Last week I had the final step in my reconstruction. When I had my mastectomy almost a year ago I decided to go with implants, I did not have enough of my own tissue for a trans flap surgery for two breasts. I also could not imagine going through such a difficult surgery. The mastectomy surgery was enough for me. So luckily I have a fantastic plastic surgeon that specializes in reconstruction and she and I decided to go with my implants. I am very happy with them. I have cleavage for the first time in my life.
After my recovery from the surgery and my chemo was finished I was cleared for the next step. Nipple reconstruction. My surgeon sat down with me and explained my options.
Option #1: To have my surgeon make a small incision of skin and tuck it under and stitch it to make the actual nipple. Along with a tattoo of the areola.
Option # 2: To just have the tattoos done and not the nipples.
These were my thoughts. When you have your nipple made it will always stick out. No matter how warm or cold you are you will have permanent “headlights”. I thought it through very thoroughly, my surgeon suggested to ball up some tissue and stick it onto my breasts and walk around for a day and see what I thought about it. I did not do this; I decided to just go with the tattoos.
Last Friday I went in for my appointment not really knowing what to expect. There is not a whole lot out there on the net about the subject. After I arrived at the breast center I was ushered into a room. I was told to put on a gown and the nurse and my surgeon came in. We talked for a minute or two and then she got out her magic marker and ruler. She told me that there were basically two sizes to go with, one smaller and one a bit larger. She measured out the smaller of the two first. I wanted my tattoos to cover some of my scars so I thought the small ones were not going to cut it. She drew on the larger size, we looked in the mirror and she looked at me from a distance, we adjusted them a bit and then we were good to go. At this time she pulled out what looked like a large paint swatch and we looked at what colors we liked. Who knew! Not me, there are a lot of possible colors. We picked out a color that would look good with my skin tone and she applied a bit of the ink to the outline she had drawn on my chest. It was the perfect color, so we were ready to go.
The nurse turned on a light that was on the wall. It was a purple neon sign in that said tattoo parlor. I thought it was a nice touch. The doctor numbed around the area with a needle, which was the most painful part. In comparison to mastectomy and chemo it was small potatoes. After she was sure I was numb she started to fill in the area with the tattooing pen-needles. Each one took about 25 minutes at the most. She did a darker color in the center to make it more realistic. I asked her if she ever imagined when she was in Medical school that she would be doing tattoos and she smiled and laughed and said absolutly not! While she worked we talked about little things, everyday things that woman talk about. She is so great and has always made me feel comfortable. Not making me feel like I am just another body or another pair of breasts.
After she finished we talked about how to care for them when I got home, how long I would need to keep bandages on then and that I needed to keep them moist so they did not scab. I was to expect a little bruising but that was it.
It was a really great experience and I am very happy with the results. I did bruise a bit, but not as much as I thought I would. I had to keep bandages on them for 4 days. I feel really good about the results and feel a bit more whole now. It is a strange thing to look at your self in the mirror and just see scars. Now I do not have to do that anymore. I am really happy about that. In my experience talking to people about breast cancer and reconstruction, not many people realize that along with your breast tissue you also loose your nipples.
I hope this post helps anyone that is wondering about this subject. If you have any questions please feel free to ask.