I’ve spent the last 2.5 years planning my life from one surgery to the next, this constant cloud hanging over my head. The prepping, the worry, the anticipation, the uncertainty. I’m not going to sugar coat it. Breast reconstruction has been hard. Now, as I sit here three works post op, still sore, tender and bruised, I can finally let out this big breath of relief I’ve waited so long for.
Two and a half years ago, I went through my first surgery, a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy followed by a bilateral mastectomy with immediate latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction, an implant exchange, and two more surgeries to help reconstruct my breasts, each one hoping it was the last.
I wanted so badly to be done and spent months hoping things would settle over time but I was met with disappointment. My implant was pulling to one side and despite numerous microneedling and lasering sessions to help with the scars, they glared angrily back at me. I was in a lot of discomfort. I didn’t like how they looked. And I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin anymore.
I struggled for months though deciding whether I wanted to go through this all over again. Walking down those same halls to the operating room, laying on that same cold table, waking up and feeling that uncertainty all over again.
And this surgery was no exception. It was hard. Mentally. Physically. Emotionally. You never really get used to going through this again and again. When I woke up, I could feel the pain building and mustered all the energy I could for the nurse to get me something to help. And felt nauseous the moment I tried to sit up. My teeth chattered as my whole body shook from the cold and then just like a switch turned into a raging inferno of hot flashes. My body was angry. It was irritated. It was telling me it was done.
Eight hours after checking into the hospital, I was heading home for what would hopefully be the last of my recovery. I found myself riding the waves of nausea and pain, binge watching Netflix during the day, pillow forts amassed around me at night. Friends and family brought meals over and helped out as I sat around in my sports bra and pajamas, some days feeling like a prisoner in my own body. This delicate vase that I was so worried about shattering with every slight movement.
Despite all this, one of the hardest moments for me was removing the bandages and seeing the aftermath of 5 surgeries. Worrying whether I made the right decision. Not knowing if I would like the body staring back at me in the mirror. The feeling of uncertainty peeling away the layers of gauze and tape after each surgery. Will this be it? Will I be happy with the results and finally get to close this chapter? Or will I feel that overwhelming sense of disappointment again and be planning for the next surgery in another 5 months. Ugh.
I could barely muster the courage to take off my bandages and felt this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach. My heart racing as I began unravelling the tensor bandage to see what lie underneath. The worry and anticipation building until I finally crumbled into a ball of emotions and sat on the bathroom floor telling my husband over and over, I can’t do this, I can’t do this. I was nauseous. Dizzy. Scared out of my bloody mind. I had built up so much anxiety and anticipation inside hoping this was the last that the thought of being disappointed with the results again tore me apart inside.
As I got back up and slowly began to unravel the bandages again, I held the last bandage there terrified to see what was underneath. The moment of truth. I stared blankly at the mirror at first, not wanting to let my gaze fall down at the aftermath of 5 surgeries. But when I finally saw what was left, I was surprised at how well everything turned out.
The excess skin from previous surgeries had been removed, the old scars completely cut out, and the flap, containing a piece of skin, muscle and tissue from my back, was trimmed down leaving me with new wounds that oddly resembled the size of nipples.
While things look much better than they once did, they are not perfect by any means. But they are at a point where I feel comfortable. Where I can say this is enough. I can’t bear to go through this again and honestly I just want nothing more than to move forward and be planning less around when the next surgery may be and more around living my life right now while I am healthy.
I still have the steri strips on my foobs to help with healing and to minimize the scarring. I am still caged up in my sports bra for another couple weeks. And as the swelling and bruising goes down over the coming months, my foobs will do the old fluff and drop. But to be able to look in the mirror and know it’s all over now feels like this huge weighted lifted off me.
This is it.
5 surgeries later.
I am done.