The second time I met Dr. Plastic, before my mastectomy, he had a long red gash on his forehead. He laughed saying that he had forgotten to remove his glasses from the front of his shirt when he pulled it over his head and the glasses cut into his forehead. This made Dr. Plastic a little more human to me. Over the past two years under his care I have come to understand just how eccentric he is. My oncologist described him as a little crazy but a genius. I am not sure I would go as far as to call him genius since he did pop my expander and also put in an implant one size too big–but one thing is certain, the man can sew human skin so as a scar is barely visible.
Yesterday, I lay in pre-op waiting for my final re-construction surgery, my husband, Mark, and best friend, Gina, were at my side. My IV was in place, I had met with 2 anesthesiologists –one great, the other looked like she’d been sampling a little too much of her own anesthesia, 3 nurses and an orderly. According to hospital protocol, every person that enters the patients curtained area must ask three questions 1) What is your name 2) What is your date of birth, and 3) What are you having done today. I had no problem answering the first two, but as you all may now know about my aversion to certain words, I stumbled on number 3 every time. “Frances Kolenik, 2.13.63, ummm….nipple reconstruction.” Nobody but me flinched at the word–I really need to grow up.
The last person I met with was Dr. Plastic himself. He stumbled into my area, his head covered in white spiky hair still moist from his recent shower. I noted how much his hair had thinned in the two years I have been under his care. He had definitely aged through my cancer journey…I hoped that I hadn’t aged quite as rapidly as he. The second thing I noticed was a red gash that ran down the length of his forehead.
“Are you kidding me?” I said. Gina laughed out loud at this noticing it at the same time.
“Tell me you didn’t do it again.”
Dr. Plastic looked puzzled.
“Your forehead, the glasses? Again?”
“Oh now I am embarrased,” he said, touching the red line, “You remembered from last time? Well, what can I say, I was rushing?”
“This doesn’t bode too well, for me,” I said, thinking that stumbling and bumbling and rushing might cause my nipple to be placed somewhere around my bellybutton.
Dr. Plastic was insulted, “That’s ok, I am not doing the surgery, she is,” he pointed somewhere across the room to someone that was out of my sightline.
“NO! Just kidding. I want you to do it.”
“Ha, see?” he said. “Don’t worry.”
I actually have no way of knowing if he actually did the surgery or handed it off like they do on Grey’s Anatomy to an intern in the OR. Either way it’s fine. Somehow I totally trust this bumbling, eccentric genius. I trust him enough to sit there while he writes all over me in sharpie and draws the exact spot he will operate so I will be even with the other side. When he steps back to look at me and measure the distance with his artists eye and then calls Gina over to get her opinion I realize that I have lost every semblance of modesty that might have been left over after childbirth. My nipple has become public domain…as has my whole chest actually.
Gina noticed something else about Dr. Plastic. I don’t remember this because maybe they had already started the drugs, but according to Gina, Dr. Plastic tucked me back into bed and fixed my hair under the shower curtain they make you wear. It must be this gentle, caring side of Dr. Plastic that makes him so good at what he does. I believe he really cares about his patients and wants them to be happy. As a plastic surgeon, he is not dealing with life and death but instead deals with egos and peoples feelings of self-esteem which is so important after someone has lost a body part to cancer. He understands the awkwardness and pain that accompanies plastic surgery, and that is why he is a genius — oh, and man can he sew up skin!
Compared to my other surgeries, this was a piece of cake. No drains or heavy pain medications, just a few stitches and feeling tired from the anesthesia. Dr. Plastic gave me the go-ahead to run by next Tuesday (which means I will run Monday). Thankfully I am coming to the end of this whole fiasco. My Barbie Boob is now history, leaving me only to meet with the tattoo lady, and in then in two weeks I will have my port removed.
Then, and only then, I will finally begin to put this all behind me. To those of you out there just beginning or in the middle of treatment and reconstruction please know that there will be a day that you can finally say –, “Ok–I am done!”.