It's snowing outside and in contrast, my dining room table is full of flowers. I have been blessed with food, flowers and friends wishing me well after my tram flap breast reconstruction. It will be 3 weeks ago on Wednesday. Was this as big a surgery as anticipated? Oh my Lord... YES and then some! As the plastic surgeon was making felt pen marks all over my body he commented, "You know this is 6 major procedures." I hadn't really broken it down like that... too late to change my mind so it's probably good he hadn't said that before.
Surgery took 10 hours and at least 24 more in recovery. I remember a nurse handing me the button to pump pain killer into my IV and showing me the call button. I was really fuzzy brained when she did this and then I promptly dozed off. When I woke up both buttons had disappeared somewhere in the abyss. No one was around... I called a weak "help" to no avail. That was the worst feeling... stuck in a dimly lit room, in pain, dying of thrist and intense itching from the anesthesia. Note to anyone going in for surgery - make sure they tape the nirvana button to your hand and secure the call button in plain sight!!!
I had a great view of Lake Union out my hospital window and the music of jack hammers working on the new addition 2 doors down. I guess the view was supposed to disguise the racket. I had wonderful nurses except one night nurse who seemed to know more than anybody else she worked with. I was sure they were Nazis when they ordered me out of bed for that first torturous walk. Then again they were angels when I needed them. The itching continued and big blisters errupted where skin touched adhesive. They were careful not to use any latex but apparently it's the adhesive I developed an allergy to. Even a simple bandaide is a killer now. I'm sure everyone in the hospital poked my new boobs at all hours of the day and night. It was sweet music to hear the whoosh whoosh of blood flowing to all the right places... text book case. My surgeons were very pleased with their work and that's a good thing.
I'm home healing, sleeping late and feeling stronger every day. I think I look a bit more like the Bride of Frankenstein than Wonder Woman at this point. The plastic surgeon was good... not GOD! Once the 4 drains were removed (10 days out) the healing accelerated. The glue (no stitches!) and scabs are peeling off and I don't need pain killers for breakfast anymore (but a lot of fiber is still necessary!). I still need pain pills by late afternoon. I will be glad to get off of them as they seem to give me pretty weird dreams. I was sure I was made out of Legos one night.
So here's my list of surprises:
- I really like seeing breasts instead of stomach when I look down!
- The hip to hip incision was above my belly button because I already had a big scar lower from a hysterectomy. Hence - new bellybutton! (Fine with me - my bikini days were over years ago!)
- For the tummy tuck skin was pulled down from the top and up from the bottom... so I have pubic hair higher than before - weird - but the hysterectomy scar is gone. Trade off...
- The skin used for the "gussets" in my new breasts have stretch marks - ack! I thought surely there would be plenty of un-stretched skin to use. I guess I'll just have some swirls tattooed to disguise it - lol!
- The tissue used to make the breasts was surgically removed and attached in the new position with microscopic precision. No tunneling. My stomach muscles are completely intact so I'll be good to garden again - whoohoo!
So would I do this all over again knowing what I know now? The first week I might have said, "Are you kidding me!" But now I say positively YES. I can't tell you how much I love having my curves back. I don't think I realized until now how lucky I am. This technology is so advanced and makes such a difference
for the psyche and well-being of breast cancer survivors. It isn't about vanity... it's about feeling normal again. That's huge!
I have a friend who had the exact same tram flap surgery 6 months ahead of me. She's going in 2 weeks from now for a few adjustments to even out the size and height of the two breasts. She is very happy and feels like all of her strength has returned. One of the plastic surgeons she talked to before choosing the same surgeons I had said she uses excess skin from around the eyes to fashion nipples. Now that's an idea... tummy tuck and eye lift too. I'm not quite ready to consider that, but I thought it was pretty creative.
To all of you survivors considering reconstruction I wish you well. It's been worth it to me and I hope to you too. One more big blessing I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving season.