You know that shitty feeling when your vacation ends and you have to go back to reality? That happened to me last week.
I’ve spent the last two months in my own home… enjoying the silence, my privacy, sleeping in, watching my DVR, grabbing a leisurely coffee during the day, and redecorating the newly emptied spaces in my house, knowing I’d be leaving again, and not returning until 2016… the NEW year… my comeback year.
I wanted things in my home to be in perfect shape so I can return to a fresh start, after my second surgery… and that’s why my “vacation” ended… because now, it’s time for surgery #2.
I’d always planned to have a staged, 2-part reconstruction, after much research and after deciding not to undergo a more aggressive reconstructive option. After my double mastectomy in August, my plastic surgeon inserted temporary tissue expanders underneath my pectoral muscles to stretch the tissue and make room for implants.
This Friday, Dec. 11, the “exchange” surgery happens. My doctor will cut me back open through the same incisions from my first surgery, remove the tissue expanders, and any residual scar tissue, and put in my new implants… my new boobs.
Seems easy… right? I thought so at first.
I’ve been waiting for this moment since August. I’ve been excited about this surgery. Tissue expanders suck. I figured after this, I’ll be perfect.
But when I went for my pre-op visit with my plastic surgeon last week, to review exactly what’s going to happen, I had a complete meltdown before he even walked into the room.
Why? I have no idea… I was perfectly fine until I started getting undressed. Maybe writing this blog entry will help me figure it out.
It’s possible that the anticipation of surgery coming to a head just became very real. Maybe the enormity of what my body has been through this last year, my whole life really, finally hit me.
I desperately tried to pull myself together as I waited for my doctor to walk in. I expected he would educate me about his plan, my options, and what to expect.
Well, I was not able to pull myself together, and things only got worse since he didn’t explain any of the things I thought he would.
I signed some release forms, I had pictures of my naked expanders taken, through steady tears, I was asked what felt like a million loaded questions I didn’t know how to answer, I was shuffled through an appointment in order for a doctor to stay on a tight schedule, all while freaking out.
I was never shown an implant. I was never shown a picture of what I might expect (even though I asked). I was not told what recovery from this surgery would be like. I was not told whether I’d need to stay overnight, or if I could go home after surgery… I was just told, “this is going to be so much better. You’re gonna look great.” And I felt like everyone in the office was looking at me like I had 10 heads.
I sobbed my way out of the office and thought, wow, the vacation really is over. Time to get back to business, Mary, because you’re not crazy… it’s just time — once again — to figure this out all on your own.
But luckily, I wasn’t alone.
I’ve made some incredible friends in the cancer community who I reached out to, right away. I also sought advice from a private online support group, Beyond the Pink Moon, which has been invaluable. I needed reassurance that I’m not losing my mind. I also needed professional advice from other plastic surgeons, and quickly.
I requested a follow-up visit with my doctor and my mom came with me… this visit went precisely the way the first one should have.
I made it clear that my concerns are not about whether I’ll “look good” or which implants are safer, I’m confident in the research done on silicone and I’m confident in the doctor… I just want to know if the doctor’s goal is to make me look and feel like I did before, because that’s my goal… when do I get to be ME again?
The answer? Probably never. Pretty damn close, but still different.
Maybe that’s why roughly 40 percent of patients who undergo reconstruction have multiple surgeries… maybe everyone is just seeking total perfection… chasing an image, and a feeling, that you remember as perfectly fine, and exactly what you want..
The truth is, no amputee is going to find perfection. And in this case, a man-made boob is never going to look, or feel, like a real one.
And it doesn’t matter how many times someone tells you, “but you look fabulous!” I’m sure I will look fabulous, my doctor is a genius. But I’m the one who has to live with the stripped down version of this “new” me, and who will notice the differences, no matter how small.
So I’m prepared to undergo more surgeries in the future, if I need them, until I feel right. But if I’m being honest… who the fuck has time for that?
How am I supposed to get on with my NEW YEAR if the crap from my OLD YEAR keeps rearing its disgusting face?
It hit me last week that this is the new normal. Welcome to your new life, Mary.
So yes, the struggle, since my “vacation” ended, has been quite real.
Now that we’re clear on what a headcase I’ve been since last week, let’s review what exactly is going to happen Friday.
This video pretty much describes how the procedure will go. My doctor recommends Mentor MemoryGel round implants and he’ll also use AlloDerm, basically donated human skin tissue, to reinforce the implants. AlloDerm will reduce the risk of infection and scarring, which can happen when working with previously radiated skin (in my case, from treatment when I was 16).
I had to understand the differences between implants… saline versus silicone, and the different varieties of silicone, because of course, what’s right for someone having breast augmentation may not work for someone who’s had all of their breast tissue removed.
Saline, which once upon a time may have been perceived as the “safer” implant, can easily deflate, or rupture altogether, and can generally cause noticeable rippling. A deflated saline implant is also noticeable, but of course, if the implant is punctured, the saline is absorbed by the body, eliminated when you pee.
Most silicone used today features a gel that remains contained within the implant, should it somehow become punctured.
Silicone implants also cause rippling. In breast augmentation, this is less obvious, because there is existing breast tissue to conceal the ripples in the implant. I have no breast tissue, only my chest muscles, and rippling can be more obvious. My doctor did not recommend a gummy bear silicone implant, which has a teardrop shape, because in his experience, they are much harder and have not given his patients a shape they, or he, have been pleased with.
This process sucks. And I can’t shake the funk.
I don’t think it helps that, in general, life just seems to be more difficult this year, for everyone.
Sickness, personal tragedies, loss, freak accidents, and on a larger scale, more mass shootings, terrorist attacks and a political climate that has people abandoning the morals and values they learned as children and instead flinging mud at each other.
Hate is only going to breed future hate, and so many people are hurting in ways they may not show… we need to be kinder, and more thoughtful toward one another. We only get one shot at this.
This usually positive chickie just doesn’t yet feel in the Christmas spirit. Maybe I will after Friday, when I’m home recuperating, swimming in a sea of percocet and thousands of pillows, watching Love Actually on repeat, and decorating the tree, counting down the days until my brother visits from California with my two munchkins, and my entire family is together again.
Maybe that’s when I’ll feel whole… or maybe after Friday, I’ll kick myself for being such a debbie downer, because I look fucking fabulous.