My Surgery

I chose my doctors based on a reconstruction technique that I wanted: the free TRAM (easier and as effective as the pedicle TRAM), and I had my 6 hour surgery on 3/24. Thank God my surgeon sampled the 5 nodes - one had the very beginning stages of cancer. That changed my status from stage 1 to stage 2. And because of that, I had to have chemo - 4 treatments of Cytoxin/Adriomycin (CA), beginning 4/17 and ending 6/19. Now I'm on tamoxifen and I will tell you that even though I've been through all of this, none of it was awful. Some of it was miraculous.

I knew when I discovered I had cancer that I would not be able to live with a concave chest. I wanted a breast and so I researched several sites on the Internet that discussed them. When I came upon this site, and saw this photo, I decided that the TRAM was for me. (the miraculous part!) It is a wonderful thing. I woke up after my 6 hour surgery with a breast mound. It is very similar in shape to my natural breast, and after 6 months, I can honestly say that it feels like it belongs to me

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My doctor search was done backwards. Most people start with the surgeon; I began with the plastic surgeon. I knew I wanted a free tram, reconstruction made from my abdominal fat, skin and muscle, and when I met Dr. Elethea Caldwell and talked about the procedure, I knew she was the doctor who would put me back together. She did not work alone. A microsurgeon, Dr. Joseph Serletti, would be on the plastic surgery team; Dr, Carl Andrus would perform the mastectomy with his team. She arranged for me to meet the two men, and the three coordinated their surgical schedules: March 24, 1998- 7:00 A.M.


Subj: Re: Tell me about your TRAM
Date: 9/27/98 8:58:33 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: QueenReg
To: Gwhit10649

I've been asked about my TRAM so many times that I've saved one correspondence which I will copy and paste here. The only thing that I would stress about my TRAM is that it is a free TRAM. It was completely removed from my abdomen and attached microsurgically at the mastectomy site. The other type, the pedicle (might be pedical) or tunneled TRAM stays attached to vessels and muscle in the abdomen, is tunneled up under the skin of the torso, flipped over and then attached at the mastectomy site. I think if you can get the free TRAM, your recovery time is quicker, pain level lower. You do need skilled microsurgeons to get the job done. Before you read my rather lengthy installment, I want you to know I am THRILLED with my results! Here's my story:

My diagnosis(2/16) was multifocal ductal carcinoma with some invasive cells. It was originally listed as stage 1. Since I am a small to average breasted woman, my drs. agreed that a mastectomy was in my best interests because after removing all of the cancer, I would have little breast left. At the beginning of my discussions with doctors, I was going to have a simple mastectomy - no nodes. But when I started interviewing doctors about the procedure, all of the surgeons said they would sample the nodes.



I was hospitalized for 6 days. I had 4 drains in my body: 2 in the breast; 2 in the ab. They stayed in for 6 days. Abdominal incision is 14" long, but the tummy tuck is superb! Pain was easily handled by drugs that I controlled for the first 2 days with a button on the IV. After that, I could take pills. I walked with a walker on the 2nd day. After that I walked on my own. I was out of work for 6 weeks, but if I hadn't started chemo, would probably gone back after 4. I went back to work with 2 chemo treatments to go.

Nipple/areola reconstruction (day surgery) scheduled for 11/2..........can't wait! That too is cool. My Dr. Caldwell will make the actual nipple out of my TRAM which is 100% numb. She'll do a "skate nipple," named for the skate fish which is the shape of the incision needed to create this nipple. She'll cut a circular piece of flesh from my upper thigh to make the areola. She'll stitch and pucker to make it match my natural nipple. Then, when it's all healed, I'll go back to Strong where a medical tattoo artist will tattoo the areola to match the color of my real one. Depending on my mood, and whether or not the tattoo lady will do this, I might ask for a little rose bud on the TRAM. What a riot! My husband would be jealous.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! It was worth everything! I am delighted!