Read about these women’s experiences with breast prostheses and reconstruction.
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When I got my prosthesis nine years ago, I thought it was best to wear it for a while and to consider other options later on.
I wore the prosthesis for about three years before I looked into reconstruction options. I talked to people who’d had a reconstruction and considered the risk of infection, cost, recovery time and how it would look if I lost or gained weight. I decided I was happy to continue wearing a prosthesis.
I remember my first fitting experience like it was yesterday. I still get emotional thinking about it now. The fitter’s manner really helped to set me at ease. I can remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, “I’m back”. The prosthesis helped me feel and look like my old self.
I didn’t take anyone to the fitting, and I hadn’t told my husband I was going. When I got home he said, “What happened to you today?” My whole demeanour had changed.
Over the years I’ve worn many different types of prostheses. In that time the technology has changed and they are now cooler and lighter and look and feel a lot more natural.
I wear my prosthesis in a pocketed bra and I forget I have it on. Wearing a properly fitting bra really helps.
These days there’s a good range of bras available – they’ve come a very long way. Nine years ago the bras were mostly nude and white, and now you can buy them in pretty much any colour and style, even halter-neck. I still wear the same style of clothing I previously wore.
Wearing the prosthesis has definitely helped me with my healing and recovery after my breast cancer diagnosis.
I had to decide how I wanted to recreate my breasts before my bilateral mastectomy. I knew I didn’t want to have further surgery as I felt I had been through enough.
I decided on an implant reconstruction using the expander process. This was done at the time of the mastectomy. Every three weeks I had injections with saline to expand the skin. The injections didn’t hurt because there were no nerves anymore.
I had to have chemotherapy after the bilateral mastectomy so I had to wait five months after chemotherapy before finishing the reconstruction. And then I had to have more surgery to put the silicone implant in.
I was very upset after the reconstruction. I had discussed size with the surgeon and asked to see samples, but I wasn’t able to see them. Before the mastectomy I was a D cup, but after the reconstruction I was an A cup.
The surgeon redid the reconstruction and I still wasn’t happy but that’s the way it is now. After the surgery I had a nipple tattoo.
I haven’t had any side effects after the reconstruction. At one stage it looked a little flatter in one breast and I was sent to check the implants weren’t leaking. I really don’t need to wear a bra anymore, just crop tops sometimes. I also tend to wear scarves around my shoulders. It looks like I have breasts, but I don’t. I am very comfortable with the decision. My breasts feel comfortable.
You must tell the surgeon what type of breasts you want. You can write your own story now. You can be in charge because you’ll have these breasts forever.
I delayed having a reconstruction for four years because I wanted to see if the cancer came back. I didn’t really want to have to go through such an enormous operation for nothing.
Because I’d had extensive radiation therapy to the chest area, I was only suitable for a flap reconstruction. I had a nipple reconstruction quite a long time after the TRAM flap. Twelve months after the nipple reconstruction, I had it tattooed.
My reconstructed breast is absolutely amazing. It’s very symmetrical and even. The scars are unsightly, especially on the donor site. The scar on the new breast mound is not nice. My skin was compromised badly by the radiation therapy so there was never going to be a good outcome.
While I’ve had many side effects and numerous operations on the donor site, the reconstruction itself was a success.
A/Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and Clinical Associate Professor, University of Sydney, NSW; Jo Cockwill, Consumer;
Suzanne Elliott, Consumer; Bronwyn Flanagan, Breast Care Nurse, Brightways, Cabrini Hospital, VIC; Maina Gordon, Consumer; Gillian Horton, Owner and Corsetry Specialist, Colleen’s Post-Mastectomy Connection, ACT; Kerry Nash, Sales and Marketing Manager, Amoena Australia, NSW; A/Prof Kerry Sherman, Macquarie University and Westmead Breast Cancer Institute, NSW. We are grateful to Amoena Australia Pty Ltd for supplying the breast form images, which appear on pages 14 -16. The breast reconstruction images on pages 37, 45, 48, 51 have been reproduced with permission from Breast Cancer: Taking Control, breastcancertakingcontrol.com © Boycare Publishing 2010.
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