Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reconstruction and it feels so good??????

My breast cancer diagnosis came as a complete shock (as most do) and then when I finally CHOSE a lumpectomy, that choice was taken away because the cancer had already spread to another area and also to a lymph node.  I found out I would have a right-side mastectomy with just a week or two until my surgery.  And I wasn't able to consider a bilateral mastectomy because of the timing (or so I was told).  At the time I just did pretty much whatever they told me to do.  I went through the research (AKA Breast Cancer 101).  Unfortunately, because it was detected in my lymph node, I had to have another surgery, an axillary dissection, to remove all of the remaining nodes under my arm.  At the time, I was told that if I went this route, it would mean that I could do chemo and then I would get to SKIP RADIATION!  Woo hoo!

BUT I elected to seek my chemo treatment at a facility near our home.  The doctors meet there and discuss cases and then compare their recommendations for treatment.  When I completed chemo, my oncologist sent me to see a radiation oncologist.  He said that the doctors felt it was important for me to get the radiation because it reduces the chance of recurrence by 70%.  Well, I was 43 at the time and had 5 year old triplets who needed me to stick around for a while, so the choice was obvious....radiation.  What I didn't realize was that it would delay any reconstruction plans for at least one year once the radiation was complete (I finished 1/8/13).

Additionally, it meant that my reconstruction options would be limited.  I had NOT received any sort of expander during my prior surgeries.  The radiation causes quite a bit of damage in that the skin becomes much less elastic and the blood supply is restricted if not completely destroyed.  Typically expanders are placed during the mastectomy procedure.  In my case, this did not happen and so I just decided to wait to find out more once I was able to consider my options.

Fast forward to 2014. My mastectomy and radiation left me with limited options about reconstruction.  I am just approaching reconstruction time.  I am freaking out to say the least.  I have chosen to get a left-side prophylactic mastectomy (no cancer present but this reduces my risk of breast cancer on this side).  Part of this is because I want to feel more "even".  I'd like to be somewhat the same on both sides (size, appearance).  My choice is also DIEP flap reconstruction which is where they use fat, skin and blood vessels to make (two) new breast(s).  Ironically, I have "worked hard" this past year gaining weight (um...yes, I meant to do it... ) in order to help give me a better chance to get two "boobs" out of my belly fat.  I'm really kidding about how I "meant" to gain weight.  It happened and then I was hoping it would be useful.  But my plastic surgeon has indicated that I will be fortunate to get two B-cups out of it.  Seriously?!?!  Has he really LOOKED at this belly - post-triplets and post-eat-to-make-me-feel-better...???  But I am not a candidate for an implant on the right-side since I had radiation without the expander.  I could get an implant on the left-side but then it would really not look at all symmetrical, so the DIEP procedure is my choice.  I think.

Anyway, my surgery is scheduled in August.  I have elected to return to Vanderbilt because I feel good about the plastic surgeons there and this is a pretty complicated surgery.  There is a silver-lining in that I will get the tummy tuck and new breasts.  But really, it is terrifying to consider surgery (and being knocked out for 9-12 hours) and the recovery.  I'm a basket case.  I'm excited.  But then I get apprehensive too.  The idea of not being able to drive, bend over, walk comfortably, snuggle with the kids, etc for weeks really makes me sad and stressed.  But I'm ready to get this over with so that I really FEEL like I have kicked breast cancer booty and I can move on and enjoy this second chance. 

I read something elsewhere about "things were aren't supposed to say" and I want to share it.  Click on THIS LINK to read it.  I think she really put into writing what many of us are thinking and feeling after a breast cancer diagnosis/treatment/reconstruction.

There are so many days when I think about blogging and I just don't seem to get the words onto the screen, so I apologize for such a random post that came out of nowhere.

I am thankful for the love and support of family and friends during the last couple of years and I continue to feel grateful that I am still here.