Yesterday I say my reconstructive surgeon for an examination and a “fill”. My doctor came into the the room with two residents. I tend to meet new ones at every visit. As he wasn’t present at my last visit, he wanted to do an examination of my chest to see how things are progressing. With tissue expanders, the goal is to stretch the skin as much as possible in order to create pockets for the implants. When they put the expanders into my chest after removing my breasts, they tried to insert them as evenly as possible but they were dealing with the aftermath of a mastectomy where the main focus is removing all the tissue and skin to remove the cancer. Aesthetics don’t really come into the picture. My tissue expanders were not completely even right from the start but they have shifted very noticeably with every fill up. This is a lot to do with the hematoma I have on the left side which is causing the one expander to fill up in a vertical fashion as the hematoma is blocking it from spreading to the side. When you look at me head on one mound is about three inches higher than the other. It is very obvious and very disconcerting. Originally the surgeon said that when he does the switch out from the expanders to the implants he would be able to adjust them. At yesterdays visit, he said that they are so far out of alignment that I will probably have to have two surgeries in order to have them appear even and “normal”. As if there is anything “normal” about this. He also said that the large pocket of fluid I have beside the hematoma that protrudes out the side of my underam and part of my back, cannot be removed at the time of the first surgery as it will fall outside the sterile drape and would require an extra hour of time to “redrape and sterilize.” They will not add this extra procedure to the surgical schedule and therefore it can’t be removed at that time and will have to be done at a later date. And here’s the kicker….OHIP ( our health care system) won’t cover any additonal surgeries even if these complications have been caused by the initial surgery… a bilateral mastectomy to remove cancer. I have no idea how much all that will cost and who wants to go through even more surgeries?!!!! I’m afraid I lost it at that moment.
“This is a fu#king SHITSTORM”, I blurted out, rather loudly and emphatically. I saw the residents start to back up and put there heads down. I could see they didn’t want to make eye contact with the she-wolf sitting on the table. She might pounce if provoked.
” I know, I know”, the surgeon said. ” We will just have to see how things go when you have your next surgery. I just want to give you the heads up. We’ll figure it out when the time comes.” he said. “As for the pocket of flesh on your side, I can lyposuction that out in my office with local freezing. OHIP doesn’t cover any kind of lyposuction though.”
“I don’t understand. If lyposuction is the best and easiest way to get rid on this thing, why doesn’t OHIP cover it? It’s not like I am coming to you to say please lypo my thighs as they are too fat? This pocket of skin is a result of my mastectomy surgery.” I could feel my eyes welling up and my throat starting to close with emotion. Just thinking about more surgeries was upsetting enough, but also having to pay for them?! What is that going to cost?!!!! The surgeon could see how upset I was getting and told me not to worry that we would figure it all out later. Easy for him to say. He’s a $urgeon! Then he smiled, said “see you in two weeks”and disappeared out the door leaving me with the two sheepish residents who looked scared shitless to approach me. I took a deep breath, wiped my eyes and said, “Don’t be afraid, I don’t bite.” They smiled, filled up the giant syringes and approached me with caution. I’m sure they felt like they were about to dart a wild animal on the Serengeti, so they quickly located the ports with their magnets and plunged the needles through my chest wall to start the fill. I opted to only do one syringe full on each side this time…60 cc’s each, as my chest is getting tighter and tighter with every fill and the pain is just too hard to manage with a double fill. They finished the job, applied the bandages and quickly left the room, leaving me sitting there in disbelief as to what I just heard. I hopped off the table, looked in the mirror at a body that I don’t recognize and that at that moment truly hated. “Have you not put me through enough?” I said to my reflection.. It didn’t answer back. It couldn’t. What is there to say? I got dressed and walked down the hall to the reception to book my next appointment. As I looked around I was quickly reminded that I should be counting my lucky stars that I was booking an appointment for a “fill” and not for chemo or radiation. There were dozens of people around me that were dealing with a whole lot more than I was. Yes, I was frustrated. Yes, I was upset. But I am on the mend. I am strong. And most importantly I am cancer free.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.