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 …