Here we are on the other side! I am alive and well and finally off the big painkillers so I can see straight again. I thought you all might want a little update on the last ten days.
The surgery actually lasted a whopping 14 hours, which was nothing for me because I was passed out, but poor Mark and everyone waiting to hear the outcome! The reason for the extra-long procedure was fairly straightforward, the blood vessels on the radiated side were a bit trickier to reconnect, but ultimately everything went as planned.
Reading about a procedure (or watching YouTube videos) really doesn’t prepare you for what’s actually going to happen. Basically, the entire front of my torso — from breast bone to pubic bone — is completely foreign terrain. It is not what I was born with and not what I’m used to. Let’s go through what happened step by step:
First, the breast surgeon cut incisions around both of my nipples, which were removed, and then, working through those incisions, she cut out every bit of breast tissue on both sides. This was sent out for testing, we will have results soon.
While she was working on the top, the plastic surgeons started working at the bottom. They prepared to remove pretty much all of my belly, including a large flap of skin and all the tissue connected to it, and, yes, my belly button, too. The area where the skin and tissue were removed was eventually sewed shut, leaving a 14″ seam from hip to hip, and my belly button was recreated. I am just starting to be able to stand up straight.
This is just a standard tummy tuck, but in my case, instead of discarding the tissue, it was used to recreate my breasts, and I have to say, this is a fantastic way to do it! They are so natural it’s mindblowing.
When the surgeons move the tissue flaps to the breast area, they have to reconnect the blood supply on each side, this is what took a little longer than expected due to the radiation on the right. There are two visible patches of belly skin on my breasts that allow the doctors to monitor the health of the tissue flaps, which so far are doing great. It looks a little bit Frankenstein-ish but the patches can be removed later leaving me with two straight scars.
So, I am recovering from two major surgeries at the same time, a bilateral mastectomy and a tummy tuck. I spent four nights in the hospital, where they administered IV painkillers, anti-nausea meds, antibiotics, muscle relaxers, blood thinnes, etc. in addition to the slow release painkillers that were implanted during the surgery.
The biggest potential issue with this surgery is maintaining the integrity of the newly reconnected blood vessels supplying the tissue flaps. I was restricted to bed rest for the first 24 hours, plus they implanted tiny wires next to each of the blood vessels that connected to a doppler machine, allowing the doctors and nurses to monitor the connections by listening to the blood flow.
Ultimately, my healing has gone about as well as could possibly be expected, and I credit this to the work I did with my naturopathic oncologist. All of the supplements and treatments I’ve been taking over the past four months to prepare for surgery super-charged my immune system so that it could heal as efficiently as possible. Three of my four drains were removed after just a few days and the last one a couple of days later. This is a sign that your body is healing properly.
I am slowly getting back to normal — or at least a new normal. I have another follow-up with the plastic surgeon this week and in a month or two we will check in and decide next steps. There will be at least one more surgery, most likely after the New Year, but nothing like this one.
Thank you to my husband Mark for the incredible support and everyone who was there for me during this adventure. I feel like I can handle anything after this! And the cats are very glad that I’m home.