May love and laughter light your days, and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours, wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world with joy that long endures.
May all life's passing seasons bring the best to you and yours!
~ Robert Frost


Welcome to my blog. This is my story of how I faced my risk of breast cancer, the decisions I made, the support I received and my week by week recovery from surgery. I chose to have a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with immediate DIEP reconstruction at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (March 2010). For more information on my 'Medical Team' please see tab above. I also have a wonderful circle of friends who have supported me throughout. They have provided us with lots of delicious meals and desserts. Many of those recipes are included above under "Feed the Flap" recipes. "Feed the Flap" is a term I coined when trying to increase my abdominal (fat) flap to ensure that I was a good candidate for the DIEP procedure. This was not something recommended by any medical professional, it was just something that made sense to me. I think it worked!! Feel free to join me on this journey and feel free to post comments.

Select the tabs on the left side marked Week 1, Week 2, Week 3..... to go immediately to the surgical/recovery part of this blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I could have posted this myself.....

This is from a blog I came across feelings are the same....the procedure the same.....
November 1, 2009 by Teri Smieja
I’ve been talking awhile now about my fast approaching PBM – the DIEP that I’m having on January 12, 2010. For some reason saying ‘in January’ still made it seem far away. When I wrote yesterday’s blog entry instead of saying ‘in January’ I said ‘in a little over two’ months. Wording it that way made me realize how close it is – two months! I have no doubt that I’m going to be thinking and therefore blogging about this a lot more frequently in the next two months. I’ve already spent a lot of time explaining WHY I’m doing what I’m doing, so why not explain WHAT it is that I’m doing….

These days there are many different reconstruction options available to women who have mastectomies. When I first started learning about BRCA mutations, preventative surgeries and reconstruction, I was overwhelmed with all of the choices available. After a lot of research and thought I finally decided that the DIEP flap was the best option for me.

PBM = Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy – Prophylactic refers to the preventative aspect of the surgery. When a woman has her breasts removed BEFORE they have cancer then it is a PBM. PBM is NOT a specific reconstruction type; it’s the surgical removal of healthy breasts – bilateral means both breasts, also known as a double mastectomy.

DIEP = Deep Inferior Epigastric Perforator Flap. This is one of many reconstruction options available. It’s a highly technical and difficult surgery to perform and not just any doctor can do it. The DIEP can be used as immediate or delayed reconstruction. In my case I’ll be having a PBM with an immediate DIEP reconstruction. I will never have the experience of waking up and looking down to see no breasts on my chest (if you knew how much this image haunted me when I first learned of my BRCA mutated status, you’d know what a relief this is to me). When I wake up from surgery it will be with reconstructed breasts – though they won’t be picture perfect yet and will still need some work and revision surgery about 12 weeks later, which means even more time needed for recovery.

The DIEP uses fatty tissue and skin from the abdomen to reconstruct. The stomach area is cut from one end to the other leaving one hell of a scar – about twice the size of a c-section scar. Fat is scooped out as well as a subcutaneous layer of skin. Subcutaneous means ‘just under the skin.’ Small blood vessels are removed with this skin and then attached to blood vessels in the breast area (this is why the term ‘flap’ is used) after the mastectomy – that’s the part that makes it microsurgery – it’s all so small that the surgeons need to use a microscope to see what they’re doing. Tricky stuff! The end result of my stomach area will be much the same as if I had a tummy tuck. No stomach muscles are cut with the DIEP. That means that the muscle integrity in the stomach isn’t compromised. It’s also less healing to worry about. That’s a good thing.

Nipple reconstruction is optional and I’m still leaning toward not having this done at all. I’ll save that subject for another entry.

The mastectomy requires an incision from the lower portion of the breast (either directly under the nipple or to the outer sides of it) – and as much of the breast and fatty tissue that can be removed, gets removed.

This surgery will require 12-14 hours (if all goes well) of being under anesthesia and involves a lot of slicing, scraping, precise removal of tissue and skin, attaching and stitching – it’s going to be quite a recovery process! Drains are placed in each new breast and in each side of the stomach. These have to stay in for 2-5 days, and from what I’ve heard, they are more of a nuisance than anything.

There are a few advantages of having a flap procedure for reconstruction versus expanders/implants. While the recovery is harder at the beginning (more of the body needs to heal), overall it’s over sooner than those who go the implant route – which takes many months of weekly or bi-weekly fills, stretching the skin out enough for the implants and then a final exchange surgery.

With the DIEP my breasts will grow or shrink with me as I lose or gain weight. Another advantage to having a flap reconstruction over implants is that I won’t have to worry about capsular contracture – my body won’t reject its own fat.

Of the multitude of reconstruction options out there, each one has advantages and disadvantages and who gets what kind should be based on the individual. Different women have different needs/wants.

1 comment:

myblip said...

Hi - I see you posted this a month ago, but I just came across it today. I'm so glad you were able to relate to parts of my story. My PBM got postponded, and I actually just had it on Feb 2nd. Still going through the recovery process now, but hey, no more cancer risk (or, less than 2% now, instead of close to 87%!) so that's good news.

Hope you are well!


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