Saturday, July 20, 2013

Cancer Bombs: The Best of the Worst Case Scenarios

[Note: The first of this series can be found here. All previous (and subsequent) installments of this series can be found here.]

January 28th, 2013.

The first six weeks post-op were excruciating, and over time it became less due to actual discomfort and more because it was agonizing waiting for the all clear to resume normal life.

My ability to fend for myself grew slowly day by day. My drains came out, my incisions healed, my bruises faded, and my swelling went down...

Erm... kind of...

Dr M had given me strict orders: no opinions until the six month post-op mark. And we were only at six weeks.

Six months was a long time for things to change. I was determined to be patient. Thankful for the ability to drive myself to see her, I loaded up and went into the city for my appointment.

A familiar gown. A familiar setting. And familiar nerves.

Dr M came in, washed her hands, and plopped herself down on the rolling stool in front of my seat on the exam table, obviously eager to see her handiwork.

“Now remember,” I said before I began disrobing. “You said I wasn’t allowed to have an opinion until the six month mark. It’s not great, but I’ve been good. I haven’t made an opinion yet...”

Dr M’s eyes widened. “You’re apologizing. Why are you apologizing?”

I pulled off my gown. She stared.

High on my chest, slightly higher than level with my armpit (mid-shoulder or so), my pecs bulged. My left pec bulged closer to my sternum than the other, and my left breast was shaped differently than the right: more of a jutting triangle point than a full teardrop.

And that wasn’t all.

An inch and a half band of scar tissue solid as rock stretched tight around my ribs from armpit to armpit, the incisions underlining the bottom of it. It was hard as bone, gluing my skin to my ribcage, and though I could breathe deeply with no problem, when I gingerly reached or stretched it was as if I wore a belt tight around my chest.

That still wasn’t all.

The skin of my breasts was dimpled and pocked, resembling cellulite. My nipples hung at the bottom of my breasts and pointed to the ground—and not even uniformly!—the left was tiny and round, the right was stretched and droopy.

Poor girls.

I spoke fast. “I figure the swelling hasn’t completely gone down. You said at the last post-op appointment that my pecs were really angry. I figure they still are. And you said the implants will drop with time—that clearly needs to happen still.” I frowned. “Once all that does, the nipples will lift, right?”

“Oh no,” Dr M grabbed the girls. Grabbed. She squeezed and mauled and squished them into nothing in her fists, her mouth twisted with displeasure.

It was my turn to stare.

Not because she was mauling my breasts—which admittedly I had not yet done as I had only just been released from the gauntlet that was painful discomfort and was reluctant to dive back in immediately.

No, I as staring because she was mauling my breasts and it didn’t hurt.

Not only did it not hurt, I could barely feel it!

I’d been avoiding touching my breasts in case they hurt AND I HAD NO SENSATION?!

I mean, I could tell that she was touching them, but I’d been paralyzed to do the same for fear of pain. My chest had hurt so much after the mastectomy that I’d avoided touching my breasts as much as possible during the six weeks post-op.

“Close your eyes,” she ordered. I did. “Do you have nipple sensation?”

“Well, I think I—”

“Nope.” She sighed. “If you can’t feel that, then the answer is no.”

Glancing down I was doubly in shock: Dr M had my nipples in what would be a shudder-inducing twist if I’d seen it happen to someone else...

And. I. Felt. Nothing.

Rolling away a bit on the stool, she sighed. “Well, the good news is you heal like a champ. The bad news is we have a problem.”

“We do?”

“Yes, we do. That bulge up there—that’s not swelling. That's implant. The Alloderm has contracted.”

The Alloderm.

That super-cool zombie tissue? The yeah-I’m-sporting-cadaver-and-am-immune-in-case-of-an-undead-rising fancy pants tissue had (for lack of a better term) shrunk.

In a biochemical reaction that Dr M had never seen before(!) the Alloderm tissue matrix had contracted, shrinking into me, tightening as my body healed, and in its tautening state it had pushed the implants up underneath my pectoral muscles.

You can’t make this up.

The band of rock-hard scar tissue underneath my breasts was a trail of where the implants had begun, and how my body had glued itself flat as they had slowly travelled upwards.

Oh, and there was another thing:

“And see the funny shape of your left breast?” Dr M outlined what I’d dubbed my ugly girl, tracing the top-heavy triangle with a finger. “Your implant has twisted.”

I snorted. I shuddered. I pressed my lips together, closed my eyes, and couldn’t help myself: I laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed, and snorted, and hiccoughed, and laughed.

I gasped for breath, wiping my eyes, wishing that Mr Lannis had come down for this appointment with me. It would have been worth booking another day off work for the entertainment value alone.

Dr M clearly didn’t quite know what to do with me. “This is funny?”

