I am 25% of the way through my radiation treatments and have started to research more around the surgery that was recommended to me. As it turns out I should have looked into this in more detail a while ago.
The surgery recommended to me was a TRAM flap reconstruction. This surgery involves removing skin and tissue from the abdominal area, as well as dissecting the transverse rectus abdominus muscle, turning it around and feeding it up under the tissue to the area where the surgeon will create the new breast. Initially this sounded like a good option to me because I would avoid having an implant, was using all my natural tissue, and part of the procedure would provide for a free tummy tuck LOL!
Upon further research and speaking to patients who have had this surgery I have learned, that this surgery is considered archaic, is too hard on the woman's body, has a long recovery time and in most cases leaves the abdominal area permanently weakened affecting physical activity for life. Having been relatively active my entire life, the thought of not being able to do flips off the diving board, swing a golf club or hop on my bike for a ride at any time, does not please me. Also, if this procedure is no longer being recommended by reputable US Clinics, such as John Hopkins and The Center for Restorative Breast Surgery, why is it still being recommended here? So, I did my research and found that most facilities are recommending DIEP Flap reconstruction instead. It is considered less invasive, the recovery time is shorter and the risk of complications is lower.
Alright, this sounds like a plan for me, so now to find a surgeon who can do that. Here in lies the problem. There is only one surgeon in my area who can perform this surgery, and because this surgery takes up to eight hours, she can only do about five of them per week, if that, which means she has a long wait list. Big problem! My cancer cannot stay in my body. A month after radiation, the surgery is meant to occur and the cancer removed, that means removing my entire right breast and many lymph nodes from both my underarm and clavicle area. From what I have been told, this surgeon would not be available to do the reconstruction until at least September, possibly October or November. What do I do?
Do I go for six months without a breast? Do I forgo a good procedure for an older more traumatic one to "get it done"? Can I go to another province for the surgery? Will BC Med pay for me to get the surgery done at one of the clinics in the US? Do I go with implant surgery, which means tissue extenders and a three month delay before the implant is installed? I'm stumped, I just don't know which way to go. My goals are:
To have a quick recovery with few complications
To maintain an active lifestyle after surgery
To have minimal scarring
To have a natural looking breast that closely matches my other one.
So, if any of you reading this are in the health care profession, have gone through any of the procedures yourself, or know of a good resource to help with this decision, I would appreciate you reaching out to me either via a comment to this post, or an email on my Facebook Page. I need to make a decision fairly quickly here so I can get rid of this beast once and for all!!!!!
Please keep me abreast!