Meeting my plastic surgeon
My younger sibling had returned and was stuck in quarantine due to the lockdown becoming more restrictive. They were still able to attend with me by phone.
I’m going to take a moment to say how important it is to have someone else attend your appointments. They may not be able to attend in person, but you can call someone once you are in the consultation. I have never had a medical professional take issue with that, and honestly, if they did, I would be considering changing medical professionals. Having my younger sibling as my “phone a friend” meant that I could debrief with them later. I could check my understanding against theirs and we could discuss any gaps or discrepancies, as well as plan for the next step.
Your advocate companion ideally is someone who can make the commitment to be involved in all the appointments so that you have consistency.
Added bonus if they have a medical background.
They also have to be someone who can understand what your preferences are, even if they are different to their own preferences.
My younger sibling has been the best advocate companion I could ask for, and I am beyond grateful for that.
I don’t know how I could have done any of this without the primary supports of my younger sibling and my housemate.
And this is important. Consider the companions you choose to accompany you through your experience. I’m incredibly lucky to have such strong primary supports and then a great network in addition to those two. Be discerning. These experiences are not the time to be spending energy you don’t have or emotional labour on ambivalent relationships.
Back to the plastic surgeon
Again, another amazing specialist, and I am so grateful to have Dean as part of what I consider my wellness team.
Wellness Team is an inclusive phrase I use to cover all the medical professionals and specialists I have been dealing with, with my GP as my foundation, and including every single technician, nurse, physio, receptionist, PA etc. It’s an inclusive, collaborative term and those are the qualities that align with my values. Other people might have different phrases – language and relationships are so important.
After working twenty years in live theatre and entertainment, the plastic surgeon consult reminded me an awful lot of watching performers getting measured up by the tailor / wardrobe staff for costumes.
The purple pen 😆
Except my plastic surgeon uses a purple pen instead of chalk 😉.
A week after surgery, I still had purple pen everywhere and I had my first wound clinic. My wonderful wound clinic nurse took one look at my body and said “who was your plastic surgeon – Dean, wasn’t it?”. I laughed.
Again, the plastic surgeon managed to strike that fine balance between lots of information, ensuring understanding, and also making me laugh. Once again, I immediately felt like I was in safe hands. I had complete confidence in him, just like I did with Robert.
I didn’t know much about plastic surgery, and I had the preconceived idea that implants would be better than reconstruction.
He did all the measurements, and then he said “you know, even accounting for your shoulders and your height, your breasts are disproportionately large”.
Gentle Creatures, I couldn’t help myself, I snorted in laughter at this very professional man who was simply trying to broach the subject about what size breasts I was going to end up with.
“Story of my life”, I said, because of course I did.
“We won’t be able to recreate that size”
“That is absolutely not a problem for me – I don’t want this size”.
So for those following along at home, I was a 16FF and I am now a D.
I was angling for a C cup, but he was able to explain to me that it would be disproportionate to my chest, shoulders, and height. The idea of a breast footprint – the area where a breast is attached to the chest – was something I have never considered. So my first edition breasts had a footprint of 19cm, and a C cup has a footprint of 15. When he explained it like that, and I held a C cup implant in my hand, I could completely understand what he was saying.
As a plus sized woman, I was also perfect for reconstruction, because I had stomach fat they could use to create breasts 2.0.
Advantages of reconstruction
I liked the idea that with reconstruction, my breasts 2.0 would be all me. For me as well, the idea that my breast 2.0 would run at my normal body temperature was more appealing than implants. The other thing he was able to tell me was that they would “squish” in a hug like my breast 1.0. In his defence, that question was mine, and it’s also my highly sophisticated medical language. 🤭
The other aspect of reconstruction that suited me was that there are less surgeries involved compared to implants. My breasts 2.0 will gain and lose weight as I do. Interestingly, he said he has more customer satisfaction with reconstructions generally, and a lot of the reading I have done reiterates that.
There is a loss of sensation both across the breasts and the abdomen. The DIEP flap scar is literally wider than I am (it wraps around my hips). Oh, and I have a new belly button.
Belly button 3.0
This belly button is my third and my favourite so far. When I was young, I had an umbilical hernia so I had an “outie”. That was corrected before I was 10, and I had this neat but artificial-looking crater. Now, it kind of looks more normal and I like it a lot ( even if it did take ages to heal because of chemo).
I did recently have a hilarious conversation with my patient and long-suffering GP about how I clean this new and improved Belly Button 3.0.
Ensure that you are vigilant around your self-examination. Train yourself to check your breasts/testicles routinely, and monitor your bowel habits and your urine output. These are our body’s early warning signs, and we don’t have a lot of awareness of them.
Related blog posts
- Friday 28th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 7)
- Wednesday 26th May 2021 Cancer Clinic
- Tuesday 25th May 2021 Left Breast Diagnosis
- Friday 21st May 2021: Biopsy, Left Breast
- Tuesday 18th May (Cancer Journal 6)
- Monday 17th May 2021 Arranging the biopsy
- Saturday 15th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 5)
- Wednesday 12th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 4)
- Friday 07th May 2021 (Cancer Journal 3)
- Cancer surgeon
- Sunday, 02nd May 2021 (Cancer Journal 2)
- Saturday May 01st 2021 ( Cancer Journal 1)
- Facebook post
- How to tell people you have cancer.
- Deciding strategies
- The Camus Question of Choice
- The Follow-up Tests
- The phone call.
- Check your breasts