D-Day

Well, here I am one week before the last “major” step in my fun-filled journey. That’s right, people. It’s D-day. Time to get my new tits.

I guess C-day would be a more apt description of the event since Ds are not in the cards. Actually I have no idea what cup size they will be because we are sooooo scientific and just above all that pettiness — we go by cc’s, not cup sizes. Where was it that I read or heard or saw in some 80s movie that more than a handful is wasteful, anyway (cough… bullshit)?

So I’ll be all clich√© and ask you to please send me positive vibes next Tuesday at 9:00am Greenwich Mean Time (and those of you who started to cry after you read that I will, alas, not be restored to my former bodacious glory can pray for a miracle after you stop blubbering. Just stop it. You know who you are).

Seriously though. It has been nearly a year since I went to the very same hospital where I’ll be going next Tuesday, let a man draw all over my boobies with a Sharpie, waved good-bye to my husband and was wheeled into the OR (or the theatre as they call it here — sounds so dramatic doesn’t it?) for the removal of my breasts. You know, it’s a funny thing. I was not nervous. Not at all. I slept like a baby the night before my double mastectomy. Because I wanted that cancer out of my body and frankly felt as though the day couldn’t come soon enough.

I’ve had a year to think about that now. I’ve been through a lot and have gained some perspective. For one year I have had expanders for boobs. Expanders are like implants but they are not meant to be permanent. They are place-holders, pocket-preparers, envelope-makers. Each expander has a metal port into which a hypodermic needle can be inserted (once it has pierced the skin covering the expander — you cannot see the ports) either to inject or remove saline, thus changing the size of the “boob.” And I’ve tried just about every look under the sun. From “pumped up” to pretty darn flat and everywhere in between. This is for a number of reasons, having to do with slowly inflating to create a good pocket and allow the tissue to stretch and recover around the expander, and having to remove some liquid temporarily to get a good angle during radiation treatments.

The other day I had a strange experience. I attended an exercise boot camp with a couple friends. There I was, struggling on a treadmill at an uncomfortable incline, jogging at an impossible pace (interval training is a bitch, particularly uphill), for me, not having been much of a runner for the past ten years. There was a big ole mirror about two feet from me and I didn’t recognise myself. I looked so slight and sort of weird. And then I realised it was because those jugs of mine weren’t there any more. And what was there wasn’t moving at all (I mean AT ALL). That plus the short hair made me feel kind of boyish. And it dawned on me that my boobs were really part of my identity.

It was just weird. I thought, “gee, my shoulders don’t look as broad as I thought they were.” And “gee, I’m awfully scrawny and lanky…” And I guess it’s because my boobs were sort of my thing, not that they were all-defining or anything but let’s just say they were¬†one of my things. And now they’re not. It’s kind of an odd experience, really.

There are other physical changes too, which no doubt contribute to the sense of otherness. I work out more than I did before this happened. And I am a little older now. So yeah, maybe I am a little more sinewy and lanky. I guess it’s the new me. I’ll tell you something, though. The new me is definitely ready for some new tits. I hope that they move, even a little. These expanders have been better than nothing, for sure, but I’m so over them.

Want to get technical? Here’s the plan: my surgeon is going to go through the same incisions that were made during the first surgery. I’d say my healed incisions are about 3 1/2 inches across the very centre of each breast. He will remove the expanders and pop in — now here’s where it gets creative — my cohesive gel silicone implants. These implants are silicone, yes, but they are “gummy bear” implants, so-named for their cohesive rather than liquid silicone structure. They are still in clinical trial in the US even though they have been around for some twenty years (I don’t know why — ask the FDA). They are particularly appealing for breast reconstruction because they are anatomically shaped (think more tear drop less m&m but they won’t melt in your mouth or your hands) which is supposed to impart a more lifelike look to my breasts. And if I got stabbed in the boob they purportedly wouldn’t leak ooey gooey silicone all inside my insides. Rather, they would stay together, just like a harpooned gummy bear (thus the nickname).

Here’s the bad news: implant reconstruction is tricky in people who have undergone radiation. Radiotherapy damages the blood supply to the tissue that has been subjected to radiation and it also increases the likelihood of capsular contracture — or hard scar tissue — forming around the implant. It also increases the likelihood of other complications none of which I am going to discuss or am particularly concerned about. There’s always something, for Christ’s sake. The gist is that after radiation things can get kind of fucked up and sclerotic and sometimes skin and tissue don’t behave properly. Ah well.

I’m hoping that this doesn’t screw up my results too badly on the side that got zapped. Six months following radiation, that side is already firmer than the non-radiated side, which is nice and soft and ready to behave. The surgeon will try to release some of the scar tissue on that right side in the hope that the new implant will settle and form a better more natural shape. Not so firm and not so high.

I figure if it really gets bad I can just use that boob as a drinks table. Screw it. At least I won’t be setting off any more metal detectors in the airports of the world. Because I really wanted to learn how to say “I’m not packing, I just have breast implants with metal ports” in Thai.

Anyhow that’s about it for tonight’s instalment. Feel free to ask me any questions about any of this. Really you can. I like to be technical. And you might be curious. Or not. Whatever.

6 thoughts on “D-Day

  1. Em. You are an incredibly strong person…just like your mother. You have been and will continue to be in my thoughts (all good) and prayers! :-))

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