About a week after we’d left the Long Island doctors office, his booking secretary called me, cheerily inquiring as to where she should mail the billing papers so that we could move forward with the DIEP surgery.
“We’re not moving forward,” I told her.
“You’re not having mastectomies?” she asked, sounding horrified.
“Sure I am,” I replied. “But he’s not doing them. You can tell the doctor his next Rolls Royce will have to be financed by someone a lot more desperate than me.”
I hung up, and for a moment or two felt the satisfaction of having spoken my mind. But in reality, I was really demoralized. Despite the undeniable greed of some of these so-called healers, I knew very well that if a surgeon could charge $60k per reconstruction, and schedule one every week, it wasn’t my place to accuse him of thievery. If we were making his kind of money, shelling out a ton of cash for new boobs would’ve been a no brainer.
But, being a middle class family with one kid headed off to college in the fall and another one not quite out of diapers, we just didn’t have the extra $1000 a month for five years to lay out. So I spent endless hours on the phone with my insurance company, appealing, arguing, writing letters, doing everything I could to get this surgery with a qualified doctor.
For a few days, it seemed hopeless, but then a ray of sunshine poked through the clouds. I called my senators down in Washington, and they made some inquiries on my behalf and suddenly my insurer realized I was never going to back off about my rights and their responsibilities. They called me one afternoon with the happy news that they found an in-network micro-surgeon at New York Hospital, which had always been ‘my’ hospital, and who was experienced at the DIEP reconstruction.
Saints be praised, as my grandmother used to say. We once again got my in-laws over to babysit and hauled our butts into Manhattan to meet with this newly recommended doctor, who was gifted, generous and best of all, said he was confident he would be able to give me what I wanted.
“You’ve got no fat,” he told me when I said I wanted the DIEP. “Your breasts will be tiny.”
Looking down at my soon to be departed girls, I smiled and said, “I’m used to that.”
He laughed. If small was ok with me, it was ok with him. We made a date. I found a colleague of his to do take my toxic breasts off and put my physical fate in the plastic surgeon’s hands.