Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A lot has happened in the 2 1/2 years since I last wrote this blog.  There were many times I thought about writing and wished I had kept up with it.  I finally decided that it isn't too late to jump back in and now is the perfect time.

About six months ago I began pondering breast reconstruction.  I wasn't unhappy with my body, but there were definitely times when I was disappointed I couldn't wear a certain shirt or dress.  And putting on prosthetics was certainly a reminder of Breast Cancer.  Not that it was a good or bad thing, just that it was.

During these past months, I spoke with a friend who recently underwent breast reconstruction and consulted with two surgeons about my options.  My friend was open and honest about the process.   I appreciated her willingness to share and admire her greatly for the light she sheds on cancer and all that she does to support the American Cancer Society.  Thank you, Becky!

When I consulted with the surgeon in Anchorage, she shared the process she'd recommend which was  inserting expanders and then implants.  She used words like probably, likely, might, and possibly.  Those made me a bit uncomfortable.  Going through a major surgery to possibly get an "A" cup just didn't seem like something worth the risks.

James and I celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary in Seattle a few weeks after the consult with the Anchorage surgeon.  I decided to seek a consultation with a doctor at the University of Washington Medical Center.  Within the week that we were traveling, I was able to get an appointment with Dr. Said.  When we met with him, he asked how I was able to get the appointment at the clinic off campus.  I just emailed, they called and voila!  I had an appointment.  It was a God thing.

While at the appointment, the plastic surgeon explained the various options and the success rate and data for each type of surgery.  He explained that trying to stretch my radiation damaged skin and insert implants was maybe a 50/50 percent chance.  He said he would not recommend that surgery for me.  He then looked at the second option which was a DIEP Breast Reconstruction where they take muscle, tissue and skin from the abdomen to build breasts.  He said that also was not a good option as I didn't have enough abdomen tissue to build two breasts.  He then talked about the latissimus dorsi flap which uses muscle and tissue from my upper back.  He didn't like this option for me either because it uses a "good" muscle.  Are there any bad muscles?

The next two options were the gluteal free flap which uses muscle and tissue from the buttocks, and the TUG or transverse upper gracillus which uses muscle and tissue from the upper thigh.  Of the two, he explained the TUG would be my best option.  Success rate for this surgery is above 95% - much better odds than the 50/50 for expanders and implants.  All of the benefits included higher success rates, using my own tissue for the entire surgery, long-term higher satisfaction among patients, and never having to mess with the site again as I would with implants.  After the consult, I immediately knew that I was going to have a TUG Breast Reconstruction with Dr. Said.  James was 100% supportive and the next part of the journey began.

A trip to Mexico after completing a year of cancer treatments.
James & Lisa
We had our picture taken here 20 years ago!

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