My DIEP Flap Reconstruction Journey (Part 1)

Once upon a time there was a young woman who just wanted to kick breast cancers ass, have soft subtle boobs and get on with her life. She lived in this amazing age of great medical advances and was sent to see the top plastic surgeon in the realm. But he was a picky man, for good reason, and often told her she was too fat for the procedure. What he didn’t know is she was not only a stubborn fatty but a semi healthy one (aside from the cancer of course). Eventually she wore him down and they embarked on the journey that would sometimes make her feel as if she was hit by a semi-truck but more often than not would give her what she ultimately wanted. The End.

Yes that is my fairy tale and while there are many truths within that story it is not nearly as simple as what was written above. No it was hard, long and came with plenty of tears. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 28, it was clear to me that since my brand of cancer was invasive and quickly spreading that the only option was to chop off both my boobs as soon as possible. And while this was an easy decision to make it wasn’t the only decision I’d need to make. Do I stay flat chested? Do I get implants? Do I go with DIEP or TRAM flap reconstruction? What are the risks of all of these since I have to do radiation? Will my boobs ever look natural again?

Finally after weeks of intense personal research I decided that a DIEP flap was the way to go. It checked off a few boxes that I knew I needed in a reconstruction option as well as came with a little perk. First, it would provide me with that soft, subtle, almost natural feel and appearance. Secondly, it was my own tissues which meant I didn’t have to worry about a foreign item (or two) being inside me (possibly trying to kill me since some implants are known to cause cancer). The perk was that the DIEP flap would ultimately remove my stomach chub of years of not giving a crap about what I ate, from having a baby and then from steroids during chemo (#cancerperk). So there, my decision was made, I would undergo a DIEP flap reconstruction.

Once I put my mind to something it’s very rare that I can be swayed to go another way. Call it a character flaw, call it whatever but I personally think its one of my best traits. So when I visited my “new” plastic surgeon, who specialized in this surgery (I believe if I remember right he is only 1 of 3 surgeons in my area who do this specialized surgery), I was not swayed by his remarks on my weight. At my initial consult before my mastectomy and the follow up after I finished radiation therapy we discussed a June surgery date. During those visits he never out right told me to lose weight he just kept talking about me being obese and that it could present some constraints and hurtles. It wasn’t until my PRE-OP visit in early June that he brought down the hammer. Maybe I didn’t want to hear it the first two times, I mean I had just been thru hell so my current BMI wasn’t something I was paying much attention too, but I heard it that time.

Crying all the way home, texting people to tell them that the surgery was being postponed but not giving specifics, I cursed that man! How dare he treat someone who’s just fought for their life like that? How dare he look me in my eye and tell me how fat I was, like I didn’t already know? My anger carried me through most of the summer but then the fall came and I realized I needed to make some decisions. I knew implants weren’t going to make me happy. I also knew I probably wasn’t going to lose the 30 freaking pounds he had informed me I should lose. So I reschedule a follow up with him for October, came prepared to talk options and surprisingly he told me he’d do the surgery in December…maybe I caught him on a particularly skinny day or maybe he was just over telling me how high my BMI was, I don’t know but I took it as a win!

December rolled around, it’s a busy time for me, my son’s birthday, the holidays, end of year chaos at work but I promised to not put on any weight over the holidays and to just continue to think positively about my surgery. I arrived at my second pre-op ready to just move forward. My surgeon was still less than happy that I was still in fact fat and proceeded to tell me a horror story of a lady with a slightly lower BMI then me who got a blood clot and almost died. Comforting and amazing bedside manner I know! But being the stubborn person I am I signed the consent form and said in the cheeriest/sassiest way possible “See you on the 11th”.

…to be continued…Read part 2 here

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