Thursday, February 20, 2014

Springing a Leak was Not in my Recovery Plan


Shocked.

Briefly devastated.

Ticked off.

And it’s all a little surreal.

For every single minute of the almost five weeks since my latest surgery*, I have been thrilled with the two slowly growing mounds just under my pectoral wall. Prior to surgery, I built myself an intense physical recovery regimen and followed it to the letter. Physical recovery from reconstruction has been far more difficult but every moment post-reconstruction has been infinitely emotionally preferable to any moment in time during the active phase of my cancer treatment.

But this morning was indeed challenging.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been diligently visiting the plastic surgeon for 50ml fills in both expanders. And every week, I literally dance out of the office feeling decidedly more whole. Determining your own breast size at the age of 40 completely flips the puberty model but beats the hell out of losing body parts to cancer.

I don’t want big breasts; I’ve never had big breasts; I want to fit in my old bras; I just want to feel whole.

And I am starting to.

But last week I started noticing that during the seven days between fills, my left side appeared to shrink a bit. My left side had delayed reconstruction and the right side reconstruction was immediate, so I attributed the perceived shrinkage to a difference in tissue response.

This morning, during a regular fill appointment, my plastic surgeon asked me if I noticed my left side getting smaller between fills and his question brought one of my biggest reconstruction concerns to the forefront.

It appears as if my left side expander may have a slow leak. And hearing that potential reality brought me to tears. Springing a leak was definitely not in my recovery plan.

As with any situation, I do have options:
  • I could immediately swap out expanders in a short surgery.
  • I could continue to visit the office for weekly fills and we could overfill the left side regularly to keep it even for the next several months until exchange surgery.
  • I could curl up in a little ball and cry that everything has not gone my way.

We filled my left side with 100ml of saline while the right side was dosed it’s typical 50ml. I am now visually even again and I’ll go back next week to evaluate next steps.

In the meantime, I’ve decided to spend some time hearing from others who have been through the not-unheard-of-but-not-terribly-common issue of expander leakage. 

Anyone? Please let me hear from you. What did you do? How did it work out?

*On January 17, 2014, I had a right side mastectomy and began bilateral reconstruction for implants. My left breast (along with a couple of IDC tumors and a couple of lymph nodes) was removed on June 17, 2013.