DIEP reconstruction

Good morning everyone, hope you are well. Anyway, had bca in 2007, couldn’t have chemo as nearly died after one FEC dose to treat grade 3. Had mastectomy, axillary clearance - 5 nodes grade 3. Now at the point where I am going to have a delayed reconstruction - DIEP. Unfortunately, my husband doesn’t want me to have this as he feels I won’t be able to cope with such a large operation; I have severe arthritis in left knee, back, neck for which I live on painkillers and had to have stent fitted to my heart for ablocked artery and need to take heart medication. Yes, I know its a lot to ask with such medical conditions but I am sure I am not the only one on here with complex issues. Last year I tried to lose weight and get myself better but kept hitting a brick wall. I finally realised that brick wall was the sight of myself in the mirror with one breast and a swollen left arm from lymphodaema. I feel if I have this op I will finally be able to move on from breast cancer at 51 and, yest I know the op is big but surely I have everything to gain by being more in proportion and actually looking like a woman, not feeling like a freak. I do hope someone can tell me their experiences of this type of reconstruction as my husband is slowly wearing me down with his fear - I want this for me, not him, but I do have to think of him as he’s the one who will have to support me when the op is over. I have even gone to the pre-op assessment on my own which was a journey to Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, from London and told him I shall get myself there for the op on the day! He’s actually said he won’t use his holiday for me when I come home -I understand his fear and am starting to buy into it. Would be so grateful to learn from anyone on here and also when the op actually takes place after the pre-assessment - 1 week, 1 month, 2 months? Surely, after taking so much info. from me and bloods, ecgs etc., it won’t be too long? God bless you all, keep well, kindest regards, Ann.

Hi Ann having read your post I totally understand how you feel about this operation and can understand your husband fears too. Whilst you do need to take into account his concerns at the end of the day its your body and you have to move on and if breast reconstruction can help then I say go for it. I had a DIEP in November 2011 (there are a number of ladies on here recently had the procedure too and they will I am sure tell you their experiences). I was on the waiting list about 4 months and then phoned with a date - had pre op the week before and then had surgery. It is a big op yes - but if your surgeon is willing to do it then it means he thinnks you are fit enough to cope with it - I was in intensive care straight afterwards that is because of all the machines you are linked to to make sure it has ‘taken’ after two days you should go onto a ward and then discharged after a total of 5 days - I know some ladies were in a bit longer (around 7 days). When you get home you are told not to do anything - my husband works too - so he made me flasks and snacks/sandwiches for the first few days and I just sat and read/watched films etc. I needed help getting into bed as its a bit awkward but managed to get out of bed ok on my own (although it did take a while) showers were fine too and managed well. I felt really tired a lot of the time and slept. I did unfortunately get an infection and hemotoma these are unusal complications so i had to go back into hospital and was on a course of anti biotics for a while and my wound didn’t heal too well - but even so now just over 2 months I am feeling very well in myself and nearly back to normal (I never did any lifting anyhow due to my arm and lymphodema worry). So I would say go for it girl - do what you need to do. I have a lovely new breast and it was well worth it xx

Thank you so much saffronseed and congratulations on your new breast and I hope you are able to soon visit a nice lingerie shop and buy some lovely new bras! I bet you are so looking forward to the summer. It is poo that you had infection, but sometimes these things do happen and you are now over the worst. I hope to hear from other ladies re this operation and you really have given me such confidence just in sharing what you’ve been through - POWER TO US WOMEN!

Hi Ann.
I agree with what saffronseed has said. At the end of the day it is your body and if your surgeon agrees you should go for it. Everyone is different and whereas many ladies are happy to not have recons I was always sure that was what I wanted. I live on my own so had to make arrangements for someone to take me into hospital. I had my diep op in September and was kept in a single room for the first four days and then in a five bed room for a further three days. Once home I managed to look after myself ok. I had prepared and frozen some meals but was quite happy to potter around and do a bit of cooking etc. I could move around carefully and get in and out of bed, climb stairs, shower etc without any help. The main thing you have to be careful with is not lifting anything heavy and of course you can’t drive at first. I made a quick recovery with no problems and was back driving after three and a half weeks and back to Pilates after six weeks. I have no regrets and love to feel more like my old self. I had a longer wait for surgery as I saw my ps in January and didn’t get my op until September. It does seem to vary around the country. I know some lists are much longer. I am now on the waiting list for a slight reduction and uplift (to give better symmetry) to my other breast and nipple creation on the recon. Most people seem to need some extra surgery after the main diep one so you need to be aware of that too.
I can understand your husband’s worries but I do think only you can make this decision. It is not just about how you look but how you feel and that is very personal to you and you alone. Good luck. x

Thanks Petal5 I am so glad you are happy with your ‘new’ self. I find it amazing how strong we women can be when we want something and you are one strong bird. Good luck, hope you are happy with the results. I really needed to come on here today and speak to ladies in similar predicament and I have truly been helped. Good luck with the rest of your life! x Ann

Hi Ann I don’t know what to expect from the operation, but I’ve been waiting for my dates for a diep delayed reconstruction since January 2011 - same hospital. I had my pre-op in June 2011, and still no date. Finding it really hard to get any information, but apparently they have very long waiting lists, and have been doing lots of immediate reconstruction, which seems to push all the delayed reconstruction ops further back. They now have extra resources to clear the lists, but even then they can’t say when. Keep getting in touch with the hospital to find out though, otherwise you might find that you start putting things on hold without good reason.

Good luck Ann

Alice xxx

Hi Ann I don’t know what to expect from the operation, but I’ve been waiting for my dates for a diep delayed reconstruction since January 2011 - same hospital. I had my pre-op in June 2011, and still no date. Finding it really hard to get any information, but apparently they have very long waiting lists, and have been doing lots of immediate reconstruction, which seems to push all the delayed reconstruction ops further back. They now have extra resources to clear the lists, but even then they can’t say when. Keep getting in touch with the hospital to find out though, otherwise you might find that you start putting things on hold without good reason.

Good luck Ann

Alice xxx