After Cancer, You Still Have to Get Used to Your New Body
For now, I’m healing from surgery nicely and enjoying the novelty of having small breasts.
Courtesy of Lindsay Jean Thomson
This is the last entry in a multi-part series. Read the rest here.
My plastic surgeon messed up by giving me smaller breasts than he was supposed to and everyone has an opinion about it. I feel the need to clarify that I’m not hideously deformed or anything, it was more of an accounting mistake, then a communication one, and then a judgement one. So really, a series of mistakes. Read on.
“Do you think you could get used to it?” one of my friends asks.
Yes and no. Why should I have to?
Yes, because I’ve learned you can get used to just about anything. I hated the tissue expander—I hated how hard it was, the way it pressed unnaturally into friends as we hugged, the way it felt when I slept on my stomach. The way I could see just how cartoonishly pronounced it was anytime I saw my shadow and the way I knew the glaring asymmetry signaled to the world that something is not quite right with me.
And no because I don’t want to. This is not my body.
Don’t I deserve better?
This is not my beautiful house.
The yoni egg arrives. The instructions say to wash it twice with warm soapy water then to clear its energy by letting it sit in sea salt overnight. What, no bathing it in the moonlight? Nothing but the best for my vagina.
A week after my first post-op appointment after reconstructive surgery, I get to remove the tape. It’s a lot like ripping off a bandaid but so, so much worse. The skin around my areola feels like it’s not quite attached, like it could come off with the tape.
I post about my plastic surgeon’s mistake on Facebook because I’m sick of telling people and getting upset all over again every time. You’d be surprised how many people say to sue him. I find the idea distasteful, but after hearing it enough times I talk with my friend’s dad who is a lawyer. He asks some good questions: "Is it a temporary problem or a permanent one? Will the outcome be radically different than it would be if it had been done right the first time?" I don’t know. All I really want is for my surgeon to admit he made a mistake and apologize.
If he can’t admit he made a mistake, isn’t that representative of a bigger problem?
My friend’s dad tells me to get a copy of my medical records, that I can’t rely on the surgeon to figure out where the error was made. I already have them and it takes me less than five minutes to find it in over 600 pages of medical records, even though I don’t speak medical. I email my other surgeon to make sure I’m not reading it wrong. She writes back within ten minutes and tells me what I already know.
When I go into my second post-op appointment with my plastic surgeon the next day, I’m hopeful that he’ll do the right thing but frustrated that I haven’t heard from him.
After the pleasantries, he says, "I think you’re right. I think the number was off." He thinks. So he didn’t look into it. If I made a mistake that big, I’d probably want to fix it right away. Wouldn’t you?
“I owe you an apology,” he says.
But that’s not an apology.
“Did you find it? Because I found it.”
At my first post-mastectomy fill, he had written that I was at 150 cc instead of 300 cc. “Oh, so it was early on,” he says. What does that have to do with anything?
Ultimately, he does apologize and his apology feels sincere. As my friend Paula says, he eats crow like a pro.
“How does something like this happen?” I ask tentatively. For all my anger, I really like the guy. And although I’m unhappy with the size, I think he did a good job. They definitely look nicer than most of what I see on Google Images.
Human error. It’s just human error.
That I can understand. He says not to worry, that the revisions will be taken care of by my insurance. My insurance won’t, of course, cover more time off work. Or the month I’ll have to spend sleeping on my back, not exercising. Or the months of waiting. Some costs don’t get covered.
He calls the next round “revisions” instead of reconstruction, and it does sound like it will be easier but I dislike how cavalier he his. I get that this is routine for him, but it’s a big deal to me.
The good news is that they can sedate me instead of putting me all the way under and recovery is more like a week or two instead of a month. For my implant side, they’ll reopen the incision and put a larger implant in. "It just takes me ten minutes." he says. Just.
On the other side, they can fat graft from my stomach. It might take a few tries—he says that the body only accepts about 60 percent of the fat graft and they can only do a small amount at a time.
“Oh, what about my pathology report?” I almost forgot to ask. Typically no news is good news though.
I’m relieved, obviously, but I hadn’t thought about it much. My psychic says it’s not coming back. And maybe I haven’t met someone because reconstruction isn’t really over. Maybe?
For now, I’m healing nicely and enjoying the novelty of having small breasts, going braless, wearing clothes I never could have before. This is not my beautiful house, but it is for now. So it’s not quite over, but pretty close. I’m ready. Thank you for reading.