Get it? Grey’s Anatomy? Graces’s Ana-faux-my? I am a wordsmith.
A long time ago I alluded to telling you all, at some point, about the structural details of my mastectomy and reconstruction. That day has come, my friends.
My right breast was so riddled with cancer and pre-cancer that I was not a candidate for the less invasive lumpectomy. Once I knew I was having at least one mastectomy, I waffled on whether or not to have the ‘good’ breast removed for weeks. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the ‘good’ one had to take one for the team and go, too. A lot went into that decision, both scientific statistics and emotional considerations, but ultimately, buh-bye.
I had what is called a ‘Skin Sparing Bi-lateral Mastectomy.’ This blog is going to get a bit graphic, so if you can’t stand the heat, get off the internet.
Now I don’t know the technical terms for everything that went down, but here is how I envision it:
The plastic surgeon cut long, half-moon shaped incisions under each breast. The entire skin area of the breast was lifted up so that the tissue could be melon-balled out. My breasts were a solid C cup so there was a lot of tissue to be removed. They go all the way to the muscle wall and over into the armpit to get ALL breast tissue out.
Because my cancer wasn’t close to my skin, I was very lucky to be a candidate for ‘Skin-Sparing.’ Most women who get a mastectomy have their nipples (Yup, I said nipples and I am going to say it multiple more times so get over it now- NIPPLES), removed as well as some surrounding skin. When the tissue is sewn back together, they will have scars under their breasts and scars where their nipples were. My nipples and skin remain untouched. More on that later.
I opted for breast reconstruction. Plenty of women decide against reconstruction and go the ‘flat but beautiful’ route. I was not interested in that option so I chose to have breasts created for me.
There were multiple options for my new rack.
- I was a candidate to have silicone implants placed at the time of mastectomy. I decided against this, as my plastic surgeon told me that in his experience, when women with both breasts being removed go ‘straight to implant,’ there is a higher rate of incongruity as the tissue heals, meaning many women then need a subsequent reconstruction. Also, we didn’t know what kind of follow-up therapies I would need and some chemo and radiation can cause harm to implants.
- Flap procedure: This is where the plastic surgeon harvests fat from another part of your body and uses it to create the breast tissue. This has a high success rate, but I WAS TOO THIN AND FIT AND DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH FAT POCKETS, which was the, greatest thing anyone has ever said to me.
- Expanders –> Implant. This is what I chose. At the time of mastectomy, the plastics doc placed the clunky expanders where my breasts used to be to basically hold space until I was done with treatment, at which point I would have another surgery to place delightfully gooey silicone implants. Expanders are often used for women who do have their skin and nipples removed as you can ‘fill’ them sporadically over time to expand the skin to make nice size breasts again.
So as I understand it, the expanders were sewn into place like triangles under my skin and saline was injected into them to make them boob-adjacent. I have been told by my plastic surgeon that mine look remarkably good for expanders. I guess some can look rather odd, bulky and misshapen. I lucked out again.
I have had mine ‘filled’ a few times. For more info on that, go back to my post from June 14, ‘Mrs. Mia Wallace.’ The expanders basically make my breasts Chia-Boobs. They can grow before your very eyes!!!
I think I have reached the size I want to stay. I tried on an old bra and it fit swimmingly. I have the opportunity to go all porn-star big, but sorry folks, think I am going to stick with my good ol’ C-cups. Once I get the swap surgery for the silicone implants, they will be Grace’s Boobs 2.0. As it stands now, I have the (hopefully) final reconstruction surgery scheduled for late October.
Now back to the nipples.
When I awoke from the mastectomy I was terrified to look down at my chest. I expected, based on movies and TV, to find my chest wrapped like a mummy, but when I looked down, there were what looked like my breasts! It was shocking, in the best way. My skin looked the same. My breasts, though an odd shape, were still bulbous as breasts should be and my nipples were there.
Despite all the melon-balling underneath, somehow blood still flows to the skin and nipples. They appear the same on the surface, but they are all form, zero function-if you catch my drift.
You could be holding me up by my nipples and I wouldn’t feel a thing (please don’t ever do that to me, people). They no longer ‘do’ anything. They are nipples-for-show only. I have heard some women regain some sensation over time, but my surgeon said not to hold my breath.
So there you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed your little tour under the hood of this Betty. I realize we have sensationalized breasts here in America, but we must remember, they are just a part of our anatomy and they were placed here to serve a few very human purposes.
I miss mine, but am happy to have what I have, all things considered. Give the breasts in your life a high five tonight. I would, but I wouldn’t feel it so…