What to expect for your 2nd phase of Reconstruction
May 19, 2015
14 months of living with a rock hard tissue expander in my chest! 14 months of having one breast bigger than the other, 14 months of not sleeping on my stomach, 14 months of not wearing bras… (well actually, that wasn’t so bad…)
I couldn’t be happier to say that my 2nd phase of reconstruction is now complete! What does that mean? Goodbye tissue expander, Hello implants!
Here’s a quick recap! In February 2014, I had a full mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Basically, after my oncology surgeon removed my breast, the cosmetic surgeon took over and built me a brand new boob, using AlloDerm (cadaver skin) a tissue expander and a whole lot of talent! He also added a little implant in my right cancer-less breast for symmetry! It couldn’t be perkier!
After that, I only had 1 expansion. That’s when they fill your expander up with saline to stretch out your skin, creating a pocket for the implant. Pretty much like filling up a balloon with water. Because I didn’t want ginormous boobs, 1 expansion was sufficient.
Then in May 2014, it was time for radiation! Yes, that means I did radiation over a tissue expander. Something many doctors don’t usually recommend, but my surgeon’s theory was, “If ever radiation makes it collapse, we’ll just fix it in the 2nd phase!”. Luckily, my skin handled it well and there weren’t any complications.
So why the wait? Well, my surgeon recommended that we wait at least 6 months for my skin to heal inside and out before cutting it open again!
The holidays passed, my breasts healed and it was time for my consultation!
As you know, time flies and on April 29th, 2015 it was time for my 2nd phase of reconstruction.
So heres what to expect!
Like any surgery done under anesthesia, you have to do your pre-operation tests at least a month before. But it’s as simple as a blood tests, a swab in your nostrils and a short check up with a doctor to make sure you’re okay.
I’m not sure if all surgeons request this, but I had to take topless pictures! I guess he uses it to compare and make sure that he creates something that looks as natural as possible. At least I hope so… lol. I also did it before my mastectomy, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to a topless photoshoot. So not my industry…
Scrub a dub dub
The night before your surgery, you need to shower with a disinfectant soap sponge that the hospital provides you with from neck to toes. Wake up extra early the next morning because you’re going to have to do the same thing the morning of your surgery.
Once the clock strikes midnight. No food, no water! So be sure to hydrate yourself and have your favorite meal the night before. If you can choose the time of your surgery, the earlier the better!
Outfit of the Day
First thing first, strip down completely and get into your OOTD. One hospital robe closed at the front, another over it closed at the back. Then another type of yellow robe to be placed over paired with cute little slippers (Ok more like hair nets on your feet… but ya!). Why so many layers? I’m not quite sure… but all I know is that the surgery room was freezing! So you’ll appreciate it.
Questions! Questions! Questions!
Make sure you are patient that day, because you’re about to be interrogated by at least 4 different people, asking you the same damn questions over and over again. Allergies? No! Heart complications? No! Any metal is your body? No! NO NO NO NO NO! I’m perfectly healthy… I just had cancer!
After a long wait, chilling in my hospital bed nearly falling asleep. I finally got rolled into the operation room. My surgeon used a marker and drew a few lines, the anaesthesiologist inserted my IV, next thing you know an oxygen mask was placed on my face and someone says sweet dreams!
It really feels like you’re sleeping. And when you wake up, you’re back in the room you were initially waiting in and you have no idea how much time has passed, or if anything was even done! But then, the pain begins!
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how much pain are you feeling?” the nurse asked. “Seven…” I replied. “That’s a lot!” she said. “Well it freakin’ hurts” I replied. And so she handed me more pain killers. Anyone who’s skin is cut up will definitely be in pain no matter what. It feels like I was stabbed in the chest (not like I know what that feels like…).
They also took my port-a-cath out while they were at it! So basically, my entire chest area was sore.
Sitting / Standing up is the worst! Gravity is a B*tch! They cut me up just beneath the breasts, so obviously when the implants go down due to gravity, it puts pressure on the cuts.
A mastectomy is definitely more painful, but at least then, you stay overnight hooked up on that good stuff. But after your 2nd phase of reconstruction, you gotta go home! So they keep you until you can stand. Expect a very painful car ride home… especially in Montreal! Those damn pot holes are a problem…
For those who follow me, you know that my TEDtalk was 3 days after my surgery. I was praying that I wouldn’t be in pain by then. My prayers were answered.
I must admit, the first 24 hours are dreadful. The next day is quite difficult. But on the 3rd day, I was able to stand without moaning. It was still uncomfortable, but not painful. I couldn’t really lift my arms up high hence why my hair was a hot mess for my speech! And yes, I did my Ted Talk wrapped in bandages as you have to keep them on for 7 days.
I’d say it takes about 1 week to recover completely from your 2nd phase of reconstruction. But don’t go out and start heavy lifting. Give your body time to heal and wait for those stitches to dissolve (I’m still waiting!).
400cc implants and a sexy new cleavage! I was originally an itty bitty B-cup, and now I’m pretty sure I’m a full C. I have yet to go get measured at VS.
It’s amazing what doctors are able to do these days. I must say… I’m impressed! What does it look like? Well my left breast has a horizontal scar across it. That’s where my tumours were removed. I also have another scar beneath the breast, because my surgeon didn’t want to re-open my old scar since it is sensitive from radiation. The same scar on the right was reopened for implant adjustments in my cancer less breast. So that’s a total of 3 scars on my breasts and a 4th scar where my port-a-cath used to be. Oh and then there’s a 5th scar in my cleavage from my scooter accident in Koh Samui… but that’s a different story…
As soon as I heal a little better, I’ll give you more details on the results!
I hope this gave you a better idea on what to expect for your 2nd phase of surgery!
But wait… BEFORE I receive any comments about how “lucky” I am for getting a free boobjob. Can I just say… This is not the same! And I have to admit… I will NEVER understand how women can purposely put themselves under the knife to “fix” their perfectly healthy breasts! As I write this in PAIN, as I stress about not feeling 100% for Saturday’s TEDtalk and not being able to workout to the fullest for a month (when I was just starting to get fit again). It boggles my mind that women are blessed with good health & beauty, yet still opt for cosmetic surgery.
I am not lucky because I got free implants. I am lucky because many women with breast cancer CAN’T do reconstruction post-mastectomy (Their bodies reject it) ! Today, I’d like to commend these warriors for learning to love their flat, scarred chests regardless. Together, let’s never forget that WE are lucky to be alive. New detailed Blog Post on “What to Expect for your 2nd phase of Reconstruction.” coming soon on NALIE.CA #breastcancersurvivor #mastectomy #reconstruction
Help me help others! Share this post so it reaches anyone who’s about to go through the same!
Thank you! Be kind to yourself.
Ps: Have you been through your 2nd phase of reconstruction? Got any advice for others? Comment Below and Spread the Love.