LUMPECTOMIES, LIPOSUCTION AND WTF
It all started with a lumpectomy, actually two lumpectomies, when the removal of cancer became synonymous with plastic surgery. I tend to be Au Natural girl, I don’t really like the whole plastic surgery, botox, fillers, and all of the other crap we women have been told to do so we look better, younger, prettier, firmer. I have to give the docs credit for making reconstruction a major piece of a double mastectomy; reconstruction conversations go hand in hand and I almost forgot that this part of the surgery was optional.
When I went in for my double mastectomy almost six months ago, I never really gave much thought to all of the extra elements I would be facing simply because I couldn’t imagine my life without breasts. Who implanted that meme in my brain anyway? Was it an organic thought or was the thought much deeper stemming from my sneaking peaks at Playboy magazine of women and their luscious bodies when I was prepubescent. Hugh Hefner died the same day I was headed into my final surgery this past Thursday, September 28th. So the irony of this does not go unnoticed as I read the mass amounts of tributes and criticisms of his controversial existence as provocateur, free speech proponent versus his reputation as an exploiter of women, misogynist and free sex capitalist. I read a piece today in the NYT by Ross Doutat (not a big fan of Hugh) called Speaking Ill of The Hef which criticized the underbelly of the Playboy mansion and Hef’s line leader reputation behind the scenes. This got me thinking about my decision to go forth with reconstruction, a less bunny like term for the alternative-“breast implants.” As I sit here feeling like I got run over by the Patriots linebackers and have the bruises to prove it, I have started to question the auto pilot decision to go through this optional surgery just so I can look like my previous female self.
Dr. Hottie, my plastic surgeon who is the consummate professional and expert in plastic surgery and reconstruction is an artist as well. He was sure to sculpt and measure so my end result would be no less than a work of art. What this equates to is his recommendation to perform a small amount of liposuction during surgery too so that he could take fat from another part of my body and mold and shape it like Silly Putty filling in the holes and pockets that were left from the mastectomy. Every woman I ran into who had some semblance of knowledge about mastectomy/ reconstruction surgery spoke with sisterhood envy that I would be getting “free” liposuction aka belly tuck etc. There is nothing to envy here; trust me. The thing is that my belly was already flat. Remember I pay dearly for this flat belly with my overpriced boutique gym classes that I wouldn’t give up for anything. Dr. M, while looking for areas of my body to lipo determined what I already knew; we would be heading a bit more south for the usable (aka sides of my thighs) fat. Little did I know that exchanging the tissue expanders with new and improved final silicone would be a walk in the park compared to the lipo part of this last surgery. Who knew that removing fat and moving it to a different part of your body in its twisted Twilight Zone way would be so uncomfortable. Remember the old Jane Fonda workouts in the eighties? Remember her “Make it burn” one liners she belted out as she challenged us to do one more crunch in our thong leotards and leg warmers? So picture the decision to finally get off the couch and do your first Jane Fonda VHS tape workout after not exercising for like your whole life. You make it through the 60 minute tape out of breath and feeling burns in parts of your body like you never felt. You go to bed and when you wake up the next day you realize that you have muscles in your abdomen you never knew existed and you can barely get up off the couch.
This is what liposuction feels like. This too shall pass for sure, but where I thought the pain would be it is not, as a matter of fact, my upper body except for the too tight compression bra I am forced to wear for the next two weeks 24/7 is nothing compared to the areas that were liposuctioned. This leaves me to think why the fuck would any woman voluntarily do this to themselves. I would put a photo of the bruising that happens in the areas where the fat was removed, but I don’t want to freak out the women about to go for their final surgery. All of this is normal, all of this I was warned about and since I totally trust my doctor, I don’t care at all about this because I do know this is temporary. But on the coincidental timely passing of Hugh Hefner and my surgery, I am wondering why I put myself through this elective surgery. Was it so I could have the cosmetic replacement that society has told me is inherently defining as female? What defines female? Surely I am not, with the wisdom of retrospect now, shallow enough to think that breasts are what constitute my sole source of femininity. Don’t get me wrong here, I have absolutely no regrets on my decision. I have loved playing dress up Barbie for this past summer. As a matter of fact, my decision was not even a decision to begin with. My choice to move ahead with replacement parts was so automatic, this is what I find myself questioning. The auto decision. For someone who is so non cosmetic non invasive thinking when it comes to my female world, I am actually surprised that I didn’t think about this decision with a little more curiosity before I jumped into the rabbit hole of breast reconstruction.
As I sit here on my third day post surgery waiting for my single bra that God knows the price that was charged to the insurance company to dry (because there is not a chance I want two of these contraptions), I wonder if all of this will ever be over. I mean I have had my back, my breasts, my underarm, my stomach all prodded and poked to keep me whole. I have had radiation, more than I care to have mammograms and MRI and ultrasounds and drains and plastic surgery. I have had nipple sparing cosmetic surgery and fat sucking liposuction. And my breast cancer was caught early twice. For a young woman who had never had surgery except for a lazy eye when I was in second grade, I have surely caught up with it all in the last two years. As I sit here with the weight of the 475 cc in one breast and 495 cc in the other silicone replacement, waiting for my bra to dry, I find myself wondering what was the point to all of this. Is there one? Don’t get me wrong, I am happy I made the decision to march forth with these new bad ass wonder woman centerpieces that now reside on my upper body, but this last surgery has given me a different perspective in this decision. I am guessing I will be thinking about this much more as time and my new breasts march on.