Single Stage Prophylactic Mastectomy and Reconstruction in New Jersey
I am one of four sisters all of whom have the BRACA 2 gene. I was the only lucky one to find out that I was positive and to act BEFORE I had cancer!
My mother and oldest sister are survivors of more than 20 years, my youngest sister is only two years out and going back to have a preventative mastectomy on the remaining breast; a decision she came to after learning that our middle sister has ovarian cancer.
My choice to to have my breasts removed was not an easy one. However, I always knew that if I were to get breast cancer I would rather have the mastectomy than have chemo,radiation and uncertainty. So once I understood that it was a “when” not an “if” then the decision was forgone.
I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Rafizedah doing my reconstruction. I met with him several times, bringing along girlfriends to help me understand all the options I had and pick out just the right implants! I felt fortunate in that I knew I would do well with the surgery because I have for years committed to a daily regime of yoga, running and strength training. My concerns were about how quickly I could get back into my workout routines and would the mastectomy change my ability to do yoga and lift weights.
Dr. Rafizedah took my lifestyle into consideration, along with my body type and thought I was a good candidate to try a single surgery procedure. I liked my small chest and did not really want to go bigger, what a shock to learn they “don’t make them that small!” ; a fact that Dr. Rafizedah very diplomatically explained to me!! I was also able to have the nipple saving surgery which was a huge benefit in terms of how I looked. I knew that there would be loss of feeling regardless and tried to prepare myself for the changes.
I won’t sugar coat the surgery and recovery it is not easy! I felt I had prepared myself well, doing a lot of yoga breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques etc. But despite all the doctors explanations, Dr. Rafizedah’s artistry and skillful reconstruction; and my own mental preparations, the first few days and weeks were difficult.
Physical pain and discomfort don’t last too long but the adjustment to breasts that feel numb and like pillows attached to my body was the hardest. Initially I felt a tightness across my chest and a sense I was permanently wearing a tight padded bra! Lying on my stomach no longer felt comfortable. I hated for anyone to think I had a “boob job” and resented the sense of having “fake” ones. I did what I could to ignore them and was eager to return to my daily athletic activities.
I started out slowly doing stretching exercises to loosen up my chest muscles and regain my range of motion. I used the Pink RIbbon program and the help of trainers to be able to go back to all my normal fitness activities. Happily six weeks out I was fully recovered and able to do most activities with some modifications.
Learning to love my implants was the final and hardest part for me. I had to embrace them, literally, to accept the new me. I was surprised that I really had to wait over a full year before I would know what the new me really felt like. Initially I felt almost nothing but gradually some sensations came back. First the skin at the outermost edges of my breasts started to have sensation, then over time in between the breasts I had normal feelings.
I am happy to report that two years out from surgery even my nipples have some mild sensations!!
There are always trade offs in life and I can honestly say that I am much happier, as is my husband, knowing I will NOT have breast cancer or ovarian (I had surgery for that too) at what turned out to be a very small price.
I hope my story reassures other women facing the same choice to realize they can do this! You may not have real breasts anymore, but you will feel like and BE A WARRIOR GODDESS!!