Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hi- Remember me?

I am still here.  Living.  As it should be.

Those are such wonderful words.

The journey of cancer makes saying those words very special, even if you don't want to admit that to yourself, and never to others.  I am one of those people.  I would never admit that anything else would come of this journey than "I am here. Living. As it should be"

My outlook was one of indignant .... I wouldn't call it denial, I never denied the disease or it's process.  Perhaps a place of considering myself the supreme overlord over this situation and nothing else will win.  Delusional? Perhaps.  Whatever works, I guess.  Laugh if you must, it gets me through the tough times.  ;-) 

So, am I winning?  It would certainly seem so.  Checkups are going well so far.  Next oncologist appointment is in April, so we'll see what he has to say.  Not expecting anything to worry about.

The biggest struggle has been rebuilding the house, so to speak.  These girls have not been overly cooperative.  I will spare you the ugly details, but suffice it to say that I think we may have something workable now.  The first step in tattooing was done in December.

 For anyone reading who doesn't understand, that is the coloring of the nipples to make them appear as natural as possible.  My natural nipples were removed during the mastectomy procedure.  Some people are able to do a nipple saving procedure, but as I may have mentioned before- since my cancer was in the ducts that was not an option for me.

Part of my reconstructive journey has been to rebuild not only the breasts, but also to create the illusion of nipples.  You can't replace real nipples.  The tissue that is taken is unique in its function.  It is possible to make pretty good looking replications however.

This is truly art.  In my case, it started with the plastic surgeon.  Once he had the canvas of the breasts of a size and shape we wanted to work with, he asked about what type of nipple reconstruction I wanted.  The choices are:

This is where your breast is a blank slate.  No nipple.  Makes going braless super easy.  But, not such a natural look.

Tattoos only-
This is where the look of nipples are tattooed on the reconstructed breast.  While the tattoos are amazingly detailed and shaded- there is no real dimension.  With the talented hand of a skilled tattoo artist, the illusion of dimension is added through shading.  Again- the no bra thing is a snap since there is no raised tissue.

Nipple tuck alone-
This is where the plastic surgeon uses skin and sutures to create a very realistic looking nipple.  This procedure alone does not create any coloring of the areola or nipple, but it does create a nipple-looking skin structure.

Nipple tuck/tattooing-
This is the combination of the last two techniques and creates the most visually realistic nipple.  It will not only have the coloring of a natural nipple, but also be dimensional.  This is the option I chose.  My fear- the proverbial 'headlights are always on'.  I was afraid of how noticeable this would be. AND- I have never had a tattoo.  Oddly enough, I was afraid of how much it would hurt.  Everything I have been through and this one made me nervous....crazy.

The actual nipple tuck (by the way, that's my word...not sure what they really call it) was done as part of another reconstruction procedure to tweak the breasts.  They look kind of strange in the beginning and then the look of them kind of 'melts' down as they heal until they look very natural.  It's pretty fascinating stuff really.

My last reconstructive surgery was in October.  I had to let the scars heal a bit before we could think about the tattoos.  At my last follow up, it was decided that December would be the perfect time frame to get on the tattoo calendar.

December 19th.  One year and one day after my double mastectomies was the day.  I went to the plastic surgeon's office and met with the awesome tattoo artist.  She asked me some questions, sketched the placement of the nipples, applied numbing cream and, after it took effect, got to work.  It was amazingly fast.  The whole process took less than an hour, including all the prep work.

It was a bit painful, but in the greater scheme of things, it was far from the greatest pain I have felt.

Healing was quick.  I was careful to keep the ointment that was recommended up until the peeling was done.

They looked like natural nipples almost immediately.

I will go back in March for some additional shading and maybe some work on my scars.  I have scars that run horizontally about 8 or so inches across each breast.  They are red and angry looking and she feels she can camouflage them a bit.

I am so impressed by the process.  It almost makes you forget.  Almost.