Ta Da

Amputating both my breasts was a very scary decision. Research prior to making the decision mostly set an expectation of total loss of breast sensation, painful complications, numerous surgeries, and, ultimately, a strong likelihood of deformed reconstructed breasts. I was sternly warned to expect nothing and prepare for the worst.

The other day, I was reminded by my boyfriend that my decision to do it anyway, to take that risk, was courageous. I want to share with those making the decision for themselves that such risks can have positive results.

I am now nearly 8 months post mastectomy and 4 months post exchange to implant and everything is going very well.

I had no complications with surgery or healing whatsoever, perhaps because I took extreme precautions and had excellent care throughout. Perhaps because I’m just lucky. My new breasts actually look pretty darn good! They are softening significantly and even have an unexpected bounce. The scars are smooth and nearly completely hidden in my breast fold (underneath where the breast hangs down).  My skin and nipple sensation is slowly returning, though I don’t think I’ll ever have full nerve function again.

I ended up with 310cc Natrelle Inspira smooth round gel implants, otherwise known as a gummy bear implant. On my body frame (5’5″, 135 lbs.) this makes them a 34D bra size, quite a bit bigger than I started with but a nice, balanced, natural look.

Breast implants are typically placed under the pectoral muscle. When you are getting a breast augmentation, that’s cool because you have the added cushion of actual breast tissue over top of the implant. But, with breast reconstruction, there isn’t that added layer of breast and fat so the implants can move quite a bit when placed under that strong pec muscle. My plastic surgeon opted for over the muscle placement to avoid implant movement. This was especially nifty for me because it will allow me to get back on the silks faster (healing is typically expedited when you don’t have to stretch that muscle) and not have obvious implant squashing when I’m using my upper body in dance.

I’ve continued to take supplements for healing (Vitamin C, B complex, Calcium, and Gotu Kola) and also get monthly cold laser therapy (available at my Austin-based chiropractor) to reduce inflammation and expedite cell repair. I was given a scar protocol that includes 3 creams to apply every few days but, honestly, I couldn’t keep up. Scarring is minimum anyway so I gave myself a break.

My doctors were exceptionally talented and I cannot thank them enough for making me whole again. I recognize myself. I can get past this. It was risky, no doubt. Sometimes you have to double down and hope for the best.

If you’re looking for advice, I have little to offer I’m afraid. Everyone is so very different in their anatomy, desires, fears, and expectations. Shop around, educate yourself, and do what you think is best. The choice you make is the best one. Promise.

WARNING: ACTUAL BREAST PHOTOS
I decided to be courageous again and share actual images of my breast metamorphosis. Images are of both my breasts including nipples. Please do not share the images. Please click to view the images only if you are seeking information about mastectomy and breast reconstruction. Please be respectful and know how sensitive this is for me. View images here.

You know? You know.

Nearly everything I own fits far differently or not at all. My friends are having fun shopping in my closet. I’ve given away many of my tiny sundresses, bathing suits, and even my pretty lingerie. My bra drawer took the hardest hit. I’ve got nothing but a sports bra that was too big before my mastectomy.

This week, after I got the A-OK from my plastic surgeon that surgeries are finished and this is the size I can expect to stay, I went bra shopping. Petticoat Fair is known across the country as one of the leading bra fitters so I couldn’t wait to support my local bra slinger in person. They were charming when I went in pre-mastectomy to get info on therapeutic bras. They even work with insurance! These ladies are simply the best around.

My patient and gentle fitter asked a lot of questions so that I got not only what I wanted but also what was allowed per my surgeon’s instruction at this stage of my healing. She measured me and brought in a ton to try on. She stayed to adjust straps and check fit, making sure that every detail was supportive, comfortable, long-lasting, and pretty. I was glad she expected my new bra to be ALL those things equally.

I ended up with an every-day molded cup wireless bra that would be smooth even under tight, thin knit. It doesn’t press anywhere on my breasts or incisions so it won’t be painful or affect healing. I could have probably gotten one in every color since they are so versatile. I also got a sexy, black French lace bralette from the sale bin. These things can be expensive, especially those with fancy lace or trendy design. I was glad I was able to get one fun thing at a discount. (Heads up…French lingerie is still expensive even when it is on sale. Those curves though!)

They keep everything on file, including my wishlist with exact sizes. (Just in case my beau needs gift specifics…)

One of the best moments was when my fitter told me she was herself a 20 year cancer survivor. We shared a little about our experiences and she finished by saying, “you know,” not as a question but as a statement. It felt strange to “know” just what she meant, having just met her. It also felt good. It felt reassuring. She’s still here. I will be too.

Thank you, Cinco, for my Petticoat gift certificate! And, thank you Petticoat for making the downs an up, in all the ways.

New is nice

Today I am having the second and (hopefully final) phase of my breast reconstruction. They’ll be removing the tissue expanders, which I’ve affectionately named the “Iron Maidens,” and replacing them with soft, squishy, much more natural looking cohesive silicone implants over the pectoral muscle. I’ve got to say, I’m ready.

I went to my plastic surgeon yesterday to be marked. I look like a gradient elevation map. In addition to the boob swap, he’ll also be harvesting fat from my legs, hips, and flanks to nestle around the new implants so they look natural (without wrinkles or dents). They call that fat grafting. The liposuction may be the hardest part tomorrow.

Many people have asked me what size I’ll be after tomorrow. It is not something I can answer I’m afraid. That’s the thing about reconstruction vs. augmentation. I don’t get to choose. The existing space only accommodates a small range of sizes. Also, my doctor is hyper-vigilant about this looking good at the end. (So am I!) He’s measured every contour and will determine tomorrow in surgery exactly what looks symmetrical and attractive on my body shape and size.

He doesn’t speak in cup sizes. He measures in liquid CCs which is really tricky to convert to a bra size. Since I can’t get a straight answer on what I’ll look like and because it honestly doesn’t matter as long as it works out and I don’t have to do it again, who gives a shit?! The new ones won’t try to kill me!

I saw the “before” pictures today as well. Those boring old sociopaths weren’t worth all this trouble! I thought I would mourn them. I thought I loved them. But, like other times in my life, I’ve moved on. I don’t even miss them. I’m better off.

So, old boobs, I don’t much care about you. I don’t even think about you much anymore. I’ve got a new thing going. And my new boobs are going to treat me better. Settle on in to those corners of my mind with things I used to adore. Befriend those comfy platform shoes and sweet, hopeless boyfriends. Or just fuck off like those terrible clogs and mean jerks that made me cry. Either way, you’re being replaced and I’m glad.

One step closer…