Breast reconstruction is another kind of long and winding road alright. The topic of this post is nipple reconstruction. There, I said it. Addressing this topic feels even more personal than just talking about breasts, 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…
Recently, 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 that first meeting with my plastic surgeon. Dear Hubby and I were both pretty nervous that day.
I never viewed myself as the kind of person needing or wanting plastic surgery, though what kind of person that is I’m not entirely sure. Not me. I would age gracefully, whatever that means.
Aging isn’t really graceful at all, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The older you get, the less graceful you become. 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 mastectomy along with the reconstruction option, if I so chose.
You might want to read, The Day I Found Out I Am BRCA2+.
I remember sitting there feeling out of place, slightly humiliated, and more than a little uncomfortable as yet another person peered at, prodded, measured, calculated, advised and yes, took photos of my breasts.
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 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.
A woman should never feel rushed or pressured into choosing a certain type of breast reconstruction.
My relationship with my plastic surgeon has evolved. Now, we are pretty comfortable with each other, at least as comfortable as possible considering the personal nature of our discussions. He told me 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 if I wanted him to accompany me on this latest appointment. Even he sensed the highly personal nature of this latest juncture.
“Of course,” I said. “You’ve been along every step of the way, why stop now?”
I did wonder what he was really thinking about all this though. He never signed up for any of this stuff.
My mind at this last visit was in a different place. This time, my thoughts were of the absurd kind. I couldn’t help feeling a little bit like the Bionic Woman, Frankenstein and Wonder Woman all rolled into one.
Is that weird?
I felt like some kind of partially recreated new person. I’ve had various parts removed, rebuilt, adjusted, maneuvered, tweaked and fine-tuned.
Now, 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.” He seemed almost as anxious as I was. He’s become invested in this project 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 hopefully I’m getting closer to the end.
For more information on breast reconstruction, BreastCancer.org is a good starting place.
Note: This post has been updated. The unveiling described took place following my first round of breast reconstruction during which I had implants place. Much has transpired since then. You might want to read, What If Your Implant Ruptures? and/or What’s It Like Six Months Post DIEP Flap Surgery?
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?