I had my first visit with a plastic surgeon this week to discuss what my options were for reconstruction. Many of my friends have asked why I didn’t have reconstruction done at the time of my mastectomy. The primary reason was that I was not a candidate for immediate reconstruction because I was scheduled to have radiation. Radiation can damage or destroy skin tissue. The second reason was that I wasn’t sure if I wanted reconstruction. I needed time to think about my options. Many women choose not to undergo the extra surgery and pain in reconstruction. I’m still making up my mind.
Gene went through the reconstruction options with me prior to the doctor’s visit so that I would be prepared with questions. I found myself very nervous about this appointment because of body image issues. We all have body image issues of some sort, and I know that these doctors see patients of all shapes and sizes, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Gene asked me if I would be more comfortable if he was not in the room during the exam, and I said, “Heck no! You are my safety net.”
We are escorted to the patient exam room and I sit in the chair rather than on the exam table. It is my own form of rebellion. I just can’t help myself. If there is a chair in the room, I’m taking it rather than the paper-covered table. When you sit on paper, it crackles every time you squirm, and I suspected I would be squirming a lot. The nurse took my vitals and explained that we would meet the surgeon in his office first, and then he would examine me, measure me, and take photos afterwards. Oh boy! I do give him credit for meeting me with my clothes on first. This always makes an impression on me.
While we wait to meet the doctor, I start looking around the exam room and I’m disappointed. Gene asked what I was looking for, and I told him that I thought there would be more toys to play with. He raises an eyebrow as I explain that in a dermatologists office, there are photos of moles, poison ivy, sun damage, etc. I thought there would be charts of noses to choose from or at least some breast implants lying around. He shakes his head. I fidget and sigh.
We are escorted to the plastic surgeons office. He is very nice and asks Gene where he practices and they go into a quick back and forth while I discretely look around. Bingo! There are breast implants on the desk. No noses, so I suspect he has prepared specifically for us and not every patient.
What follows is a history of breast augmentation and number of options available to patients, but not necessarily available to me. After about the second or third option and list of potential complications and remedies, I simply can’t absorb anymore. The nurse sticks her head in to tell the doctor something and I lean toward Gene and whisper, “Are you getting all of this?” He says, “Yes, most of it.” “Good. I’m lost and you are in charge of data,” I reply. We have been married 30 years and delegating responsibility works for us. Ask me about websites or search engine optimization, strategic planning or investments, and I can talk with you for hours. Start discussing medical terms and I’m pulling out my secret weapon, Gene. It isn’t that I won’t make the decision for myself, I’m just putting him in charge of consolidating data.
I’m disappointed to learn that I’m not a candidate for the reconstruction that comes with a free tummy tuck. You should be able to come out of all of this chemo and radiation with some perks. We move back to the exam room where I disrobe. The nurse goes through the process with me one more time and then the doctor comes in to examine me. He measures things and I find myself wondering what reference is his starting point? The end point each time seems to be my nipple. My sense of humor is raising its ugly head and I’m not sure the doctor is going to appreciate it. I try to keep my thoughts to myself . . . mostly.
There was an amusing moment when the surgeon asked my bra size, and I went totally blank. Gene tried to be helpful by picking up my bra and finding a size. Turns out he doesn’t know where the size tag is located. The nurse helpfully stepped over and found the size for him.
The last indignity is the photo shoot. The surgeon sits on a stool with me standing topless next to a wall. Face forward, snap. Face 45 degrees, snap. Face sideways, snap, reverse the process, snap. The best part was that the nurse was standing behind the doctor and they were pointing in unison to show me which way to face. They look like synchronized flight attendants, and I just have to laugh. It is a nice distraction from the fact that once again, someone is taking photos of my bare chest.
When my Oncologist ran into Gene and asked how the appointment went, he replied, “I deserve 1.5 hours of CME (Continuing Medical Education) and I think all Kathy heard was white noise.” I would say that is a very succinct summary of our visit.
If I do have reconstruction, I’m getting myself a t-shirt that reads: Hell yes they are fake. The real ones tried to kill me!