I have listened and responded to my gut instincts, setting in motion actions to acquire my first-choice plastic surgeon, Dr. S. after traversing this breast-cancer-reconstruction-passage with a plastic surgeon who was picked for me due to her availability and Dr. S.’s unavailability.
I first learned of Dr. S. in speaking with another local breast cancer “sister”. I asked for the names of her team of doctors since she raved about them. Having the names in hand, I diligently researched each of these specialists online, coming away feeling impressed and that I would be in good hands.
Having never experienced medical drama of this magnitude, I was not certain where to begin but chose to make an appointment with the breast surgeon as my first step. My life would be in her hands before anyone else’s, as she would dig out all of the cancer and interpret the sentinel node biopsies. It was during my visit with her, she informed me that Dr. S. was no longer affiliated with the hospital, therefore would not be able to perform my immediate reconstruction surgery; he moved on to focus his roles at the University where he serves as Chief of Plastic Surgery & Program Director, Surgical Director of Plastic Surgery and Department of Surgery. My breast surgeon left the room, made a quick call to a different plastic surgeon and upon her return, the surgery date was set. Insofar as arranging the surgery, all I needed to do was meet with the plastic surgeon.
As I recall, I liked the plastic surgeon. Of course, I would rather have preferred Dr. S., but I was in a hurry to get the cancer out of my body so I convinced myself that I would be in good hands with this substitute.
Since that first meeting with her, she has placed the tissue expanders, filled them, replaced one of them as it was defective and leaked and finally, we set our date for the exchange surgery and suddenly, I stepped on the brakes.
During my last office visit with her, which was the pre-op visit prior to the exchange surgery, numerous pieces of incorrect information were passed on to me. It began with the reference booklet I was to take home. Informational sheets explaining pre-op and post-op care, medications and emergency situations were printed for me to read and initial as having read and understood the contents. The pages were then photocopied and the photocopies were placed into a binder; the nurse reviewed each page with me before giving the binder to me for home reference then left the room.
When the doctor came into the room, she looked at my chest and began explaining her plan of action for the exchange surgery. This ‘plan of action’ was nothing like her initial plan of action which had included cutting out the existing, jagged scars with clean, straight incisions, leaving a hairline scar. She had also spoken about using silicone strips to aid in healing. Her new plan of action, revealed a week and a half before surgery, was in direct opposition to what had originally been explained to me.
When I asked about the new incisions for the scars, she brushed it off, “…your scars will heal in time…”
I did not feel confident in that blasé answer.
My discontent did not stop with the new plan of action. As the doctor explained that I would be going home with JP Drains, a pain pump and steri strips, I wondered if I had blacked out or something. Only moments before, her nurse reviewed the booklet with me that explicitly stated (and in print) that I would NOT be going home with drains but some new disc-type contraption, steri-strips would be replaced with some new glue, and the pain pump would be replaced with a new one-pill drug. I felt that I needed to change something too, change doctors!
I was not certain where to start nor how to do this. I did not want to cancel this surgery until I knew that I could see Dr. S. I sent him an email at 7:30 a.m., explaining that he had been my first choice for this surgery but Dr. T. had to pick someone else since he was no longer affiliated at the hospital. He personally responded to me within half an hour, copying his staff with his response as he told me that he would gladly see me.
While I waited to hear from Dr. S’s staff, I phoned Dr. T. ’s office to ask if she would share my surgical records with him and officially send a referral to him. Things moved swiftly and within a few hours, I had an appointment set up with Dr. S., had filled out the required paperwork and faxed it all back to his office. He was correct, he does have a wonderful staff!
Not wanting to burn my bridges, I still needed to deal with my current plastic surgeon. I phoned her office and explained that I would not be healed from my sinus infection for next week’s surgery and needed to postpone it. The girl on the phone explained to me that she would just cancel the surgery and I could phone her back when I was feeling better. What? How easy could that be?
Now that I will be in super-doctor hands, I am anxious to see if he can make my existing chest, with lousy-looking expanders, actually resemble something that looks like breasts. I have been googling post-mastectomy reconstruction photos, copied them to a Word document and will print the pictures out as I ask him if there is any possibility that my chest might resemble any of these photos. I want honesty. I don’t want smoke blown up my as*.
I need to know the truth. I need to know if beginning with Photo #1, exchange surgery can ever come close to resembling Photo #2. I am not talking about size, I am referring to symmetry and placement upon the chest wall. I just want the truth.