Breast Reconstruction

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Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with early stage I breast cancer. I had the cancer removed (a radical mastectomy) and breast implant surgery at the same time. Actually, I had expanders put in when they removed all of my breast tissue. For those of you who don’t know what this means, basically, expanders are hard balloons that get placed UNDER your chest muscles and saline is injected every week or so to create space for your implants. This is a very painful procedure for the entire duration until the expanders are replaced by silicone or saline implants.

Six surgeries later, I went from a 34A/B to a full 34C. It felt like The Reward for all the pain that accompanies a cancer diagnosis. Why so many surgeries? One of my suspicious masses was too close to my chest wall for a needle biopsy, so I had to have a surgical biopsy. I had a defective expander (this is very rare, I am told), I had an infection; I had a defective saline implants and then one of the surgeries was because my doctor thought silicon would look better than saline.

Did you know you’re supposed to replace them every ten years? So that means at 50, 60, 70 and 80 (should I live that long!), I need to replace the implants.

I’m thinking that perhaps, at 60, I may opt to remove the implants altogether. Will I be courageous enough to do that? I live in Arizona where it’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit for five months of the year. I have a pool. I like to wear a bathing suit. I know there are inserts you can wear, but I’ve heard stories of them escaping your suit and floating in the pool.

In any case, these are the issues involved with breast cancer and reconstruction. I am grateful to be living in these modern times with amazing technology. In the 1800s, breast cancer was only treated when it manifested itself physically (really, too late for treatment) and they had mastectomy surgeries without anesthesia. The ladies just bit down on a bolt of cloth while the surgeon used a hot iron to cut it out.





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