I’m not a decisive person.
Wedding dress shopping, for me, was kind of a nightmare.
I named my youngest daughter ‘Stella’ for a night, woke up the next morning all like, “Nah Josh, I don’t think she’s a Stella. Let’s go with Alice,” and then it took us the rest of that day plus another to settle on a middle name. But my husband is pretty used to how I roll.
“Well, I better call my mom,” he joked that morning after Stella/Alice was born, “before anyone has anything monogrammed.”
This is why I’ve never wanted a tattoo. I just know that two months later I would hate it.
I buy shirts that are *so me* for, like, three weeks before I hate them forever. “Were my eyes closed when I bought this?” I think to myself. “Who am I?” (But I have to continue to wear them because WHAT AM I MADE OF? MONEY?)
I tell you this so you will understand my struggle right now.
I’m 99 percent sure that I’m going to go ahead with reconstruction (Always leave a little wiggle room, no?), but now I have to decide how to go about it. Like what kind of boobs I’m going to get. That’s a big decision for someone who clams up at the dollar menu.
I had my last Herceptin infusion last week (!!!!!) and after an emotional bell ringing — it was strangely more much emotional than the bell ringing to mark the end of chemo — I headed down one floor for a consultation with my reconstructive plastic surgeon.
I had only met him once, two days after my diagnosis, and my impression of him was probably influenced heavily by the haze that I was in. I remember him as being cocky and maybe even a little loud and apathetic. Nothing is further from the truth. I mean, Dr. Build-A-Boob (let’s just call him that) is definitely confident but in a surprisingly quiet kind of way.
But first, I met with the fellow.
I had stripped down — and when your boobs are detachable, those have to go too — and covered back up with the hospital gown, and just when I started to get comfortable, in walks the fellow.
He was cute and charming and caring.
I knew immediately that I didn’t want to disrobe in front of him and hugged my gown a little tighter.
This had happened once before, at my last echocardiogram a few months ago. The technician was a guy about my age but not as cute as this plastic surgeon in training. At that appointment, I decided to treat it as a social experiment, and as I opened my gown for the ultrasound, I studied the technician’s face. HARD. In fact, he’ll probably request to never care for me again. I don’t know if I was waiting for him to flinch or start crying or run away screaming, but I do know that I was ready to detect even the slightest amount of disgust in his eyes. To my disappointment (but also really not), I saw nothing.
This time, Dr. InTraining didn’t ask me to disrobe (Thank the good Lord.), and instead sat with me for at least twenty minutes discussing my boob plans and options while I made slightly inappropriate boob jokes. I had lots and lots of questions (a plus to delaying the surgery until you are past the “I HAVE CANCER??! fog), and he patiently answered them all. By the time we were done talking, I felt optimistic about surgery and kind of like I had a new friend, and I was stoked that he didn’t ask to see the war zone that is my chest.
Then, he went to get Dr. Build-A-Boob, who definitely would need to assess my situation, which was fine by me. Dr. BAB is a little older than me, not quite so cute, and frankly, saw what I was working with before they were gone.
What I didn’t anticipate was Dr. InTraining coming back in the room as an onlooker.
So here’s where I’m going to tell you about my two real options. I basically have to decide between implants and a type of breast reconstruction know as DIEP, where they basically craft new boobs out of skin and fat from your lower belly. There are pros and cons to each, but in order to give me a real picture of my options, Dr. BAB needed to also take a look at my belly fat, and when he said, “Can you unbutton your jeans, please?” I knew it was going to get real real up in there.
It is embarrassing enough having someone inspect and poke around your belly fat under FLUORESCENT LIGHTS, but to have a bystander involved is downright humiliating.
I uncomfortably muttered things like, “Yeah…haha…chemo made me gain this weight,” “I’m fifteen pounds over my normal right now,” and “I’ve never weighed this much not pregnant.”
So yeah, I was suuuper cool about it.
But Dr. BAB didn’t just, like, see if he could ‘pinch and inch’ or whatever. He pushed and pulled and squeezed and contorted my little (but bigger than ever before) belly every which way. At one point, he put his hands on exactly half of my lower stomach and simultaneously squished them together and pulled them out in order to get an idea of how big of a breast he could make out of it. So I guess he was feeling me up in a way? Jk.
Anyway, after that emotional trauma, we again went through he pros and cons of implants vs. DIEP. I am a candidate for both, and I have to be honest, even though the surgery for DIEP is a bigger deal, recovery is much more brutal, and it just sounds kind of gross, I was leaning toward that option.
That is until Dr. Build-A-Boob informed me that he wasn’t sure if he would be able to build me back up to my natural size.
Ahh gee, well, thanks…
But wait, I’LL BE DAMNED IF I HAVE THIS SURGERY AND END UP SMALLER THAN BEFORE. Oh, hell no.
Is that vain? I don’t care. It’s true. After all this, there is no way in hell that I’m going to settle on a A or barely B cup.
“So you want me to gain twenty pounds?” I ask. “Cheeseburgers all around in the name of bigger boobs?”
He agreed that that’s a possibility, but I’m not sure it would work. A cup size of belly fat would, at least, quadruple the junk in my trunk.
And before you go there, my mother-in-law and husband already beat you to it. Yes, they could use other sources of fat (my badonk), but Dr. BAB doesn’t recommend it.
So what I’m left with is my pros and cons list.
The route to implants starts with expanders — to literally expand my skin and create a space for boobs — that would have to be ‘filled’ every two weeks or so for about four months (I think?). I imagine that hurts 50 times more than tightening braces, but I don’t know anything about either. Then it requires a ‘swap’ surgery to replace the expanders with the implants, and surgery every 10-15 years forevermore to replace the implants themselves because implants expire. Did you guys know that? Weird.
Although it’s more surgery, it’s an easier surgery, taking only around two hours each time (DIEP takes 10-12 hours!), AND I can go bigger. I’m not trying to get crazy here, but I can’t swallow being smaller than before after having to deal with so much crap.
But implants are not a perfect fit for me either. Since they are literally just mounds on your chest — and I have no fat or breast tissue to surround them — they would be just mounds on my chest, and one of the things that currently bothers me most is the concavity of my chest, especially my upper chest. In fact, it was this upper chest hollowing that led to me considering reconstruction because it is noticeable in a lot of clothes.
As far as DIEP is concerned, it’s potentially only one surgery and done. It uses my own tissue so I wouldn’t have anything foreign in my body and the infection rates are much lower as such. It would address the concavity and the look is more natural. Also, the procedure includes a free (??) tummy tuck. I mean, not that I really need it, but it’s definitely on the pro list. On the other hand, it would leave a pretty mean scar from hip to hip.
There are lots of other pros + cons, and Dr. BAB really tried to help me nail it down. Like, in a nice, caring way. He tried to help me decide which would work better for me, but it was like the time I tried to choose between JTT and Joey Lawrence. At eleven, I. just. couldn’t.
He told me to go home and discuss it with my family, but what exactly does that even mean? I tried to talk to Josh about it, but (1) he also doesn’t really know and (2) if he even hints around the visual or tactile benefits of one over the other, I basically accuse him of not caring about what’s best for my health. Oh Heather, haha.
So what am I supposed to do? Call my dad?
I know for sure that my mom would support me in not being cool with having a boob job to go smaller so there’s that. And my mother-in-law definitely has her opinions, but they aren’t usually based on what you would call facts.
It’s been over a week, and this is where I am still. Unsure and struggling to make a decision. And it’s not exactly like I’m trying to decide between fajitas or pizza for dinner. This is just phase one you guys. Wait until I have to decide what to do about nipples.