This post is entirely to enlighten you on breast reconstruction, in particular, my personal path to reconstruct my breasts after my bilateral mastectomy. So if you’re feeling particularly male and queasy at this thought, then click on by but may I just say, shame on you for not reading this post. Cut that male bravado bull, sit down with a nice cuppa and educate yourself.
Righto let’s get started. When a woman undergoes a mastectomy she has the choice of leaving it as is, or getting them reconstructed to resemble her old breasts. If she leaves it as is, then she can choose to use inserts in her bra to give the appearance of having a breast. My aunt chose to do this (she had a double mastectomy) and Aunty E always had the perkiest chest, well into her eighties. Good on ya darl’. No droopy, saggy boobs in sight!
A woman may choose to reconstruct her breast for various reasons. For me, it was primarily two reasons. First reason : while I wasn’t vain about my “barely B Cups”, I felt that after all this cancer crap I was going through, it would do me the world of good to feel that I was kinda, nearly, sorta, like the old me. To not only have the appearance of a bosom when I’m dressed, but also to have a familiar feeling through touch. The second reason for having reconstruction, was the almost giddylike thrill of knowing that I could Upsize. So, not quite the old me then. A slightly larger-in-the-chest me. Hey – if I’m going through cancer hell there may as well be some upside to all this, wouldn’t you agree? And woah horsey, I’m not going nuts. I’m only asking for a cup size larger. Or as my dear Dr W said, “yes, increasing it by 150ml would be tasteful”. I like that. No bouncing Jordan-esque boobies here thank you very much. “Tasteful” is the word du jour. Try using it in your conversations today.
If a woman only undergoes one side ie, the other side is the natural breast, and she decides to get implants, then when she lies down, the natural breast slinks to its natural sleep-like state like, while the new boob is standing tall and proud. So some women may choose to go for the more natural route. That is, using existing tissue and muscle from her own body. This would make the new breast appear and feel more natural.
Where would you take these muscles and tissue from? The main areas are the abdominals (TRAM flap), the lattisimus dorsi muscle in the back (Lat Flap), the glutes / bottom (Bottom Flap), and the inner thigh muscles using the gracilis muscles (TUG flap). All these options involve micro surgery to connect blood vessels to ensure this tissue lives, and the surgeries take many, many hours. There is an excellent flow chart of information at Breast Reconstruction Awareness Singapore. Many women prefer to use their own tissue because it feels more like the real thing, and they don’t like the idea of having a foreign thing in their body – the silicone implants.
I chose not to go down the Flap route. Mainly because, doing what I do, as a pilates specialist, when you take muscles from one part of your body, there will be imbalances in the other parts. This can last your whole life, but of course, with movement therapy such as pilates, this can be minimised if not nearly eradicated.
I wasn’t prepared to have muscle imbalances, not when pilates defines part of who and what I am. I need to move, I need to not sacrifice one part of me for another. So that’s why I have chosen implants.
However, I didn’t have enough skin saved from the mastectomies. I had to forego my nipples – why have them when there could be a tiny cancer cell lying in wait? So Dr W my plastic surgeon inserted expanders under my pectoral (chest) muscles. Then, once the surgical wounds have healed, he will, over a course of 4-6 weeks, inject saline solution into the expanders to stretch the skin. This is done until the desired size is reached, then the actual implants are inserted to complete the job. Another reason not to go too large as the larger you go, the longer the expansion process!
Initially I was wary of the expansion process – it sounded painful. Well, it is! Imagine having a massive meal, your gut is ready to burst and it feels so uncomfortable. Know that feeling? Yes well it’s worse. But, with everything, the body adapts, and in a day or two it feels less uncomfortable.
I’m keen on getting this done swiftly, because right now I look like a bit of a freak. Actually, I haven’t even looked at myself yet. Because I can’t bring myself to. It feels numb. If you were to prod my chest, I’d barely feel anything. Also get this – I have a metal plate under my pecs to protect my expanders. Luckily I don’t think I’ll be needing a needle plunged to the heart – remember that scene in Pulp Fiction when John Travolta plunges a shot of adrenaline into Uma Thurman’s heart? Possibly the most “holy sh!t” scene in a movie ever.
And as for the scars – I’m not ready. I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to see the new me. The “reconstruction in progress” me. I’ll let you know when I do. Because I’m sure I’ll have something to write about when I do.
Lecture over. Can someone please revive that man that’s slumped over, I believe he passed out sometime when I mentioned “micro surgery”.