Thursday, June 9, 2011


Vegas did a number on me. (OK, it wasn't Vegas that did it — it was the possibility of needing a double mastectomy.) I am on edge, on the verge of crying, and short-fused. It's a bad mix. I need a solution. Fortunately, Dr. A. is true to his word; he calls Dr. C., the plastic surgeon, over the weekend and I am fast-tracked into an appointment  on Tuesday afternoon. My BFF accompanies me to take notes. 

I like the guy instantly. He asks me to begin with my list of questions because he says he can tell from what I ask how informed I am about breast reconstruction, and this allows him to tailor his answers specifically to me. I love the approach; it makes me feel more in control. He's also very easy on the eyes. (OK, so that's not why I chose him but it's not such a terrible side benefit, is it?The night before my appointment, I comb through The 10 Best Questions for Surviving Breast Cancer (it’s more like 200 questions, actually) and create a long list. Dr. C. patiently listens and carefully answers every one of my questions. He spends nearly two hours with us. 

Though I have just met him, I decide that if it comes down to needing a bilateral, this is the man to make me look whole again. My BFF feels the same way. (Yup, she agrees he is adorable and the right guy for the job. It's good to have friends with your best interests at heart!)

The Possible Plan (should I need it): Immediate bilateral reconstruction using tissue expanders with a later surgery down the road to exchange the expanders out for silicone implants. (Silcone had issues back in the 1980s, but Dr. C. assures me they are very safe now and prefers them over saline because they are the most natural looking.)

I am thrilled to have my surgical team in place. Now I can focus on figuring out what kind of surgery I need so I can get this cancer out of me. I've been very patient up until today. Now I want it gone

The next day is my MRI. I am claustrophobic, so I have to mentally get past this. A technician has me lie face down, with my boobs hanging through holes in the imaging table. (Do the humiliations ever end with breast cancer?) The machine makes clanking noises while I stay perfectly still. I shut my eyes and imagine I am hiking on my favorite trail in the wide-open spaces. I keep my eyes closed the entire time. Fooled even myself; I nearly fell asleep.

I arrange to pick up copies of the MRI films two days later and then take them to my surgeon Dr. A., who gives me the bad news: it's clear from the MRI that due to the size of my mass (3 centimeters), a lumpectomy will, in fact, leave me disfigured. So one week after hearing that I might need one, I bite the bullet and give the go-ahead for Dr. A. to schedule a bilateral mastectomy. 

Dr. A. and Dr. C. will work side-by-side in the operating room; Dr. A. removing breast tissue and any necessary lymph nodes, Dr. C. starting reconstruction by placing tissue expanders under my pectoral muscle to keep my skin inflated while I heal (and eventually filling the expanders with saline over a period of months, then another surgery to swap them out for permanent silicone implants). And this is all going to happen in less than two weeks

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