Failed impant. Struggling to cope.

In March this year I had my final implants put in (double mastectomy March 12 with expanders). I was very pleased. However after the doctor removed an old stitch about 4 weeks ago I got an infection along the scar on my right breast. The consultant had to take the inplant out and now says he can’t put the same size back in as my skin is too thin.
I didn’t opt for flaps at the time because I am very active and do mountain rescue, so needed to recover asap. I am quite slim too so there is a possibility a flap would not be suitable, not that I would want to go through that. So my question is: Are there any alternatives which someone just might have had done?
I am mortified and have never felt so low about my situation. I am struggling to cope with my now deformed looking body and it makes me sick just to look at it. When I decided to have the double mastectomy (only one breast had the cancer but a poor family history made it more sensible to have both removed.), it was on the premise that at the end of it all I would look and feel fairly normal. Now I am freakier than ever. I know this is irrational, but it is how I feel, I’m sorry.
Please can anyone help?
Thank you.

I too have had a failed reconstruction - a tram flap that went necrotic. I too was told that after all the cancer treatments, they would rebuild me and I would look “normal”. I am told my skin is now to thin/damaged to consider another attempt at reconstruction so I am having to come to terms with that. To be honest, I have had enough of surgery and hospitals. I never once thought that breast cancer would kill me, but there have been times when I thought that the cancer treatments would!

I hope someone comes along who can give you the help you are looking for. However, if they don’t then I hope you come to terms with how things are and accept that some things can’t be changed no matter how hard we try. I am happy with the knowledge that once I am dressed, I look “normal” when undressed, I look like me. thankfully I have a wonderful husband who doesn’t seem to see the scars.

Hi Janice,
So sorry to hear you are in this situation.
I’m early days but I’ve been researching options. As far as I can tell, if you are going for reconstruction, your only options are implants, or some type of autologous reconstruction, either free flap or pedicle. In your case, could he insert smaller prostheses, and could you be satisfied with that? Or are you willing to consider a type of flap? Otherwise, do you think you could be satisfied with prostheses, or simply come to terms with being flat.

This is such a personal thing, and different ladies seem to be content with individual preferences. Naturally I’m sure all of us would prefer not to he in this situation to begin with, but if you are really struggling there may be counselling to help you decide or to come to terms with your new reality.

In my case, the thought of implants completely freaked me out, and I haven’t heard anything to make me change my mind. In addition, my radiation oncologist tells me that radiation can render the skin and tissue unsuitable or difficult for implants, plus I have some muscle missing from the chest wall, which doesn’t help. I’m favouring autologous, but I fear that my clotting disorder may prove problematic, and I worry about the recovery time. If I can have it done, I probably will though. I feel that I’m too big to be uniboobed, and the thought of BMx and staying flat horrifies me for the long term, but might be my only option in the end.

Don’t we all just wish it had never happened!! :frowning:

Hi Teazle,
I sent a post to Supertrouper after her experience. I had a bilateral mastecomy in Feb 2012 with expanders and like you as I was slim was limited in terms of choice. My surgeon used strattice to avoid surgery in my back. My left reconstruction (which had been treated for bc in 2009) developed an infection and I ha what was called a ‘completion mastecomy’- so though they initially said they would remove the implant, they too everything away.
I was absolutely devestated Teazle. I cried for 3 days after the surgery (once I got home). I was shocked at the extent of my feelings as I had thought I had come to terms with losing my breasts when I had the mastecomies. I wish there was a short cut to dealing with your feelings, but there isnt- it takes time and you have to take it slowly. I think I posted in the mastecomies section as I felt so upset. Part of it for me was that I had gone to such efforts to be proactive and I felt I had gone through hell and got nowehere. What I can say to you is that it gets easier. I have just about come to terms with wearing a softie (I had issues with healing). I can’t say I am happy with the way I look, but I don’t hate it quite so much.
In terms of reconstruction, though I can imagine that the reason that this is so important to you is that it is the way to feeling better emotionally-you need some hope. There lots of options Teazle. But, I think you have to take it slowly. I am sure this is not what you want to hear so let me explain- I was initially told no more reconstruction, but last time my surgeon seemed to think it might be possible but I am not ready to even think about whether this might be possible. Was the breast with the infection treated with rads?I think you would need to do some research (e.g. attend one of the information sessions run by BCC or the Haven), talk to your surgeon, breast nurse, get a second opinion etc
All I can do is let you know that you are not on your own in how you feel. Be kind to yourself and take it easy.
Rattles x

Thank you for your replies.
Supertrouper, like you, I never once thught the cancer was going to kill me and I stayed upbeat throughout the whole process from the minute I was told, through chemo, through the double mastectomy and the final implant surgery…but now !!!
Morwenna, I don’t think I have enough “meat” on me for a flap nor do I think I could copw with the recovery time as I live on my own and am very active. Whether I can come to terms with my body now and wear a prosthetic, I just don’t know as I feel sick just looking and thinking about it. Even finding a bra that fits is becoming a nightmare as when I follow intsructions to measure myself, it differs from what M & S say. The bra they have sold me, in my opinion is just not right, AND depending on which branch I go to, the size differs.
Rattles, you seem to know exactly what I am going through as I can’t stop crying.

