After being diagnosed with breast cancer and having a mastectomy, Fiona struggled with her options for reconstruction. This is her experience.
I had to consider my options
A year after my initial breast cancer diagnosis, I met with my surgeon to talk about reconstruction: something I had in mind since the beginning.
We spoke in length about my options and what would be best for me. I had a lot to consider as I didn’t want my muscles being affected due to my job as a fitness instructor.
One of the options for breast reconstruction involves taking a part of your skin, fat and muscle to create the new breast. Usually from either your stomach area or back.
The option to use excess skin and fat from my stomach area was a no-go because I’m pretty lean, and the LD flap (which means using the latissimus dorsi muscle in the back) would mean messing with my muscles and affecting my fitness activities.
Having an implant is a big decision
For me, the most viable option was an implant.
Generally, they place the implant under the chest muscle, giving it a more natural look. But I didn’t want any option that would or could affect my fitness activities, and I had read that this option can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
So, with all this in mind, we decided the implant over the chest muscle would be best for me.
Having an implant is a big decision. In fact, making the decision to have breast reconstruction is not an easy one and not for everyone. And no, it’s not a free boob job! That is a cosmetic procedure, this is an attempt to regain some sort of normalcy after a traumatic, life-changing event: breast cancer.
I had a lot of worries
We decided that I would delay my surgery until after I completed the Great North Run which I was doing in September 2018 for Breast Cancer Now.
I knew exactly what was going to happen and – in the grand scheme of things – it’s not a big operation. But my worrying mind was working overtime.
Am I doing the right thing?
What if I hate it?
Is all this time and effort worth it?
The thing about breast reconstruction is that you don’t go into surgery with a flat chest and come out with a fine set of boobs. It’s a long-haul process. I didn’t have an exact timeline, but I knew it would be probably a good year or more.
It was uncomfortable to start with
This first stage was to have an expander placed under my skin on top of my chest muscle. And it does exactly as it sounds: expands the skin, making a pocket for the implant to go in later. It is hard and rigid compared to an implant. It took a while to get used to the feeling of it, and sometimes it was uncomfortable and painful.
Over a period of months, I gradually had the expander filled. The end of 2018 saw me have my first fill, and spring 2019 marked my last. To go from being totally flat to having something that kinda looked like a boob was amazing.
As of December 2018, I needed no further treatment. I have now almost finished my reconstruction, and my next appointment is not until May.
I am still alive
A dear friend of mine said to me before the process that I needed to look at things a little differently. That I couldn’t go into this with a sense of perfection. I can’t compare it to my breast from before cancer because that has gone – but because of that I am still here and alive.
Our information on breast reconstruction can help answer any questions you have.