106: Nippletastic

On the 17th January at my visit with Mr X I had dressed the toob with googly eyes and pink ears, I drew on two nostrils – I was ready for school and then my appointments – to review the medication and surgical review.

Both Mr X and Sue were thrilled with the result of the toob (though not entirely surprised to see it dressed as a pig) and how well my tummy scar is healing.  As the impatient patient I thought it should be completely healed not red and livid still.  The toob was one of the best that Mr X had seen and it felt/feels so much better than the wretched cannonball.  The next stage would be to have a nipple and Mr X said he’d add me to the list and in a few months I’d hear and have an appointment.

Now the NHS has many naysayers but not I.  I’d had my appointment on Friday and the following Monday just before year 9 were going to be ushered into my classroom my phone went and as I was on the threshold I took the call.  It was the plastics team, there had been a cancellation and could I come up for a nipple reconstruction the next day.  I thought I could, the boss said I could and so I got prepped by viewing a you tube reconstruction that evening.  Nipple surgery (a bit graphic)

Tuesday morning, school as usual and at 11.30 Nick took me up to Derriford to the Freedom Unit.. only I could buy some lunch first at M&S as this was a local anesthetic procedure.   I made my way past the smokers, some who appeared to be on drips, through the concourse and followed the signs to the Freedom Unit.  I paused to eat my sandwich and then got a bit lost – so I asked for directions and was asked if I was a Doctor or Patient, how funny, must have been the school uniform and lanyards.

Once in the Freedom Unit I was booked in quickly and given a gown, but could keep my bottom half on.  Mr X, the young South African registrar (who’d helped with the DIEP) and a trainee (but not work experience person) came through and I was invited to be marked up in an office.  A submarine shape drawing was added to the pig’s snout – the wings were going to make the edges of the nipple and the conning tower the top.  I was very insistent this must not be as big as a malteser or Lindt chocolate.  I asked if I was allowed to talk during the op and the answer was yes! I had to wait an hour or so as there was a lady ahead of me so I got my marking out, completed marking year 9 assessments, checked my emails and did a bit of planning as I’d brought my chrome book.  No point in wasting time.

I was called in… final checks and I was in the theatre.  I was introduced to everyone including the student nurse, former fitness instructor, who had a job as a theatre nurse on finishing her studies.  My bag and marking were deposited, I reclined on the theatre bed, was scrubbed up with some form of iodine solution and covered in a blue theatre sheet which was stuck on allowing free access to my chest.  Mr X injected the snout with lidocaine  – but I couldn’t feel the injection on the toob and then he made incisions around the submarine and stitched up a new nipple for me.  I chuntered on to anyone who’d talk to me, we talked about the cost of training to be a doctor to what it was like to teach and how well my year 9’s had done… not that well, I blame their teacher!  I was amazed at the size of the theatre and all the equipment around, the light was not as good as the one at the dentist as I couldn’t see my reflection in it to check the nipple was not malteser sized.  A big dressing on the wound to finish it and then… into a wheelchair to go to recovery.  I told them all I could walk to recovery but they were insistent on the wheelchair.  A cup of fruity tea and a couple of biscuits later Nick came to pick me up – had arrived with one nipple and left 6 hours later with two.  Another step on the path to looking more “normal”.

The dressing was to stay on for a week to ten days and then it was back to the Primrose clinic to have it removed and the stitches out.  What a result! Perfect.  Sue cut the stitches and used tweezers to remove them.  No malteser, definitely not a Lindt chocolate but a really good match for the original one. Phew! Next stage a tattoo in 4 months or so for an areola.  Thank you Primrose, Onco-Plastics and Derriford.

Author: fionaosmaston

I live in Plymouth, Devon with my husband Nick and near my parents Sandy and Sheena. Our three children, Marcus, Phoebe and Miles are grown up. I am a geographer and love teaching Geography. My current role is as an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner city comprehensive school where I lead on coaching and initial teacher training. In August 2017 I was diagnosed with invasive lobular carcinoma and following a skin sparing mastectomy and endrocrine/hormone treatment I am now awaiting a final reconstruction. These views are my own and writing this story has helped me come to terms with where I am in this interlude of life which has been dominated by breast cancer.

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