with Latismuss Dorsi
started on August 16th 2004. I made my annual appointment for my
mammogram. Something I had been doing for 10 years. Each
report was always normal except for a few fibroid cysts. When the
tech told me she needed a couple of more films I did not think
anything was out of the ordinary.
A week later I
received a letter saying that my mammogram can back with uncertain
results and I was to notify my physician to follow up on the
proceedings. Still I was not concerned, remembering a few years back
having an ultra sound resulting in fibroid cysts. I called my OB-GYN;
they also had received the results and told me to make an
appointment at the Breast Center for an ultrasound.
I made my
appointment for a week later. Now I am a little concerned. Talked to
a few co-workers, was assured not to worry. Some had had the
same results and it was nothing.
found a small area at 1 o’clock to be round and solid. I had a
consultation with the radiologist and was told to contact a Breast
Surgeon for a follow up. I then called my OB-GYN and she referred me
to Dr. Shelly Nukemera. She and her partner Dr. Christy Borne
operated the office, Breast Care. I did some research and
found both of them to be very well known in Arizona and their skills
were impeccable. I met with her in a few days for a consultation and
the result was to have a needle biopsy, which was schedule for
took about 40 minutes. There was a small amount of discomfort,
was told to keep ice on the site for the first 24 hours. At
the time of the biopsy the physician showed me the area of the lump.
I would have never found or felt the lump on my own.
I received a call from Dr. Nukemera. She informed me that my biopsy
came back positive for Breast Cancer. The tumor size was
0.7 cm, grade 1, Estrogen and progesterone positive, stage 1
Ductal carcinoma in situ cribriform type. I went
numb. The first thing I asked her was “Am I going to die”. She
reassured me that it was in the very early stages and was very
small. With treatment it was curable. With a sigh of relief she told
me I had to make a decision whether to have a lumpectomy which I was
a candidate for or the option to have a mastectomy. I was to make an
appointment to go over my options, procedures and treatments. She
urged me to bring my family so they would be aware of all the
circumstances involved and to answer any questions that may come up.
daughter, son and I met with Dr. Nukemera on September 24.
She went over all of my options, the treatments I would be
receiving, depending on the outcome of the surgery. My hardest
decision was the options of having a mastectomy or a lumpectomy.
With the lumpectomy I would be receiving Radiation every day for 2
weeks, and a chance I may have Chemo if the lymph nodes were not
clear. The chance of recurrence had a bigger percentage. With the
mastectomy, I would not have to worry everyday if the cancer will
return, even though there is a slight chance. If all nodes were
clear and margins were clear, my treatment would only be medication
for 5 years. I opt for the mastectomy with immediate
reconstruction with a tissue expander followed by an implant.
I wanted it gone. I again was reassured that I was going to get
through this and the outcome was excellent. Having my family with me
made it so much easier to accept. They were so supportive on my
decision. They wanted me to do what was best for me.
month was like a blur. Test, ultrasounds, blood work,
consultations with my Plastic Surgeon, who assured me she would
become my best friend, support talks for the Cancer society. The
date was set for November 2, 2004. Both of the surgeons had to
correspond to their schedules at the same time. Also my body
was having with drawls from stopping my HRT. Since I was positive
for Estrogen and Progesterone I had to stop immediately. Being
positive makes the cancers grow faster and HRT produces both
Estrogen and Progesterone. On top of all the stress, I was not
able to sleep, hot flashed, night sweats and irritability also
returned. I was not a happy camper.
2004, election day - I got to the center at 6:00am, I was having a
Sentinel Node biopsy during surgery and had to do the preparations
for the procedure. A blue dye is injected and goes to the lymph
nodes closest to the breast area. The nodes are removed and
tested for Cancer. I went under the knife at 12:30 pm. I was amused
that I had to take a pregnancy test. The surgical center was
fabulous. I was given the best treatment; they even had a television
at my bedside to watch.
took about 3 hours. I remember being taken to my room, my family was
there, told me everything went well. My surgeon came in and the
first thing I asked was “were the lymph nodes clear?” She told me
all nodes were clear from the Sentinel Node. Even though I was still
pretty out of it I remember a sense of peace. I was pretty much in
and out of it for the rest of the day and night. I kept watching the
TV to see who had become our next president. I was able to get up
and use the bathroom later in the evening and go for a short walk.
Pain was minimal with medication.
At 7:00am the
next morning my surgeon came in and I was told I would be released
as soon as my Plastic surgeon came to see me and she also released me. I could
not believe I was able to go home so soon. Mentally I was not ready,
I was having a hard time accepting that I had lost my breast, I was
not a complete woman and Breast Cancer was now a part of me. My Plastic
came in and I told her how I was feeling, she told the staff to call
the insurance company and see if I could stay another day. The
response was, if all vital signs were normal, I was to be release.
They were all so sympathetic, but beyond their control. I was
released and home by 11:00am.
recovery was a different story. I am a very strong and
stubborn woman. I told myself this was not going to take
me down. My recovery was to be from 6-8 weeks. Two
weeks after my surgery I was preparing Thanksgiving
dinner, going to my Plastic Surgeon for fills in the expander and
starting my Christmas shopping, I was back to my normal lifestyle
except for working. My Mother had come down to help, but I felt I
needed to entertain her as our guest. Needless to say I did not get
the rest and healing during this time. I went back to work at the 6
week mark. I am in the culinary field, which includes heavy
lifting, reaching, pushing and pulling. All things I was limited to
With the holidays, work and the fills every week, it finally took a toll on me.
