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Breast Reconstruction, Another Kind of Long and Winding Road

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.

Have you had or would you ever consider breast reconstruction or ANY type of plastic surgery?

How do you handle those embarrassing conversations with your doctor?

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Breast Reconstruction is a long and winding road 

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Maggie

Wednesday 16th of August 2017

I had reconstruction following a large tumor lumpectomy; to "match," the other breast needed an implant, too. Those surgeries resulted in the disappointments of my life. The tumor side still has daily pain two years out, and the size and shape is undesirable to me; no has seen it--not a cover-up, just covered up. Additionally, there is very little sensation--another disappointment, big loss, and things no one tells you in advance, because surgeons do still they are gods in the plastic surgery department. Do it again? I don't know, as that ship sailed. I did not follow with radiation or chemo or hormone therapy--those I have every confidence were the best decisions for me, and if honest, I wish I'd tried natural therapies to reduce and eliminate the tumor; daily pain IS a pain. Are surgeons dishonest...I'd like to say a resounding No, but...omission is not honest or forthcoming in my book. So, life goes on, and unfortunately, we become "experts" on our anatomy after the fact! Most days I am at peace, but there are those moments, but anger about loss is more "flare-up" than ongoing, so I call it human and "good enough."

Lucy

Wednesday 26th of May 2021

@Nancy, when I clicked through this particular article in your blog I realized you wrote it 10 years ago! I'm sure everything has changed for you with since you had your implants removed and had the Diep Flap surgery. Thank you so much your honesty and sharing. I'm now 5 weeks out from my Diep Flap and my breasts still look like mini dart boards, my abominal scar is wonky and not healing properly. What a journey this is. It is nice to have you navigating a path for us all.

Nancy

Thursday 17th of August 2017

Maggie, I am sorry you're disappointed not only with your reconstruction outcome but also with your surgeons. I can't agree that they are dishonest or as you said, think they are gods. They do tend to see things from a surgeon's point of view, of course. This is why it's vital to gather as much information as you can, self-advocate vigorously for yourself and ask questions until you feel satisfied. I'm glad most days you feel at peace. Feeling anger and loss now and then is understandable and to be expected. Thank you for sharing. My best to you.

Christy

Wednesday 14th of August 2013

Hi, I'm so glad I stumbled upon this blog, I can't stop reading everything. 2 weeks & 4 days ago on Friday July 26th I had a double masectomy & started reconstruction. I'm 34 years old & my Dr. suggested I was a good candidate for reconstruction. It's all been very hard I mean I knew somewhere on the back of my mind that I was going to be the child of 2 breast cancer survivors to get diagnosed with breast cancer. But when they told me I was still in shock. I have a 16 yr old & a 10 1/2 month old. The hardest part out of all of this is when I was told I couldn't pick up my son for 6-8 weeks. I'm still in pain ever morning when I get up from bed and when I try & do my regular house stuff. Is this normal? I know everyone heals differently. Thank you for all your posts there helping me.

Nancy

Wednesday 14th of August 2013

Christy, I'm so glad you found my blog too, and I'm happy to hear you find reading through posts to be helpful. That's why I write them! I'm sorry about your diagnosis. You are dealing with an awful lot. It must have been so difficult for you to hear you wouldn't be able to pick up your son for an extended period of time. I'm sorry. I'm sorry about all of it. Take your time getting back into the swing of things. Healing physically takes a while. Healing emotionally takes even longer. Be patient and kind with yourself. Thanks for reading and commenting. My best.

Pam

Tuesday 16th of July 2013

It's been 2 years since my expanders were swapped out for my new silicone implants. I haven't had any more plastic surgery since. I have funny pokies of flesh at the end of my scars under my arms. My surgeon calls them dog ears, my husband says they feel like little boobies! Plastic surgeon will fix the dog ears when he does the nipple reconstruction. WEll..... I have put the surgery off more then 3 times, I guess I am reluctant to feel that kind of discomfort again. There is a another nagging little thing, some where deep down inside I feel like maybe I am asking for to much, or don't deserve the " finishing touches." Sounds silly I know but its still there. But I am on the surgery schedule for September. Oh and I would really like a tummy tuck, is that to much to ask?

Nancy

Wednesday 17th of July 2013

Pam, You are not asking for too much if this is something you really want. Not at all. I have those funny pokies of flesh too, by the way... I know what you mean about feeling reluctant for that discomfort again. Good luck with things. Keep me posted!

kathy

Saturday 10th of September 2011

i think it is great that reconstruction can be dicussed openly i had L.D breast reconstruction and reduction on other breast it is a long process but it is worth the wait i am very happy with my results so far

Nancy

Monday 12th of September 2011

Kathy, Reconstruction is a very personal topic, but I agree it still needs to be discussed with frankness. It is a long process; I'm not done yet either. I'm happy to hear you are pleased with your results so far. Good luck and keep me posted.

Nancy

Thursday 14th of July 2011

Plastic Surgery, Thank you so much for the compliment. I appreciate your feedback. It's an important topic to many and needs to be discussed openly. Sometimes I think the length of the reconstruction process is not realized by women. I'm still not finished a year later.

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