My name is Annie and I am 60 years old and about to start my DIEP Flap Journey,
My younger sister had breast cancer 12 years ago and was tested for the BRCA1 and BRAC2 gene and was negative. We were all excited about that. Well last year the oncologist called her and said that there was a new gene, PALB2 and wanted her to be tested for it. She was positive so we all began the process of testing. Brothers and Sisters. So far all that have been tested are positive. Odds are 50% but we seem to be at 100% so far.
Decisions needed to be made and suggestions were to be tested every 3 months, rotating with an MRI and Mammograms or have a Prophylactic Double Mastectomy. Since my odds are 1 in 3, the thought of having tests done 4 times a year was not something I was looking forward to. I have very dense breasts and always get the letter afterward stating that because of the density of my breasts it is hard to actually get a great result from the scans.
My husband and I made an appointment with the Breast Surgeon at TX Oncology SW Ft Worth, Dr Jennifer Snow. While waiting for the appointment we were sitting in the waiting area and watched as women came in for their chemo and other treatments and that actually helped us make the decision. I did not want to be older than I am right now and having to go through Chemo and surgery. Our decision was made before even talking to Dr. Snow.
Dr. Snow was wonderful in her exam and discussion of the options I have for the procedure. She explained them very well and after an exam she told me about the DIEP flap procedure. I have enough skin and tissue (fat) to do the procedure. She gave me a brochure from one of the surgeons here in Ft. Worth but said to do research for myself also. I did not want to have implants and have to have them replaced at a later time. I want to be finished with the reconstruction within a reasonable amount of time.
I called a friend who is a CRNA and talked to her about the choices I have in Ft Worth. I told her that they recommended Dr. Nabil Habash (http://txdiepflap.com) and she said that she knows him. She has known him for quite awhile and likes his demeanor and ability. I did some more research on him and found out that he has been doing this procedure for quite awhile with a less than 1% failure rate. I probably read everything about DIEP flap surgeons in the State of TX and spent many nights searching as many blogs and stories I could find. After much soul searching I decided to call Dr. Habash’s office and make an appointment
I was able to get an appointment with him the next week and he is wonderful. He tried to explain the other procedures to me but I had already watched a 2-hour video of an actual DIEP flap surgery and was positive that I wanted to go this route. He examined my breasts and tummy to make sure that I was a good candidate for the DIEP Flap procedure and he said that I had plenty of tissue to make me the same size I am now, a 40DD. I asked to be made smaller. As a man I do not think he understood why but I am tired of being so big. He is going to make them smaller and back to the beginning of the race or not so close to the end of the race.
I am scheduled for surgery for Oct 31, 2016. I chose to wait until then so I could be done with my busy season at work. We do a lot of physical work in Sept and Oct and did not want to stick my Company with accounts that needed work done. My job is slow during the months of Nov, Dec and Jan so that will give me 3 months to be able to recover and be able to lift 50 lb. again.
I have to loose 15 lbs. by then also. I have lost 5 but it has been hard. The work I do puts on muscle during this time of year. I will add to this more as I think of things and post pre op pictures before the surgery.
Since this blog goes from last post first you might see the wound care and think that it happens to everyone. Most people heal without any trouble but some, like me, do have trouble because of age or skin problems. Mine was because of being so big and wanting to reduce my size. Please do not be discouraged by the pictures because as of 3/17/17 everything is completely healed and the scar should be gone after stage 2. So completely satisfied with my results.
It has been over 4 years since my surgery and I am still pleased with the results. I have been able to loose almost all of the weight that I wanted to and my girls still look good. They are not as high and tight as they once were so they even look more natural. The scars have faded considerably and the only thing I think I am going to do is have the tattoos redone to make them a little bigger. That would cover the circle scar around them. I have joined the group PALB2 warriors on Facebook and let people know about my blog. I do not receive any compensation for anything that I say here and wanted people to know that anything I say is just my opinion.
I will post pictures when I get the new tattoos and loose the final 10 lbs. Anyone considering this type of surgery can hopefully read this and realize that this surgery has improved so much in the 4.5 years since I had it. Many thoughts and prayers to everyone going through the process of deciding what to do with their positive PALB2 diagnosis.
