December has arrived bringing more frigid temperatures, all of the holiday decorations and the making of to do lists that seem to grow longer each day instead of shorter.
This December is unlike any previous one for me for obvious reasons; one being it is now six months since my bilateral mastectomy last June 2. Now six months later, it feels as if I’ve reached some sort of milestone. It is also time to be ridding my body of its rigid “chest plate of armor,” as David likes to call my tissue expanders. Today I will undergo yet another surgery to replace the uncomfortable expanders with new unfamiliar silicone implants.
This “day of implants” takes me back to last spring shortly after my diagnosis. Sitting in a plastic surgeon’s office that day felt surreal. I never imagined myself needing a plastic surgeon. Not me. I would grow older and wiser welcoming (OK, trying to welcome) wrinkles, sagging jowls and everything else gravity seems to eventually take control over. But there David and I sat, once again talking and making decisions about things we never intended to deal with. We passed around sample silicone gel implants as if replacing my real breasts with them was no big deal! I’ll have to post more about that day sometime.
A month or so ago when my plastic surgeon and I were discussing a date for this latest procedure, he threw out a few other days as well as December 2. However the minute I heard he was available on December 2, that’s the day I wanted. It seemed like the “perfect” date to pick, exactly six months to the day, since my bilateral. Somehow the timing felt perfect. It would bring some kind of odd closure to the whole mastectomy ordeal.
When I reflect upon the last six months, I am amazed at what my body has endured. Even more amazing perhaps is how easily both David and I adjusted to the whole mastectomy thing. I guess when you are facing life and death issues, breasts suddenly fall way below life on the importance scale. I say this bluntly in case anyone reading is ever faced with this reality as well. You can survive without your breasts. And now days, the reconstruction process for “new ones” isn’t too horrible. I feel so fortunate because I know so many women who traveled this path before me were not as lucky. They did not have the options I have had offered to me for reconstruction. I am grateful to all of those women for paving the way for me and others. They are my heroines. I will think about them on surgery day and beyond.
That’s not to say this whole process has been easy. It hasn’t been. And today I am having a few doubts, not about the mastectomy, but about the implants. Maybe I should be satisfied to not bother with implants at all. Are the women who opt out of reconstruction of stronger character than me? Maybe I should have researched more about DIEP flap, TRAM flap and other various flap procedures. Maybe I should be putting in smaller implants. Maybe I should be putting in larger ones. Why are silicone implants deemed to be safe now? Weren’t they banned a few years back? And what will I do about nipples and tattoos? Still so many questions and worries, when will it all end?
I also realize these questions and feelings of uncertainty are probably typical and represent a slight case of “cold feet.” Any surgery is a bit scary after all. I need to just get on with it and get this part over with too. It’s one more step on this bumpy journey I am on.
So with that thought, I better get out the door and on my way to surgery!
More upcoming posts on this topic will surely follow.
Have you had surgery of any kind? If you haven’t, what about someone close to you? How did you feel before, during and after?