BRCA Surgeries: Off to see the Wizard(s)

We’re off to see the wizard…

8/27/2012 9:00 AM. In a couple of hours I see the plastic surgeon. Five weeks after my last surgical foray it is apparent my old friend and troublemaker, left boob, is settling into a less than desirable place. Compared to the initial reconstruction back in January, the cosmetics are much improved. How much is good enough? Where does one stop with the business of plastic surgery in this age of perfection?

Last week I saw my breast surgeon for the first time since bilateral mastectomy in January. He’s a delightful fellow with a boatload of surgical experience in treating breast cancer. While cosmetic problems are not his specialty he did at least ask about the obvious asymmetry. It was clear he did not want to focus on how the new ta-ta’s looked. He spent more time marveling over the fact that when my ovaries and tubes were removed they were able to use my new bellybutton and the previous abdominal incision to do their laparoscopic magic.

My guess is the plastic surgeon will recommend Surgery #7 in October for those who are counting. Probably more oh-so-painful fat grafting. Who knows what else. And it means waiting another couple of months for things to settle if I want nipple reconstruction. Sigh. While I’m grateful for good insurance and a loving spouse who is fine with whatever I decide, it does not make this BRCA management business any easier.

So, it is off to see the wizard and discuss the options. Again.

8/27/2012 2:00 PM

The two docs on my plastic surgery tag team that did my initial reconstruction weighed in on how I’m doing and gave me a range of options for what comes next. It was a pleasant surprise to see them both during this visit.

First up was Dr. Sunshine. Warm, friendly and always upbeat, she wore a royal blue dress and black pumps. Sunshine exploded into the room and gave me a big hug. She wanted to know how I was doing after all this surgery. I could tell from the way she framed the question she was just as interested in my emotional well being as my physical state. We chatted like old friends.

Next came Dr. Engineer. This brilliant woman started her career in engineering and returned to school to become a doctor. I spent ten years working cheek and jowl with engineers and I can see she is at heart, one of that clan. Reserved, precise and analytical, her skill set compliments the effusive Dr. Sunshine. The engineer is all business with her lab coat, sensible shoes and greying hair. We had a focused discussion about options, timing, risks and benefits.

Neither doctor tried to sell me on anything and I appreciate this. As with all these BRCA surgeries, it is my job as the patient to make the tough decisions. It all boils down to how I feel about the way my body looks and functions.

What I learned today is it that five weeks post-fat grafting is too soon to tell what percentage of the graft will remain. The body typically reabsorbs about half of the new fat. The fact that I still have a good-sized concave spot where nice jiggly girl flesh should be is a good indication that another round of fat grafting would make that spot look a whole lot better. In addition, the contour would improve with repositioning the breast mound. In other words, they’d keep lefty from hanging out in my armpit by moving it closer to the midline of my chest.

So, my choices are as follows:

A: Do nothing and be done with it.

B: Forgo anymore revisions to the breasts and get some new nipples in late October after everything is back to normal.

C: Have a revision surgery in late October and wait a couple of months. If all goes well, get new nipples just before the end of the year. I’ve hit the cap on my out-of-pocket for insurance in 2012. If I wait until next year those nips will cost a whole lot more.

Money is only one of many considerations here. More importantly I have to weigh the pain and inconvenience of yet another revision surgery. More liposuction (damn that hurts) and another two weeks locked up in Spanx is not a pleasant thought, but when I think about the boobs I have to exist with for the rest of my life, it is a minor pain in the ass. Or a minor pain in the thighs or wherever Sunshine and the Engineer decide to steal fat from.

What did I pick? I chose to schedule a revision for October and reserve the right to change my mind. I might just call it good and get some new nips. This way I have time to continue pondering the choice as this banged up body heals. It is one of the simpler decisions I’ve had to make in the last year but it’s still is not easy. Ask anyone who’s hiked the BRCA surgery trail. There’s no right or wrong, better or worse. It’s all very personal. I wonder where I put my ruby slippers?

BRCA Surgery: 48 Hour Countdown

48 Hours was one of Eddie Murphy’s funniest movies. It’s also the name of a long-running TV show and the exact amount of time before my next surgery. Yes, I am feeling a bit crazy and that is to be expected. Last time I disappeared down the surgery wormhole it took a long time to surface again. The closer it gets, the busier I get. Who says avoidance is not a good thing?

Yesterday’s distractions included cleaning the oven, laundry, shopping and some dark chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe’s. 73% dark Belgian chocolate is good for the soul if not the skinny jeans. James is on a road trip to the Midwest and this gives me license to watch weird stuff at night on Netflix that would put him to sleep. Another good time killer.

I wish sleeping was easier.Less than six hours last night. Been up since before 4AM.

Today, it’s off to treadmill land, more work around the house and lunch with a friend. Writing a single word other than this blog and a to-do list is just not happening. I will survey my nest and purchase anything else I think might be needed. Last weekend I bought Spanx to wear after surgery. Doctor’s orders. Shapewear they call it. I call it a high-tech girdle. Less onerous than what my mother’s generation wore, but the thought of a bruised belly being squashed twenty-three hours a day in a compression garment is not pleasant. Still, if it helps the lumps and bumps created by fat grafting settle better, I will be a good girl and do as I’m told.

My husband had never heard of Spanx. His dyslexia took over and renamed them. They will forever be known around here as Skankies. I hope we will be laughing about this when he has to help me put them on.

Spanx Girl Shorts aka “Skankies”