We have a new plan.
And, as with all plans, there are upsides and downsides.
A weekend without any fill appointments confirmed that my left expander is indeed leaking saline. Although I reached out far and wide, I only connected with a few individuals who have experienced a similar issue and their choices were to replace and continue the process. One woman was close enough to her exchange surgery that she endured a few extra fills prior to exchange.
Still four months out from the minimum window for exchange surgery, feeling somewhat stuck and definitely shrunken, I made an emergency appointment for Tuesday February 18th. Dr. H confirmed the leak and filled the left side back to status quo.
As we discussed potential next steps, I felt myself gravitating toward the let’s-just-get-this-over-with decision to replace the offending expander. I asked if the procedure could be conducted under a local anesthesia as opposed to my being completely out. The answer was, “Well, it could be but I don’t want to do it that way.”
Even after I promised I wouldn’t sing too loudly in the O.R., Dr. H refused to perform a replacement surgery with me semi-conscious. Before I could make any other commitments I wouldn’t be able to stick too, he offered up an additional solution which stopped my mouth from chattering.
“If I go in to replace the expander and everything looks good, I could just put the implant in.”
I verbally (and probably physically) jumped at the option.
Accelerate the exchange surgery?
Sign me up!
Contrary to the original plan, I will not be waiting until sometime in the middle of summer for my exchange surgery. I have been right-sized and now will have regular fills on the left side to maintain the skin stretch.
My doctor verified the acceleration of the exchange timeline would not compromise my health or the quality of my results. And then I fact checked with a few studies, so we now have a plan.
Actually, I should rename this section THE FANTASTIC, because THE GOOD barely scratches the surface of my feelings.
No plan is perfect. In order to make this new plan a reality, we must keep the left side expanded. In order to maintain expansion, I am having continuous fills.
In other words, I have twice a week visits that begin with a deflated left breast and end with an over-expanded left breast.
As the breast expander loses saline, it wiggles around a little and is less-than-comfortable but certainly not unbearable.
The pain in the arse factor is high and I will have another physical starting over point.
All-in-all, THE GOOD far outweighs THE BAD.
I embarked on reconstruction because, despite my best efforts, I was unhappy with the asymmetry of my body. I spent months in a whirlpool of self-reflection and analysis in order to choose a path that was just right for me.
Having a complication, or a hiccup, as I now refer to my leaky expander issue, sometimes leaves me questioning the wisdom of my decision to pursue reconstruction. In a rough emotional moment, I wonder if the universe isn’t somehow saying, “Bad idea, Stace.”
In these moments my husband reminds me that immediately following my January surgery, with only 100cc in both expanders, I was nothing less than ecstatic. For me, the size of my new breasts was completely inconsequential. I had two that matched and I felt whole again.
So THE UGLY is the doubt.
THE UGLY is the unfounded, yet still very real, fear that I won’t get to ‘reconstructed’.
THE UGLY is questioning my choice and riding the ups and downs that go along with that second-guessing.
Rather than being able to look beyond scars and discomfort to enjoy my new found symmetry, I find myself on an emotional roller coaster of feeling whole, less than whole and worried about never being whole that directly corresponds to the saline leaking out of my tissue expander and being replaced twice a week.
As I go in for multiple fills on my left side, I work through that accelerated process of happiness, fear and grief.
I go from symmetrical to asymmetrical. And back again.
I go from pain-free to fairly-uncomfortable. And back again.
And I am decidedly not feeling whole.
As I type, I know that one day soon, things will be different. Things will be better.
I will feel whole.
That knowledge, forgotten and relearned in a perpetual loop a couple of times a week, helps me see beyond THE GOOD and THE BAD. That knowledge helps me see THE BEAUTY beyond THE UGLY.
THE BEAUTY is, with a little emotional fortitude, a whole lotta reminders and a smidgen of patience I can begin to imagine that wholeness right now.