Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Reconstruction Surgery is Not

"At least you'll have nice, perky boobs forever!"

Some mastectomy patients who are about to undergo implant reconstruction get offended when people say that to them.  Not me.  Being an 80 year old lady with high, perky boobs has been my lifelong goal.  I've always been hot for the centenarian and what better way to attract one?.

Now, living to 80 with any kind of boobs is the goal.  Amazing how priorities change.

Really, I know people who say this are just trying to look at a positive, or else they really don't understand the difference between augmentation and reconstruction. They haven't seen the hundreds of "after" pictures that me, the cancer patient, has after all.  If anything, they've googled and come across the very best example a plastic surgeon has to show - very few of which reflect norrmal results.

Except for the use of an implant to recreate a shape, there is no comparison between reconstruction after mastectomy and a boob job..

Here is an analogy.  Have you seen photos of that woman who had the middle of her face shot off and received the first US face transplant?

It's remarkable that plastic surgeons gave her a functioning face again, (and her appearance will continue to improve) but wouldn't it sound a bit silly to compare what she has now to, say, a face-lift?

Reconstruction is a surgical technique to attempt to rebuild something lost, but nobody can return a missing body part.  Skin and tissue has been removed; the architecture of the body has changed. Stretching the skin and using an implant may sound like a boob job but the results are not the same because the underlying structures aren't there.  Few of us will ever return to our pre-treatment shape.

Some get close though, even with tissue expander reconstruction.  They are in the minority, but it happens.

I've been warned I will not be among them.  I'm too thin, too much skin was taken.  Plus, I had a unilateral mastectomy and getting a match is always hard.  My doctor has never misled me into thinking I would look the same as I did before, but he seems confident that in a bra, I can wear clothes and look relatively normal.

The key is to remember that I will not look normal for me, but normal for a woman.  In clothes, in a bra.  Not nude.

We'll see.  As surgery approaches,  I've been trying to prepare myself for the worst, but as in all things cancer, hope springs eternal. Maybe my picture will end up on a plastic surgery site, displayed as a best result.

Maybe not.  I better start doing squats and perk my butt up, so my husband has something to look at, just in case.

I came across this picture of a woman who covered her mastectomies with tattooing.  I'm not a fan of tattoos, and I'm way too ADD to ever want to do something permanent on my body,  but this is pretty clever.

Does she walk around shirtless, I wonder?  What is the protocol for a woman who no longer has breasts?  If a big flabby guy with man boobs can mow his lawn shirtless, I would think she and her cute inked top should be able to do it too, don't you?


  1. I have friends who say that to me too! I will have nice, perky boobs forever but I will also have scars, scar tissues, and possibly no nipples or aerolas forever. Not a very pretty sight. Very few are aware of the limited mobility in my arm from the gawd awful tight connective tissues due to 16 lymph nodes being removed. Or how painful it was to feel my muscles stretching while I had "fills" to get ready for those "perky boobs".

    I would much rather hear "Thank goodness they got the cancer out and you will have a long life forever!" =)

  2. Three thoughts:

    1) Everybody in our society is so conditioned to be "positive" all the freaking time I'm not surprised or offended by the "Oh at least you'll have perky" ... comments.

    2) One (former) friend asked if I was going to do reconstruction before he asked if I was going to be okay. Moron.

    3) I didn't do reconstruction and I'm wondering the same thing about mowing the lawn shirtless.

  3. I actually had a friend say she didn't understand why I wasn't going to go bigger with my reconstruction since insurance was paying for my "boob job". I tried to educate her on the difference but she kind of had that look that dogs do when they're watching t.v.

  4. A friend of mine couldn't understand why I wasn't having a tummy tuck job at the same time ... on the NHS ... yeah .... err ... no. Don't work like that!

  5. Well, when I do reconstruction, I do get the tummy tuck. Because of how much skin they took during the mastectomy and what radiation has done to my skin and chest muscle, I am not a candidate for an implant. Instead, they said they will have to take fat and skin from my abdomen to build a new breast. I've talked with women who had implants and women who had the surgery I will have to have, and this is going to be a lot rougher. Plus, I get yet another scar - hip to hip. I am sick of people who say, "that's great, you get a boob job and a tummy tuck."


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