One year ago today – July 10th 2012 – My body would forever change. I woke up VERY early in the morning, Tim and I got in the car and we drove to the hospital. My body had started to recuperate from the rounds of chemo and was able to handle the surgery. I had a little bit of hair growing back, I was feeling stronger, and yet my fingernails were still detached from the skin – making a gap that went all the way down to the little white moons everyone has. Eventually as my nails grew back out they slowly became attached again. It’s crazy how the body heals.
I had been in so many meetings with multiple doctors, been stuck so many times with multiple needles, but this day was different. I was headed into an almost 6 hour surgery. Tim and I were in loads of prayer, as well as having an entire prayer team on text messaging. We got to the hospital and I put on the standard hospital gown and they started to put me under. I remember them moving me from the stretcher with wheels onto the cold metal of the surgical table, seeing a big light over me and then the meds kicked in and I woke up hours later. The details of what happened in those hours are pretty graphic. You can skip the next few paragraphs in pink if you get queasy but I know some of you who like the medical details of things.
Here’s the deal. What the doctors were able to do with me was not typical. There were lots of factors about my body structure that made it possible to have a double mastectomy and reconstruction in the same surgery. Before I turned 30 while still working in the sex industry, I had implants put in. At the time of surgery a year ago I was a size E. Because of the amount of skin they had to work with it made immediate reconstruction possible.
First one doctor went in to perform the double mastectomy. What that means is they made the incisions and completely removed all the breast tissue. It takes quite a while. Usually for this surgery they make an incision from under the arm straight across to the chest bone on each breast. For me, because of the amount of tissue, my incisions were like the ones they make for reductions, like an anchor, from the middle down then around the bottom. The entire skin reshaping process cut away a ⅓ of the skin as well as removed the areola and nipple. Those areas have ducts and are a hot spot for cancer to grow – so removal is always the best option.
After DR. AJ was done removing the tissue, my plastic surgeon, Dr. Levan began to work on me. My implants were over the muscle, so they still had to separate the muscle from underneath to put the new implants in. They have implants of different sizes there and she evaluated in the moment which fit my body and my body structure the best. (I had given her permission to do so before surgery, and after it was all done I was a D.) She then added a layer of Alloderm which is a human-derived biological tissue (from a cadaver). It is chemically treated and is devoid of cells leaving behind a framework of collagen protein, an acellular dermal matrix or ADM. It is safe and has changed the way many plastic surgeons do breast reconstruction with implants. It adds extra structure underneath the implants to make sure everything is super supported.
At that point the surgical team sat me up, made sure everything was in it’s “natural placement”, then laid me back down, put drainage tubes in then stitched me back up. For the next 2 weeks, I would empty and measure the fluid that came out of the tubes on each side and gather in little plastic receptacles that were held in a pocket of my surgical bra. They were removed 2 weeks after by Dr. Levan. When I woke up, Tim was there beside me as he was through the whole time. Every Dr. appt, every chemo, everything. He really is the most amazing man and husband. It was slow coming out of the anesthesia, and the next 2 days were hard. I was in a lot of pain and they ended up keeping me in the hospital an extra day to observe my recovery. A lot of the pain actually was caused by a nerve pinch in my back from the surgical table. I couldn’t breathe, but HAD to breathe deeply with a plastic device to make sure my lungs were exercising. I actually had to use the little gadget for a few weeks a few times a day. For those few weeks I slept propped up with a pillow over my chest so my cats wouldn’t jump on me and didn’t have to take pain medications after the 4th day. On week 3 after the surgery, my husband and I moved to Miami Beach. Next week, we will be filling everyone on all that is going on! You won’t want to miss that! God is so good and has abundantly exceeded anything we could dream of. One year later and EVERYTHING is different. We have seen so much, got to be in the place God called us to, and love thousands of people in the process through the church and BeLoved. And it is only getting better. A big thank you to everyone who has continually been there during this past season, praying, financially partnering with us, answering texts and calls, and loving us. This next season is going to be astounding and we appreciate those who have been in it with us through everything. Cancer was hard. Jesus is stronger. No matter what circumstance is happening in your day, month or season, you CAN move forward. You CAN overcome it. You CAN thrive though it. Love you all! Sandra Savage
Founder | BeLoved Ministries INC