Save the Nipples: Meeting My Plastic Surgeon

Whether you are getting your yearly OB check, mammogram or plastic surgery consult, standing naked in front of a stranger is not for the faint of heart. This time was no exception.

As I stood topless in front of a man I just met, I looked as far away as I could as the plastic surgeon precisely measured, lifted and examined my breasts. I thought about making small talk and decided against it, keeping my gaze fixed on the ceiling. Suddenly, he did something I definitely did not see coming:

The surgeon took both hands and went around my stomach grabbing at my fat, pinching it all around as if he was checking air in a flat tire. Then he went and checked my inner thighs. I knew he was doing this, as he was so professional and kind, telling me beforehand, but nothing prepares you for that kind of exam! I couldn’t help but giggle thinking of the irony of my life: a 15-year battle with an eating disorder, ten years in recovery and now having my middle grabbed by a plastic surgeon. Such is life!

Going into my plastic surgery consult appointment, I knew I was looking at two different types of reconstruction surgery:

  1. Implants (which requires two surgeries)
  2. A type of ‘flap’ surgery where they take my own fat/tissue and skin from my stomach, thighs and/or back to reconstruct my breasts.

And after gaining my medical degree from Google, I knew I was going to have the second option. I felt strongly about not having foreign objects in my body and keeping my natural breasts, which is what drew me to the ‘flap’ surgery. 

Spoiler alert: my WebMD degree was not correct.

Dr. DeFazio looked at me and said, “You don’t have enough fat and tissue for the surgery.” 

 It never occured to me that I would not be a candidate. No, I don’t feel like I an abundance of ‘fat’ to give, rather I just had no idea what the surgery really entailed. 

Nonetheless, I told him to check that tire again. Surely I knew more than this plastic surgeon who does breast reconstruction for a living (note: sarcasm).

He checked again, even having me lay down, pinching my middle back and forth again. He looked at me puzzled and said he could *maybe* do it, but the results would not be what I wanted.

If I was 110% against implants, I could use my stomach for one breast, thighs for the other. I would *maybe* end up with a B-cup and I would lose my nipples.

At this point, my eyes were as big as saucers in disbelief. Losing my nipples was never on my radar. And that suddenly became a game changer.

I am not a B-cup body. And I feel strongly about keeping my nipples. You really don’t think about your nipples unless they are falling off because of a breast pump or you are facing the possibility of losing them. But my nipples became the line in the sand for me. That and I don’t want to be cut across my stomach and on both thighs. If I were still in my eating disorder, I would have JUMPED at the chance to ‘cut’ all this off my body. And now I find myself coming at this from a place of recovery. I love my squishy stomach and now understand just how invasive it would all be, I want to keep my stomach rolls and my thighs just how they are.

If I really want, I can continue to explore the idea of some type of fat/tissue grafting surgery, but honestly I don’t want to. The thought of being cut open in so many places scares me to death – the scars, recovery and losing my nipples. I’m currently leaning to implants, like 99% sure. It will be two surgeries: first, the mastectomy and expanders. Then, three months later, the implants. This gives the body to heal from the trauma of the mastectomy. The benefit of choosing implants is that we have more control over the outcome.

I’m sure there are a million other opinions, thoughts, experiences with this kind of surgery. And I am sure he said other things, but it was hard to absorb it all. Thankfully, I don’t have to make a decision anytime soon. 

Since meeting with Dr. DeFazio, I have felt such relief. There is peace that comes in having a plan, something I experienced in Marjorie’s cancer journey. It is like you exhale, embrace the shitty card, put your big girl panties on and march on.

So I am marching on, gazing a little longer these days at my breasts when I get out of the shower. In December, they will be gone. And I am okay with that. These breasts fed my babies and kept one alive while she fought for her life in the NICU. My breasts were my superpower and now they have to go in order to save MY life.

The other lesson here, for me (and maybe you), is that once again we don’t always see what is in the mirror. Sure, I had NO idea what truly went into flap surgery, but in my mind I surely had ‘enough’. I still have my body image days and this was a glaring reminder that my body isn’t always what my mind says it is.

But one thing I know for sure, no matter what fleeting negative body thoughts come into my mind or what hurdles I have to face next, my body is beautiful. My body is MINE, no matter if I have natural breasts or implants.

I am so grateful to be in such a solid place of recovery. My recovery has served me well in every facet and hurdle of my life – because I have CHOSE to use my recovery skills. I have worked so hard in my recovery to reclaim my body and then once again after Marjorie’s birth, in more ways than one! From my breasts to my stomach rolls to my giraffe sized legs, my body is extraordinary. And so is yours.

Next up on my Google MD search: implants…what are they and how to choose! New boobs (same nipples) coming in hot December 2020.

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  • Paige
    September 3, 2020 at 8:37 pm

    Hi McCall! Thank you so much for being so vulnerable and sharing your story. I started following you years ago because of my own eating disorder recovery. I would like to share that I just recently had my breast implants removed due to breast implant illness. Many people have never heard of it, so I recommend looking into that when considering your options for reconstruction. I wish you all the best and I’ll be praying for you.

  • Terri Hobgood
    September 3, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    God bless you, sweetheart!! Sending prayers for all of you! May God keep you strong and brave and keep your pain and recovery as easy as possible!! ????

  • Michelle
    September 3, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    I don’t know where you live or who your PS is, but I just had flap surgery in SC, by plastic and micro surgeons (Dr. Kline and Dr. Craigie) who are the best and were trained by the man who invented the procedure. They can do flap surgery on pretty much anyone with less than a 1% failure rate. Just a suggestion. Best wishes with whatever your choice.

  • Susan Jones
    September 4, 2020 at 6:50 am

    Good decision!!! Healing skin graft sites requires a lot of wound care, and is frankly a bitch, especially on top of everything else (ha! no pun intended). I’m so sorry you have this to deal with. I only know you through my DIL but I’ve been keeping up with you since Marjorie’s ordeal and you might well be the bravest person I know. You are a Rockstar!!!