DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?

YES! I did make the right choice having DIEP flap breast reconstruction! Each December marks another year and anniversary of my DIEP flap surgery. I remember so much about the dark, cool, morning we left for the hospital. I was calm, prepared, and ready December 1, 2014.

The time between my double mastectomy in mid-May of 2014 and my breast reconstruction were some of the most trying days of my life. In 2002, after my first breast cancer diagnosis, I had been through 2 surgeries, eighteen weeks of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of daily radiation. This was physically demanding because I was so sick and felt so weak.

Fast forward twelve years to 2014. Waiting for my breast reconstruction was psychologically trying. Each month that passed after my double mastectomy only decreased my self-image as a woman due to the loss of my breasts and seeing myself in the mirror every day without them.

The distress I faced is shared by so many after a breast cancer diagnosis or finding you have a gene mutation putting you at high risk for breast cancer. The anguish begins with the diagnosis itself. The overwhelming thoughts that come with a decision to move forward with breast reconstruction is tantamount of training for an Olympic competition.

When Did I Make the Decision to do DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction?

My decision to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction started the day I was told I had to have a double mastectomy. It was a slow process in my case, but my breast surgeon told me about all my options the day she told me I had to lose my breasts. We planned my surgery, discussed possible follow up treatment (radiation and chemotherapy) based on labs from my surgical report, and I left there with all the information I needed to decide about breast reconstruction, both implant and autologous (using your own tissue).

ADVICE: You have just been told you are facing a mastectomy. The treatment plan for breast cancer comes first, ALWAYS! But, there is no reason you cannot have a discussion with your healthcare team and ask the question: WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS FOR BREAST RECONSTRUCTION?

If you are reading this blog and you or someone you know is facing a mastectomy, you know a breast surgeon, oncologist, primary care physician, or any member of a healthcare team involved in patient education, please share this ADVICE with them. Breast Reconstruction is a personal choice. Knowing your options is a right!

After My Decision, What Were My Next Steps?

It becomes a bit more rigorous when you’ve decided to have DIEP flap breast reconstruction for the simple reason there are few well-qualified plastic surgeons who specialize in this procedure. This was my plan of attack. I hope the thoughts I have listed here help.

  • Begin looking for a board certified, microsurgeon who has performed many successful DIEP flap surgeries. See my resource page here but be sure to ask the questions listed on the resource page when you call the office of the plastic surgeon you are considering.
  • Ask your healthcare team if they know of microsurgeons who successfully perform DIEP flap surgery.
  • It’s OK to look on the Internet but don’t rely 100% on Dr. Google! Make more than one phone call to more than one plastic surgeon until you find the one that hits a home run for your criterion and feels like your “just right” microsurgeon. You’ll know! You’re worth it!!
  • Be prepared to travel. This is the reality of finding a highly qualified microsurgeon. Performing DIEP flap breast reconstruction takes grit and passion. There are few surgeons who choose to move on after medical school with even more years of specialty and fellowship training to pursue this work.
  • I traveled 800 miles. I coordinated logistics with my family and friends. Additionally, the plastic surgery group I chose offered amazing support and resources for lodging. Know you will be asking a lot of family and/or friends. It feels selfish at times. We are so used to caring for others. It was heartwarming and I was taken back by the number of family and friends who willing took time off work and traveled to assist in recovery.
  • Consider joining a positive support group either locally or on-line with patients who are considering or have been through DIEP flap breast reconstruction. Feel free to join DiepCJourney! My experience was so successful and positive I absolutely love administering this positive group after my DIEP flap surgery. Come join us if you need support! Hearing other voices really helps comfort and ease the fears and anticipation of this big surgical decision.

How Do I Feel After DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction?

Amazing! Grateful! Healthy! The list goes on. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and travel frequently as a patient advocate for breast reconstruction. I exercise regularly. I can still hold a one-minute plank. Shopping for clothes has never been so much fun. I am embracing the new me after a second breast cancer diagnosis.

