Wednesday, January 10, 2018

MASTECTOMY RECONSTRUCTION


There seems to be a huge misconception among the general populous about what it means to have reconstructive surgery after a skin-sparing bilateral mastectomy. I have experienced several well-meaning people say things to the effect of, "you're going to have better boobs than me," or "at least you get new boobs after having breastfed four kids. Consider it a gift."

Yeah, well, it's not quite like that. Like, at all.

We tend to equate post-mastectomy reconstructed breasts with augmented breasts or "boob jobs." You see, augmented breasts are real live breasts with healthy breast tissue and nipples behind which silicone or saline implants have been placed. Most often, augmented breasts look very real and what society would consider perfect and beautiful. Thus, the reason for their worldwide popularity.

Point being, even though augmented boobs are called "fake boobs", they're really not. I, on the other hand, do have fake boobs. What is attached to my chest is a pair of silicone implants with no breast tissue in front of them. Or nipples. While I would recommend my reconstructive surgeon to anyone and everyone, there's still so much he can work with, so they ultimately look and feel different from natural breasts or augmented breasts.

Now don't get me wrong -- this is not me complaining. I honestly contemplated not getting reconstructive surgery at all, with my husband completely on board with it. However, the vast number of cancer survivors I connected with upon my diagnosed, all advised against that decision. Each of the women who forewent reconstructive implants said they regretted it. The most common rebuttal was "if insurance will cover it, why not take advantage of something that may contribute to our femininity?"

On this side of the equation, I now agree with each of my advisers. After my bilateral mastectomy, the psychological impact of losing my breasts was much greater than the physical impact. I thought I would be immune to such a reaction. I now know that I made the right decision for me. The difference, however, between myself and someone with augmented breasts, is that I am not excited about my "new boobs." In truth, I had a radical mastectomy as a life-saving measure. I'll never be the same. 

I will always see myself differently when I look in the mirror, because I am different -- I'm a fighter, a survivor, stronger, even wiser.



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