My appointment with the plastic surgeon was at 9am and involved the high-level logistics of offloading the girls and driving for an hour in rush hour traffic. Normally at this time, Ted and I are waiting for caffeine to do its thing and are thinking about the day ahead, but on Thursday we found ourselves in the highly stylised clinician’s rooms, floundering around amongst the throne-like designer chairs trying to stop Theo from repeatedly smashing his toy truck into the glass table. I didn’t know whether to gasp or giggle.
Fortunately as soon as I met Dr. Moko, any sense that I was a stranger in a strange land melted. She has a serene, assuring and non-conceited manner and I knew instantly I would be happy to have her work on me. We had a brief talk before I sat on a bed and had callipers taken to my breasts and then my stomach.
I had wanted to have what’s called a TRAM fat procedure whereby they take the fat from your abdomen and use it to make new breasts whilst keeping it attached to the muscle. The operation takes longer than implants but your body is likely to recover sooner because it’s not being asked to accept a foreign object. Plus it has a more natural appearance and if you lose/gain weight, so do the breasts. It is very advanced technology. But I am not eligible. Why? Because I am too lean. Too lean! FFS! Talk about the one time in your life you don’t want to hear that. “I could only make one, small breast.” said the good doctor.
So I have to have implants. When she handed me examples of the different sizes and shapes you can have put in I did have a proper out of body experience “Why are we having this conversation? How did I get here?” before crashing back into the room and tuning into the $3 per minute expert.
I need to have the procedure done in a series of stages. During stage one – i.e when the mastectomy is performed – I’ll have two empty bladders inserted under the skin, each with a tiny magnet in it. I’ll go into the rooms each week when Dr M will pull the bladder up using another magnet, then a small amount of saline gets injected. Your skin adjusts to the new size each time and when you’re as big as you want to go (this is limited, the more you stretch the skin beyond its natural dimensions, the more likely you’ll face complications), a pair of prosthesis of identical size are selected and I’ll have another surgery to implant them.
That I’d have to go home from the hospital with an entirely flat chest swathed in a bandage made me really upset (and brought to mind Hillary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry). I was also dismayed at having to go under the knife not once, but twice.
But the major grief for me is… I will lose all sensation for good. Essentially paralysed. The funbags will become inert. While everything else, the ambiguous cancer, the surgeries, the recovery, revisiting grief for my mum and the logistical nightmares can essentially be put in a box labelled “Enormous (but manageable) pain in the arse” this loss is real and accounts for a lot of the thrashing about I’ve been doing. It is of course a very real loss for Ted too, although he will find some consolation in the falsies, no doubt.
It’s grief, pure and simple. But will it be worth it? Hell, yes.