*** WARNING: The following blog contains a lot of words that make the male species squeamish. Men, continue at your own risk ***
Today I had my first appointment with a plastic surgeon to talk about one (or two) thing (s): my boobs, or breasts as corrected this morning by my male friend. He’s very old-fashioned.
After a short wait – the joy of private consultations – my name was called. A tall, impeccably dressed woman welcomed Mother and I. It was Dr O, as I’ll refer to her. We walked into the corner office of her top floor Wickham Terrace practice. The office had floor to ceiling glass windows with contemporary white furnishings. Well, she has good taste and is tidy. Surely that’s a good thing.
We reviewed my treatment history then got straight into the nitty-gritty. The boob questions started: to stay the same size, or not; to keep the nipple, or not; to rebuild and tattoo nipples, or not. My only request is that I’m not ‘high-beaming’ for the rest of my life. Most of these questions don’t have to be answered just yet. First things first, it’s all about the first surgery and inserting the tissue expander. To give you a very brief overview about how things work: they insert a tissue expander under your pectoral muscle. Once recovered from surgery they fill the expander with saline in small amounts over a period of weeks. Once you get to your desired size you have a second surgery to take the expander out and replace with the implants. Simple, no?
Dr O then asked the questions I get asked by everyone: And how are you feeling now, health-wise?
My standard response, “I did a triathlon last month and am back running 10km.” This is usually enough for people to understand that I’m feeling ok.
“So you’re doing better than some us,” she smiled. I’ll take that. Moving on…
The next step in working out my options for reconstruction is to have a look at what I already have. When you embark on the journey of treatment for breast cancer, taking your top off becomes normalised; the romance is gone. Dr O examined me in an adjoining room to her office; she asked if I was comfortable keeping the door open (for mum to see, not the whole waiting room). Bless. It was the first time my boobs, sorry breasts have been examined by look rather than feel. No poking or prodding for once. I’m not sure how often my female friends look closely at their breasts, but clearly I don’t look enough. I learnt a few things today. But I’ll keep things as PG rated as possible… for now.
I asked if she was comfortable performing this surgery on me, as a lot of hospitals are starting to steer clear of immediate reconstruction with tissue expanders. We talked about possible complications: infection (the implant will have to be removed), maintenance (the implants will have to be replaced in 10-15 years) and general recovery after surgery. She explained how my muscles will be affected and the changes to my abilities with swimming and cycling. Finally, a surgeon who gets what’s important to me and incorporates it into my recovery.
I had a play with a tissue expander and a few implants to get a feel for this foreign matter that will be living inside me.
As you know I’m pretty gung-ho. This is part of treatment; no need to think about things. I like her; I feel comfortable with her. What else do we need to discuss? Oh, the cost… the fun part. Her team is putting together a quote and confirming dates that align with my surgeon. Unfortunately she is away for a month over June / July – European summer holiday, perhaps? I’m jealous…
She has given me two possible dates: June 4 or July 30. June 4 would mean having the initial surgery and one fill, then waiting four weeks for her to come back from holidays to continue with the fills and exchange surgery. July 30 means I can continue with life as normal until then. The process will take nearly four months from bilateral mastectomy to exchange surgery and recovery. Looks like I won’t be finished in time for my birthday, the one-year mark since embarking on this journey. But I will have recovered in time for next years triathlon season. Win.
For peace of mind I have an appointment with a second plastic surgeon on Monday. I really like Dr O but it may not work out with the timing. Standby for more breast speak.