment even though I was nauseous all the time, I gained weight from the steroids and my onset of menopause. When I went to my next plastic surgery consult my plastic surgeon talked about a DIEP Flap that would use my stomach and perhaps part of my inner thighs to create pseudo breasts, after I talked about my weight gain and my concern about the implants. He told me a DIEP would give me a tummy tuck along with breasts. Okay I thought a two-fer!!
But then I was told he couldn’t do the surgery 3 months. I needed a full hysterectomy and to get started on my new life. I told them I’d get back to them in 24 hours with my decision of either waiting for the DIEP in 3 months or implants in the next few weeks.
I went home and thought to myself this is way too much trouble for some damn pseudo boobs!! I finally typed into a search engine “no reconstruction after double mastectomy”. That eventually led me to a page called “Flat and Fabulous” and their Facebook page. I sat there for hours researching not reconstructing after mastectomy. Wait- THATS AN OPTION?!? An option that was NEVER given to me by a single physician in my cancer team. Not by the general surgeon and certainly not the plastics guy. I had tiny breasts before. I really didn’t want implants and I also didn’t want to risk more surgeries, complications that can come from either option. I picked up the phone and told plastics that I was not interested in either option and that I wanted to be as flat as possible. Evidently that was shocking to my plastic surgeon as he called me that evening to discuss MY decision. He prefaced the conversation with “it’s your body and your choice BUT”….after listening to reasons why I should reconstruct, I firmly told him I wanted to be as flat as possible.
Well….that isn’t quite how I was left. I have what flat women call dog ears. I can go back for a revision if I can find a surgeon to do it but I’m disinclined at this time.
What infuriated me was I was never presented the option of being flat. That no one clearly emphasized that while I’d have “breasts” I’d have no sensation in them. That implants require maintenance every couple of years, or that you can have rejection, infections and adhesions. That using your own tissue can be fraught with healing issues, infections and tissue death. They should add into the conversation staying flat. Not that staying flat doesn’t have its own issues. Mostly staying flat has issues with your own perception of self, other people’s judgement and if you’re happy with how flat you were left.
I tell you all this to help you understand and perhaps give some information for your decision regarding your choice. My choice may not be your choice. Other women who did reconstruct may not have had huge issues and certainly not all women who’ve remained flat are completely satisfied. For me however I’m happy with my choice. I’ve had enough pain just from the double mastectomy. I have post mastectomy pain syndrome and with that I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like putting myself through more surgeries.
Finally- for those who say to you “at least you’ll get new boobs” you deal with them however you want- or you can simply direct them to this post or even a google search.
As always #FuckCancer