I had surgery a week ago, to exchange the tissue expanders I have had in place since my bi-lateral mastectomy was performed on June 15, 2011, with silicone breast implants.
The results. Good. Really good. Dr. Kathy Huang, of the Plastic Surgery Institute of Washington, is quite an artist, I highly recommend her. When they were cutting the dressings away I felt a little dizzy and scared, but I was very pleasantly surprised to see a nice looking pair of boobs! Of course, I think I have adjusted to the fact that I don’t have nipples yet (nipple reconstruction and nipple tattoos are the next phase of my medical odyssey), so the effect is a little more mannequin like, but that’s OK with me.
Over the course of the last year and a half the left hand side tissue expander had experienced a condition called capsular contraction. One of the side effects that can occur from having breast implants is a “capsular contracture” when an implant (or any foreign device for that matter) is inserted in the body, a tissue lining is formed. This lining is commonly known as a “capsule” or “tissue capsule.” It’s your body’s natural response to a foreign object. When the surgery is first done, a pocket is made for the implant, and during the healing process after the surgery, the fibrous tissue forms the capsule. Your body is genetically programmed to shrink this scar tissue somewhat, and in normal cases, the pocket stays open allowing the implant to look and feel natural.
In some cases (unfortunately in my case), the capsule will tighten and squeeze the implant, making it feel hard and distorting the appearance. Later on, the implant can feel very firm and can become painful. You are more prone to experiencing this condition if you have had radiation (which I did).
SO, given the tightened pocket on the left side and the risk for continued tightening on that side, Dr. Huang did some extensive work to open that pocket up. She cleared out a much larger area and was able to achieve symmetry between the breasts again.
What does all that mean? Well it means that my left side is sore, stiff, bruised and pretty uncomfortable, BUT, the boobs are symmetrical. (It’s better to look good than to feel good right?!! 😉
My hope is that the pocket is open enough now that I won’t get that capsular contraction on the left implant and that the movement in my left arm improves. Let the healing continue!
All in all, when I look at where I am now and where I was a year and a half ago, I am in a bit of shock. Did I really go through all that? Yea, I did, and I rocked it!
I think the key to getting through something big and traumatic is taking it day-by-day and enjoying the times when you feel good (yea of course there are bad times and you kinda go on auto-pilot and coast through it the best you can.) I really appreciated the little joys and accepted all the help and love that my friends and family showered on me. I feel lucky. I got to experience so much love and I now I appreciate beauty and pleasure in so many little places.
Here is a video that I look back on that makes me smile. Beware, you are about to watch some bad white people dancing (I swear I am actually a pretty good dancer- at least I think I am ;)), but it’s me and my dad enjoying the end of my last chemo session, before the fatigue set in. Go for it when you can!
I love you all. Peace.