Sighing, pulling myself together, I said, “You're telling me I have a twisted tit.” I had to press my lips together to keep from tumbling down the slippery slope back into the puddle of giggles.

“Yes. And that’s funny?” No one could blame her for being confused.

I knew well the surgical options originally offered to me—the routes I hadn’t taken all involved multiple surgeries. Dr M had insisted that even if she and Dr D had botched my mastectomy somehow, by the end of my surgical procedures I’d be ecstatic with the results, more pleased with the falsies than my original breasts. It had been a touchstone memory through the questionable moments, staring at my rainbow bruises and mangled girls in the mirror.

“Well," I said. "You can fix this, right?”

“Oh, yes!” she replied adamantly.

“Then this is fucking hysterical.”

And it was. Dr M smiled, then began to chuckle, too.

It was the most bizarre cosmic euphemism I’ve ever been dealt. The universe has forced me to eat some shit sandwiches over the years, but this one had to be the funniest. Through no fault of my own, my body had healed so my once-deflated, saggy-post-nursing tits were sitting too high on my chest, exactly the opposite of where we'd begun.

It was definitely a cosmic euphemism, and regardless of whether I understood the message, it was certainly a lesson in remembering that everything is a choice: including finding humour where others might not.

And come on, it was hilarious... my very cell structure, in an effort to heal efficiently and absorb the Alloderm had literally absorbed the Alloderm.

The cadaver tissue I had joked would be my saving grace come zombie uprising had moved.

The zombie tits were sentient and had chosen to travel upward in search of brains! ::snort::

Dr M was frowning, attempting to pull and stretch skin glued to my ribs. “I can fix it, but you’ll probably have to go bigger...”


Uh... back up...

Another surgery?

Mr Lannis had been my backbone through this recovery, and the thought of forcing him through that gauntlet of drudgery again hurt my heart. But regardless of it being incredibly early in my recovery (six weeks is nothing in surgical post-op time), Dr M was certain that she’d have to get in there for a revision in order to give me some semblance of natural appearance.

We began discussing the details. One more surgery. A simple outpatient procedure, a piece of cake compared to the mastectomy—only a couple hours long and sent home the same day.

And recovery would be easier.

There was only a one-week restriction on driving, and while I wouldn’t be able to lift anything heavy or raise my arms for the full six weeks again, I wouldn’t have the same physical restrictions for movement. The mastectomy had included cauterizing my pecs, and one of the reasons to remain unmoving had been to ensure I didn’t shift healing tissues and begin bleeding. This time around that was already healed—I needed to be careful and only move within reason, but feeding myself, dressing myself, tending my own drains(!) wouldn’t be a problem.

I wouldn’t be nearly the burden I had been before: Mr Lannis wouldn’t be inundated with performing every teensy task necessary for me to survive the day.

Thanks to that, I was sold.

My chore now? Destroy Dr M's hard work through scar massage... break it all up, break up as much scar tissue as humanly possible, before she and her scalpel got in there again.

Challenge accepted.

Surgery was scheduled for May. I would return to Dr M in March to sign paperwork and go over more details, but the big picture was set.

That was good. April was busy, and I couldn't afford to be recovering from surgery then.

We had two weddings to attend—I was in one wedding party and Mr Lannis was in the other, and on the weekend between these two weddings, I was flying to Atlanta to the geeky-free-for-all that is JordanCon.

And well before all that—exactly two days after this six week post-op appointment was something even bigger: we had a family trip to Cancun.

If you’re keeping score, that’s a week in a bathing suit, two formal dresses, plus one cosplay dress including competing in a costume contest in an underbust corset... oh, and then I squeezed into my wedding dress for play time with some classy ladies...

All with wonky boobs.

Erm. Yay?

Cancun, bridesmaid, Elmindreda cosplay, wedding, and my wedding dress. Nobody'd guess the tits weren't um, the tits. Heh.

Yes, I did it all anyway.

After all, it was the best of the worst case scenarios.

Originally the worst of the worst case scenarios was a complication in the initial surgery that meant I’d wake up flat—a lack of blood flow to skin tissue and I would be left without enough for even an expander pocket, so flat-chested and bare, likely without even nipples to remind me what a boob is let alone resemble anything possibly related to the female anatomy.

Try rocking a strapless bridesmaid dress with nothing. Not my first choice, that's for sure.

The secondary worst case scenario was having my Surgical Super Team deem it necessary to install tissue expanders (as place holders) instead of implants in my initial scoop and replace surgery, and then swap them in a later surgery for implants.

Nope, everything in December's surgery went fine, so I woke up in the recovery room to find we'd gone with the original plan: mastectomy and instant implants.

