It’s been 2 1/2 weeks and I’ve been out and about, seeing a lot of friends and being more social than I’d been immediately post surgery, as I’m feeling much better. And, just about every single time I see someone, the inevitable happens. They ask how I’m doing and then…..their eyes just cannot help themselves from sneaking a look at my new breasts. It’s kind of funny, and I just wish everyone could get it over with and be blatant about it, because to be very clear, I completely understand why you would want to see what they look like. A mastectomy is a strange procedure, and people don’t usually have experience with it, so it’s natural to wonder what the results will look like.
So for the record, they look completely normal with clothes on, and you wouldn’t know that I’ve had reconstruction if I didn’t tell you (so why don’t I keep my mouth shut, you might ask!). Well, first of all, I’m kind of fascinated with the whole thing, but I’ve also had quite a few people ask me about the procedure and how it all works, so I’m going to explain it in detail because it may be helpful for anyone else who is going through this process. There’s a lot of confusion about reconstruction and most people don’t really have much awareness of how it all works. I know I didn’t.
I found the entire reconstruction process to be very daunting, almost harder to figure out than the actual breast cancer treatment itself. I had no idea how complicated these procedures were, and had no idea which to choose. I would actually suggest making a chart or decision tree of options and review it with your surgeon(s) and even oncologist. I had lots of friends set me up with phone calls with their friends who’d had reconstruction and they all shared their insights (thank you to every one who so honestly shared their experiences with me, it proved to be soooo helpful). Now that I’m all done, I’ve regained my sense of humour about it, and can laugh about my perky new boobs, but when it first started, I was horrified and couldn’t find anything humorous about any of it.
There are 3 types of breast reconstruction currently widely available: Tram Flap reconstruction; Latissimus Dorsi reconstruction and Expander with Implant reconstruction. One thing to consider when deciding on 1 of these 3 treatment options is whether or not you need to have radiation treatment. Radiation dramatically impedes your skins ability to stretch, and so you may not be a viable candidate for expanders if you have it (I didn’t need radiation because we knew we were doing a mastectomy after the chemo).
Since there’s so much information to share, I’m going to break this into 2 posts, and for today will just give an overview of the 2 options that I DIDN’T choose – Tram Flap and Lattisimus Dorsi Flap.
In Tram Flap, they remove abdominal tissue and fat, and bring it up under your stomach skin, to create new breasts out of it, under your own chest skin. Lots of women told me they thought this would be great, “It’s like getting a tummy tuck for free,” yadda yadda. I have a feeling that this procedure would actually look and feel very natural, as it’s creating new breasts out of your own existing skin and muscle so would feel the most natural. However, women who’ve had it, have told me that they lost use of their stomach and abdomen muscles and I personally felt that the fact that it creates an additional surgical site (breasts and stomach), as well as the fact that my stomach muscles would be compromised, ruled this option out. I also don’t have enough extra fat there to create 2 breasts, so they’d probably have had to put implants in afterwards anyway. One of my favorite sites, http://www.breastcancer.org/, has some helpful information, click here if you’re interested in more detail about Tram Flap.
The Latissimus Dorsi procedure uses the latissimus dorsi muscles from your back (which are directly behind your breasts) and brings them around, under your skin to the front of your chest. I decided not to do this procedure, because again, it entails additional surgical sites (in this case 3 sites) and I have heard that your back muscles become somewhat compromised afterwards, which I didn’t want to have to deal with. I also heard that you often have to use implants in addition with this procedure as well. Bottom line, if you’re lean, these 2 procedures are not going to be good options if you’re doing a bilateral mastectomy, because you simply won’t have enough muscle/tissue to create 2 breasts. Click here for more info about Latissimus Dorsi from http://www.breastcancer.org/.
Next post will be about the procedure that I chose, Expanders with implants.