There’s gonna be some medical stuff in this post. If you’re squeamish, you might want to move on.
Back in the spring when I decided to have my boob cut off, I figured 2015 would be the year I’d have it rebuilt. Because I’ve had radiation, the tissue on my chest wall is too tight to be able to use an implant. So, rebuilding it means getting a tummy tuck, and using that tissue to build the new boob. Or, if for some reason they couldn’t use by tummy, then they’d take the tissue from my butt instead.
The tummy-to-boob transfer procedure is called a DIEP flap, and it usually requires several hours of surgery and then 3-4 days in the hospital, followed by 4-6 weeks of recovery at home. It’s a similar amount of hospital and recovery time for the butt version of the procedure. And it’s a separate outpatient procedure to build a nipple for the rebuilt boob.
All this is to say, it’s be kind of a major procedure, having reconstruction. And unlike the mastectomy, it’s not, like, cutting cancer out or whatever, so it’s not something that’s going to potentially help extend my life like the mastectomy did.
I’m torn about whether I should put myself through all that. I feel like this: if I’m one of the lucky ones, the 1 in 4 who are still alive 5 years after diagnosis, then yeah, I’d like to not have to look at the place where my boob used to be for all that time, and it seems worth it to put myself through more surgery, even if it’s not going to extend my life. Looking at the scar in the mirror every time I get dressed is depressing, and having a breast again could mean a lot to my psyche.
On the other hand, if I only live the average life span from diagnosis, which is 2-3 years, that would mean I’ve only got a year or two to go. And I don’t want to spend an entire month of it recovering from surgery. I’d rather feel good for as much of that time as possible.
I’m also not excited by the idea of surgery in general, like, being in pain and having drain tubes hanging off my body and even more fatigue…ugh. Just ugh. In addition, reconstruction doesn’t always turn out perfect, and even if I do end up with nicely shaped boobs after all this is done, I’m still going to have scars to look at in the mirror.
What blows the most about all this is the whole “if” part. If I live past the average life span. If I don’t. I hope I have a long time left with my family, but I may not, and time feels a lot more precious than it used to. But it also feels like hope is something I should try to embrace, and reconstruction would certainly be embracing hope.
If you’re a metster and you’ve had reconstruction, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I feel like we face a more complicated choice than non-metsters–not to diminish the fear and the struggle that someone with “just” early stage breast cancer faces, but it’s different when you know cancer is going to kill you someday.