Under the knife

Posted: October 21, 2012 in The Big C
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I finished chemo nearly two weeks ago so I’m slowly getting back to health and moving on to the next stage of my treatment. It feels great to be finished chemo and be free of my Picc Line, however the next stage is full of it’s own little joys as I discovered on Monday morning, when I had my first appointment with the plastic surgeon.

After sizing up my breasts & my backside & drawing a rather comical sketch of my breasts, the surgeon gave me the low-down on surgery. I was given two options. The first is an implant combined with tissue/muscle flap from my back (Lattisimus Dorsi Flap). Option two is using tissue from elsewhere on my body. There wasn’t much fat on me before I started treatment, however the chemo induced nausea, combined with the 5:2 diet means that there’s now very little to spare. Apparently you can be too thin.

After ruling out my stomach as a donor site, he said he’d struggle to harvest enough tissue from my bottom, or at least not enough to make my breasts symmetrical. Unfortunately an implant isn’t a viable option, because the radiotherapy I’ll be having post-surgery will damage it. This leaves me with one not very satisfactory solution to the problem that is the cancer in my right breast.

I asked the surgeon what he thought was the best solution and he said he can’t make that decision, it’s up to me. I was left to go away and think about my one option and come back the following week to discuss it further with the specialist-nurse.

Mother and I were fairly traumatised after leaving the hospital on Monday morning, but luckily Maggie’s came to the rescue. I had a massage booked and I left mum in the care of the lovely folk at Maggie’s. After my massage, mum introduced me to a woman who’d recently had her operation and she was more than happy to show us her scars. All I can say is they weren’t all that bad. She had one massive scar across the crease line of her right buttock, but there wasn’t a big gaping dent as I’d imagined there’d be. Her breast was nipple-less (they do this later) but actually looked ok. The only scar was around the nipple. This was another of those serendipitous meetings I seem to keep having and it went a little way towards relieving the worries I have about surgery.

We went back on Friday and spent an hour chatting to the nurse about what will happen. The nurse talked us through everything from morphine to the moon-boots I’ll be wearing to stop DVT. It’s a long operation. I’ll be in theatre for 9-10 hours and for the first 48 hours, my breast will be continually monitored to check the new breast tissue is functioning. It could go wrong, although this is unlikely. They have a failure rate of 1.6%, so I hope I’ll be in the other 98.4%. It’s hard not to worry, but what choice do I have.

I’m going for the bum transplant because the only other option is to delay reconstruction, which I don’t want to do. Depending on the result of this operation, it’s likely that I’ll need further surgery at a later date. If they can’t harvest enough tissue from my buttock, they’ll either increase my new breast or reduce my healthy breast to match. I’m told that plastic surgeons are perfectionists so although it won’t be immediate, I will have an even pair eventually.

Mentally I’m not sure how you prepare for a big operation like this. I’ve been told my stay in hospital will be an emotional one. I’m losing a breast so I expect there will be tears. I’m happy with my body just the way it is, but it’s never going to look the same again and that’s hard to accept.

I’m having a minor operation next week to remove my sentinel lymph node. I’ve never been under the knife so I think this will be good preparation for the big op. This is likely to happen mid-November and I’m just waiting for the date to be confirmed.

At this point it’s hard to see the end of the road. I was hoping to have all my treatment finished by xmas but it looks like it will carry on into the New Year. I’ll be having radiotherapy after xmas then possibly more surgery after that.

I have roughly 3 weeks of freedom before my big operation so I want to squeeze in some fun before that. I also have hair growth to look forward to. I need to stop looking at my head but there’s definitely been a bit of growth. For the first time in my life I’m rather excited about having a five o’clock shadow on my head. I’m curious to know what colour it will be as I’m told it could come back a completely different colour and texture. Let’s hope I get poker straight blonde highlights. I haven’t had to shave my legs for 4 months, a small blessing, so I also have that to look forward to. Bring on the stubble.

  1. jeffriona says:

    Hi Kath, sounds like you need to eat more pies! Good luck in the next few weeks, sounds like you’re already preparing yourself mentally – just wishing you all the best and lots of love xxx

  2. Could I donate you some fat?? I’ve been eating a bit too much recently and your post has presented a great potential win/win situation!! I will continue to love you even if you have wonky boobs xxxx

  3. Sal Grim says:

    Doesn’t everyone have wonky boobs? I know I do. Big hug. xxx

  4. Erinn says:

    My left boob after surgery looks way former, younger and premier than my right now… I keep telling my surgeon to fix the other one, but he thinks I’m joking! I was so impressed with their skill, though, so am sure you’ll be in very safe hands. Glad to hear you have a few weeks of fun ahead! Xxx

    • Erinn says:

      Er, I meant FIRMER and PERKIER, auto spell…

      • killerkath says:

        I’m sure your boob is both perkier and premier Erinn! When he drew my boobs he wrote ‘droopy’ in big letters underneath (nae tact), so they will hopefully do the other one too!! Hope you’re well X

        • Erinn says:

          Ha! I was told mine are ‘dense’… Er, thanks? They’re remarkably personal in their comments! Am doing well, thanks. Waiting for the results of a follow up scan, just to check how things look. Back at work and tired, but hugely grateful. Thinking of you lots. Am around if you want a chat. Xxx

  5. alison says:

    Gidday Katerina,well it sounds like you’ve had a lot to think about,hard eh? It’s a shame they give u the info without the gut guidance.
    If only u could have donor fat we could all give u a bit! I know people who have had reconstuction at and after surgery all very sucessful.
    So ure planning on fun ,come down & stay with us,there’s the French Film festival on At the

  6. loulouctee says:

    Was your consultants drawing anywhere near as technical as David Shrigley’s in “How are you feeling?” ?

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