Before my last chemo session, I had called to meet with Dr. Beber to discuss adding more saline to my slope-y chest. If I look down to my chest, the expander looks, at times, like it could use some more expansion. In the mirror, I could see the expander is positioned a little higher than where it’s suppose to be but with my clothes on, no one would could tell I had a mastectomy at all. From what I could tell, perhaps if the expander was lowered the lump size would be equal to my other breast. Whether it was a perspective trick on the eye or not I wanted to be sure I looked even. I have been very lucky to have the expander help me through losing a breast. I could not imagine how I would be handling this emotionally and psychologically, if I didn’t have a make-shift boob to remind me I could be physically balanced again.
Dr. B wanted me to reiterate my no radiation decision before discussing any saline injections. Before I had gone to get a second opinion, Dr. B seemed just as disappointed as I did when I told him how the radiation oncologist was definite I would need radiation. And now he was excited when I told him the odds of the what the second opinion gave me, “5%?? that’s it?!! I’m grappling about a 5% difference reccurrence rate whether to have radiation or not?!!” It was pure relief for both of us. He was always doing everything possible to make me look and feel whole again whether I was ready for it or not and I was finally starting to feel “on board” with everything to do with my breast reconstruction.
It was so, difficult for me to get on board with having an implant or reconstruction, all together. My friends and family were all supportive and happy I could have this opportunity to help me recover through breast cancer. I knew I was lucky to be in a day and age where breast reconstruction is possible but a part of me was still sad – is still sad. Seriously, my friend, Felicia once asked me, if I had to change any part of my body, what would I change. I told her didn’t want anything changed, but she pressed on, and I finally came up with, “I’d want my feet to be smaller because, whenever there are great shoe sales, the most stylish shoes left are always in smaller sizes than mine and I am forever paying full retail for style with my size 9 feet.”
Of all the doctors, I’ve had this past year, Dr. B hands down, had to deal with the brunt of my resentment for losing a breast. I admit, I felt a little sorry for him having to deal with a dubious patient like me. It seems a far cry from the day I told him I would be keeping my own breasts because I didn’t like any of the implant options he was offering me. I have also wondered if anyone else ever broke down while Dr. B drew surgical lines, on their chest, before their mastectomy. He wasn’t even the one removing my breast! When he was exuberant with the look and outcome of my expander in my chest post mastectomy, I wouldn’t touch or even look at the success of his work. By my third expansion, I think he even got his nurses to tell me to massage lotion on my lump, so I would get used to touching my new breast. I remember giving Nurse Helen a, for-real-who-are-you-trying-to-kid, look, when she suggested it. And I could tell Dr. B had enough of my apathetic attitude when he realized I wasn’t wearing a bra since the operation (this had more to do with the extremely hot summer we had in 2011, than the fact I wouldn’t go near touching the lump of my new boob, actually). I couldn’t fully get on his side, no matter how hard he was trying to show me how wonderful this lump would turn out to be. With every returning visit he would present his affable self, again and again, in hopes I would have come around to liking the idea of a new breast.
Not until I realized radiation would damage my chance at a normal looking breast, did I realize I needed to change my outlook on this breast reconstruction matter. When I decided radiation was not for me that was when I fully got on my boob team! Dr. B was happy to hear from me we would not have to rush switching the expander to the implant or having radiation altogether. The new breast would not be ruined by radiation.
With that we began discussing my slope-y dilemma. He thought the right volume was in my expander and it just needed to be positioned lower than where it was. All this would be corrected when Dr. B would do the exchange with the implant. He began describing the implant shape he would use and telling me about some new high-tech camera he had, in his Bay St. office, he wanted to use on me. The camera could give him a 3 dimensional computer image where he could use to pinpoint exact measurements and determine exact implant volume he would use on me. As fascinated as I was, with this camera of his, (and I really was, seeing as I like all cameras) I needed to bring up another issue which was gnawing at me for the last couple of months.
A couple of acquaintances had mentioned I should inquire about having my other breast lifted. They made valid points about one breast being permanently perky while the other one would eventually sag over time. I told Dr. B, I wanted to make sure the other boob matched the new one. He explained he had already thought about which shaped implant to use and how it would match perfectly with my breast shape. I stopped him and told him perhaps he could just lift or tuck the boob I still had to match the other one. He stared blankly at me saying,
“But you have a full breast. There’s nothing wrong with this breast.”
I reminded him, “Yes, but it will sag over time.”
“So, you’ll DEAL with it then!” he said shaking his head.
“Why can’t we just lift it now and do everything all at once?” I reasoned.
“THAT’S NOT HOW IT’S DONE!” he just rolled his eyes at me. “There’s nothing to lift! YOU HAVE A FULL BREAST HERE!”
I was beginning to realize the breast plan, I grappled with for months in my head, was proving to be too incredulous for Dr. B, “If we did the pencil test now, you’d fail! It would fall to the floor!”
“What pencil test?!! What’s that?” I asked.
Exasperated, he explained the pencil test was when you stick a pencil on the underside crease of your breast and if the pencil holds in place, this is the amount of sag some women may want to have lifted.
Okay, am I the only one who has not heard of this test?!! Because I have since learned, my friend Isa can hold 5 pencils under her boob but, my friend, Helen proudly admits she’s able to hold the Oxford English Dictionary under one of her boobs. I have not seen physical proof of this from either women but will take their word for it. For now. I am curious to see this test work, though…
Dr. B pinched the side of my boob to show me where the lift would usually be done thus showing me how it would ruin the look of my normal breast. All right, so when would my breast actually start sagging, I asked him, and when I would eventually have to have the lift done.
“You’d be surprised at how many perky 50 and 60-year-old breasts I’ve seen! I’m shocked sometimes!!” Dr. B said, “You never know. Maybe you’ll be one of those lucky ones!”