Warning: Discussion of breast re-CONSTRUCTION ahead, with frequent use of the word nipple….lol…so proceed with caution!
My mom told me that recently Meleah asked her if she had the little “round things on her nana’s.” That seems like an appropriate question considering that her mama does not have “little round things.” We’ve always been very open with our kids along the way about breast cancer. My breasts are a regular topic of discussion in our home. I’m not sure what we would have done 20 years ago when people didn’t openly talk about breast cancer.
Last week I started looking in to what it would entail for me to have “little round things” on my breasts. This is considered the second phase of reconstruction. Shortly after being diagnosed with breast cancer I learned the details of nipple reconstruction. How amazed I was with technology and creativity! Here’s what they do. There’s a couple different ways they can form a nipple. They will either take a patch of skin from somewhere else and kink it up and sew it on, or they’ll just use the skin that’s there already and kink it up. I will have the later if I decide to do it. Then the third phase is tattooing. Yes, they tattoo the color on the nipple. I’m amazed at the reality of this procedure. I have seen a completed DIEP breast with nipple and it was amazingly realistic.
Here are my concerns though. Several women I know have not gone ahead with the nipple reconstruction. They have elected to keep their “barbie boobs.” and not worry about adding the nipples. From my reading, it would seem that there is quite an attachment for we women with our nipples. You can add a “mound” for a breast but our nipples are distinct, so adding a nipple that isn’t quite the size or placement of the previous nipple or getting the color and having it seem totally wrong can be distressing. I was already distressed enough by my little friend “digger” on my completed mound, I’m not sure I’m up for nipples that might cause me distress…..lol!
The second thing that concerns me about nipple reconstruction is the whole appearance. I think I ask my plastic surgeon this question every time I’m in his office: “is there any way to make my flap darker?” It just seems with tattooing and technology there would be a way to match my skin tones? You see, my chest is very dark because of radiation. I have a constant tan. It seems to be lightening a little bit but just under my breasts there is a line where the radiation starts. Dr. D took the skin from my belly, which probably never saw the light of day. So I have headlights….and I don’t even have nipples. I joke with Jeremy that my breasts actually glow in the dark. So with the scars circling my breasts, ultra white skin, what if adding nipples makes my breasts look like a bulls-eye? Seriously. Dr. D says adding the nipples sort of pulls it all together and my “glowing” will not be quite so bright. But I’m afraid my breasts might look like a target ad in the end.
While I was looking around for information about nipple reconstruction, I found this very lovely informational segment on the University of Michigan web site about nipple reconstruction. It had me laughing so hard I fell off my chair. It was one of those laughing moments that amuses Jeremy so much because I was laughing so hard I was literally crying and couldn’t breathe. Here’s what it said:
“Nipple and areola (the dark circle around the nipple) reconstruction is completely optional. Some women want only the shape of the breast to fill a bra, and decide they don’t need a nipple. Another option is to apply removable nipples that stick on with adhesive. These rubbery tips are shaped like a semi-erect nipple and the color and texture are quite lifelike.”
Now, if you wear fake nipples, I am so sorry I’m laughing. If it works for you, then go for it. Maybe it brings some normalcy to life. But for me, if I tried to wear these things while Jeremy and I were being intimate, well, you can imagine. I would be laughing hysterically the whole time. But hey, if I had these on hand I could decide to wear nipples whenever I wanted. I could wake up one morning and think “I’ll wear nipples today.”
Alright, enough about nipples. I don’t have to decide this today thankfully.