It took nine months to fill the expanders, swap them out for implants and have new nipples grafted into place, but by February of 2006, I had my new boobs.
Everything I had been dreading and knew would be a challenge was just what I expected: schlepping into the City for saline infusions, dealing with the discomfort of stretching out my chest muscles and skin, and then of course having to have more surgeries, were all a big fat pain in the butt.
But I did a bunch of other, proactive things to make sure that once I closed the door on cancer it wouldn’t come back to haunt me. Chemo had thrown me into early menopause and now being 45, I knew my baby making days were behind me, so I had my ovaries removed, shutting down any chance of ovarian cancer.
I had a second colonoscopy to make sure there were no dangerous polyps about to cause trouble, and am religious about staying current with that procedure, nasty as it is, as I don’t want a malignancy there to put me in my father’s shoes. I went on anti-recurrence drugs and settled into a regular 3 times a year check up schedule with my oncologist. I also did a lot of research into the type of implants I would get and was very happy to learn that, contrary to what my initial investigations had revealed, there were some decent, even attractive options for breast-less women to consider.
Going through the possibilities before my surgery, I knew that silicone was still illegal for all but mastectomy patients, who were exempt from the ban. Liking the shape and look of these prosthetics much more than the saline filled forms, I selected a teardrop shaped implant made of what they called ‘cohesive’ or ‘gummy bear’ silicone.
Unlike the silicone of old, which had the consistency of runny jelly, these were made from a soft, firm silicone solid. That meant that if they ever broke or were cut or ruptured, they would retain their shape, protecting women from any sort of substance leeching into their bodies and maybe causing problems, as so many had alleged.
I got them implanted in December of 2005. The nipples were put on the following February. All in all, I have to say that they’re really quite lovely. If I hold my hands over my lumpectomy scars and gaze into the mirror, they look real, falling like eggplants into a heavy oval along the bottom, capped in the centers with a pair of pink hued nipples graphed from the skin of my inner thighs. Recovery wasn’t nearly as challenging as the mastectomy surgery. I had to stay home from a couple of sledding excursions that winter so that my body didn’t overheat and reject the skin grafts, but that was an easy price to pay to ensure they took hold. I just bided my time, kept my eyes on the prize and by the time St. Patrick’s Day rolled around, I was completely healed.
My life as a cancer patient was now over.