I'm washing myself in Stellisept, sticking weird gel up my nose and digging out the big cotton knickers. This can only mean one thing!
I'm back in hospital on Wednesday for Surgery #3! Eek!
If you don't want the gruesome details stop reading right now!
The first surgery I had in January was (deep breath) a skin sparing mastectomy with immediate reconstruction using LD muscle and expander implant, plus full node clearance. In plain English, the surgeon cut a circle of my skin out all around the nipple which was home to the cancer, then chopped and scraped out all the breast tissue from that side, leaving just the skin. (It all had to be removed, what with me being a genetic mutant of the crappiest kind - ie no known superpowers, just boobs that aim to kill me). He then sliced my back open, took some of my latissimus dorsi muscle and swung it round to the front of my body. He wasn't happy with shape or size or something though so he also stuck in a temporary expander implant. (More on them in a minute). Then he took skin from my back and did a skin graft where that circle of skin/nipple had been removed. He then took out all the lymph nodes under my arm because that's the place cancer cells temporarily squat in before going on their travels around your body. And then he stitched me back up. It took 8 hours, I was in hospital for 5 days, and I had 3 drains for a week. I thought it would be hell and it was actually, overall, a piece of piss and I strangely enjoyed the stay in hospital.
The next surgery was in July, and dealt with the right side. Skin sparing mastectomy (but taking away the nipple because I now seriously distrust nipples what with their ability to let cancer cells set up camp and breed there) and immediate reconstruction using a temporary expander implant. Again - this surgery was to prevent me getting any more breast cancer in the future. It was a 3.5 hours operation, 2 nights in hospital. I thought it would be a piece of piss. It was HELL. I spent 3 weeks with drains in, and a few weeks off my face on tramadol to deal with the pain.
This is to exchange the temporary expander implants for permanent ones. The reason I was given a temporary expander implant on the cancer side is because I needed radiotherapy asap after surgery. Radiotherapy often damages your skin (in some cases it can break down entirely leaving you with open wounds like serious burns). Expander implants can be put in empty or nearly empty, then filled over time with saline, to stretch the skin gradually. (As it happens, despite the fact I can get sunburn within ten minutes even when covered in factor 50, my skin didn't react at all to radiotherapy. Big up to my hardcore skin for not putting me through the horror that some of my friends have been through. Shout out to Miranda here).
The non-cancer side had an expander too so that the surgeon could basically fiddle about with adding and removing saline from the expander implants on both sides until they match. Symmetry is the goal!
The thing about expander implants is they are horrible. They are rock hard, lumpy, bumpy, and there's a big metal port on them for where the needle goes in to pump them up (technical medical term). Once you're all healed, they get exchanged for permanent implants which from what I understand are all like soft and natural and stuff (here's hoping).
So that's what's happening Wednesday. Surgeon goes in via existing scars, takes out yakky, horrid temporary implants and replaces with lovely, nice new ones. The operation takes 2 hours (so in the case of my surgeon maybe 3 because he's a perfectionist - one of the many reasons I love him to bits), I should be home the same day and get this.... NO DRAINS!
I repeat: NO DRAINS!
I'm hoping to only be off work a couple of weeks. And then... all being well.... no more boob-related general anaesthetics. (I daren't think too much yet about the whole matter of "nipple reconstruction" and tattooing although for those of you that I've discussed this with previously, I have some good news. 1. They're only local anaesthetic jobs. And 2. I've been pissed off that the circle skin graft is too big and I asked Mr K if he could just chop it out and leave me with a line scar like on the other side. Turns out that the skin graft is for the nipple recon. Which is weird. The whole thing is weird, obviously. But this is definitely not as weird as the foof option. And so, fuck it, since he'll not be going anywhere near my vajayjay, I think I'm gonna go ahead with nipple recon. - For anyone that I have not already had this conversation with (which is probably all but about 5 of you).... Yes you read that right. Nipple recon is often done using skin from your foofoo - because you didn't lose enough dignity when going through all the original cancer treatment. Anyway... I'm not gonna think about it right now. Save that joy for the new year.)
So - I'm in hospital on Wednesday, then hopefully home that night. This might not technically be cancer any more but fuck it - if you've read this far you can see why I'm fully entitled to still be playing the cancer card. If you're local and you fancy stopping by and walking my dog for me during the next couple of weeks please do!
Lotsa love xx