After getting back from Miami, we started the next phase of my treatment journey – reconstruction.
I met with Dr. Choi and Brooke on Tuesday afternoon (Day 22). They were very pleased with how I was healing and said that I was ready to start “filling”.
As part of my mastectomy, after all of my breast tissue was removed by Dr. Axelrod, Dr. Choi placed a tissue expander in each breast. The tissue expanders are basically like temporary empty breast implants that will gradually get filled up with saline until they are eventually exchanged for a real breast implant.
Some people decide to go direct to implant (immediate reconstruction), and avoid having a second surgery to exchange the expanders for implants, but I think there are some benefits to doing it this way. First, gradually filling the expanders allows my skin to stretch slowly instead of being shocked by a full implant. Second, I don’t know exactly how big I want my implants to be and the process of filling up the expanders allows me to see my breasts at different stages as they grow.
There are a few downsides to delayed reconstruction.
- This process takes longer. My exchange surgery is not until the end of January and I will have my expanders in until then. If I had immediate reconstruction, I would already have my implants.
- Tissue expanders are uncomfortable. They don’t look or feel like real boobs or implants. They poke in spots, are really hard, and my chest feels really tight, especially after a fill. They aren’t evenly placed and look lopsided. All of this is normal and just part of the process.
- I have to have another surgery, which means another recovery period.
After weighing the pros and cons, my doctors and I felt that delayed reconstruction was the right choice.
So, during today’s appointment, I experienced my first “baby fill”. A full “inflation” is 60 ccs in each breast and today I got 30 ccs in each. The way that it works is that Brooke held this magnet device over my breast until it indicated that she found the “port” of the expander. Then, she poked a needle into the port and slowly pushed a syringe of saline into the expander. It is not painful as it is happening (I have no feeling in my breasts), but afterwards I could immediately feel a tightness in my chest. The tightness lasted for about two days. It was more uncomfortable at night and made sleep a bit challenging, but it went away.
Getting my first fill was exciting. After having to go through chemotherapy and surgery, we are finally at the fun part! Though this isn’t the route I had anticipated for getting new boobs, getting to this stage means that the worst is over. The reconstruction phase is all about aesthetics and getting back to feeling good in my own skin. Aside from breast reconstruction, my hair is growing back, my energy is coming back, and I am starting to feel like myself again.