I had another surgery in January—four weeks ago in fact. I’ve now lost count of how many re-revisions of breast reconstruction I’ve had. I wonder how many surgeries you can have before the rest of your body breaks down. Clearly, it would take more than nine in three years. I read somewhere that every time someone goes under anesthesia, they lose a little bit of their memory. If it’s true, that explains a lot (but not everything!)
In prepping for my surgery, the doctor informed me that he would have to do more fat grafting. A lot of people dislike fat grafting, but not me. Let’s be real, if surgery is a must and the doctor is going to take fat from one place where I don’t want it and put it in another place that needs it –that guy’s a hero in my book. I mean, what’s so bad about that? I’ll tell you. They never take it from where you want them to! My doctor and I have been through this dance before over the past two years. He says, “Where would you like me to take the fat from?” And I say, “Here, here, and here” pointing to various parts of my midsection and backside. Then he lets out a little sigh and says “No.” Then reminds me that this is not cosmetic surgery; this is serious business. And he says it just like that, “This is not cosmetic surgery Charlene.” Pfft! I get it, but in this era where everything is negotiated, it didn’t seem like too much to ask. Evidently, the fat in your midsection, (which has a name, I just can’t think of it right now) is there to protect your organs and keep them in place. Well, okay, since he put it like that. I give in, fully realizing that I had no choice. But seriously, as long as he’s in there…
So on with the surgery, which was pretty uneventful. Don’t get me wrong, every time I’m anesthetized and sliced into it gets a little more frightening. The last two times I had complications which were not fun. So needless to say, I had a little trepidation. Mainly, for two reasons. 1. As always, I worry that I might not wake up, and 2. According to Greg, I say a lot of inappropriate things as I’m coming out of anesthesia. Like, really inappropriate. Not like “I’ve-had-too-much-to-drink-inappropriate” but worse. The kind of inappropriate that when you wake up fully, people just stare at you. I wonder if I curse like a sailor. I’ve always wanted to do that – speak with lots of expletives just because I could. Greg stays mum about the whole thing, which means it must be bad. This time though, I do recall him asking me who I loved more, him or the dogs. Duh, you can always find another husband. (Just kidding honey).
I flew back to Houston this week for my post-op. One breast (the one that had cancer) is significantly larger than the other one (because of all the fat he put in there). He told me not to worry though because my body would absorb most of the fat and if we’re lucky it will shrink to match the other one. Wait. One. Minute. “If we’re lucky?” WTF? At which point he tells me that we’ll know in about three to four months if everything is fine and that he really doesn’t want to cut into me again. I smile because I don’t want him cutting into me again either! Then he said, “You know, Charlene, you’re a difficult case.” (Like I’ve never heard THAT before; but wait—he was talking about my reconstruction). I nodded and then he said something I will never forget. He said, “When you came in here the first time, after your breast exploded, you were the worst case of reconstruction that I’d seen. Your situation was very, very, very, difficult.”
Now here’s the deal. I know he’s doing his best and I am beyond thankful that my case landed in this particular doctor’s caseload. But when a renowned reconstruction specialist says “very” not one, but three times, it means something. This surgeon is awesome and not one for hyperbole, so I realize then that in all this time that I’ve been agitating over these damn surgeries, he’s been trying to solve a tough problem, working to make sure that his years of training and experience at @MD Anderson and other places would come to bear to address “the worst case he’s ever seen.” Damn. I’ve always known that I’d make history one day, but this isn’t how I thought it would happen – one slice at a time.
I’m humbled. Still, the next slice I want to be a part of is one from a carrot cake on my birthday when I turn 56 in a few months. That should be right before I see him again for another post-op check in. Maybe I’ll bring the cake, just to be sure.
Stay positive friends,
P.S. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Margery Kraus and the amazing team at MD Anderson for getting me to where I am now and the doctors in Virginia, San Antonio, and Houston for saving my life three times.