Flashback to one year ago when I met Dr. Ferlmann, my plastic surgeon, (PS) for a consultation. I was recovering from my mastectomy and he wanted me to come in to see Dr. Taft’s handiwork, introduce himself and explain options and steps ahead. I still remember what he said to me. “My hope is that one year from now, or whenever you are done with total reconstruction, you can put on a swim suit, walk down the beach or wear a tight fitting blouse and feel comfortable and beautiful.” That seemed a long way off from where I was at that moment feeling like damaged goods. Now, with the nipple procedure done, I can see the finish line. At least no more cutting, just a tattoo left to go!
So what happened today? What was it like?
I dare say I was more nervous for this minor surgery than I was for any of my other surgeries – weird I know, but because I was going to be awake that kinda threw me off my game. General anesthetic surgery has specific steps that I have memorized, this was different. And a two hour wait for the minor procedure room didn’t help the nerves, but did allow me to catch up on email and delete lots of garbage off my iPhone.
Creating a nipple involves ten steps. OK, it may be more or less, but ten is a nice, round number, so that works for me. I added a new page to my “medical care” tab on this blog today that gives the specifics for those contemplating this step in breast reconstruction entitled, “Nipple Construction.” My hope is that by sharing what happens at this stage of breast reconstruction, that it lessens your fears if you too are facing this decision and journey.
No, I didn’t feel much during the procedure and yes, I’m glad this is over. It sure helps to have a doctor I trust and respect (and he’s a favorite of the nurses, but don’t tell him or he’ll get a big head). I learned that catgut doesn’t really come from a cat and that my PS wasn’t really happy when I peeked in on his surgery in progress (he called it looking at his construction site in progress). He even took the time to show a nurse the proper way to cut off the end of the stitch at 3mm the most accurate and safe way during the procedure without belittling her. I think I’ll be ready to assist if he needs help in his next procedure.
When I was all stitched up, Doc Ferlmann fashioned a nipple pad out of an eye patch (he is a closet artist and innovator), which I’ll sport for a few days until I heal. I guess no aggressive hugging or exercise for a few days. I managed to squeak in my Butts and Guts class last night and my weight circuit this morning, so will let my lactic acid hangover linger for a few days. My follow-up appointment is in one week and we’ll check out progress at that time. As Dr. Ferlmann sang “Happy Birthday” to me at the end of the procedure, I saw the great joy his career choice brings him in helping women be physically and mentally restored in our fight against breast cancer.