Dr. Spann graciously agreed to take a photo with me on my last surgery. He’s been such an integral part of my life the past 9 months…I had to have a photo op!
A little over a week ago, May 29th to be exact, I had an additional surgery as part of my reconstruction process. I had much contemplation about the main reason for this particular procedure. It was nipple reconstruction. I liked having the clean “no see-through” look in my shirts. It was great! However, I knew in the long run that I would likely be very pleased with my final results once this phase was complete in a couple of months. Although I don’t have any sensation, I was still going to be sedated. Needless to say, this part of the surgery went off without a hitch. On my follow-up visit, Dr. Spann told me I could have the tattooing done in about 6 weeks from a cosmetic tattoo artist (yet another part I’m not particularly looking forward to).
Another portion of my surgery was having a little bit of liposuction done to remove some extra tissue that was now appearing under my arms…to the sides of my breasts. I wasn’t 100% comfortable with my new “full” size, so we opted to have some of this excess removed. I didn’t want too much taken out in case I regretted my decision later. I’m still trying to decide if this is the final size I want to be. It’s definitely been a change from where I came from. Also, some lipo was done on my hips as well for some contouring purposes and tweaking some puckered scars. I do have to say…pain from the lipo was absolutely no fun!! I had pain and bruising in my upper and lower back. It was quite different from typical back pain that I see my chiropractor for. The good news is that it didn’t last much beyond a week. Some strong pain meds helped in those first few days!
Finally, as recommended from Dr. Hagans, my breast specialist, Dr. Spann removed some small areas of fat necrosis from both breasts. Tissue hardness had formed on each side since my initial surgery. It wasn’t really bothering me, but they both recommended removing it. This was a pretty seamless process. No new scars and not much pain after surgery.
My outpatient surgery was originally suppose to have one more thing done that I couldn’t wait for. My plastic surgeon had suspected that I had fat necrosis forming on the left side of my abdomen. For lack of a better word, a rather large bulge has formed. It’s different from my prior belly pooch. It’s extremely hard and very painful at times. When I stand during worship at church or I am on my feet for any length of time, it causes quite a bit of discomfort. The plan was to remove the fat necrosis and stitch me back up. Well…after looking at me right before surgery, Dr. Spann thought my “bulge” looked quite a bit bigger than the last time he saw me and thought it could be a hernia. He didn’t feel it was safe to operate on this part until I had a CT scan done to confirm one way or another.
Other than that snag, surgery went well. It lasted between an hour and a half and two hours. I remember waking up in the recovery room with that “foggy feeling” that you have when coming to from the wonderful world of anesthesia. I remember asking the nurse if I could have some pain medication. She told me she was giving me something in my IV right then. It seemed like only seconds later when I told her I was sorry but that I wondered if she could give me something more for pain. I swallowed a pill thinking, “I sure hope this works fast!” Troy told me it seemed like it took 2 hours after I was in recovery before he was able to see me. I couldn’t tell you. My memory is always so vague these days. I went home with an abdominal binder that I needed to wear for at least the next week.
My mom had an appointment with Dr. Spann the very next day regarding her revised reconstruction. She had her bilateral mastectomy a year ago and had tissue expander/implant exchange surgery in February. It was what we considered a botched job. With all of her issues, I really wanted to be there when he discussed her options with her. He was surprised to see me at her appointment and told me I should be resting at home but understood that I wanted to be with my mom. Her first surgery with him is scheduled for July 22nd. It may take a series of surgeries to get things at a pleasing result, but we are confident he is going to do a great job. I can’t begin to express how blessed I am to have had such an incredible plastic surgeon the first time around. I’ve heard and seen first-hand so many terrible stories.
Since I was in Little Rock with my mom anyway, Dr. Spann’s office scheduled me to have my CT scan right away at Baptist Hospital as soon as we were finished with mom’s appointment. I drank the huge container of flavored Crystal Light and had my scan an hour later. Troy joined us at the hospital as I had my CT done. I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he really wanted to be there with me. He went back to work right afterwards. In case anyone doesn’t know, I love him! We finally ate lunch about 3 pm that day. We were all exhausted (including my sweet daddy who has been in his own round-the-clock pain) and enjoyed our meal at Longhorn Steakhouse.
One of Dr. Spann’s nurses called me the next day and told me they had the results back from my test. She said it wasn’t a hernia, but it was more of abdominal muscle weakness. I thought this was probably good news that I didn’t have a hernia. On Tuesday of this week, I had my follow-up appointment where this was the main topic I wanted to discuss. Unfortunately, he told me that a hernia would have actually been easier to fix than this muscle weakness. He said the safest thing to do would be to do nothing. In some cases, exercise and losing weight seems to help this bulge go away eventually. However, if I really want it fixed, he wants to wait in case we do any additional revisions on the breasts. He said our best option would be to wait until September or October. The process for the surgery is outpatient but would require a 2-month healing time before I could lift literally anything heavier than a gallon of milk. He would use an abdominal wall surgical mesh (the gross part is that it would be from pig skin). Ugh. This definitely dampened my spirits. I had just started exercising again about 6-8 weeks ago, but the pain from this bulge started hurting so badly that I stopped until after my surgery. And now I’m being told that exercise is what I need to do to possibly help it. It might not help, but then again it might. All I could think about is the pain I have currently when I don’t exercise and how it’s so much worse when I do exercise. It was a pity party in the making. I cried a couple of times in my car that day. I wasn’t a happy camper and was certainly not looking forward to exercising in that much pain (you know…other than the “I can’t exercise normally pain”).
I’ve refrained from showing any of my surgical scars on here, but below is a portion of my “bulge.” I know the scars aren’t pretty, but they definitely remind me of where I’ve been. (If anyone is ever reading this who is having diep flap surgery, breast reconstruction, or if you are just one of my girlfriends and you want to see any of my photos, I don’t have much embarrassment at this point in life. I would be glad to share them with you. Just shoot me an email.)
But guess what? I decided I needed to start working on my digital scrapbook. After all, my journey through this elective surgery and now reconstruction is really pretty close to being over. With the exception of possible little revisions, tattooing is all I have left when it comes to the breasts. I sat at my computer the other day, literally for a couple of hours, just trying to think of what I wanted the cover of my album to look like. As God was speaking to me through His scripture and my self-loathing pity party I had earlier in the day, He reminded me (YET AGAIN) of all I’ve been through and how HE ALONE has been my source of strength. I don’t have cancer. I don’t have an incurable disease. I didn’t have to go through what my mom has had to go through. Although this pain can get pretty rough on some days, I don’t have to go through chronic pain like some of the people closest to me. (You know who you are.) I can’t help be but forever grateful to my heavenly Father of reminding me how blessed I truly am. And so…in fact, aptly so, the cover of my scrapbook will be named “The Struggle is Part of the Journey.”
I think Paul says it so well in this familiar passage in 1 Timothy. Chapter 4.
10 This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.
11 Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them.
12 Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
13 Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.
14 Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you.
15 Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress.
16 Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.