Life After Breast Cancer: Rocking With Breast Reconstruction Surgery!

A breast cancer survivor happily talks about her reconstruction surgery. Most importantly she also asks, "Have you done your breasts examination?"

A breast cancer survivor happily talks about her reconstruction surgery. Most importantly she also asks, “Have you done your breasts examination?”

Most of us would have seen a slice of bread pop up from the toaster; a birthday balloon reaching its prime when inflated; a cake rising up when baked. But, what I experienced just recently was so beautiful and amusing. To share with you all, I finally had breast reconstruction surgery, the first part thereof in a 2-3 months long process.

For those, who have not read my other posts, I am a breast cancer winner. So, I went in for tissue expander surgery, wherein a tissue expander which is like a deflated balloon, is placed behind the chest muscle. And every few days, it is filled with saline water, till the time it reaches the desired size. Well, I was actually so amused to see my breast pop out of my body during my first filling. It was so fascinating.

I am so thankful that all of this happened in a time when technology has become so beautifully advanced. By the way, the desired size here is not of my natural breast, but much bigger than that one. The doctors over-expand it so that when in the second surgery the expander is replaced by an implant, there will be ample space to place the implant and give it, the desired shape. So, due to over-expansion, wherever I will go I will be reaching a few seconds later than my breasts!. I would be able to protect my son from sun and rain anywhere without an umbrella! And don’t even get me started on the names that I think my students are going to give!

While I was getting my pre-surgery tests done, I spent some waiting time at one of the eateries in the hospital (they are now as fancy as in a top mall), sipping coffee. While I sat at the window seat and looked outside, I felt like Aamir Khan from Dil Chahta Hai. You remember this song called `Tanhai’ in which he stands still and the world around him keeps moving. I had the same feeling though the emotion and the song would be different, ‘I believe I can fly, I believe I can touch the sky’. I was so excited before the surgery to the extent that the doctors were a little surprised but for me, it was a happy surgery after all.

As I looked at people outside, I felt so quiet and still and these people looked in so much of a hurry. It’s a beautiful experience to be sitting in a crowded coffee shop but feeling completely with yourself and so still. There were people from different age groups, gender, religions, and countries. Yet, what united this heterogeneous group together is the beautiful soul. Some of them looked happy at having heard some good news, some looked tense like they just got some news that they were better off without knowing and yet some others were enjoying their meal in one of the hospital’s eating outlets after having come to see some acquaintance to whom they may not be really close to. It’s amazing to see how at the same point in time, people have so many different situations going on in their lives. For some while its birth of a new one, for some it’s having to say goodbye to someone forever.

Don’t put off that self breast exam

I know that a lot of females dread doing self breast exam out of the fear that if something gets diagnosed, they may lose a breast and thereof their self-esteem and confidence. Anyway, on a different note, I have been wanting to share a bit about breast reconstruction with you. Three points here: first, there are options for breast conservation surgeries, wherein only a small part of the breast (primarily the lump) is taken out and not the whole breast; second, a breast doesn’t define us and third, there are a lot of ways to have the body image back, with or without a reconstruction surgery.

If one doesn’t want to get a reconstruction done, there are silicon and foam based prosthesis (artificial breast) available. Silicon prosthesis gives almost the same shape as the other breast (even in tight clothes) and with clothes on nobody can ever guess that one is missing. And then there are a few choices available for reconstruction surgery. Like, there is expander and implant that I shared with you before. Then there is autologous or flap reconstruction, that uses skin, fat, blood vessels and sometimes muscle from another place of the body like belly, back, buttocks, or inner thighs. The good part for some, if being done from belly one automatically gets a tummy tuck too! The idea is nothing should stop you from doing self breast exam (SBE) every month (between 5th to 7th day of start of menses) as the fear should not be for diagnosis but late diagnosis. Let me also share with you about other breast cancer screenings.

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  • SBE – once every month between 5th to 7th day of start of menses, after 20 years of age
  • Clinical breast exam – same as SBE but done by an experienced doctor (preferably a breast surgeon than a gynaecologist). This needs to be done once every year after the age of 30
  • Mammogram – it is like an x ray of the breast. It needs to be done once in two years between the age of 40 and 50 and after 50 once every year. And let me share with you that mammograms are not painful

In females younger than 40 years, the doctor may advise an ultrasound instead of mammogram for investigative purpose as younger females’ breasts are denser and a mammogram may not be therefore able to pick up any change.

However, in high-risk patients, the doctor may advise more frequent screenings. All these screenings are important so that if there is any change in the breasts, it can be shown to the doctor. And changes do not ordinarily mean that there would be cancer, but it still needs to be checked.

Through my experience I do know a lot about this now, but it’s advised to check with your doctor.

Coming back to my reconstruction story, after the surgery I had a drain hanging from my underarm for around ten days. It was like I was carrying my own personal mouse in my hand (the one with the computer) everywhere, as it was almost the same shape. The good part of it, when I went for a movie with my husband, the lady at the security check forgot to check my food bag on seeing the drain!

So lets drain out all our fears and embrace the beauty called life and pledge to do our self breast exam and screenings on time.

Woman on the beach image via Shutterstock


About the Author

Neeti Leekha Chhabra

I am a management faculty by profession and left my full time job in June 2012 when I got diagnosed with breast cancer. I am perfectly healthy and fit now and run my own NGO ` read more...

8 Posts | 33,489 Views

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