My answer was “yes, bring her in…”
This was my most recent visit with my breast surgeon, Dr. P. It was a quick check-up as I am not due for another MRI until March.
She did a physical exam and was spending more time on my left side (the side my cancer was on). I was getting a little worried and then
“I do not feel anything – everything is feels great”.
“Can you believe that it has been 33 months since your diagnosis?” “Your hair is so long and you do not look 47.”
I love my doctor!!!
Then she asked if one of her new nurses could some in to see my reconstruction. The nurse is in the operating room with Dr. P, but she is my breast surgeon so her nurse had not seen many reconstructions.
The nurse came in almost embarrassed –
but I was not embarrassed.
I think I am more proud of my “new” breasts than I was of my old breasts.
Do I miss my old breasts?
Sure I do…
but if you choose to have reconstruction, I cannot tell you what having a good reconstruction can do for your self-esteem.
The reason that I am writing about this is because finding the right plastic surgeon was not that easy for me. Dr. K was recommended by my breast surgeon as “the best”. When I was first diagnosed my surgery was scheduled for 13 days later. Not much time to do any research on anything, let along plastic surgeons. When I first met with Dr. K – he was great, he showed me photos of reconstruction, and we talked about saline vs. silicone. We spoke about the question of radiation and how that would change my reconstruction of I needed radiation. The only thing Dr. K did not speak about was the cost of reconstruction. When I finished the appointment and the secretary asked how I would like to pay the $2000.00 deposit – I lost it. “How much was this all going to cost? She did not know. Dr. K had just recently stopped being a preferred provider of any insurance. The reimbursement rates for breast reconstruction are pretty meager. In the world of plastic surgery – many, if not most procedures are elective. I also think if you are a good surgeon you have the prerogative to not have to accept insurance. I left the office that day in tears.
When I finally got it together I called back and asked for a break-down of the costs:
I was informed I was getting the Dr. P rate of…
Stage 1 – Expanders in $5700.00
Stage 2 – Expander’s out/silicone implants in $5700.00
Stage 3 – Nipple reconstruction $1000.00
Stage 4 – Tattoos $750.00
My insurance at the time was going to pay about $1500.00 of the Stage 1 procedure and could not tell me how much they would pay for the Stage 2.
My treatment plans changed over the next few days and the surgeries were cancelled in favor of neo-adjuvant chemotherapy. This also bought me some time to look for other plastic surgeons. I met with 2 other surgeons; another was not a preferred provider either. She had not performed that many reconstructions and had no photos of past patients to show. The last surgeon that I saw had the most horrible beside manner that I ever experienced. He was not positive at all. He was reluctant to show me any photos of past patients and when he did I understood why. The reconstructions were terrible, lopsided; I could not even tell if he had done the nipple reconstruction in some cases. I left that day telling him he was “Dr. Doom” and that there was no way he was cutting into my body.
On another visit with my oncologist I discussed the problems with the various surgeons. He told me if it was his wife he would only use Dr. K. We talked about the cost and the fact that hopefully I will have these breasts for quite a long while, but the cost was still on my mind.
After much thought, I decided that I would use Dr. K. We would figure out how to pay for it. He did offer payment plans and there was some time in between procedures. My insurances did end up paying more than I was previously quoted. The surgeries occurred in 2 different calendar years and because of some job changes the providers were different also. I only paid a few thousand dollars out of pocket when all was said and done.
If you decide reconstruction is right for you, find the best doctor that you can afford, ask about the various types of reconstruction and what is right for your body; ask to see photos of their past patients.
If you have questions along the way… we at MotherswithCancer are here to help …
AS I am just 5 days out of my reconstruction surgery myself, this post seems very timely. I am so happy that I had the recon and although I am still healing and everything is a little swollen I fell 100% better than I did before. I had been living with a faulty expander for a year and now I can finally look down and see my breast as close to normal again.
It is so important to love your doctor at each phase of this. Much better to wait and get the right one than worry about someone hacking at your body without concern or qualifications.
Insurance is definitely an issue. I made sure my husband contacted our insurance before the surgery to guarantee coverage. What I am not so sure about is whether or not the will pay for the lift I got to the other side at the same time. But I kind of said –oh well, I am doing it anyway…let the insurance people chase me down…if I have to pay them 10 dollars a week, it will be worth my own feeling of wholeness that this surgery allowed me to feel.
I think there is some provision that the insurance companies have to pay for the other side – the question is always what they consider the “allowable amount”.
Isn’t it nice to finally have the expanders removed!! I hope you heal fast.
Great post! My mastectomy was less than a week after my diagnosis AND we had no idea what we were going to do about moving or staying where we were or whatever. So I didn’t have my reconstruction until 20 months after. I love my PS and what a difference that can make! Of course, he’s part of a teaching hospital so all my appointments with him were full of students. For the longest time I had the strangest urge to flash my boobs to anyone in a lab coat!
Isn’t it funny how unashamed we are of the new girls? It’s like they’re not really a part of us. I’ll never forget the day I sat getting chemo and this wonderful young lady breezed in for her port flush. She couldn’t have been more than 30.
She sat down next to me and within 5 minutes I knew she’d recently finished her reconstruction (all but the nipples). She offered to show them to me. Being rather bold my own self I asked if I could take a picture on my camera phone for Daddy-O since reconstruction had been the hot topic around our house & both of us were wondering what to expect. She was quite gracious and said yes.
When the nurse came in for her flush she found her on her knees in front of my chemo chair with her sweater pulled up and me in mid-photo. Imagine her surprise! Ha!
That is a funny story. I too have gone into the ladies room to show my friends, but not out in public…yet!!!
Great article! Thank you for putting it together. Potential patients will be better served going with a service like The Patients Advantage (www.ThePatientsAdvantage.com). It’s a great way to find the best surgeons and it does not cost anything. I found them when searching for breast reconstruction surgeons. Check them out.
Informative and entertaining. I’ve added your blog to my “reading material.” Keep me updated!