I just turned 35, but it feels a little like life is going backwards…
I spent all of 2016 getting used to having a new body, after undergoing a double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2015. Despite the tragic circumstances, when all was said and done, I was truly happy with how I looked and how I felt, probably for the first time in my life… not because things were perfect, but because I took care of myself from the inside out, and it showed.
I was surprised to feel that good about myself.
And now, despite teetering on the edge of perfection, I’m about to do my reconstruction all over again… because of a flaw that could potentially worsen and will definitely never go away.
The problem is, this flaw stares back at me every day. I feel it and see it every time I move.
The flaw is called “animation.” When my plastic surgeon did my first reconstruction, he placed my implants underneath my pectoral muscles. This is probably the most common method of placement, whether for reconstruction or augmentation, because the muscles help protect, lift and disguise the implants.
The drawback is, with implants under the pecs, the pec muscles are no longer where they’re supposed to be… they’re much closer to the skin’s surface, and hugging an implant. Back in 2015 when I was recovering from my mastectomy, I knew it would be important to strengthen these muscles that had been completely traumatized during a 7-hour surgery. For one, because stronger chest muscles help form a better shape as your body heals. But also because I’m a natural born fighter… my first thought upon returning to my home last January, as a newly single person, was, what if someone breaks into my house, or tries to grab me off the street, how will I protect myself if I’m not physically strong?
And I’ve come a long way a year later… but now, whenever I move my arms, my chest muscles flex, the right more so than the left, and I’m talking aggressively, no matter how slight the movement. When the muscles flex, the implants jump, causing the skin to look clenched… the result very closely resembles a combination of cellulite and sagging skin.
It’s ain’t pretty… but what a conversation starter. 🤣
You can barely notice the animation on the left side, but, as you can see, the right side looks pretty ridiculous.
When I visited my doctor back in December I’d hoped fat grafting could help disguise the puckering on my right breast… I didn’t expect my doctor to recommend a complete do-over. Unfortunately, he told me animation is a very common problem that you really can’t predict or prevent. Working out my chest didn’t necessarily cause it, but physically, the clenching sensation feels more pronounced as time goes on and I continue to get stronger… and it’s really annoying.
But the answer is not, stop working out… the answer is, fix the flaw you can’t stand.
So what my doctor needs to do is go back in, remove the implants from underneath the muscles and place them on top. To preserve the symmetry, he needs to do this to both sides, even though I really don’t have a problem with the left side. He’ll use AlloDerm, cadaver skin, to create a harness for the implants underneath the skin. The AlloDerm will also create a protective barrier between the implant and my own skin.
Something I didn’t decide until I went for my pre-op consult, was to swap the implants I currently have for new ones. Right now I have Mentor brand, high-profile, smooth, round silicone implants, which feel great. A newer implant has recently been FDA-approved, by Allergan, and it’s also high-profile, smooth and round, but the silicone is more cohesive than my Mentor implants. What that means is, the silicone gel is more firm, which helps reduce visible rippling that would be more apparent if I’d kept the Mentor implants, since the implants won’t have the muscles to shield them from the skin. Here’s a video that describes it well.
I wrote about most of this a few posts ago, so rereading this might feel a little deja vu to you too… when I wrote about this in December, I was feeling reluctant, but optimistic. As surgery has drawn closer, human nature has kicked in and I’ve naturally started to doubt the process and worry about all the “what ifs…”
What if the pain is excruciating like last time… what if I hate the shape… what if the implants feel too dense and I hate them… what if I develop an infection… what if I regret leaving well enough alone…
I’ve also grown more and more frustrated with having to start over. This surgery is going to be more intense than my last, because my doctor has to manipulate my muscles, rather than just exchanging expanders for implants. And I’m having some traumatic flashbacks of recovering from my mastectomy… this kind of recovery isn’t just painful, it’s totally disruptive to my independence. Once again, I’m back at my parent’s house, for who knows how long. I’m grateful they’re here, willing and happy to take care of me, but I know I’m going to be pretty useless for the next couple of weeks. And I fucking hate it.
I’m mad I have to put the life I’ve come to love on temporary hold for this shit.
I’m mad that I don’t know if this is the last surgery I’ll need.
I’m mad, once again, that this stupid disease, while gone, still pulls shit like this to remind me, you’re still broken.
And I’m sick of being told, “but you can handle this, you’re a champ,” when the truth is, I shouldn’t HAVE to. Why do I deserve this life?
And so, true to every single time I’ve had surgery in the past, earlier this week I had a total breakdown, called my best friend to come scoop me up so I could cry about anything and everything I hate in life while chugging Prosecco until 1 a.m.
Those kind of nights are necessary… my head pounded the next day… but I got it out of my system.
And of course, now that I let all the crazy out, I’m still a little annoyed, but I have a healthier perspective.
And it got me thinking about something a spiritual healer once told me. I may have already written about this too, but it’s worth repeating…
About a month or so before I had my mastectomy, I spent several hours with this healer, who kicked off the session with a reading. This man, who only knew my first name before we’d met, started to tell me things about myself, my character, how I make choices, how I operate on a daily basis. Everything he said was spot on. He is a believer in past lives… something I’d never really thought a lot about, but what he told me shook me to the core, because as he delivered the message, I knew what he was saying was true, with every fiber of my being.
He told me I have the soul of a warrior.
He told me my soul has lived through many lives, but that my soul chose each life path to learn and grow. He told me that my soul specifically chose each life because it was challenging… and the bigger the challenge, the greater the life lessons. I’m a soul who WANTS the challenge to constantly improve.
He explained what religion often claims “heaven” to be, which is the place the soul goes after the body dies… and he told me, most souls prefer to stay in that place, because wherever it is in our enormous and complex galaxy, it’s beautiful. It’s ecstasy. It’s perfect. Most souls aren’t brave enough to leave that place and come back to the hardships of life as we know it on Earth… I’ve not only chosen to leave that beautiful place, time and again, but I’ve left it to go and do some serious warrior shit. Every.Single.Time.
And so it doesn’t surprise me that I’m now choosing to put myself through what feels a little like torture, because I know deep down, some risks are worth taking.
A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there…
Surgery is tomorrow. I’ve made it this far. I’ve been here before and I survived it. Now I need to go in, go to sleep, wake up and kick some recovery ass while floating on my morphine cloud.
I know my body and mind are stronger now than they were when I started this journey.
I know to hope for the best but to expect that some things may not go as planned… whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen.
I know my body can do amazing things and will heal as it did each time before.
And I know that things could always be worse… I could have bigger complications than I do right now… I could have my hands tied, with no choices.
I grateful that I’ve always had a choice. I’m proud that I always choose the roads less traveled.
So watch out world… this warrior has another mission to slay.
I’ll see you on the other side. ✌🏼