DIEP Flap Breast Reconstruction
If you are reading this, chances are you have been affected by breast cancer. Whether your life just got thrown onto this unplanned path and you are facing a long year or you are part way through, you are probably searching for one of these stories to identify with and for one more piece of information that you can take away and feel just a little empowered. That was me. Here is my story.
It was October 2013, and I was content. I live in a small town in rural Kansas, have a wonderful husband, three ornery young boys, a great job and enough family that my phone is always ringing and our house often has someone stopping in for something. Our church had done a series on God stories a couple of years ago. My husband had Hodgkin’s just a year before we met 18 years ago and he had even shared his “story” with the congregation. That small piece of my life had been suffocating at times over the years. Waiting on his yearly scan results was scary and if concerns ever came up I knew I didn’t handle them well. I looked at my own life for my “story” and it scared me. I didn’t have one. I was beyond blessed and decided I would forever be thankful that God hadn’t brought me through marital or financial issues or even worse, being sick.
I breast fed my first two boys nearly 10 years prior. I knew my breast had some ongoing issues. I saw my OBGYN regularly and had even gone to a Breast Specialist years ago. He was content to see me every few months for an ultrasound and sold that I had a condition of Duct Ectasia. I was always worried but I felt very confident in his opinion. I had decided after a year’s worth of regular ultrasounds every few months that I also wanted a mammogram. I just couldn’t take the thought that if something was wrong and I hadn’t even had a mammogram, even though my Dr. didn’t feel it had been necessary. I was young and had no family history of breast cancer. I knew as soon as the radiologist read the mammogram and did his own ultrasound that my life was about to change. The news came on Halloween. Picking up the boys from school was one of those moments I will never forget.
Within days I found myself sitting in a Plastic Surgeon’s office. She was skilled with all types of procedures and I remember looking around at people who were choosing to have surgery. I felt like I was a fish out of water. I did lots of research in those many sleepless hours to come. It wasn’t anxiety that kept me awake but pure adrenalin. I still remember the morning I had moved beyond my best friend “google” and found I loved “you tube”. I wasn’t satisfied with the idea of being 36 and having implants and multiple exchanges for life. I was immediately fascinated with the Diep procedure and waited patiently until 5:30 that morning to wake my husband up and tell him the news! He was shocked that I would be willing to go through such recovery but agreed it made perfect sense.
Fast forward through chemo, radiation, mastectomy, low white blood cell counts, infections, reactions and having an expander removed. I felt confident from day 1 that God would bring me through this, ok -maybe drag me through. I just hated that I had to go through it and being a type A personality I would much prefer to write my own story than wait for God to turn the next page. I won’t go into my treatment but it was a long hard road. I had a wonderful support system and ended radiation in August badly burned. The last thing I wanted to think about was starting reconstruction. We had chosen the closest surgeon about 4 hours from us. I scheduled my surgery for January and chose to think of it as little as possible. I found if I thought about it I got angry. I had already gone through so much. I had been so excited a year before to have the Diep but that was before I had gone through treatment. Many, many people encouraged me to just be done but at now 37 I knew reconstruction made sense.
In December, I called my surgeon’s office to confirm pre-op, surgery date, etc. I was told by an unemotional nurse that the Dr. had decided not to do as many Dieps the following year and mine had been changed. Even if they could make an exception, she was out on those dates we had scheduled so long ago. At that moment I felt like a number just as I did when I was first diagnosed and received that sterile call.
You’ll remember I found the Diep surgery on You Tube. I was fascinated with all of the videos from PRMA and the idea of nerve reconnection. My husband had even asked me shortly before my mastectomy if I wanted to leave our current surgeon and go to San Antonio. I couldn’t do that! I had invested their time and I was committed plus it was 12 hours away and I had three boys that needed me. I hung up the phone and within minutes had done something I never thought I would do. I called PRMA and was transferred to Courtney. She couldn’t believe my unfortunate luck and assured me we could do this and I could likely still have surgery in January. We corresponded with emails that week and she had my history assessed and then called one morning with the news that she had approval and was headed to scheduling. She could have easily waited and called me with a date but instead treated me as a friend or sister and wanted to share her excitement that I was in! She said, “Hey Girl, I’ve got news!” Again I sat back and couldn’t believe I was so fortunate to have called PRMA. I knew the first day I hung up the phone that God did have the perfect plan. I just had to be patient and wait for it!
You’ll find the rest of my “story” on a PRMA video blog. I wanted to share my hospital journey in hopes that it would give you strength, hope and maybe even excitement! At three weeks out from surgery I can tell you the DIEP surgery was by far one of the easiest chapters of the journey! I think because it was post cancer and the final chapter! Knowing you're done makes everything easier!