I had one area along the incision that would not close and was inflamed. My
Plastic Surgeon had stopped the fillings 2 weeks before hoping the area would
heal and close. I got up one morning and after my shower I noticed that I had
drainage. I called my Plastic Surgeon and she told me to take it easy for the
weekend and to see her on Monday. I called off work and laid low, the
drainage did not stop and my Monday I had a hole the size of a dime. My Plastic
one look and said I had to have the expander removed. The hole was
showing the expander and muscle.
January 17th 2005 I went in for my second surgery to
have the expander removed. The recovery process was long
I had to put medication on the incision and the hole
took forever to close. For over 2 months I had to use a
syringe and insert peroxide/water solution to keep the
area clean. Finally by April I was all healed. My
Plastic Surgeon told me I had
to wait 6 months for the tissue to repair before I could start over
again. I began to fill like my old self again.
Fast forward to September 2005. Scheduled for
surgery my third, to reinsert the expander. In and
out in 4 hours. Took 4 weeks off work. Two weeks
after surgery, got an infection in the surgery site. Put
on antibiotics and the plastic Surgeon put off fillings did not want to do any damage
to the incision. Went on with life as usual. Feeling great healing
January 2006 - Plastic Surgeon finally said she could start the fillings again.
Went every week for 2 months. During this time work was beginning to be
very stressful. Working many hours with few days off. By the end of March
I was not feeling well. Tired, achy from the expander and running a fever. After
a few weeks I was not better. Plastic Surgeon sent me to a Disease Specialist. He said
he believed I was suffering trauma from over activity to the
expander and it was causing the tissue to wear away resulting the
expander rubbing on the incision and what skin I had. I guess you
can say it was job related. Result was my fourth surgery to remove
the expander again. I was so disappointed. I had only one more fill
to complete the process. My PS told me if she felt the implant
would take she would put it in, but there was no guarantee. I
woke up without the implant. I had no healthy tissue left, so
the implant would not hold up.
appointment with PS was given options. Discontinue the
reconstruction or do a different procedure with the Latissimus Dorsi
Flap. Under one condition. I had to refrain from working during the
process. I am not a quitter. I had come this far and I wanted
to complete the reconstruction no matter what I had to do. I
knew that in the summer of 2007 the resort I was working at was
going to go through a major renovation. I would be able to
take the time off to recoup.
June 11, 2007
my surgery fifth and sixth, was set for the
Latismuss Dorsi Flap and
expander insertion. This was considered two surgeries. The Flap
surgery involved the Latissimus back muscle, skin, and tissue
tunneled through to the breast area and inserted. The expander is
also inserted at the same time. Talk about feeling like being hit by
a Mac Truck. I was in the hospital overnight. Drugged for about a
week. I vowed I was going to do everything possible to heal
correctly. I did nothing for 6 weeks. The fills were
started and everything went as scheduled I did have fluid buildup in
my back. Had to have that taken out every week. No big deal.
21, 2007 I underwent my seventh and eighth surgery for my
expander/implant exchange and
Breast Reduction. It was done as
outpatient and lasted about 3 hours. My recovery was uneventful. I
have found a wonderful forum that was my life saver. So much support
and advice was given. The best advice that was given was REST, REST,
REST, and DO NOT LIFT YOUR ARMS. I took that to heart as my
recovery was going perfect, I did not want to screw up now. The only
bumps I had was 2 spitting stitches.
I had only one
complaint and that was the breast with the implant was too big.
Little did my PS and I think that we would ever worry about size.
She assured me what ever the problem it can be fixed. I waited until
my six months and had a revision ninth and FINAL SURGERY. I had some
excess boobage under the armpit removed as well as a lift. Also at
this time I had my
nipple reconstruction. What an amazing procedure. Skin was taken from the flap area and formed to make a nipple.
I felt like a complete woman again.
I had to wait
a few months for the nipple to heal and finally was able to get my
areola tattoo. That was an option, but heck I have come this
far. I was referred to Ellie a former tattoo artist, who is a Breast
Cancer survivor. She specializes in breast
areola re-pigmentation and permanent make-up. I had also asked her if
she could do a pink ribbon tattoo for me. I was not ready to go to
some biker tattoo shop. This was something I wanted to do for me as
my completion to my Journey with Breast Cancer and Reconstruction.
She was happy to do it and it was her gift to me.
It has been a
long and difficult journey for me. I am writing this almost 4
years to the day I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I am Cancer
Free. My Mammograms have all been normal. I do have a couple of non
cancerous cysts in my left breast that is no concern. My breast
surgeon has told me I have graduated and should recover fully. My
oncologist is happy with my entire tests. I have been taking
Arimidex for Breast Cancer prevention. It is to be taken for 5 years
at this time I have 1 ½ years left. I will take it as long as needed
if I have to. I am concerned about the size of my breast with the
implant. I will be making an appointment with my PS to see if it can
be corrected. She wanted to wait until the one year mark to
make sure all changes had occurred.
I want to give
a special Thank- you to Bailey for giving me the opportunity to
share my story and include Breast reconstruction on this fabulous
site she and all the wonderful women have produced.
Also to Big
THANK YOU to all my Beautiful Breast Friends I have met on this
board in the past year. You all are part of my life and I don’t know
what I would have done without you. You have all been here for
me though most of my reconstruction your words of wisdom and support
is what got me through this. I love you all. Thanks for hanging
One thing I
need to add. I had to learn the hard way. Surgery is not a quick
fix. You need to take the time to heal, and recovery does take time.
I took 6 months off from my job for my final surgeries. It was
difficult for me not to do things I take for granite. But I did and
it paid off. I am so thankful I work for a company that takes things
like this seriously and provides the benefits for you to take care
of your health issues.
ladies, PRINCESS DUTY is the most important recovery process.
Flap and Expanders