It has been two years since my bilateral mastectomy. Physically my body has healed. My scars are about 80% faded. I have full range of movement and I have regained my muscular strength. Emotionally I have steeled myself to the possibility of cancer’s recurrence and I get past the daily reality of my mutilated body reflected in the mirror.
What I can’t get past is the problem with clothing. I’ve had to toss almost all my cute summer, clingy t-shirts and now wear mostly loose shirts with some kind of design across the chest. But I can’t wear white or light colors and nothing at all shear. I can’t find an appropriate shirt to wear with suits. All the turtleneck shirts and sweaters are gone. Literally 75% of my work wardrobe has been removed. I’ve cut the cups out of bathing suits which now just droop. And finding anything dressy for weddings and such has been down right depressing.
I originally bought a mastectomy bra with inserts but they wound up on the shelf because having these rubbery things hanging off my chest just felt too weird and were uncomfortably hot and sweaty when the weather got warm. And I can’t do the boobs one day, none the next thing.
And so I made an appointment to talk to a plastic surgeon about reconstruction. This is what I found out - it would require two surgeries, one to place expanders under the skin. Then every couple of weeks I would go and have saline solution added to the expanders until my skin stretched to the size I would like to be. (small) The second surgery would be to remove the expanders and replace them with silicon implants.
The negatives - Two surgeries. Both under general anesthesia which I have a very hard time with. Two new recuperations totally 5-6 months. Scars re-opened. Not knowing what they will feel like.
The positives - No more clothing issues. That the scar tissue which has adhered to the muscle underneath, will be separated, therefore the constant feeling that I have duct tape on my chest, pulling every time I move, will be eliminated. And my insurance will cover the whole thing.
Strangely, I don’t know of any other women who have done this. One woman I work with recently had one breast removed and will do reconstruction to match, but she is still in the chemo stage, so not much of a resource.
My sister’s opinion - “Do it. Then you won’t have to feel bad about yourself anymore”
Well, I really don’t feel bad about myself. I actually like being flat for a lot of reasons, although I don’t like being lumpy. I don’t love the way my body looks now but it has benefits. And if you look at pictures of reconstruction, it is basically two artificial mounds, no nipples, with a scar running across each mound. I don’t think it will solve the ‘mutilated’ feeling.
Peachie’s opinion - “Do it. I’ve seen how difficult to get dressed. How hard it is for you to go clothes shopping and how long it took for you to find something to wear for a wedding. Just think how you will feel when it’s MY wedding. Have the surgery now, recoop for 6 months, and then never have to worry about it again.”
Martha is against it - mainly because she is very leery about putting something foreign in my body, especially something that has been known to cause women problems in the past. And she is concerned that the implants might obscure the detection of a recurrence of cancer, something I know I have a high probability of.
And so I continue to sit on the fence. I have made another appointment with the doctor so Martha can go and ask her questions, which amazingly she has agreed to go. I just wish I could preview what they would feel like. I wish I knew women who have done it, or not, how they made their decisions, and whether they are happy with their decision now.
So any opinions out there? Do you know anyone who had reconstruction? Did they love it, or hate it? Would you do it? Anything info that would help nudge me would be appreciated. I really need to make a decision soon if I’m going to do it so it will be complete by summer.