Formal Definition: A DIEP flap is a type of breast reconstruction in which blood vessels called deep inferior epigastric perforators (DIEP), as well as the skin and fat connected to them, are removed from the lower abdomen and transferred to the chest to reconstruct a breast after mastectomy without the sacrifice of any of the abdominal muscles.
Nine months ago, I had a unilateral mastectomy to remove the cancerous tumor, because it was the immediate need. I chose to leave my left, because there was no sign of cancer and my reconstruction surgeon said there were better chances for my reconstruction surgery if I left it, that way he could use the skin.
Nine months later, after radiation and chemotherapy pills, and a summer break. I was ready for the biggest surgery of my life.
My breast surgeon would remove the tissue from my left side and allow the reconstruction surgeon to recreate me a new chest. He would cut me from hip to hip, take tissue and skin to create me new breasts. They would reopen my right side and fill my breasts with stomach tissue. I would have an additional procedure done to close the five-centimeter gap between my stomach muscles, that was caused by the pregnancy of my two daughters.
I would have a 12 inch+ scar on my lower abdomen, a scar across my right breast, a circle scar on my right breast along with the tubes for draining. I kept thinking how proud I would be of my scars, how they would be the path to show my battlefield...how hard I fought for my life. Not to mention the positive body image I was excited to show my girls.
It would be 4-8 hours under anesthesia, a three-four-night stay in the hospital, and a very long recovery. No lifting for three months, despite having little children.
My pre-op went fine, I was nervous. The head of anesthesiology had terrible bedside manner, he took a look at my papers and said, “Wow, you have had terrible luck.” Gee, thanks for the insight big guy.
The next morning, I walked into my girls’ rooms to kiss them before heading off to surgery. My big was fast asleep, little however, was standing up in her crib whimpering. I picked her up and held her close, cherishing moments to hold her, knowing I couldn’t for a while. I left with my toddler crying for me, which left me in tears. I was nervous and did not want to leave my baby that way.
Thankfully, my mom was there, and had her youngest grandchild happy soon with cuddles and cartoons.
We checked into the hospital, and I started gathering my hospital jewelry…wristband after wristband. I sat in a room for a bit getting prepped. Then after a kiss to my hubs, I was wheeled into the surgical room. Unsurprisingly, it was freezing. All I remember is being told I was given something to help me relax and I was out.
The next thing I remember is waking in the recovery area and being immediately annoyed by the nurse. Finally, as things became clearer, I was wheeled to my room, I saw my dad in the hallway, and then I saw Evan smiling to greet me. I got situated in my bed and began to relax. I saw my mom, dad, family friends all there to make sure I was okay. I has hooked up quite a bit, to a catheter and told I couldn’t resume a regular diet until the next day. I sipped what we called, a tasting of broths, trying the hospital’s vegetable, beef and chicken broth.
The next few days were spent catching up on cable television… mostly Food Network, HGTV and the Hallmark Channel (Christmas in July). I got my catheter removed, was able to make it to the chair, make it to the bathroom and start making walks around the hospital floor. I warned the nurses, that if they didn’t give me a stopping point, I wouldn’t stop. My spirit, pushes and pushes. It is a blessing and a curse.
After three nights in the hospital, it was time to head home.
When recovering from a surgery, it is so important to keep your fire that pushes you to be better. But also keeping your patience (take your medicine including stool softeners...trust me), if you push it too hard too early you can ruin your
results. I also had an appointment shortly after being discharged from the hospital about the new medicine on the runway for me…good ole Tamoxifen.
Along with keeping track with your Health Storyline app, when introducing a new medicine or health chapter in your journey, I recommend going to see a nutritionist. They can help you understand the new medicine, or help you forge a path with your new health chapter. The nutritionist can provide ways to support your system naturally with foods and/or supplements.
Haven’t registered with Health Storylines, I highly encourage you to do so. The mood tracker, medicine reminder, and community can greatly improve your journey with whatever illness you face.