It feels as though I should have shared my thoughts and experience over the past weeks. It truly has been on my mind but I was focused on getting strong, healthy, and back to work. There will be time for me to refer to my experience but today I want to share something that is amazing to me. I have a network of family and friends who are prayer warriors. They are supportive, compassionate, and a force to be reckoned with. Those prayers are the reason for my healthy recovery! In the beginning, my fine surgeon gave me a 2-3 week recovery period. Today, twelve days after my mastectomy and reconstruction of my right breast, my doctor has cleared me for work! Tomorrow I will return to my classroom of 15 overage students and continue to change their lives. I could not be happier. Thank you all for your prayers!
How do you select the doctor to reconstruct your breasts? Hmmm. I’ve gotta tell you, that’s not a concern I’ve had before. It’s a pretty daunting question. My boobs were especially well constructed the first time around. I’m going to need a skillful physician who is capable of a supernatural performance with the scalpel and stitching.
As luck would have it, my trustworthy OBGYN recommended a colleague of his. I arranged a consultation and cleared my schedule. One thing I was confident of, I couldn’t cope with this alone. My husband would be required to ask the good questions and help in making the appropriate life-changing decisions.
When I arrived for my consultation, the nurse escorted my husband and me to our private room. She pointed to a white plush robe hanging on an iron hook and suggested I remove my top and conceal myself with the robe. Huh?? This is only a consultation! As the nurse left the room, I turned toward my husband with colossal eyes expressing my alarm! I soon found the courage to undress placing the robe over my bare skin. I was uneasy.
When the doctor walked in I immediately thought what a sharp man he was. Oh, and he smelled delightful! He introduced himself with a confident firm handshake. All my thoughts of this physician were positive. Then I chuckled to myself and eased my anxiety. I’m looking for someone to make a masterpiece out of the mess a general surgeon is going to leave. I need a doctor with a little more on his resume’ than handsome, nice smelling, and a good handshake.
With a gentle hand, doc pulled the robe to the side. He paused and held his gaze for an extended period. It was then that I recognized the stare of a true artist. He informed my husband and I that the idea behind reconstruction is to make the breasts even more beautiful! Did he realize mine were exquisite to begin with? Then doc commented on my nice skin. He claimed that would give him a lot to work with. That was pleasing. I suppose I had enough canvas for this artist to do his work.
There were a couple different procedures doc discussed with us. We could choose a procedure that solely used silicone implants. These days the silicone implants are a solid form. If cut into quarters they would simply be 4 pieces of implant.
We could choose a procedure that utilized the tissue in my back and large muscle that one rarely uses to twist their arm. This procedure, called the Latissimus Doris Muscle Transplantation, doc said, seemed to bring on the most natural looking result. There was also discussion of a procedure named TRAM flap. This operation uses the rictus abdominal muscle and fat from the abdomen and also establishes a natural look. Nice, a tummy tuck! But, reconstructing two breasts would leave me with limited abdominal muscles. It is said that our abdominal muscles support our back. Well, I already suffer from back pain and issues. As fabulous as a tummy tuck sounds, I can’t imagine suffering through additional discomfort.
My husband and I decided to select the most natural appearing method of reconstruction. Doc will perform a Latissimus Doris Muscle Transplantation on me to reconstruct my lovely breasts.
Finally, my inquisitive husband questioned the doctor, “How big will they be?” “How big ya want ‘em?” Doc asked. I presume I found my doctor!
I come from a long line of strong women. We face life’s challenges head on and acquire solutions, not a voice of complaint. At this time I am faced with a difficult journey. I thought I’d take you along with me for good company.
This past summer I tested positive for BRCA2, the breast cancer/ovarian cancer gene. Immediately the doctors advised me that a hysterectomy and a bilateral mastectomy needed to be my next step. “ABSOLUTELY NEVER!” was my response.
I hadn’t forgotten what my mother experienced. I hadn’t forgotten how this disease stole my sister’s life. I hadn’t forgotten why my brother, Shawn Gardner, and the rest of Team Heather work so hard each year to save lives. But, I also hadn’t forgotten how much I love the body God gave me. The Good Lord (and the world) knows I love my boobs! The next couple months left me throwing the idea around in my head. One day I will have to face breast cancer. One day I will have to be ill with the radiation/chemo treatments that stop or slow this disease. One day I may lose my life because I was too vain to think clearly about my future!
Then I heard Allyn Rose’s story. Allyn is this year’s Miss District of Columbia. She has an amazing story. She has a story that gave me the strength to sit down and speak to my husband about his thoughts on me going through with my doctors’ wishes. My husband wants to be a husband and not a widower. I have since contacted my doctor and will take a scary leap to save my life over the next few months.
It’s nice for you to join me on my journey.