*WARNING* THIS POST CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT
Uma Thurman, Pulp Fiction, 1994. We all remember the moment she was stabbed in the chest with the giant epinephrine needle, right? I certainly do. For whatever reason that image has been burned into my brain. Perhaps it is because I was probably a little too young to see such graphic images on screen (I was 14). Or maybe it’s because my now infamous friend Deja dressed as Mia Wallace with a syringe taped to her chest for Halloween the same night Boulder Colorado erupted in riots (we just kept drinking).
Since 1994 I have had a small fascination with giant needles. I assumed no actual medical needles were ever that large. That was only a prop for maximum effect in a movie. I was proven incorrect about 7 years ago when I was a doula in training. I was attending to a woman in labor who had powered through without any pain medication and delivered her beautiful baby the good ol’ fashioned way. This is where this post starts to get a bit graphic…
As is quite common in vaginal deliveries, this woman had a tear in her perineum (read: somewhere vagina-adjacent). Since she had labored pain medication free, she required a local anesthetic to the area before it was repaired with stitches. Out came THE BIGGEST NEEDLE I HAD EVER SEEN. At this moment I was like a moth to a flame. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the ginormous needle, though I was pretty much dying inside. The Uma needle existed in real life. NOOOOOOO!
Some time later I saw the needle again, but in a different context. My cousin Katie whom my sister and I love like a third sister, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was shocking to our family. She was 35 at the time, just had a baby and was totally healthy. As hindsight is 20/20 I now know that I sucked as a support person to her. I was pregnant and had a 1 year old baby which served as a poor excuse not to be there enough for her as she battled the disease through chemo, a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction and all the other bullshit that comes along for the ride.
One thing I did do, was attend an ‘expander filling’ with her at her plastic surgeon’s office, Dr. Mark Sisco. I did not have any idea what I was getting into. Something to do with her implants. We show up, she is laid back and then Mia Wallaced with the giant needle. To say I was shocked was an understatement. Little did I know that, fast-forward 5 years, I would be in the same chair in the same office, being stabbed with the same needle. More on cousin Katie at a later time, but please know that she is 5+ years cancer free and an absolute hero of mine. You should all be lucky enough to have a cousin Katie.
So I knew what I was getting into when I chose the route of bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using expanders. I knew at some point I would be filled (stabbed).
Today was that day, my friends.
Here’s how it goes: The implant in my chest right now is not that round, gooey, shiny one. It is more like a rough, bloated triangle that is sewn in place with an access port somewhere on the top of the breast. In order to find said port, the nurse uses was she called, ‘a stud finder.’ I’m not kidding. It was a little plastic tool with a magnet that told her where the port was beneath my flesh. That area was marked, cleaned and then, ready to be accessed.
What I would call being stabbed, is what the nurse referred to as, ‘accessing the port.’ Sounds so casual. I wish there was a way I could describe the feeling of the needle going into my body. The nerves in my dermis are shot so that you barely feel it initially, but the needle has to get through a layer of muscle before it reaches its planned destination, the port in your expander. Listen, I have delivered a baby with no drugs, I know from pain. This was in no way similar to the pain of labor. It was a unique, indescribable, disgusting feeling.
I’m sure some of my reaction has to do with my Mia Wallace/giant needle obsession, but seriously, the sensation was barftacular. Once the needle is in the port, they slowly plunge the contents of the syringe (saline) into the port to literally expand your breast. It was like Chia-Boobs. They were growing before my eyes! Also an unclassifiable feeling. Since I have two breast-like structures, this process was obviously repeated on the other side.
Side note for those who are curious; after all cancer treatment is completed, the expanders will be surgically removed and replaced with silky, gooey, silicone implants.
You know how Beyonce said she, ‘woke up like this?’ Yeah, I didn’t wake up like this. I am 60 ccs larger than I was upon waking this morning. Dr. Sisco will fill my expanders to a size of my choosing that he also thinks will compliment my new infrastructure. Is bigger better? I guess we’ll eventually find out.