Kenia’s DIEP Flap Surgery Experience
MY “BUTTERFLY SEAL” STORY:
The day of my DIEP Flap, in the preparation room and after months of pain, eagerness and excitement prior to this surgery that I was definitely looking for, I, for the very first time, let a single drop of tear fall off my right eye, just a second before my surgeon came to mark my breasts.
During that short lived second of desperation, that single tear was so insignificant compared to my extended state of happiness and courage, that such tear could have passed unnoticed, considering how small my worry was and compared to the joy of being able to be alive and being able to be not only offered a treatment to my cancer, but also being offered the breast reconstruction I WANTED!
The time needed for the tear to make the voyage from my eye to my smile and disappear before the surgeon walked in, wasn’t enough though! Instead, the tear got stuck on my pinkish cheek for enough time to NOT be passed unnoticed by my surgeon, that had just entered the preparation room!
Amongst nurses, anesthesiologists and another patient (me), and in a busy moment between preparation and a long and complex procedure, the surgeon, MY SURGEON, found the time to notice the almost unnoticeable. Yes, the unnoticeable, because I’m a patient who doesn’t usually show weakness or fear!
Yet, the surgeon, THIS surgeon, noticed that I was somehow under stress just before my big surgery, despite the fact most of the time my countenance expressed that everything was under control. But yes, undoubtedly, I had that minute of sorrow and fear.
The surgeon, THIS surgeon, had the ability to see the reflection of his face on that drop of tear…and with this ability that goes beyond surgical skills, he visualized once again how a caring surgeon must act upon a sign of possible stress from a patient.
A tear from a patient can be a reminder of how fast doctors should react and find solutions and a sign of their responsibilities with the emotional state of their patients.
Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo, my surgeon, is above those expectations and with a serene voice he asked me:
“What can I do for you to cheer you up and make you happier?”
“Draw a butterfly on my chest.” I answered.
Without reasonable time to have a more “elaborate” thinking, with both head and heart processing the question and looking for an answer that would provide me with extra comforting and soothing, the answer naturally came and could not be more appropriate.
Dr. Chrysopoulo looked at me intrigued by my answer and he seemed not to expect such request, just minutes before such complex surgery. Perhaps something never thought?
So, I looked at him and at the nurse and I repeated my wish in order to make sure that, even if it sounded bizarre, they understood that was exactly what I meant: “Yes, make me a butterfly!”
All those that were preparing me for the surgery looked at each other and after digesting the idea, I could see, hidden behind their medical masks, their smiles. The nurse took notes of my wish on my file, so the surgeon didn’t forget such “small” detail after such BIG surgical procedure.
Because after a long DIEP Flap surgery, the humble (yet significant) drawing of a butterfly on a patient’s chest, could easily be forgotten!
Well, my “Butterfly Seal After Breast Reconstruction” wasn’t forgotten and I don’t think Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo anticipated the commotion that such drawing would create in a recovery room. I was still drowsy and could not open my eyes. But I could hear all the nurses coming in to check what the other nurses were taking about: “a patient came in with a butterfly on her chest”! “Why does this patient have a butterfly on her chest?”, “What Doctor did her DIEP with the butterfly on the chest?”
I was thrilled to hear, despite the fact I could barely open my eyes or think properly, that the butterfly was there, landed on my chest, pollinating the recovery room with joy, excitement and curiosity! I could hear one of the nurses answering to the others: “The butterfly was drawn upon the patient’s’ request!”, “It was Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo!” “Yes, she is a patient of Dr. Chrysopoulo!” and the comments kept going: “That’s super sweet from the doctor and for the patient!” “This is really sweet!”
Even sweeter was my reaction when the effect of the anesthesia wore off and I was finally able to open my eyes. The very first thing I wanted to see were my breasts. I was eager and nervous! I was also prepared to be disappointed, as I went to the surgery aware that I did not have enough fat for what would be considered a decent sized breast according to “standards” and in order to be worth the DIEP Flap procedure. On top of that, due to an old abdominal scar, it was expected that I ended up with a super high DIEP Flap scar.
I guess the surgeon prepared me for the worse case scenario, even knowing that things could end up much better than the worse case scenario! The results were all the opposite of what I was prepared for, which is god news 🙂 And on top of all the good news and good things that I could see, the first thing I saw the minute I could open my eyes and bend down my neck, was the butterfly landed on the vastness of my chest! The smile on my face was simply priceless! I’m not sure yet how much my DIEP Flap cost and how much work it was for the surgeon team involved to perform my 8 hour surgery, but THE smile on my face sprouted right after looking down my chest and my eyes encountering the landed butterfly is definitely worth more than the hospital bill someone will get.
In this picture, I’m at the Miami airport, more than ready (and happy) for my DIEP Flap in San Antonio-Texas, with PRMA Plastic Surgery all the way from Miami!
Someone who doesn’t know my story, might think: “Why would a woman look so happy to FLY FOR A BREAST CANCER RELATED SURGERY, have her abdomen cut from hip to hip, 3 incisions and 3 drains in a complex procedure some even believe is invasive? She is going for a major surgery, away from home and with not so much support while recovering (and 3 children on top of her wounds) and during a pandemic time!”
Response: I’m happy and I look so happy, simply because DIEP Flap feels so right to me after things went wrong when I thought that the silicone route was easier, faster and less invasive. After lots of issues and giving up silicone, it took, once again, many months to find another solution and THE surgeon that would help me turn another page of the breast cancer chapter of my life.
So, yes! This flight made me happier than the ones to Disney to meet the Mickey Mouse in person (and imagine that I’m a big fan of Mickey).
Dr. Minas Chrysopoulo isn’t the Mickey Mouse, but I’m giving him the chance to bring back the enchantment missing in my breasts/life! San Antonio isn’t exactly Disney, but magical things can happen in the most unexpected places!
San Antonio is unexpectedly beautiful. I came so focused on my surgery that I had absolutely no expectations to see anything more interesting than my surgeon’s face in person and a bunch of nurses giving me advices.
I found out that other than Dr. Chrysopoulo’s face and the PRMA clinic, San Antonio has other faces, hidden paths, unexpected beauty behind the woods, streams filled with fresh water, flying birds spreading their singing.
Against all my friends’ advice to rest the day before surgery, I indulged in cycling in direction of unknown places and to uncertain destinies and found out that there is no better place to rest than close to nature, even if the body that soon would be in an operating room had to be used intensively and the day after the fun, that same body wouldn’t be able to do anything , but accepts the several incisions and be moved from bed to a reclining chair, until recovery!
IF you are like me, some sightseeing will make you relax and appreciate life before you go on a big surgery! Activate your four senses in one of the beautiful cycle paths along the river walk of San Antonio before you are trapped in a bed for a few days!
Go fresh to the hospital, thinking how perfect life and nature is and how grateful you are for the life you have! Think of everything beautiful you saw the day before! It will make you feel more positive about things.
This photo was taken June 23rd 2020, a few hours before my big surgery.
Even sweeter was my reaction when the effect of the anesthesia wore off and I was finally able to open my eyes. The very first thing I wanted to see were my breasts. I was eager and nervous!
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