I make no apologies for my exuberance about life. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and have had successful DIEP flap breast reconstruction, you know what I’m talking about. Every ounce of your body is YOU! Even if you don’t have your original breasts, like me, you are lucky to live in an era where using your own tissue to reconstruct your breasts after mastectomy is possible through microsurgery.

I am not delusional. I know everyone does not have the successful experience I did with my DIEP flap breast reconstruction. I also know; however, thousands of women and men have had successful experiences. The testimonials of renewal, strength, and moving beyond a breast cancer diagnosis only fuel my passion. I will continue to share my own experience and help others as they move through this process of planning, research, and recovery.

I want to honor the women and men who, after a breast cancer diagnosis, make the decision to move forward with DIEP flap breast reconstruction. My heart if full because of your commitment and conviction to take on the choice to reconstruct your breasts.

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?

I want to honor my plastic surgeon and the few who choose microsurgery as their professional choice. You become our unsung heroes! We are grateful for your grit, your passion, in choosing to reconstruct breasts using a patient’s own tissue with DIEP flap. There are other alternative flaps successfully used, too, to rebuild breasts. This was my experience.

DIEP flap breast reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?

DAMN STRAIGHT I DID!

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction Did I make the right choice

 

 

Disclaimer

References made to my surgical group, surgeon and healthcare team are made because they are aligned with my values and met my criterion after I did research of their practices and success rates. Any other healthcare provider that displays the same skill, compassion education and outreach to patients will be given consideration and recognition on this website.  The information contained on this website is not a substitute for or should be construed as medical advice. Please consult a licensed physician for medical advice.

5 Replies to “DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Did I make the right choice?”

  1. Beverley

    This is interesting! I am three and a half weeks post left diep flap reconstruction and although the breast looks better day by day, I have had wound failure across part of my abdomen and at the breast join. I have also had an infection at the breast join, which as resulted in me losing a small triangle of skin, but some of these things can be quite big. On Friday i was told the infection as gone and the surgeon removed the dead skin and I now have to wait for review appointment on Tuesday to decide whether it can or should be restitched or left to heal. I have also experienced a leaking seroma, for which I have been given pads to catch it and stop it from running down my body _ think the stuff that goes into the drains post surgery. I was not suitable for an inplant. I would say it was too big a surgery, but it was right for me. Advice for anyone else, be careful, ask lots of questions and take your time to get well and talk to those who had a good experience and recovery and those who have not, only then decide. I needed it for breast cancer, would I have some thing similar if I needed too, definitely not.

    • Terri Post author

      I’m sorry you’ve had complications, Beverly. There are risks of any surgery but you’ve had your fair share. It is so important to ask as many questions as you have available in your “tool box” going in to your consult. I wish you well and continued healing.

      • Beverley

        I am now almost 10 weeks post surgery and although things are settling down, it is taking it’s time. I am now taking tamoxifen and i have healed more in the last two weeks than i did in the previous 8 – it is known to help with healing. My new breast is good and shouldn’t require any further surgery, which is probably just as well as i am not sure i would go through any more surgery at this time. Today a friend said to me ‘this is just a blip’ and she is right, it is, but right now it’s a very big blip!

  2. Julie

    Thank you for this post! I had a very successful DIEP on December 14, 2017. My husband and I may both be in love with my plastic surgeon and everyone in the team. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate. He was even able to use my own skin and not need the skin paddles from my belly. I didn’t even know it was an option until right before surgery when I was asking very specific questions. I gave him a huge hug at my post op and asked him if he had any idea what he was doing for breast cancer patients. He gave me a great hug back and said thank you because he didn’t hear it very often. I have met several women facing these decisions and I hope through my post on my blog that I have been able to help those understand that they do have options if faced with a diagnosis at some
    Point in their life. Thank you for your post and continued good health and happiness to you!

    • Terri Post author

      Hello Julie and congratulations on your successful surgery and your blog! We are fortunate to be living in an era of plastic surgery where tissue from our bodies can be transferred in these intricate microsurgical procedures. I wish you continued good health!

Comments are closed.