Saturday, March 29, 2014

CUTS LIKE A KNIFE


Summer 2013 - Quebec City, Quebec
During the summer of 2008 I made the decision to explore the options for breast reconstruction.  I researched some names of surgeons in the Ottawa area and booked some consultation appointments. 

These surgeons are very busy and there are not very many of them in my area.  I knew that I would have to find someone that I felt very comfortable with since this was such a personal thing and a major surgery.  It was important to me that I was in the hands of someone that I could trust. One of these surgeons periodically gave a general presentation for a large audience to explain the various procedures and options available for women considering reconstruction surgery.  He provided photos and diagrams and it was extremely informative.  I was able to make my first appointment with him for the fall of 2008.

From the very first meeting I liked this surgeon (who I will refer to as Dr. Reconstruction).  Dr. Reconstruction was awesome.  He seemed to have so much passion for what he did and I really considered him an artist of sorts.  He said that “no woman should have to go through this breast cancer crap” and I honestly felt that he was committed to helping as many of us as possible to feel “normal” again.  I jumped on another learning curve to find out everything about breast reconstruction.

Friends - Bridal Veil Falls - Summer 2013
There are several options for women post-mastectomy.  The first option is to do nothing.  The second is to use prosthesis but that did not work out for me as I have already explained in a previous post.  The next two options include implant reconstruction or natural tissue reconstruction.  I was not a candidate for the implant surgery due to the radiation treatments that I had.  So that just left me with the natural tissue reconstruction option.

This is further broken down into either a TRAM Flap or Latissimus Flap procedure.  For either of these the patient needs to be a non-smoker, have no significant other pre-existing health problems or certain previous abdominal incisions.  Some women have this type of procedure done at the time of the mastectomy.  The surgeon that did my mastectomy did not recommend this.  He felt that it was better to heal properly and live with the results of the mastectomy for at least a year and then you would better appreciate the reconstruction.  I could not agree more.  I think if I had of gone into an operation room with my breasts intact and then come out with something completely rebuilt with the scarring and bruising then it would have been quite a shocker.  I mean it was a shocker to come out with no breasts at all but then I kind of got used to it and healed and then was able to have a greater appreciation for the art of reconstruction.

There are several advantages to the TRAM Flap surgery including the fact that the breasts are made of natural tissue.  The thought of implants and exposure to synthetic materials was not for me.  Just like the prostheses and wigs I guess.  Since the TRAM surgery uses your abdominal tissue to rebuild the breast, a tummy tuck in the process was a major bonus to consider.  Hell ya!  Women pay big bucks for that.  There are disadvantages of course and it is a very long procedure with decreased abdominal strength, much scarring and unpredictability of what the new breasts will look like.  The recovery time is also quite lengthy.

Me - Summer 2008
The way it works is that the surgeon transfers a section of skin, muscle, fat and blood vessels from one part of your body to your chest and creates a new breast mound.  The tissue for rebuilding could come from your abdomen, back or buttocks.  For me it was going to come from my abdomen and Dr. Reconstruction said he was going to spare as much muscle as possible so that I would retain as much strength as possible in my abdomen.  Due to the intricate nature of the reattachment of blood vessels which is critical to the survival of the transplanted tissue, my surgeon made sure that I was not a smoker or diabetic.

I also had to think about expected outcomes.  I knew that this surgery was not going to make me look like I was before and that it would not bring back any sensations that you feel in a normal breast.  However, I knew that it would make me feel better in my clothes, in swimsuits, help to diminish the reminders of the cancer, and generally just make me feel better in many ways.  I knew that this was an amazing opportunity with some risks but I made my decision to do it.  The surgery was scheduled for October 6, 2008.

Cuts Like a Knife - Bryan Adams


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Monday, March 24, 2014

SUMMERTIME

Beach - Norway Bay, Quebec- Summer 2008
During the summer of 2008 our family was very lucky to be selected as part of the Cottage Dreams Cancer Recovery Initiative in Ontario.  This is a registered charity that offers recent cancer survivors the opportunity to spend a week at a private, donated cottage to reconnect and rejuvenate with family and friends after successfully completing treatment.  In 2014 they hope to place over 400 families.

My Kids - Norway Bay - Summer 2008
We were thrilled to arrive at the cozy little cottage on the gorgeous sand beach.  It was everything you could imagine a cottage to be.  The screened front porch had two twin beds made into an L-shaped sitting area with tons of pillows and a perfect view of the water.  This is where the kids slept and they absolutely loved it.  We all spent time reading, swimming, canoeing, relaxing and eating and simply enjoying each and every day.  There was an old TV with no reception so it could only be used to watch DVDs.  The cottage owners had a collection of movies so we re-watched the Harry Potter series in the evenings and rainy times.  It was funny because when we first arrived we thought, what are we going to do for a week with no internet and no TV?  That turned out to be one of the best parts!  We really did reconnect and rejuvenate.  We even played cards after dinner and taught the kids how to play euchre.

Sunset at the Cottage - Summer 2008
It was a time I will always cherish because I think we were all healing.  We didn’t talk about cancer and treatments and anything like that at all.  We really just escaped completely into this other world for the week.  I cannot begin to tell you how incredible that was.  When I was diagnosed with cancer it was something that didn’t happen just to me – it happened to my entire family.  Each one of us had to deal with the fear, the pain and the changes in our life.  It is amazing to think back and realize how much we all went through and how far we have come in these last few years.

Happy Kids - Summer 2008
We enjoyed our stay at the cottage so much and wanted to give back and let others know about the program so when I was asked to volunteer a few hours at the Cottage Dreams booth at the Ottawa Home & Backyard Show the following spring I was more than happy to do so.  Tasza came with me and we had a great time and met a lot of people and got to share our stories and experiences.

If you would like to find out more about Cottage Dreams, please check out their website at http://www.cottagedreams.ca


Summertime - Mungo Jerry


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