To lose two breasts is unfortunate. To lose three looks like carelessness.

Oh ho, what fresh hell is this?

I came in to hospital, you’ll recall, because I was having issues with an elephant. Well, it turns out that when your elephant has gone unchecked for so long, he won’t be deterred by IV drugs alone.

No, you must have your elephant surgically removed.

Sounds drastic? It is. Yesterday I had my third breast surgically removed. And you know the greatest irony in all of this? Leftie was the healthy one! Poor Leftie didn’t even have cancer in the first place. Leftie died, first time around, for the greater good and now how do we repay her?

I know this is all a bit odd and hard to follow, so I’ll try to summarise it simply. Two months ago, I had a bilateral mastectomy. The right breast had a rather nasty cancer lurking beneath the nipple so it had to go. Because I have the bad cancer gene and knew it was very likely that I’d have another breast cancer over my lifetime, I decided to get my healthy left breast removed as well.

At the advice of my breast surgeon, I had the first stage of breast reconstruction immediately, during the same surgery (two months later, Medicare still can’t get their heads around that, but that’s a different story).

So, following the surgery, I had breasts. A bit high, round and odd, but breasts nonetheless. Over a period of weeks, my new breasts were expanded with saline, via a humorously oversized needle. Oh, the things these breasts have seen.

But then, as you’ll know if you’ve read the elephant post, Leftie turned feral.

Obviously a bad bug settled deeply into the implant on the left side, and no amounts of antibiotics would flush it out.

After a weekend of feeling really rather neglected in hospital (by the doctors, not my amazing support network), on Monday morning, my oncologist stormed in, fresh off an overseas flight.

That left implant has got to go, it’s held us up long enough says she. I never approved of getting a breast reconstruction pre-chemo! she adds. And honestly, she didn’t. But that’s because my arrogant surgeon didn’t let me meet the oncologist until after the surgery. Useless much? Yes.

Monday was an angry day.

I couldn’t honestly believe that as a result of all my myopic, self-centered, uncommunicative specialists (and this is the A-Team, remember!) I was going to lose Leftie again. I mean, for shame!!!

I insisted on a meeting of the Big Heads (in this case, my plastic surgeon and my oncologist), which to their credit, they both turned up to. And after some initial tensions, we eventually all sat down like some kind of “A-Team” (hah!) and as a unit agreed that Leftie had to go. What I needed was some basic sign that the various Big Heads actually realised the scope of what they were about to do to me. They were going to put me into immediate emergency surgery to clean up a mess of their creation. My problem was that the oncologist kept on saying that it was just a breast but it isn’t just a breast, it’s my bloody breast and it’s already mangled with a whopping great scar and it’s been stretched for weeks and weeks and fricking weeks so don’t tell me it’s just a breast.

You can get an idea of my state of mind. My oncologist’s core point, as usual, was that if I was dead due to lack of chemo, my breast was kind of irrelevant. Do you think I don’t know that? I mentally raged. Do you think that after all these months that I honestly haven’t figured out that cancer is life threatening yet? What kind of a moron do you think I am?

This is not about perspective, or values, or priories, but it is about my expectations. And I expect my A-Team to not only save me from cancer but also to acknowledge that I’m a complete human being and as such I give a shit about superficial things like breasts, and pain, and the almighty time suckage that comes out of a medical screw up like this one.

Whoa, still angry.

Anyway, obviously I somewhat managed to get my point across and eventually we were all singing from the same hymn sheet, albeit out of tune, and so I signed the consent form to have Leftie cut out, for the second time.

Isn’t that just the best part? That in the end I get to be my own executioner and sign away the life of a breast (again!) that was perfectly healthy to begin with!

On Tuesday the deed was done, and the surgery went fine, as always. It’s nice to know that I can depend on my ability to bounce out of surgery, Tigger style. It seems that some primitive life force springs out and dances around inside me going you’re alive, you’re alive, you’re alive and you’re marvelous! so thank god for that. Thanks, body and spirit for being so unerringly optimistic in a shitty time such as this.

