Monday, November 18, 2013

The cost to have boobs--a reconstruction journey.

I am understanding that there is quite a cost attached to having boobies.   We, as women, are given the blessed, wonderful, milk-producing breasts which provide much needed nourishment for our children.   I think the breastfeeding experience is one of the most special things I have experienced.   That is the purpose of the breast, in my opinion.  My breasts did that.  But, my breasts do not make me "Heather".  I am so thankful that my husband has re-iterated to me so many times that he would actually rather have me with no breasts and full functionality than for me to endure many more surgeries (which could limit my abilities) because he loves ME.  Our love goes WAY beyond the breast.  

You may recall that I went through quite the ordeal to try to attain something that looks like breasts following my mastectomy.  I went through the trouble of having expanders placed during my mastectomy surgery, even though other women who had journeyed along the same road I was about to embark on had warned me of their specific complications.  I was told though that getting expanders may preserve my only opportunity to get reconstruction (I was told I wasn't a candidate for the DIEP surgery due to my lack of tissue).  After the expanders were placed, I spent several weeks going in for appointments to have them slowly "expanded" by injecting saline.  Then, I had to have my right breast expander "unexpanded" a bit so that the incision could heal properly (it was having difficulty healing due to the pressure from the expander).  After it healed and I was able to have it expanded, my radiation oncologist wanted it "unexpanded" again because otherwise, it would be getting in the way of the radiation field from being able to target my internal mammary lymph nodes.    So, finally, after all of that expansion process, I was able to begin radiation.  Had I not had the expanders placed, I could have begun radiation nearly a month sooner.

Then, following radiation, the plastic surgeon began expanding my right breast to get it to the same size as my left.   While he was at it, he also tried to expand my left side a little more.  A few weeks after this new expansion process, the incision in the middle of my left breast began to open up.  After weeks of it not getting any better, I contacted my plastic surgeon.  Apparently, it was a pretty big deal, as the expander was actually showing.  This put me at HUGE risk for a deathly infection.  Oops.  So, I was scheduled for surgery immediately.  During surgery, he removed both expanders, and replaced them with implants.  The idea was that the implants, which were smaller than the expanders, would allow the incision to heal better (putting less pressure on the incisions).  Unfortunately though, just a couple of weeks later I found myself back on the operating table, this time in a true emergency surgery situation, with high fever and an infection brewing.  My plastic surgeon removed the left breast implant.  All along, I thought the reason it wasn't healing was due to the significant radiation treatments I received on that left side.

Flash forward to last week.  I currently only have one breast-looking thing--an implant on my right side.  It has been scabbed over since my 8/7/13 surgery when the implant was placed.  The scab came off in the shower to reveal a hole.  I could actually see the implant.  Not good at all.  So, I have seen two other plastic surgeons over the past couple of weeks to decide what options I have for reconstruction.  I truly am a complicated case, and my best bet for reconstruction is going to involve two plastic surgeons.  I have decisions to make.  Also, is this all worth it?

But, first things first.  I am sort of in a dire situation again.  I have to have another surgery to remove the right implant and clean out the breast capsule.  (Apparently, I have some capsular contracture going on also.)  The new surgeon's only opening is Thursday of this week (a week before Thanksgiving).  I have great confidence in this surgeon, and he was completely honest with me about a lot of things.  First, he said that likely the reason I am having all of these complications is due to my original mastectomy breast surgeon being very aggressive with her surgery.  She removed a LOT of tissue from both breasts, leaving the plastic surgeon not much to work with but very thin skin.  He was also honest about being very limited with options for breast reconstruction.  But, he was very confident he could give me some nice looking breasts.    I just have to decide, at what cost  do I want these breasts.  Because, there would definitely be a price to pay for these new breasts--and I am not talking just a monetary cost (obvious), but more important is the physical price I would pay for these.  I would likely be forever limited physically in some of my abilities--some of the things that make me who I am.  But, that is for a separate blog post discussion.  Do I want these breasts?  Either way, this right implant needs to come out, the scar tissue removed and much healing needs to happen before I can embark on any new reconstruction journey.

So that is what we are up to this week.  You know the message I keep hearing from Jesus?   "Do not be afraid, just believe." (Mark 5:36).  I was so thankful that the story of Jairus' daughter was part of my BSF bible study this week.  My readings from this week were important reminders of how important our faith is in our healing (spiritually, emotionally and physically).  Although the journey certainly hasn't been easy, I feel confident that God continues to lead me on this journey, and there are great eternal reasons for each of these steps he is having me take.  My dad is going to fly down here on Wednesday to help out with the kids during my surgery.  Thank you, in advance, for prayers for his safe travel and that the surgery goes as well as possible.   Also, I would love to ask for prayers for wisdom in decision making as we decide when and whether to attempt any more reconstruction.

In the meantime, I truly am feeling so thankful for so much.  Like all of this, for example...

Seriously, although it may seem otherwise with all of these surgeries, breasts are not that important to me right now.  What is most important right now in God's eyes is that I am raising these kids to learn about Christ, to learn to love and serve others, and to spread His gospel.  I don't want my quest for breasts to keep me from these very important duties.  And, as I begin to peer into the future of my options for breast reconstruction, I can see how the multiple surgeries will put me back into a position of "being served" instead of me being able to serve.   I truly understand that our time on earth is limited and I don't want to waste it.  Please, Lord Jesus, keep reminding me of your will for my life on earth.  I pray that I don't waste it and that you use all of these circumstances so that through them I may be able to bring Glory to God.

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