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Why I’m finally ready for that boob job

After being diagnosed with breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy at the end of February last year, I decided that I just couldn't face going into a hospital again for another operation - this time for a breast reconstruction.

Back then, I was facing eight rounds of chemotherapy over 16 weeks to be followed by 25 sessions of radiotherapy. By the time I was finished my treatment I'd had it with hospitals, doctors and the whole shebang. I wanted to put it all behind me and never have to see another white coat again.

People often asked me during this time if I missed my breast and the truth was no. For one, I was quite flat-chested so, physically, I didn't feel unbalanced. And anyway, pole dancing was never my thing! More importantly though, I was of the view that the breast was diseased and, left in situ, would probably kill me so, in all honesty, I was delighted to be rid of it.

In the past couple of months, however, I've been coming around to the idea of a breast reconstruction. A number of factors have influenced me. For a start, I lost a lot of weight before and after the diagnosis. I now stick to a sugar-free, wheat-free, organic diet that keeps my weight at 55kg -- 8kg lighter than before I got breast cancer.

Neckline

However, this has also reduced my breast size from a 36B to a 36AA which, let's be blunt about it, is little more than nipple size. Or, as one of my friends kindly remarked; if you looked down the front of my shirt all you can see are my two feet. One of the hassles of being this size is that you cannot get 36AA mastectomy bras in department stores in Ireland. When you do get your hands on one you find that they come up quite high on the chest wall, so I have to be careful about what neckline I wear.

Secondly, and most importantly, when I look in the mirror I'm constantly reminded that I've had breast cancer. My surgeon, Mike Allen, did a fantastic job, leaving me with a barely visible scar -- I'm convinced he must have got an A in knitting in his Leaving Cert -- but there is still an empty space, and I'd now like it filled.

With this in mind, I went to see a reconstruction/plastic surgeon. I was aware that I could undergo an operation called a Diep Flap. This is where blood vessels and the skin and fat connected to them, is taken from the stomach and fashioned into a new breast. The operation takes six hours and you spend a full week in hospital afterward to recover. I was at the stage where I was willing to undergo this so I could look 'normal' again.

Bruise

I whipped off my shirt and bra so that he could examine what was left of me. I then removed my trousers in order that he could check out my stomach. "Hmm . . ." he pondered as he tried to sandwich some of my fat between his fingers. Then: "Turn around, please." He checked out my rear end. I was a little embarrassed. Positioned at the back of my thigh, just under my knicker line, was a massive, black bruise. I tried to explain that I'd been sleepwalking the previous week and had fallen over the end of the bed and taken the bed post with me (don't ask) causing my other half to nearly have a heart attack and me to incur crippling (almost) injuries.

He wasn't really paying attention. He was too busy looking at my buttocks. After a couple of minutes he stood up and said the words I had waited to hear all my life but didn't really want to hear now. "I'm afraid you don't have enough fat," he said.

"What!" I shrieked. "Not even enough to make a really small one?"

He shook his head. "I'm sorry no. If you insist, I can do it but I can't take anything from the tummy area. I may be able to get some from the buttocks but it will leave them completely out of kilter."

There is a second procedure called the Transverse Musculocutaneous Gracilis Flap, which takes fat from the thigh, but again I didn't have enough. I plonked down on my not-so-fat behind, about to cry. Thankfully, there is one more operation that is available to me.

Implant

“The Latissmus Dorsi Flap and Implant,” said the consultant. He explained that the LDF is a procedure where skin is taken from my back and used, along with an implant, to make a new breast. The surgery takes three hours and a couple of days in hospital to recover. There is an upside to this.

"Because of your chest size, both breasts will have to be done as the implant causes the new breast to 'grow' to a C cup," he explained.

My friend Maggie could not believe it when I told her. "You are so lucky. Women pay thousands to get that done."

"I had to get breast cancer to get new boobs," I replied. "I'm not sure you'd count that as lucky."

"If you don't want to get implants, I can lend you some of my fat," she offered.

I'll stick to the implants, thanks.


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