Now during the healing process there was this best of the worst case scenarios occurring. Yes, there was a complication (two, if you count the twisted tit—heh), and it was necessary to undergo a revision surgery.

But you see, I had all these needs and reasons to dress up and be in public and on display (weddings, vacation, cosplay), and of course wonky tits were far from the ideal situation, but flat-chested these events would have seemed impossible at worst and uncomfortable at best.

And if I had woken from that initial surgery with tissue expanders and had to sport them for this busy calendar stretch, well, tissue expanders are notorious for two things...

Defying gravity and not resembling boobs.

They generally don’t behave the same as implants or breast tissue in that tissue expanders enjoy expanding in odd directions. Uneven lumpiness abounds. (Not always, but generally.)

So here I was left with something that—unless I opened my big mouth and told people, or went topless—meant no one was the wiser to my less-than-ideal breasts.

And I’m serious: my incision and drain scars were covered by a string bikini top (sorry, no photos of that, heh, but let me appease you with this blurry selfie in my halter bikini top...).

The gap created by my bulging left implant is clearly visible, beginning mid-shoulder range, and you can see there are no visible incision scars. (No guarantees you won't go blind thanks to blurriness or ghostly Canadian skin.)

So off I went, grateful that I needn’t be more self-conscious, and giggling at the absurdity of the situation whenever possible (or suitably drunk—we stayed at an all inclusive resort, after all).

And I wore regular bras. And tankini bathing suits. And bikini tops. And sports tops. And strapless dresses. And dresses with straps (braless—gasp!).

And guess what?

I was right. No one was the wiser to my less-than-ideal breasts.

(Actually, by some of the admiring looks I received as Elmindreda, I’m pretty sure onlookers would be shocked to know the state of my boobage under that satin shirt. Or maybe they were just mesmerized by the hours of beading... heh.)

Point being: it could have been worse.

And what did I learn?

Apparently the universe can reward you in bizarre ways.

You see, the main reason I opted for the single scoop and replace surgery was practicality. I couldn’t envision myself derailing my family’s life twice because I wanted to go the two-surgery route and include tissue expansion and larger implants as part of my procedures. Providing I was a good candidate for the single surgery route, the only reason to opt for dual surgeries (expansion included) was yes, (slightly) less risk for complications, but mostly the bonus of selecting my size.

Genetically I am a small chested girl. Sure, having larger breasts would be great, but the arrogance of choosing dual surgeries for such a shallow reason was beyond me. I couldn’t do that to my family by choice.

The whole reason for the rigmarole in the first place was to rid myself of the cancer bombs. Done.

Technically, I could live with the twisted oddities that were now my boobs. It would involve reconciling myself to new found self-consciousness, but I could do it.

(Mr Lannis overruled this decision immediately, for my mental sake and for his, too. Not only that, Dr M confided she was worried I wouldn't let her back in to fix the issue. As a perfectionist, she couldn't walk away from my case the way it stood, and she admitted to being haunted by my voice singing, "the cancer bombs are gone, it's all good!" ha!)

To correct the Alloderm tissue contraction and my twisted tit (::snort::) it was not only necessary for another surgery, but necessary to upgrade the girls in order to properly stretch out the scar tissue and create a situation where the implant was heavier, sat lower, and was more difficult for my body to shove upward into the pocket created beneath my pecs by the previous (smaller) implants.

It took a bit for me to absorb it. It took a lot of inane giggling and outright mocking of my own situation. It took much processing and organizing and self-deprecating laughter.

But I got it.

It was a backwards reward. I couldn’t be faulted for choosing the practical route the first go 'round, but I couldn’t deny it, either...

Apparently the universe wanted me to be vain.

And you can’t argue with the universe...

[Note: The next installment of this series can be found here.]


  1. EricisnotagiantsquidJuly 20, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    I was just thinking that I had just read the longest story about boobs I've ever seen. Then I remembered that I had told you on an earlier post I was going to write a post about two boobs having a conversation to follow up on one of yours. I punned. Well, I wrote it but my wife thought the subject was too sensitive to make light of.

    Some puns are intended.

    Well, I didn't publish it and I deleted it. Just so you know though, like your own story it did have a happy ending.

    Yes. Boobs and happy endings and it's not a tumblr blog.

    Personally though, in your shoes I'd have way more fun with this. When discussing this with people, as I'm sure the topic does come up, I'd say something like this:

    "Yeah. Weird thing is when the doctor was fixing them up I asked if they could install a bike horn in one. I'm not the first person to ask this. And yes, it was free! So now I've a boob that honks when you squeeze it!" And then look them right in the eye daring them to give it a go. Don't tell them which one! It's a guessing game.

    "The other one ding dongs like Big Ben at 12 o'clock."

  2. Oh, Lord, Eric, I'm appropriating this schtick... Bahaha!