My Double Mastectomy: Three Years Later

Double Mastectomy: Three Years Later May 15, 2014, I was sitting in a hospital room recovering from a double mastectomy.  Why am I smiling so much in the photo?  The answer: I just finished a phone conversation with my parents.  They live a little over one thousand miles from me.  I couldn’t believe how little pain I was in and how good I felt.  It was important to me that they hear my voice. Both my Mother and Father were in disbelief that I was calling them. Just 24 hours before, they were on alert at their home waiting for the phone call to let them know I was out of surgery and doing well.  When I mentioned to them I was heading home in a couple of hours after the call, they were even more surprised.  I could hear the sense of relief in their voices over the phone. Continue Reading →

You Come First after Breast Reconstruction

You Come First after Breast Reconstruction One of the best pieces of advice I can give to those I talk to planning their surgery, “You come first after breast reconstruction.”  It is a very difficult concept and mantra to adopt when you are so used to caring for others.  It is particularly challenging for those who go into breast reconstruction feeling healthy and fit, going about their daily routine of cooking, cleaning, carpooling, mothering, caring for others, and working a full-time job.  A sudden change in that routine is hard to wrap your mind around.  Believe me, it stops very suddenly after breast reconstruction but it IS temporary and so worth taking the time to put yourself first. We don’t realize how much bending, twisting, and lifting we do each day.  I have been on the phone with individuals answering questions about the recovery process.  While I am speaking with Continue Reading →

Possible Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction

Possible Risks and Complications of Breast Reconstruction I recently had the privilege of discussing some of the of possible risks and complications of breast reconstruction with Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo from PRMA plastic surgery.  The interview was done for #AllThingsCancer a program put out by the Anti-Cancer Club.  The two basic choices for breast reconstruction after mastectomy are implant based and autologous breast reconstruction (“flaps”).  There are pros and cons to each option.  What is important to emphasize is that for most patients, each option usually includes a staged approach involving more than one procedure for the best results. Implant breast reconstruction involves replacing the tissue removed by the mastectomy with a saline or silicone filled implant.  In most cases, a temporary implant known as a tissue expander is placed first to help shape the new breast.  The tissue expander is then replaced by a permanent implant at a second surgery. Autologous “flap” techniques Continue Reading →

Tummy Tightness after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction

Tummy Tightness after DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction I speak to many women who ask about tummy tightness after DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  The emphasis of the questions focus on how long the tightness will last and adjusting to the new feeling. When DIEP flap breast reconstruction is performed women also have the advantage of getting something that mimics a tummy tuck, also known as abdominoplasty.  The technical aspects of that surgery are well explained here at the Microsurgeon.org website.  Here is a quote from the page: The tissue used for DIEP breast reconstruction contains skin, fat, and blood vessels. It is the same tissue area that is discarded in the classical cosmetic surgical abdominoplasty – also known as the tummy tuck. Your Newly Altered Tummy I want to make an analogy about that tummy tightness after DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  When you buy a new pair of jeans that are Continue Reading →

Breast Reconstruction Travel & Post-op Visits

Breast Reconstruction Travel & Post-op Visits A question was posed to me recently about breast reconstruction travel and post-op visits. The question was this: Terri – when you traveled for your DIEP, did you travel back/ forth for all the follow up visits also?  So, wondering how all the follow up visits go in a situation like this? How long did you stay in SA while recovering? It is an important question to ask. I had the same question before my own DIEP flap surgery.  DIEP flap is a very specialized breast reconstruction surgery using the patient’s own tissue.  There are few qualified micro-surgeons who perform it with a high rate of success and have amassed a great number of flap surgeries performed.  When the numbers are extrapolated, there is not even one in every state.  It makes sense, then, that to find a highly-qualified micro-surgeon, patients frequently must travel for Continue Reading →

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Sights and Sounds of the Hospital

DIEP flap Breast Reconstruction: Sights and Sounds of the Hospital Your senses can become fine tuned to the sights and sounds of the hospital stay after your DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  Whether you have been in hospital before or not there are many things to deal with when you are out of the comfortable environment of your own home and bed.  Our five senses, taste, touch, sight, smell, hearing, connect us to everything around us.  Let’s look at what that means while recovering from DIEP flap breast reconstruction during your hospital stay. Tastes The taste that you have in your mouth post-surgery can only be described by the individual.  My perception is one of a medicinal, antiseptic taste.  You have been anesthetized for a long period and the drugs used will linger on the tongue.  Your mouth will be dry and you will not be allowed fluids of any kind Continue Reading →

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction

Burns in Reconstructed Breasts after Mastectomy and Breast Reconstruction An article published in Medscape.com on burns in breasts after mastectomy which also included after breast reconstruction admittedly left me riveted.  Look at this statement from the article: Together with this case series, the literature suggests the most common heat sources responsible for the identified burns included: Heat conduction: using heating pads, hot liquids, and hyperthermia devices. Solar radiation: sunbathing with a dark swimsuit or using a sun lamp. Heat convection: using hair dryers. A close examination of this article and the above-mentioned items leads me to conclude that the most common culprits are household items and sunbathing.  I was given literature regarding post-surgical care from the plastic surgeon who performed my DIEP flap breast reconstruction to clearly avoid heat of any kind to my reconstructed breast, including standing with my back to the shower as well as sunbathing. I personally Continue Reading →

Breast Reconstruction Surgery Fears

Breast Reconstruction Surgery Fears Why do patients fear surgery for breast reconstruction?  It’s just another piece of the anxiety puzzle after a breast cancer diagnosis.  You’re faced with the dreaded news that a best or only option for your treatment plan is a mastectomy.  Lose my breasts?  Your head starts reeling and you think about what you will look like losing the body parts that most defines you as a woman.  There will be scars, pain, recovery, time away from a job and family, anesthesia, medical and insurance costs, and oh yes, what about getting all that cancer out of my body during surgery!  The list goes.  I decided to explore some of these fears in a poll.  I asked members of a Facebook page I manage in support of those going through breast reconstruction.  What they fear and what they go through in their diagnosis and decision to have Continue Reading →

Breast Reconstruction ~ Concealing Scars After Mastectomy

Breast Reconstruction ~ Concealing Scars After Mastectomy Breast reconstruction and concealing scars after mastectomy is a certainty for patients post surgery.  There are those who bravely bare their scars as a symbol of strength and what they have been through.  But for many, hiding the scars of breast reconstruction is a skill and becomes a sort of creative art. Various Surgeries ~ Various Scars There are abdominal scars and breast scars if you have had DIEP flap breast reconstruction.  LAT flap will leave you with scars on your back and breasts.  TUG flap will leave you with breasts and inner thigh scars.  PAP and GAP flap will leave scars at the breasts and buttocks areas.  Those who have immediate breast reconstruction will likely have the least amount of scars on their breasts, but scars nonetheless. Placement of scars is a topic that should definitely be brought up in the initial Continue Reading →

Fat Grafting Breast Reconstruction Recovery

Fat Grafting Breast Reconstruction Recovery Fat grafting after breast reconstruction recovery is a much quicker process especially if you have had DIEP flap surgery.  Phase one is typically a six week recovery.  The fat grafting surgery is typically day surgery and you will be back home or back at your lodging that evening if you have traveled for the procedure. I addressed the side effects of anesthesia here.  Another post written about post surgical garments after fat grafting can be read here.  I wanted to outline some common side effects of the fat grafting procedure and what you can expect in this blog. Fatigue during Recovery When you wake up from surgery you will be shaking off the anesthesia and will feel fatigued for a period of roughly a week.  This will depend on each individual and the extent of the surgery.  We each bounce back at different rates and Continue Reading →