The topic of this post is nipple reconstruction. There, I said it. Addressing this topic feels even more personal than just speaking about breasts in general and sometimes I wonder why this is. Why is it so hard to blog about, or even to say the word “nipples” out loud? But, here we go…
A couple weeks ago I had a post-surgery visit with my plastic surgeon for the unveiling of the finishing touches (yes, nipples) on my reconstruction project. It got me to thinking about my first meeting with my plastic surgeon about a year ago. Dear hubby and I were both pretty nervous that day.
I never viewed myself as the kind of person needing or wanting plastic surgery. I would age gracefully as they say, whatever that means. Aging isn’t really graceful at all, in fact, it’s quite the opposite really. The older you get, the less graceful you actually become in some ways. At least that seems to be the case with me.
Cancer changed my aging gracefully plans.
Suddenly I found myself meeting face-to-face with a plastic surgeon. Actually, it felt less like face-to-face and more like a breasts-to-face type of meeting; is that sharing too much?
Our first meeting took place as a consultation in case my BRCA test came back positive. It did. Positive results called for a bilateral along with the reconstruction option, if I so chose. I remember sitting there feeling totally out of place, slightly humiliated and more than a little uncomfortable as yet another person peered, prodded, measured, calculated, advised and yes, even took photos.
Reconstruction sounded more like something to be done on a building or highway, not my breasts.
That first meeting was awkward to put it mildly. It wasn’t the doctor’s fault. It was simply due to my state of mind at that point in time, which had been so recently inundated with a cancer diagnosis, undetermined treatment courses, unknown test outcomes and too many statistics. And of course, we were talking about breasts. My breasts. I don’t know about you, but not that many people have seen mine. Even back in my girls locker room days, most of us hid behind our gym towels as much as possible.
Many women choose not to do reconstruction and sometimes I think they are the wisest among us. Reconstruction is a choice and it is not right for every woman for a variety of reasons. Here is a great site that speaks to that decision route. It’s appropriately called BreastFree.org. A woman should never feel rushed or pressured into choosing reconstruction.
My relationship with my plastic surgeon has evolved over the last year. Now we are pretty comfortable with each other, at least as comfortable as possible considering the personal nature of our discussions. I remember he told me back in the beginning that we would get to know each other really well because reconstruction was going to be a long road. Boy was he right. At the time I had no idea how long of a road it really was going to be. It was probably better that way.
Again, if you are considering reconstruction, it will be a lengthy road and there may be setbacks and detours along the way.
Dear hubby asked me if I wanted him to accompany me on this latest appointment. Even he sensed the highly personal nature of this latest juncture.
“Of course you can come,” I said. “You’ve been along every step of the way, why stop now?” I did wonder a bit though about what his true thoughts might be…
I found my mind at this last visit was definitely in a different place. This time, my thoughts were more of the absurd kind. I couldn’t quite help feeling a little bit like the Bionic Woman, Frankenstein and Wonder Woman all rolled into one. I felt like some kind of partially recreated new person. I’ve had various parts removed, rebuilt, adjusted, maneuvered, tweaked and fine-tuned. I was waiting for the unveiling. All three of us were.
We all sat there with baited breath while my doctor gently removed the bandages to check on this latest phase of “the project.” I think he was almost as anxious as I was. He has become quite invested in his project. He wants a good outcome, too.
I could tell by his expression he was pleased with the results. All three of us uttered a collective sigh of relief. “Sometimes this part of the project goes well,” he said, “and sometimes it doesn’t.”
After more inspecting and analyzing, it was determined more healing time was required.
I needed yet another visit. There would be yet another unveiling.
The long winding road continues. But I’m getting closer to the end.
For more information on breast reconstruction, BreastReconstruction.org is a pretty good starting place.
For a highly informative and more descriptive take on the actual process of reconstruction, I recommend checking out this post by The Accidental Amazon called Reconstruction: An Alternate View. It’s a superb piece.