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From: Naples, Florida
Patient Type: Immediate Breast Reconstruction
Patient History: Lumpectomy / Chemotherapy / Radiation Followed by Bilateral Mastectomy / Immediate Reconstruction
5 / 5 stars
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in the end of March of 2009.I had a lumpectomy, and that was followed with (it was Stage IIb, lymph nodes involved). So I started off with chemotherapy and finished that in September, then followed with radiation for six weeks. So, at the end of that time, January of 2010 came and I took the BRCA gene test and was positive. So, since then the things that I've done have been totally preventative.
So, I had an ovariectomy hysterectomy exactly a year ago today, May 15. And, in August, I had a double mastectomy and at the same time started my reconstruction. So we went to Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, and MD Anderson looking for a good reconstructive process. I'm not big and I also had radiation, so it makes things a little riskier. We weren't happy with any of the choices that they gave us. They wanted to use the latissimus dorci muscle, and I'm an athlete. So, I didn't really want to do that.
One thing that I thought was very important for me was I knew I wanted to do the least invasive and the most natural. I was not anxious to use muscles where they didn't belong. So, this seemed very natural to me. I've heard from many people that, using implants, they're hard. They don't feel good. I had heard about a fat process in Miami. I looked it up on the internet, found Dr. Khouri, and my husband called and he said if we could get over there in a week, before he left for Europe, he would see me. And he did.
So that's how this started. And that was the end of July of 2010. When we first came over, we had been told in reconstruction that I was not a candidate for a deep flap, which is your stomach tissue. I was not a candidate for the thighs because I didn't have enough tissue or body mass. I was worried the same thing would happen with the fat grafting.Dr. Khouri said that wasn't the issue at all; that I would be all right and he would find it. And he did. The surgeon did the mastectomy. That took about three hours. When he finished, Dr. Khouri was right there to start fat grafting and did the first injections into my breast at the time of the mastectomy.
So, they were simultaneous. When I came out of the mastectomy, and was able to take off the dressing, I actually had very small bumps, as Dr. Khouri calls them: "social breasts." I had social breasts. So, that was already there from the first procedure. Second procedure, he was able to do more on the right because that breast was taken off totally, for preventative purposes. There was no radiation there. The second breast takes longer because I have the scar tissue from the radiation. So, it's taken him longer there to pull the breasts; the tissues out and insert the fat.
So, at the same time, what he was doing was breaking up the scar tissue on the radiated side, which has been very helpful for me, because now it's much softer; it's not hard. And I can feel. So, that's my big benefit is that I can feel both breasts, which is great. Doing the fat grafting actually helps to recreate and regenerate some of the tissue in the radiated skin. And so we were looking forward to that as a second side effect to, actually, the reconstruction.
And I think it's working. I feel the difference. I know it's not as hard as it had been, so I know that that's definitely changing the skin, which is good. I have feeling in both breasts, which is great. More in the right right now, but I definitely have feeling in both. I know that that wasn't an option with implants, so, a big plus. Wearing the BRAVA is; I call them the Madonna Domes, because they're heavy, they're big, and you feel like a Viking when you first put them on. You can't do much in the way of wearing them, because they're much bigger than you are. But you get used to it. I wear mine primarily at night. I would put them on around 9 o' clock in the evening and wear it close to 7 o'clock in the morning.
So, I would get my 10 hours primarily in the evening so I was not using them to do anything active during the day. So, that was fine. They're not painful at all. Just, I would say, awkward, but not at all painful. Sometimes the seal breaks, and you have to recreate the seal, and that happens when you're sleeping sometimes if you move in a way that you didn't expect to move: lifting your arm up over your head or something like that. But, no, not at all painful.
There were times when you would just like to go to sleep and say, "You know what? I think tonight I'll take a night off." And I had listened to Dr. Khouri very, very well and knew that it was important to wear the BRAVA at least 10 hours, to pull that tissue; to pull those muscles. And it was always in the back of my mind, and I didn't want to ever affect the results by not having followed through.So, I always wear the BRAVA at least 10 hours. And use the pump for the extra, because you do have the pump to actually give yourself that extra suction that isn't coming just from the machine itself.
After the fact, it's just equally as important, so I am wearing it now, I think, more for molding and shaping, which, when they're putting in the fat they can do all they can but they can't make it shaped like a breast, and that's what the BRAVA does. So, I've noticed that, and since my third procedure I've seen that even more. Very important.