We pick up this tale after my mastopexy (breast lift) procedure in 2012, how long after I’m not entirely sure. If you’ve read parts 1, 2 & 3, you’ll know that it didn’t quite pan out in the way I’d hoped, if you haven’t read then what are you waiting for? Grab a cup of tea and catch up!
Years passed by after my mastopexy surgery and I went through stages of feeling angry, upset and sometimes non-plussed. No matter where I was on the spectrum of feelings about myself, I maintained my stance on not looking at myself in the mirror. After piling on weight during the long and uncomfortable recovery period, I developed Orthorexia and as a result lost all of the weight I put on and more. With time comes medical advancement and whilst I accepted that my body was in stasis, I continued to research surgeries that had the potential help me; not because I wanted to dive breast first into more surgery, but to give me some options for the future.
Because of the indentations and distortion to the shape of my breasts I was, and am still, unable to wear underwired bras which in some ways is a blessing in disguise – from what I remember they’re equally uncomfortable and expensive. That does however mean my beloved Agent Provocateur collection is laying to waste, longing to be worn. As time progressed and the scar fibres shortened and tightened I developed a numb patch under my right breast, you could have poked a pin in there and I wouldn’t have felt it, yet the left side was painful to the touch and I’d get pain down my left arm from nerve damage. Obviously after a breast lift gravity slowly takes it’s toll, eventually your breasts will return to their original position and in my case that was with zero volume to the top half meaning I looked like a teenage boy. I’ll admit that I actually like being flat chested, it makes training in the gym a whole lot easier; my whole issue was about the scarring, not the size of my breasts. A breast lift leaves a whole new set of scars in addition to the older ones and the underside of each was left almost square rather than with a gentle curve.
I accepted the referred symptoms in my arms (pain to my left arm and restricted range of motion in my right shoulder) and adapted to it. I’d go through stages where my Fibromyalgia or EDS would flare up and exacerbate these symptoms and I forced myself to refuse it. My coping strategy was to beast the gym to give a reason for the pain – drown it out with DOMS. Everything I googled and researched threw up other cases of breast surgery patients in a similar position, left with nerve damage and referred pain – instead of looking to assign blame, I got up and trained. Hard.
I started researching a procedure for ‘Scar Revision’ called ‘Fat Grafting’, or ‘Fat Transfer’, it’s something that’s been used successfully over the years in breast cancer patients and had moved into the cosmetic arena with people opting to have facial rejuvenation via fat grafting and of course the most famous suspected case of all – Kim Kardashian’s butt. Basically, a surgeon takes fat from one area of your body to move it to another area, the theory being that if it was already inside you, your body shouldn’t reject it. Obviously there’s a lot more to it than that and with any surgery there’s risk of complication, bleeding, infection, all the usual things we sign a consent form for, but the risk and number of incidents is thought to be less than those arising from surgery where a foreign device, substance or solution is used.
In 2016 after consulting with a friend at the CQC (Care Quality Commission) I was given a level of reassurance that the procedure had been performed enough times and over a period long enough to be deemed as ‘safe’. It’s like anything, if a new product is brought to market it needs time for the kinks to be ironed out, like when you download a new version of iOS, there are always a few little niggles with the first release. With this in mind I’d pretty much decided that Scar Revision was the right procedure for me and started to have discussions with the team behind Aesthetic Beauty Centre in Newcastle who’ve been carrying out this procedure for years with great success. We began a long period of consultation; my surgeon, Ash, tells me constantly to slow down and not rush into decisions, to sleep on things in order to make sure I’m certain – it’s reassuring given my previous history with rushing into surgery. He has a refreshingly honest way of looking at my case, he tells me that perfection isn’t the end goal, maximum improvement is. Seems sensible and also realistic.
We start planning surgical intervention by looking at where I am now, where I would like to be, what steps are required to get to that point, and what time frame we have available. Seems pretty logical when you think about it right? So, after spending a good four months consulting and drawing up potential scenarios, also waiting for a window in my schedule that could accommodate the recovery periods of multiple surgeries, we draw up a plan, one that I’m comfortable with and confident in. We go through the risks, potential complications and most importantly, managing expectations; I know I’m not walking out of here with the blemish free, perky breasts of a 20 year old, I may be cray but i’m not that cray.
At the pre-op assessment I’m given a wedge of paper that detail the procedure; one of the things Aesthetic Beauty Centre is big on, is clueing up patients so that every decision made is an informed decision, so that every detail of the procedure is explained fully. It’s 2017 people, the age of exploitation and compensation seeking is as rife from the public as it is from the law firms that sell it as a service – if you’re planning any type of surgery then get wise, do your research, consult with the CQC, ask for recommendations from other patients and never be bullied in to something you’re not comfortable with. Meet with many surgeons not just one and choose someone who reassures you.
Sidebar: the CQC are pretty open when it comes to sharing information, if you read bad press about a doctor or surgeon it’s worth consulting with them as it can be related to a compensation claim that didn’t work out and someone sold their story to the press, or sometimes, and I have experience of this one from my time working in the NHS, surgeon’s have been struck off for whistleblowing; it’s shady practice by Trusts but it does happen. Sometimes it’s genuine though, and those are the ones you want to avoid. The CQC have a responsibility to ensure that all medical professionals whether private or NHS are fit to practice and have achieved certain standards; it is to medicine what Ofsted is to schools and they rate everything from record storage to cleanliness and professionalism during consultation.
So, where were we in this saga? Oh yes, informed consent, and a plan to carry out Scar Revision surgery by way of Fat Grafting. Eek!