Jeanne: I Had Reconstruction

Jeanne: I Had Reconstruction

When I realized I needed to have a double mastectomy, I couldn't decide whether or not to have reconstruction as well. I talked to a friend of a friend who had opted not to have reconstruction; she was very comfortable with her decision, but she described herself as concave rather than just flat. I didn't think I could handle being concave. At that point, I called SHARE's Helpline.

That was really helpful. I spoke to a Helpline volunteer who had had one breast reconstructed with an implant; I don't remember if it was saline or silicone. I asked her to touch herself on both sides to compare how each felt because I was just trying to get a sense of what it was going to be like. She was comfortable with her prosthesis, and that really helped me to make the decision. So I went for the prosthesis; I chose silicone over saline because I liked the feel of the silicone better (at the doctor's office I had them bring me out one of each).

The surgery went okay. I had mastectomies and had expanders put in at the time of the mastectomies. The expanders are temporary implants with small ports placed inside your body. After the surgery, you visit the doctor every week or two and they put a needle in the port to inflate you. The purpose is to stretch the skin and help your muscles become adjusted for the implant, which will be placed under the muscles. When they do the injection, it's a pain-free procedure because once you have a mastectomy the nerves on the surface are gone.

At one point, though, I was very uncomfortable because it felt like they had inflated me too much. So the next time I went, I asked them to take a little out of that side, and that made me feel better physically and also gave me a sense of control. At one routine visit to the plastic surgeon, I was told I had an infection and had to go the hospital. That really freaked me out because I felt good; I had absolutely no idea that I had an infection. I stayed in the hospital for a week, which was not physically arduous, but it worried me that I had had no idea about the infection.

Eight months after I had the mastectomy, I had permanent silicone implants put in. I'm satisfied with them, but one of the strangest things about them is that since the implants are underneath the pectoral muscles, I get sort of bizarre reminders that they are there. Like when I push open a heavy door and feel my muscles contract: that took me a long time to get used to. On a lighter note – I can wiggle my breasts.

Since I didn't want to have any more surgery, I decided to have nipple tattoos because having no nipples felt really bizarre to me. The tattoos are flat; there's no protrusion, but it gives me the illusion of having nipples and I'm really happy with that.