Breast Reconstruction: StoriesWrite a Review
Prophylactic Bi-lateral Mastectomy 7 Years Ago - O Fallon, IL
I had had numerous lumpectomies in prior yrs and...
- 19 Sep 2011
I had had numerous lumpectomies in prior yrs and 13 in that year alone, finally electing to be proactive, I chose the procedure of a bi-lateral mastectomy to reduced my already high risk of cancer and the number of times I was having to go in for lumpectomies.
My lumps were solid non-malignant tumors thus far but who knew when/if that would change. They were never able to aspirate them and given that I was at high risk, the surgeon said the only way to be sure was to remove the lumps.
My risks were having started periods before age 12, never having had children, having had several prior tumors (malignant or not), prior smoker, over weight, strong family history of breast and/or ovarian cancers, and those are just the ones that I can remember having had.
After several consultations with each, my surgeons worked closely together to coordinate everything which I greatly appreciated. I felt I had done a great deal of research before hand and knew what I was getting into. Today I feel like I could have done more including getting a second opinion on the reconstructive options and potential results.
The surgeries were relatively easy and exactly as I'd been told they would be. I came home with drains after a 3 day hospital stay (to ensure control of medications, with my significant allergies) and was quickly on the mend. They inserted expanders with 100 ccs each, to reduce total number of surgeries needed. I'm glad they did.
I think it was nearly a month before PS felt comfortable with starting the process of the expansion, wanting to allow time for swelling to go down first. The expansion process was not painful at all as I had very minimal feeling. He did the expansion fills in his office weekly to bi-weekly depending on the tightness of the skin. He would insert a needle which I barely if at all felt and inject saline, usually 100 ccs. Being impatient, I didn't feel that process was going fast enough, however I'm also sure that it minimized the pain and tightness others mention.
I believe the initial surgery was in December and the implants inserted to replace the expanders was in April of the following year. The PS did a nipple reconstruction at the time of expansion replacement, using tissue from my groin area.
Initially the nipples looked fabulous, he suggested I wait on tattooing to give time for healing. It never did take place. as I went back and forth in decision to do it, fearing the potential pain and liking the fact that they didn't show through clothing. I later decided to do so, but his office never calls me back with the information on where to have it done (which is a little frustrating). Over time the protrusion he initially created for the nipple, has flattened out to where it's barely there and the skin has faded so much that you can hardly tell I have any nipples.
Strangely, I loved the way my chest looked with the expanders, shape and size wise as we were nearing completion, they had an amazing fullness to their shape. My PS actually started saying that I might be getting them to full for my body size. While I disagreed, I started noticing that where in the past the fills increased the projection, suddenly that was no longer happening, instead they were becoming rounder in diameter only, which I didn't care for, so I agreed to stop the fills and move on in the process.
I explained to the PS that I didn't like that one sat higher than the other and seemed to be larger, or the fact that they seemed to sit so far apart, which he explained he could remedy with the changeover.
Those issues still seem to be the case. I came out of surgery with my entire chest very bruised and I think I recall him telling me something about he'd tried to address my concerns but that my breast cavities can't be changed. ?? I sort of get it but it would seem like there were other ways to achieve the desired look. Then as then almost immediately after the removal of the bandaging, I noticed that there was a dip in the top of my left breast, which he said would make it look more natural. I didn't like that response, as I'd never had dips in my real breasts and didn't have one in the right one, so why should I need to have one in the left? I began to feel like I was being ungrateful after all that had been done, so I walked away unhappy.
I was a little surprised because every time anyone in the medical industry saw them, they commented on what a great job he'd done, that it was the best they'd ever seen. Over time, it made me feel that maybe my expectations had just been unreasonable.
I am now 7 years post op and had recently heard that the implants would need to be changed out, that they weren't a life long material and that my body would eat away at them until they'd need replacing. In addition, I have gained an additional 25 pounds or so, as a result of no longer smoking and the many medications I'm on, having fibromyalgia, and not being able to exercise with any intensity. I also have a great deal of issues with swelling which make weight loss efforts virtually impossible. So with the fact that they appear almost flat when clothed now and the statement that they'd need to be replaced at some point, I started researching the truth to such a statement (initially finding it correct with replacement being 7-10 years in). So given that I was at 7 years and not happy with the size, I started researching my options at this point and came upon this web site.
I have now learned that there is no expiration on the implants and that they could in fact last for many years to come. In addition, I've learned that there are options out there that can address the things I don't like.
I was and am still impressed with the laws pertaining to mastectomies and reconstruction, such as if an insurance company covers the mastectomy, they MUST then cover the cost of reconstruction. Who would have known? I will continue to look further into what I'd like to do in order to address the issues I'm unhappy about, but overall, I don't regret for one day the decision I made 7 years ago in the removal or the reconstruction process either one.
There is a peace of mind in knowing my chances for breast cancer have been reduced to less than 2% now. There are occasions I've encountered since where having the reconstruction made things much less awkward for me as a woman, such as at the YMCA where children share the locker room, or when my grandchild came storming in while I was changing cloths as kids occasionally will do. For adults, I really don't care what they think but in the case of a child, shouldn't their parents have the ability to choose the time and place where they discuss such things verses having to because they happened upon the situation by accident? Not to mention the convenience it provides me of not having to deal with bra inserts and such. Heck, often times I don't even wear a bra and when I do it's strictly for coverage under sheerer items or trying to make them appear larger since the weight gain, not for support.
My Doctor: Robert C Wanless
I think I answered some of this above. I probably should have gotten a second and/or third opinion but I loved my PS's compassion and at the time felt like I'd done pretty extensive research on my options. Now I feel like I might have been a little too anxious and that I should have researched my options further and not really settled for the answers I was given. Maybe there was a way I could have achieved what I desired without seeming ungrateful, who knows?
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