breast cancer, Uncategorized

Expanders, Implants, and Flaps…oh my!

I met my plastic surgeon yesterday. Dr. H referred me months ago and made the appointment for me. I didn’t feel good, at all, yesterday, and thinking about the surgery and the uncertainties still ahead of me turned me into a ball of nerves. When A and I arrived at the surgeon’s office, though, as nervous as I was, I knew I was in the right place as soon as the receptionist greeted us. I had on my school ID badge. When the receptionist saw it, she told me her daughter had just graduated from the school I teach at, and they missed the school so much because of the amazing and caring administration and faculty. She raved about our principal. It seems small, but she put me at ease, and she was genuine in her compliments about the school and our administration. It really is a great place to work. I love my job.

We didn’t wait long in the waiting room. I’d already filled out all the paperwork. When we got back to a room, the assistant asked some general questions then told us Dr. L would be with us shortly.

Dr. L comes highly recommended. He’s been chosen one of the best doctors in Dallas by D Magazine numerous times. He’s been selected as a top doctor in Texas by Texas Monthly. I’d gone online and viewed his online portfolio of work. I knew what he could do. I didn’t know what he could do for me. I assumed all reconstructions were basically the same. You get implants. The end. Dr. L educated us very quickly that there are other options available. It depends on the surgeon, his or her skill, and the patient’s preference and diagnosis.

We spent a lot of time looking at pictures and talking about the procedures. There is the traditional expanders then implant based reconstruction. Dr. L told us that if I choose that route, I will spend one night in the hospital and two to four weeks recovering. Another option is a combination involving implants and a flap. The flap is from a shoulder muscle tunneled around to the chest as a layer over the implant. The implant/flap is at least one night in the hospital, and it is a three to four week recovery period. The last option he presented to us is the DIEP flap. It does not use implants or expanders…all the tissue is mine. This surgery involves taking tissue from the abdomen and creating the breasts from the abdominal tissue. It’s a complicated and lengthy surgery involving the reconstruction and tissue harvesting. Dr. L told us the tissue harvesting is essentially a tummy tuck style procedure. In the end, though, the tissue is my own. No expanders. No implants. It’s a three to five day hospital stay and a four to six week recovery. I am a candidate for any of the three. The choice is mine.

After A and I talked some, I told Dr. L I want to do the DIEP flap. I want my own tissue. I want to avoid implants if I can. If I can’t, I told him I would be ok with the implant/flap reconstruction. Dr. L is very confident I am a good candidate for the DIEP reconstruction. It’s going to leave a long, ugly scar on my abdomen, but I’d rather have the scar than the potential issues from implants.

I don’t know why it’s important to me to use my own tissue for reconstruction. It just is. I guess it’s a way for me to assert some control on this uncontrollable ride.

 

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