Teazle, I am just sending you a big hug. It’s just so unfair and I am really sorry.
My own journey in relation to bras has been slow and long and I ma not there yet. I went to a Younger Woman’s Forum and heard a lady called Kelly describe the impact of her mastecomy on her, until I heard her talk, I had given up all hope of ever finding a suitable bra (as my other breast is 'new, I don’t even know what size I am), but what I learned fom her is that you just keep trying. Unfortunately, its not cheap, but no point me getting on my soapbox about that.
Many people use Nicola Jane, I went to their London shop and though they were lovely, I found it very depressing. Some swear by genie bras- they don’t work for me as my prosthesis is too heavy. I use Swetty Betty Ultimate sports bra as it has pockets so I can just slip my comfie in. Its the best I have tried so far, though not cheap, its been worth every penny as it has helped my confidence no end to be able to wear clothes more confidently.
I have also been told that ‘about the girl’ is good (BCC, please don’t delete this as in a way it was through you I had heard of it!) The bras look lovely- again expensive.
I have heard that BCC run lingerie evenings, and I am going to go to one though it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

Hi Rattles,
You are a love. Bless you. Thank you.

Hi…I’ve read the above posts and really feel for you all…I had a right Mx 19 months ago and am still lopsided…as ST says I too have an OH who doesn’t care how I look as long as I am here…I don’t consider myself freaky…I am bloody lucky that the tumour was found and removed…I too wasn’t ill until the treatment…I don’t like myself lopsided but I can’t face anymore surgery so I think you ladies are far braver than me…I am taking the easy way and sticking with my prosthesis…I think if you are younger…I am 54 it may matter more…but…I just try to think of the positives …as for the bra thing…I haven’t changed anything…I just stick my “boob” in my normal bras…mastectomy ones are too expensive and as I can’t do my job any longer…I was a foster carer…the tamoxifen has seen to that…I can’t afford them…massive hugs to you ladies…apple

I didn’t have an mx, just WLE and re-excision but was very lopsided afterwards. I know we are all different but I wonder if fat transfer might help to even things out Teazle. Has worked treat for me. only minimally invasive, little incisions where they take it out (thighs and stomach) Anne inject it back in. Needs to be done gradually. I have had three day surgeries to get where I am now, but am back to being symmetrical and much happier about myself. It has workd for me and my BS said all the other ladies who have had it are very happy with it too. I know that they can use it to balance up reconstructions, so just wonder if that might be a way forward? Xx

Oh my lovely - - I really feel for you - BUT you are not alone and lots of women here are/have been through the same, and unlike anybody in the ‘outside world’ can totally relate to how you are feeling.

You are SUCH a brave lady - you have been through so much treatment that we expect/think this is the easy bit. I too had a MX with immediate implant recon on the 18th march - i had an infection and the wound broke down and opened. My PS is still waiting to see if the infection clears and the wound heals or if the stratish mesh is visable and he needs to take the implants out. And like you he has warned me i may not be able to have the same recon -BUT that I could possibly have smaller implants put in - could this be an option for you? Would it also be worth trying to get a second opinion.

Personally at 39 years old this has been the hardest part of my cancer journey - I wish you so much love and a really big hug x x

You are all so lovely, thank you so much. I am afraid of surgery on my other breast now (to reduce the size) just in case an infection develops which I seem prone to. But I don’t really know what a WLE and re-excision is so I will google it. Like you Meemoo, this is the hardest part.
Love to you all. So brave and so supportive. Thank you.

I was told I would be less likely to get an infection second time round - because they would keep me under strict observation and ensure that I had the MEGA duty antibiotics right from the start and stay on them until my healing would be complete - i am sure they would be treating you the same. x x

Hi Meemoo, my infections manifest months after surgery !! I had the implants in in January, the infection appeared May !! But I appreciate what you are saying. Thank you.

Hi Teazle, WLE is wide local excision or lumpectomy. So I didn’t have a mastectomy, just had a (fairly large) chunk taken out, hence my lack of symmetry. But they levelled it up with fat transfer and I know that they use fat transfer on people with reconstructions to get them closer in size / shape sometimes x

Thank you Mary.

I’ve been impressed with what they can do. It is hard to credit that cells from one place can graft and become tissue somewhere else. Still slightly “shark bite” effect, but much, much better and I don’t think anyone else would notice now - at one point I couldn’t wear horizontal stripes and various other things which made it obvious. 3 (minimally invasive) lipofills later all that is fine (and I have skinny thighs and hips too).