I know how you are feeling right now.
Why do I even have to be researching this?
I want this nightmare to end!
You are not alone. I know exactly all of the emotions surging through your body.
I hope this will answer some of your questions, by my own experience…
I did it: A tramsflap–and a breast implant. I know both.
Because I am a naturalist and did not want a plastic bag filled with silicone stuffed in my chest to represent a breast– I wanted my own tissue, I was firm I would get a trans-rectus abdominis muscle reconstruction!
I made the decision hastily and in shock of the cancer diagnosis. I had an aunt who did it, so I leaned on her experience. I was on the border for being able to do it because I am thin. But I had a new, young plastic surgeon who, I think wanted to prove something, pushed me to it because I had strong opinions about man-made substances in my body. But I would get the entire menu in the coming months and years anyway, so so much for the man-made mindset!
And now in hind site I wish I did not choose a tramsflap.
I have both; a tramsflap, and an implant. I had to have my other breast removed, later, when I found out I had the BrCA2 gene.
What is it? Trans–rectus abdominis muscle (TRAM)
In English, it is taking muscle from your stomach and threading it through your body to recreate breast tissue. You can only reconstruct one breast using this method.
Here is what I wish I knew.
* A mastectomy with reconstructive surgical implants is less involved, takes less time to heal, and is not as traumatic and stressful to your body, and soul as a tramsflap. (with no complications) Now saying that, a mastectomy of any kind is a big deal! There is loss and shock and so many other emotions which are going on, so I am not discounting all that. But it is faster and easier to heal with implants!
* I did not know that they leave a mesh screen in your stomach to hold all your organs in place. After the muscle is removed, something has to hold them in. You can feel the tightness of it all the time. When I found out I had to have my ovaries removed, later, it became a problem. I couldn’t have a regular, easier laproscopic surgery, because they could not get through the mesh. They had to cut the mesh and do extra things to hold it back together. I had to have a specialist come in for it. I got charged for that! And I have a much larger scar, belly button down. (Well if you could call it a bb)
* The healing process for a tramsflap, for me was beyond long, laborious, and icky. It had to heal from the inside out and I had a gaping, oozing opening in my stomach and a new breast that was terrifying, along with the fact that after it healed I would have to face chemo and radiation and who knows what else. It took months to heal. It was really traumatic! This was the beginning of my body turning into a crazy quilt.
*My doctor did an amazing job with the TF reconstruction. I have a new beautiful breast, and a circle for nipple, from my skin. (Which after 7 surgeries, I decided to wait on the nipple reconstruction–I’m weary) My incision is below my breast so you can’t see it. It is perfect and is my own flesh. But it feels heavier, and is larger than the breast I had before which I didn’t want. Men seem to think we want bigger, but I specifically did not! It always feels…achy and different, and I constantly worry about it. It feels like a big glob of skin is glued to my chest wall, hanging there.My other breast with the implant, I don’t really notice and it does not feel tight or heavy.
* I was absolutely shocked, after I took off the stomach bandage for the first time, and I saw my first incision that went literally from hip to hip completely across my entire body. It looked like I had been sliced in half in a sword fight! The doctors said, “You got a tummy tuck!” But for the rest of my life I will feel like I have a tight rubber band around my stomach. And when the waste band of pants stay on it too long, it becomes very uncomfortable. My scar is thick and it is deep, and it is a very harsh reminder of a very dark time. It is hard to look at it, and to be honest, it bugs me along with the mesh tightning.
*You can feel your muscle threaded up through your stomach, up to your breast. You get used to it, but it still feels very strange and it gets achy.
* Your body has to compensate for the loss of muscle tissue in your stomach. You should not lift things too heavy because your lower back muscles don’t have the help from the front tummy muscles to help them. I feel weaker in my stomach and feel a lot of weakening in my back. What will I do when I have to lift grandbabies in my future?
* When I had my mastectomy on the other side, my healing process was so minimal, I couldn’t believe it. (My doctor did another amazing job) That is when I realized I had made a BIG mistake with my decision!
You get a temporary saline implant, somewhat like a balloon, when you have your mastectomy. You go to the office after a couple of weeks to have it filled up to the size you want with saline to stretch the skin slightly, then when you have your size, you have an additional shorter surgery (mine was done in his office) to put the real silicone actual-size silicone implant in later. It is nothing like the pain and time recuperating with the tramsflap.
In fact it is only a few days, rather than a few months. My other breast looks beautiful too. But if I would have known how much easier it is, I would have had them both done at the same time, and not have any of the life-changing things I have to live with after my tramsflap.
*If you are one of those people who will worry the rest of your life about the other breast, after getting one mastectomy, my advise is to get them both off at the same time and don’t worry about the other one getting cancer. It will be so much easier and a relief in the long hall. (That is a relative term) But doing it separately and so differently, as I did, has really taken a tole on my body and spirit! I am reminded everyday.
*I feel blessed to be alive to write this to you. I have had so many doctors, nurses and medical staff who have worked laboriously in my behalf. But as you navigate your way through this process, my advice to you is to choose things which are less invasive to your body which contribute to your healing, well being and feeling most like yourself. My short term decision about a tramsflap wasn’t based on any knowledge. I wish I would have read this blog post before I made my decision! But I have two beautiful breasts, and I am proud to be alive and a survivor!
God Bless you and keep you…
If you have any questions about this please feel free to ask. I am happy to answer anything from my experience.