Tuesday, September 25, 2012


At the risk of sounding like a bragging snob, this entry is about my pretty awesome new boobs. If you're not in the mood for boob-talk, check in again tomorrow. First thing in the morning, we will meet with Dr. Bunnell about the advice of the tumor board. And we will likely come to a decision about which chemo option will be best for me. So tomorrow's blog will be a bit more intellectual than this one. Because tonight's entry is just about boobs. 

I think there are two reasons why my boobs look so surprisingly good just about two weeks after they were removed and replaced. First, Dr. Chun is an incredible plastic surgeon. Seriously, she's amazing, not only because of the pure skill she possesses, but even more because she is so humble and kind to have said to me today that I'm the one doing the hard work. Emotionally, maybe. But physically, I didn't do anything but lie there unconscious while she worked her magic. For that magic, she's one of my heros. 

Not to downplay Dr. Chun's work, but the second reason why my boobs look so surprisingly good is definitely that they looked so bad before, they could only go up (literally). It's a crazy thing what having children did to my boobs (and I can only guess I'm not the only one) -- they got so big when I was pregnant and (being tortured by) breastfeeding, then they got so small afterwards, that they just kind of sagged there begging for some pep. Well, today came the pep. Let me explain. 

This afternoon when I entered the exam room in Dr. Chun's office for my third plastic surgery appointment since my mastectomies, I found the following set-up on the counter-top:

Hum, I thought. And how exactly is that going to work? I know I don't talk about clinical stuff much here, but this appointment was beyond fascinating, so I thought I'd share. 

After Dr. Nakhlis (another one of my heros) removed all my breast tissue, including my cancerous tumor, Dr. Chun stepped in. Through a large horizontal incision across each empty breast, Dr. Chun inserted a sort of little pocket, called a tissue expander, and she inflated it a bit. I guess the idea is that the tissue needs to be expanded slowly rather than all at one time, so the process to build the new breasts is a gradual one. 

Today was the next step. After examining the incisions, Dr. Chun took that little blue tool from the counter and began to run it across the top of my new right boob. A little magnet in the middle swung back and forth. When she hit a particular point, almost in the top-center of my boob, the magnet hung perfectly straight. Dr. Chun had found the "port" of the tissue expander. This was the entry point. Next, she took one of those huge syringes and stuck the thick needle on the end of it into the port. No joke, that was it; eerily similar to the hand-held pump I used to inflate Teddy's basketball. The large needle obviously didn't hurt since it entered where my original flesh no longer exists, but it felt strange -- kind of like a distant pain that my brain thought it would feel but couldn't. Then Dr. Chun just pushed on the syringe as saline filled the little pocket. Very slowly, I watched my boob grow. It was by no means drastic, but there before my very eyes it happened. Same thing on the left, and we were done. Un-freaking-believable. 

I see Dr. Chun again in two weeks so she can check my incisions once more and, if I so wish, inflate me some more. I think I'll stop here though. Don't want to get greedy. 

When my chemo is finished, I will return to Dr. Chun for a day surgery during which she will enter through the same incisions to replace the tissue expanders with the silicone implants. Once the scars heal once more, I can decide on nipples. They told me that "nipple preservation" was an option but I said to Hell with those sucky things. If I want nipples, I will sit back as they are painlessly tattooed onto me. Ah, modern art. 

Just a few days ago, I built up the courage to stand in front of the mirror without my shirt on. From a bit of a distance, I couldn't really see the relatively enormous, and still somewhat raw, scars. I could just see the shape of my new breasts, and it was flat-out remarkable. Terrifying, shocking, unbelievable, and yet wonderfully remarkable. Because in a crazy way, I've never felt so proud of my own body. It has nothing to do with the pretty awesome shape of my fake boobs, because those are just little pockets full of saline. Rather, it had everything to do with my realization that I have come so far since my saggy left boob was squished into the mammogram machine. I've come so far since the radiologist handed me the phone number for the new cancer patient line. Come so far and learned so much. Including that the human body is a truly remarkable thing, even when it needs a little tweaking. Or better yet, especially when it needs a little tweaking. 

1 comment:

  1. Hey Tara -
    Get chills reading your blog, you sound like you are doing great.


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