I can not believe that it has been a year since my initial surgery. This year has gone by so fast. From being scared about this surgery, and now actually wishing I had known about the PALB2 gene earlier, I am so pleased with the results. Just knowing that my chances of breast cancer are so much lower and not having to have 4 exams a year gives me a peace of mind that I never knew could happen.
I would like to thank my Doctors, Dr. Atilli (Oncologist), Dr. Jennifer Snow (breast surgeon) and especially Dr. Nabil Habash (DIEP Flap Reconstruction Surgeon). They all have been so wonderful during this whole process.
I am so pleased with the results. I am posting before and after pictures below and the difference is amazing. I don’t miss my original breasts or big tummy at all. My new girls are my breasts now and I could not be happier.
I see that people do read my blog, but not very many ask questions. I will gladly answer any question about this surgery, from a patients perspective only.
There are a few things and suggestions that I have learned from trial and error about healing from this surgery.
Try to strengthen your CORE before surgery. It helps with being able to get out of bed. You can not use your arms at first so a strong CORE helps.
Stay positive always. Your body will heal and everyone heals differently and at a different time table.
Bring clothes to the hospital that can be pulled up rather than down. Your arms do not move easily and while pulling a shirt up (elastic neck) your arms can just stay by your side and not move much. Loose stretch pants are the best while healing.
Bring a lanyard with a velcro loop for all of the drains and Doppler Machine wires. You can wind them up and put the loop around them. Hanging them from your neck is so much easier on you. You will use this many times while healing with drains and other machine wires.
There are many sports bras that can be bought at a cheaper price and work very well. Front zippers were the best for me.
Wear a very thin and tight T Shirt, (with short sleeves and no pockets) under your support bras. This keeps the edges of the bra from rubbing and hurting your very tender skin.
There are many long line compression briefs that are very inexpensive you can purchase at ordinary stores. (great for 2nd stage lipo recovery)
If your Dr allows, stretch your arms. They will be very tight and raising them overhead is painful and it needs to be stretched.
All wounds will heal. Some are very lucky to not have to do wound care, but it will all heal and the scars are not that bad.
Love your new breasts and body. They are not perfect, but most of us did not start out with perfect breasts and body.
Well I am winding down this blog. I sure hope that it helps some people in making this decision and through their healing journey. I will post additional pictures if I am able to loose the last 20 pounds that I have. I am curious how weight loss will affect my new breasts.
Before and after pictures are below. If these kinds of pictures bother you please do not view.
I am so sorry that I have not kept up with my blog. As time goes by I seem to forget that I am still healing. As of today all of my incisions are now closed. It has been a long summer waiting for them to heal. No pool, no lake, so my summer has been a different one for me.
One thing that I have realized is that if my stitches are too close to the surface skin then my body does not like it. That is why my incisions did not heal. Once the troublesome stitch was removed they healed up faster. I am going to post pictures in the order of healing. If you do not want to see the time line of healing then please just close this page.
I have concentrated so much on wound recovery I have not talked about the rest of the surgery. I do not know why someone would have lipo done. The recovery hurts so bad. It hurts to remove the compression garment, and to even touch the skin. You have to rub it daily with lotion to help with swelling and to disperse the remaining fat into he tunnels that had fat removed.
I know that it is part of the whole surgery but I did not have much pain with the actual DIEP Flap part. The pain is better now. At least I do not cry when I have to rub it. Sounds funny coming from me since I have such a high pain tolerance.
I am please with the results and I am sure in a couple of months when all of the swelling is gone it will look even better.
No pictures for today. Not much difference in the wounds today.
Another day has passed an no new wounds. The big one is ever so slowly healing. The flap above it is completely gone on the big wound. While I was cleaning it I noticed something on the bottom of the wound. Lo and behold a long piece of stitching used to close the interior part of my incision. I carefully cut it and hopefully now it will do better. Maybe I should have been a surgeon.
I received a call from Sarah, Dr Habash’s PA and she said to come by the office so she can look at the wounds.
Just got back from the Dr and she said that it was a stitch on the small hole. She removed it and it should be better quickly. Now the other hole is another story. She gave me a silver kind of gauze to cut and put into the hole and hopefully it will be better soon.
Well I know now that my body does not like dissolvable stitches. I have another small hole on my right breast and I think it is a stitch. I am sending a picture of the big hole to Dr Habash’s PA and see what she says. Slow healing sucks