After almost 10 years of talking about it, pondering it, reading, researching and investigation, I’ve officially finished all surgeries related to preventing an almost certain future breast cancer diagnosis. This blog explains the breast reconstruction process I’ve just undertaken.
The process for me has been incredibly smooth, trouble free and in all honesty and at risk of making it sound like a breeze, it’s been ‘easy’ for me. I don’t share this to annoy people, to brag or to dismiss the seriousness of what I’ve been through, but the reality is that I’ve had a trouble free journey and I’m proud to share my experience.
My PBM (Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy) surgery first involved the full removal of all breast tissue, with tissue expanders being inserted under the muscle during this procedure. You might remember me sharing the blog called ‘The Tissue Expansion Process Explained’, where I detailed the process involved in the first stage of my surgery.
I went from having relatively ‘normal’ looking breasts (pictured below), to having absolutely nothing, no tissue, no nipples, no feeling or sensation when touched. I was left with just two Tissue Expanders implanted under my muscle and ready for expansion.
What a visual transformation, but one that hasn’t impacted me negatively in any way at all.
There’s a short video in that Tissue Expansion Process blog showing my foobs after the first expansion in March this year. It was so interesting to watch that movie just now, I’m so glad that I’ve kept a record of the key milestones during this journey. I watched the video and see a happy, confident and comfortable women and it’s wonderful to be able to look back on the process. I’m really pleased I took a couple of minutes on the morning of my breast reconstruction surgery to shoot this short video, click the image to watch it.
So where am I at now? Stage 2 is officially complete!! Stage 2, the breast reconstruction involved removing the Tissue Expanders which in my case were filled with 230ml of saline. The Tissue Expanders are designed to slowly stretch the skin to form a ‘breast’ like shape and you can pretty much expand to whatever size you like. I chose to stick with a small size, something that doesn’t ‘stand out’ or look obviously like a ‘boob job’.
The first step of my breast reconstruction surgery was to have the Dr draw all over my foobs, outlining the proposed shape of my new breasts. Then before I knew it, I was being wheeled into theatre and chatting to the medical team about the crazy Smiling for Smiddy Challenge ride I just finished, which was topped off with me shaving my head at the finale.
We all laughed, joked and I was out for the count.
Less than 2 hours later I was awake and in recovery, ready to head to the ward for my short hospital stay.
During the breast reconstruction surgery, the Dr removed the Tissue Expanders which I understand are discarded and then a range of ‘implants’ are used to determine the best overall shape and size. The Dr and I had met and agreed months prior on the desired size, my preference to remain small and I learnt at this time that three (3) implants are ordered in each recommended size for the surgical procedure. Why 3 implants? Well we’re all human, and if one is dropped or damaged, then there’s still 2 implants to insert, which makes perfect sense.
I did query also why multiple sizes are ordered, and it’s apparently due to the different way each body adapts to the shapes and sizes. Not every implant looks the same when inserted, so a couple of different options are on hand to ensure the best outcome is achieved during the process. This all makes perfect sense and put me at ease knowing that I was in great hands. So it pretty much means that if the implant doesn’t look good inside, then another option is used before everything is sewn up!
So, back to the breast reconstruction process. Once the original scars are opened up, the Tissue Expanders removed and the best breast implant shape and size determined, everything is put into place, shifted, moved and positioned perfectly, then stitched up and strapped down under that same sticky-tape used during the mastectomy process.
Before I knew it I was back on the ward and feeling completely ‘normal’. I was surprised to feel so alert and alive, without any pain, no discomfort and all-in-all from what I could see over the strapping tape, my new foobs looked great.
Strangely, I haven’t been in any pain post breast reconstruction surgery, none at all!! Maybe after 8 days sitting on a bike seat for up to 12 hours a day actually rid me of any ability to feel pain, because I’ve never been to darker, deeper more painful places than I was in for the first few hours of each day on the ride. It was like sitting on razors and I’ll be sharing a blog about that too, so stay tuned for that one!!
Moving on from my reconstruction surgery, I’ll be required to do daily breast massage for a few months, I get to wear this sexy crop top for support all-day-every-day, including when I’m sleeping and I have the option to consider a nipple reconstruction in the future.
What’s a nipple reconstruction? Well, it means that I can choose to have either a nipple tattoo, or a small nipple built from my own skin, which is pinched and shaped into a hard little lump and then tattooed around to appear like a real nipple. I’ve shared an image below of someone who has had a nipple tattoo, it looks very realistic, but I’m not sure that I’m going to bother with it to be honest. I’m very comfortable with no nipples!
It’s going to take a few weeks, possibly even a couple of months for everything to settle in, but for now I’m really happy with how it all looks and feels and I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things with regular exercise, some swimming, running and despite the darkness on the bike recently, even some cycling again.
And perhaps a trip down to the beach with my nipple bikini top! Now these nipples I can cope with!!
I’m so grateful for the love and support from family, friends and even strangers. It’s helped me come through what I guess is considered ‘major surgery’ with relative ease. What an amazing journey I have had and I’ll never EVER be diagnosed with breast cancer, which is the most amazing feeling in a family like mine.