I hope that Leftie died again for a worthy cause, to help me get over this infection, to drive my elephant of pain away, to let me get on with chemo and knock that cancer dead once and for all.

If all that happens, as my A-Team promised me, then I’ll begrudge the six months of having to wear a fake boob (a prosthesis, as they say, which for some reason makes me think of comical false ghoul teeth).

I can’t wait to see what Medicare says when they hear that I’ve just had my fifth boob operated on. Tabloid TV, here we come.

Lopsided, walking in circles, half boobed love to you all…

x

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8 comments

  1. Benj Davis

    To lose three breasts is surely enemy action.
    That sucks. I’m sorry that there was such a lack of empathy from the people who are supposedly there to help you.
    Time to rock some chemo and get well! Yeah!
    Then you can be richly rewarded, with all the boobs you can wear!

  2. Clair Cisterne

    Hi Nicci, my god what a screw up. I’m still fuming that they didn’t take the infection seriously from the start. …You’d think that they wouldn’t leave anything uninvestigated.

    I’m glad to hear the nasty elephant is being removed though, albeit to the second demise of your poor leftie. It just sounds really horrible and painful. And we still love you no matter how many breasts you have!

    I hope you’re back home and back on track soon xxx

  3. Jo-Anne Peters

    Grrrrrrrr !!!!!!!
    Glad to hear that you bounced through surgery well. Hope that you at least get a chance to feel uninfected, unfeverish and unfettered before chemo begins again.
    Loved your reference to “The Importance of Being Ernest”. Definitely the appropriate level of farcical frustration!

  4. Quinn Holland

    I can scarcely believe the words as I read them, that you have had to go through it all again Nichi. I did think it remarkable (from a place of complete medical ignorance mind you) that you could have the back to back operations in the manner that they occurred, but then I thought well that’s the fast paced medical world that we live in, those amazing surgeons et al. What we learn of course (frustratingly and angrily) is that everyone has their own opinion stemming from their field of expertise and you really need to get the buggers together for proper and full consensus – bugger your golf and travel days, if we can’t get in the same room, then lets tele/video conference and get this all hashed.

    After all this is someone’s health that we are talking about here and I don’t care if it’s been done before, it hasn’t for this person at this time and such it is a first time, so let’s get it all out, debated and then make a fully informed decision and leave your surgeon ego at the door. You will be a hero regardless, but you will be a revered hero if you have been seen to put ego at the door and reached consensus with your equally learned colleagues and your valuable patient (read client/customer) who ultimately wears the cost, the consequences and the results.

    It might sound a little facile, but we almost need to remind doctors/surgeons that despite their extensive studying, qualifications and no doubt their practical experience at the end of the day they are professional service provider like an art director at an advertising agency, an architect, an accountant, a teacher and I tell you that if we acted in the same way as doctors and surgeons in some respects then we would find ourselves without any clients/students, possible calling in the insurers and checking the PI insurance certificate of currency and then where would be?

    I know you don’t need other people being angry for you Nichi, but know that if you need someone else to take up the rage (even if it’s just ranting inner monologue style) then let me know and I will be on it! In the meantime you and Charles are in our thoughts and you know you needn’t hesitate, whatever you need.

    Q

  5. susan

    So very sorry that you had to go through all that pain, then frustration and then yet another traumatising surgery. Its not fair to have it all rain down at once on the not so vast area that is you. But again, I continue to be amazed at your bravery and spirit!
    Lots of love from me and prayers from my mom in every conceivable religious space in her 500 km radius!
    Looking forward to you getting your full life back, kit and both kaboobles xx

  6. Nicki Mortimer

    Bloody hell – anger is good.

    Specialists really need to get their shit Together.. but until they do, good on you for insisting on a Come to Jesus meeting with all parties…

    good luck again.

    xxx n

  7. chemobrainandmore

    I am sorry for you loss again. I know how frustrating it is. I hav to thank you for your previous post bc when I was in the ER this past saturday with pain in my breast from the biopsy I remembered you blog and insisted on antibiotics. I hate how the doctors dont listion. So thank you for that. I wish you a speedy recovery all the best to you!

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