31 October 2011


Last week I got a phone call from the Manukau SuperClinic to confirm an appointment with my plastic surgeon to discuss my reconstruction surgery. Whoop whoop! Hi fives all around!

The plastic surgeon Owen and I met with last year was my first preference as he was such a lovely man, however because of that and the fact he is good he is booked out solid. So they have given me the Head of Department. We're pretty happy with that!

The Manukau SuperClinic deals with a lot of plastic surgery and is the "home base" for the breast cancer reconstruction team. The government gave them a heap more money last year to reduce waiting times for women such as me. I'm very grateful. In fact National have really had my back in the breast cancer department firstly with fully funding Herceptin and then last year finding $8 Million to reduce the horrible waiting lists. Keep in mind this isn't just any breast enhancement surgery, but an important step for women who have been ravaged by the loss of breast and  much much more. Giving women - mothers, wives, sisters, daughters a chance to feel like women again if that is what is important to them. For me, well if I was older perhaps I wouldn't care, I don't know. But I'm only 31. Being 31 with one breast is horrible to be honest, it hampers what I wear and going swimming is a bit of nightmare so its easier not to. I feel old and unsexy and mutilated. And I'm much too young for that.

What struck me last week was that I announced on my facebook page my excitment at this development, and once again the reaction from friends and family was so lovely and encouraging. Every step along this journey I've never felt alone in support in that area. There was plenty of banter in upsizing, perky new boobs and modeling a new chest etc. Funny? Yes, but true? Probably not. Realistically I'll be lucky to get the cup size I've always been and will have to settle for whatever is left to scrounge together a boob.
Last year when I had my mastectomy I was originally going to have an immediate reconstruction, which involves removal of breast tissue by the breast surgeon, and then the plastic surgeon steps in and he would have given me a silicon implant (that's the easy version). Less scarring, immediate results. But then my cancer had to go and get more complicated - rapidly and dramatically increasing in size and giving us all a big fright and there was no chance of that happening. I was told it would take another 3-5 years to have a breast reconstruction done. At the time I wondered if my surgeon was cryptically trying to tell me he didn't think I would last that long so there was no point spending money on me. Then I realised he meant the waiting lists were horribly long. Phew. Everything was so scary back then I almost chuckle at the absurdity of my thinking.

Back to what's ahead now though. The surgery I'll have will involve putting a bag under my skin where the breast implant will go and then it will be gradually filled with saline over a period of weeks, perhaps months. When it is finally at a size we are all happy with or its the best I can get I have another surgery to put the implant in. But that's not all.
When I finally have my breast I'll always have a big long scar cutting through it which will go through to under my arm. I won't have a nipple. That's another surgery where they make me a new one out of my own skin and tissue and sew it on. Then the areola gets tattooed on if I'm still game to have them played with. Its an intense process.
And this isn't even mentioning the right boob, which is feeling incredibly left out right now. I'm still determined to have that one removed too, so if they can time it right and get them done on the same operation then that would be so great.

I wanted to write all the above information, not to make those who bantered with me feel bad, because I love banter and jokes and I feel secure in their support and love. But I also want the truth and the right information to be out there. Having breast reconstruction doesn't mean getting a new pair of awesome boobs, but just a step in the healing process, healing of the mind.

I know I linked to this site last week, but I'll leave you with a few beautiful images of women who have done or are to do what I've got ahead of me. Photographs by Jay David for The SCAR Project.


Jaz from Treacy Family said...

Wow Mon. Yay. I hope it all goes really well. It will be wonderful to feel more feminine AND cancer free at the same time. I wish you all the success in the world xx

Rebecca said...

Thank-you for sharing, I had no idea. The picture of the woman with the tear running down her face speaks volumes. All the best, you're so brave x

jacksta said...

you are pure awesomeness.
Your openness about it all is a massive help to many who are going through it and also to the support team.

Weza said...

Thank you for sharing this Mon. I had no idea of the process women have to go through after their cancer is sorted. Those pictures BLEW ME AWAY. wow.

Hootnz said...

Yay Mon, that is awesome news for you....we also see the plastic surgeons there for Ben, they are a fantastic team and have done amazing things for us, and I'm sure for you too!.. thanks for sharing the process :)

PaisleyJade said...

You rock!

Miriam said...

This is such a powerful post. So much about your grace and courage is evident. I hope... I hope all goes better than you hope

gretbert said...

Thanks for sharing so much information - it is hard to guess what is involved... and those photos are amazing. All the best

Cat said...

Thank you for your honesty and speaking the truth from the heart.
Those photos are brutally honest - thank you for sharing them - I had no idea.
Cancer ;'( it's rocked my little world the past year and especially so in the past 6 weeks

Penny said...

You are so courageous.
Praying all will go well and that there will be no complications

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing Mon - and I am so sorry for being flippant about it. In my head I pictured it being along the lines of a usual breast enhancement, and what you've explained sounds like a lengthy and harrowing process.

What amazing photos of brave beautiful woman. I wish you (and them) healing.

Johnny said...

Oh Cat, I read about the two little ones you've seen buried lately. Heartbreaking. Much love to you and to their families.

Tanya don't be sorry! Where would we be without humour!! :)

Thanks all for your love!!

Simoney said...

Those images are incedible.

Barbs said...

Thanks for sharing. Like others I really had no idea how involved the whole process is. Those photos are stunning.