It struck me while I waited in the clean, modern office of my soon-to-be plastic surgeon that I was too young (and too sane) to be here. I wasn’t nearly vain enough to even dream of plastic surgery at 27, and I became nervous of how often in movies plastic surgeons are pointing out all the body’s faults in order to push more procedures. It would have been devastating to have a plastic surgeon talk about reconstructing my soon to be exiled breast and offering to throw in a quick butt liposuction, just for fun. All the weeks I had felt so self conscious about having breast cancer, and not really wanting people to know, I suddenly wished I could wear a flashing neon sign on my shirt letting everyone know that I wasn’t sitting in this waiting room for vanity; this was for no other reason than I had breast cancer.
But that’s not entirely true. This is a gratuitous surgery, and while it is different than women who elect to undergo procedures without medical provocation, this was indeed vanity at its core. Why did I want to single myself out so much? To prove that I was somehow above the vapid concerns of looks. I could have chosen to undergo my mastectomy with no reconstruction, and I had considered it. I do not feel that my breasts are definitive of who I am. I don’t have a particularly strong attachment to my body; I’ve always been a little more intrinsic… always inside my own head. I mostly just need my body to function properly, and I will be fine. But I wasn’t sure what exactly was at work: my own vanity or an overwhelming desire to just get through this. My body would never be the same again, and reconstruction was the only way to even sort of get back to that place.
The plastic surgeon, Dr. W. was great. Only later did I realize that I had somehow managed to get a referral to the best of the best in plastic surgeons in the state. And frankly, I feel like I totally deserved it. But we proceeded with all the Q&As, even though in my mind I had already hired him. We discussed the different procedures for reconstruction including the TRAM flap procedure and the tissue expander with implant procedure. How convenient, though, that I am a poor candidate for the TRAM procedure (which is apparently the better procedure). I simply do not have enough body fat.
So all these months, I could have been eating ice cream and french fries every day! If only I’d known.
The expander with implant entails:
– Immediately following the mastectomy and lymph node removal, a hard silicone expander will be placed behind the chest muscle wall.
– Liquid will be injected into the expander over the course of several weeks to slowly stretch the tissue.
– Once the tissue has been stretched to an appropriate size, another surgery will remove the expander and replace it with a silicone/saline implant.
In addition, because the mastectomy will remove all breast tissue including the nipple, another surgery can be scheduled to reconstruct a nipple… which can later be tatooed with the appropriate colors… so I should be good to go if I ever decide I want to go to Mardi Gras.
A few hours after my consultation with Dr. W. I received a call from Dr. F.s office: June 4 was scheduled as the official “B”-Day. I scribbled the date on a scrap piece of paper in my mom’s car, even though the date was burned into my memory.