I am four weeks post-op. Let’s just take inventory of the new me.
The new belly has an incision that starts behind one hip bone, you know the one that sticks out in front, and goes around me to just behind the other hip bone. It’s 25 inches long. I measured it. The scar is the only break in the smooth, flat, youthful landscape of my new tummy. Well, there is a belly button, which my plastic surgeon assures me is my own original equipment, just moved. Its crater is filled with dark scabby stuff that I’m itching to get in there and scrub away, but the thought of accidentally opening the healing incision that’s holding it in place is daunting. Like blowing out a window in a pressurized aircraft. I picture my belly button bursting open and my innards all slithering out, which I would have to gather up in a mixing bowl and present, shamefaced, to my plastic surgeon for replacement. Not going there.
Moving north, there’s the right breast, which got the heave-ho due to no fault of her own–no cancer–but I didn’t want her getting any ideas from lefty. This one looks a little weird. A lot like my old, saggy boob, only no nipple. Looking at it, I first thought, “What’s the deal? All they did was cut off was my nipple!” And then I remembered. All the boobiness that’s there, the bump that looks like my old, saggy breast–none of it is real breast tissue. It’s all abdominal fat, with a circle of abdominal skin where my nipple used to live. Pink, soft, bouncy, saggy, and real. Katy fat. Just a change of address.
The left breast is where the magic happened (although this whole procedure is nothing short of amazing). My old mastectomy scar was dog-eared, lumpy, and something of a mess. The radiation had essentially melted the skin into my ribs. It was hard, inflexible, and painfully stuck down. My plastic surgeon unstuck everything and created a soft, warm breast that right now looks a lot like a hamburger bun. It’s very pale, compared to the dark radiated skin around it, and you can see stretch marks on it–leftover from carrying a twin pregnancy to term–but who cares? It’s me and it’s lovely. It fits in a bra. It doesn’t hurt, like the mastectomy scar did. I’m thrilled.
The surgeon assures me that the first surgery is just to get the free flaps moved from my abdomen to my chest, get their blood supply established, and get out of there. From experience, he’s found that the more boob-like shaping he tries to do during the first surgery, the more likely some of the flap tissue will lose its blood supply and turn lumpy and hard. So these odd, uneven breasts will be just fine until August or so, when we’ll schedule another surgery to shape them into more normal-looking breasts.
And even later, the cherries will crown the cupcakes. Nipples. If you have nipples, dear reader, gaze at them the next time you’re in the shower and marvel at their form and perfection.
It’s wonderful that the breasts God creates are so functional and beautiful, but it’s wonderful too that He’s provided the science and art to not only save my life, but give me my shape back. This has been quite an adventure.
“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” Psalm 91:4