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Plastic Surgery and Breast Cancer

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I know a little something about plastic surgery and breast cancer. After 10 breast cancer surgeries, I’ve become well-versed in lumpectomies, mastectomies, DIEP Flap reconstruction, tissue expanders, silicone gel implants, nipple reconstruction, chemo ports, plus surgery to repair a wandering implant that dropped midway between where it should have been and my navel. I’ve also learned cosmetic surgery is not as important as treating your cancer. While looking good is part of the healing process, it’s more important to kill those cancer cells first than it is to have a great pair of tits.

While each surgical procedure is fraught with it’s own down sides and recovery time, each of those surgeries, plus anesthesia, takes a toll on your immune system. Some surgeries are more difficult than others, but even if you’re doing better than you thought you would, don’t push yourself. Be conservative and follow your surgeon’s instructions. Just because you’re sure you can lean down and pick up Fido… If it’s not on the surgeon’s list of things you can do…. Don’t do it!

Breast cancer surgery is not my first encounter with plastic surgery. Fifteen years ago I met a well-known soap opera star through a mutual friend. I knew she’d had a facelift, and the results were fabulous! I don’t mean it was one of those facelifts where you say, “She’s had work done, but ‘it’ looks really good.” This was in another category entirely. Other than looking like she’d been on a relaxing vacation, maybe to a spa, and come back ultra refreshed, you couldn’t tell she’d had anything done, except she looked better than ever. No tightness anywhere, plus it wasn’t one of those facelifts that tried to make her look like she did 10 years ago. I felt like the woman at the table next to Meg Ryan’s character in When Harry Met Sally, who tells the waiter, “I’ll have some of what she’s having.” I promptly got the name of the soap star’s surgeon and beat a path to his la-de-da Beverly Hills door.

Just his outer office was worth the price of a consultation. It was lined with everything from young women with goldfish lips to old women in wheelchairs, wearing their granddaughter’s face and short shorts. Some were there hoping the super star surgeon could fix bad surgical procedures done by other plastic surgeons. There were women who’s eyelids didn’t close, or who now looked Chinese, and some looked like squirrels who’d stuffed one too many nuts into both sides of their cheeks.

As I look back on that day in the surgeon’s office in Beverly Hills, I realize I didn’t need anything done to my face—then. Even the surgeon discouraged me from having anything done, so I didn’t. Now, 15 years later, I have jowls that hang, a droopy forehead and creases around my lips, but I’ve had enough plastic surgery, on my breasts, to last a lifetime. My face will just have to stay the way it is.

The other day I saw an old friend who said, “It’s good to see you.” Without missing a beat, I replied, “It’s good to be seen.” I’m not sure she got my drift, but 10 breast cancer surgeries have rearranged my priorities. I realize perfect breasts, or the face I once had, are not as important as being healthy. Unfortunately, part of aging is looking in the mirror and realizing you’re not that foxy chick you once were and coming to terms with the woman staring back at you. Part of being a breast cancer survivor is realizing there are things more important, things like being alive and healthy and here to enjoy life. We need to see ourselves with different eyes and value the woman we’ve become. We can choose to judge ourselves and others by our physical attributes, or we can appreciate the depth, wisdom and character we’ve accumulated that we didn’t have when we were younger.

If I’m to be honest, however, this doesn’t mean I don’t wish for my younger face. Maybe I’ll just become one of those women who draws their lip line well outside their aging, shrunken lips in an attempt to make them appear younger and fuller and more voluptuous again. What do you think? Am I ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille?