Ten days after my implant exchange surgery

It’s been ten days since my implant exchange surgery. I admit that I originally planned to post about it much sooner, but emotions took me by surprise and I decided to wait a bit longer. Details about that to come later in this post.

My implant exchange surgery was at the UCLA Outpatient Surgery Center. I was told to arrive between 9:30 and 10 in the morning. I got there on time and completed the necessary paperwork after changing into the lovely surgery garb. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. By 11:45 am, Mom and I were rather annoyed. We were told that Dr. Festekjian was still in surgery from an earlier case.

It’s frustrating…but there’s nothing you can really do in that situation. If some sort of complication happened during my surgery, I’d want Dr. Festekjian to care about fixing it instead of trying to rush so he could get to his next case.

Finally Dr. Festekjian came by around 12:30 pm and drew all over me in marker. My chest looked like a game of Connect the Dots. Then the anesthesiologist stopped in to ask me a few questions and to start my IV. If you’ve been following my blog, you know about the IV drama. Well, the saga continued with this most recent surgery:

I mentioned to the anesthesiologist that I have very bad veins. After much prodding and examining, he informed me that “whoever said you had bad veins was wrong; you have NO veins.”

Well, shit.

He first tried my left hand. The needle went in and he poked around for a while but couldn’t get into a good vein. Ouch. Then he got wise and gave me a numbing shot, got down on his knees and poked my left wrist. After a few minutes he struck gold. Rejoice! No more poking. After he finished, he remarked that I could now put it on my CV that I “bring doctors to their knees.”

My veins really piss me off. Let me just rant for a minute: WHY ARE THEY SO AWFUL?! The day before my surgery I drank more than 80 ounces of water just to plump them up. And it was all for naught, because I still had to get stabbed multiple times! BLEHHHHH.

After the IV fun, I was wheeled into the operating room. That’s always a strange experience, because the anesthesia sleepy medicine has just been administered so I start to feel a bit giddy but I’m still coherent. Also, the operating rooms are never what I expect them to look like. I guess I’ve seen too many dramatic operating room scenes on TV.

Well I guess I conked out, because a while later I woke up in a recovery room to the sight of my friend Dustin, a first year UCLA medical student. Dustin and I went to high school together. He stayed with me for about 45 minutes, which was nice because it forced me to stay awake and to come out of my loopy state.

I was discharged around 4 pm and at my parents’ place in Redondo Beach by 5:30 pm. Bryce had a nice cold Jamba Juice waiting for me, and my mom whipped up some tomato soup. Yum. (I could really go for that right now, actually…)

All in all, the surgery process and immediate recovery was very reasonable. I did not take any narcotic pain meds (Tylenol was fine), and I could move around the house with relative ease.

Wednesday morning was the “big reveal,” the first time I would see my implants after surgery. I woke up early, excited to see them. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, eyes closed, while Mom helped me cut off the ace bandage bra. The bandages were removed…I opened my eyes…and…

bleh. Bleh bleh bleh. I was not happy. My new breasts looked completely uneven. The left side was small and tight, while the right side seemed large and droopy. The nipples were no where near even. North and South Pole!

I stared for a while and then started to get emotional. Mom snapped some pictures and fired off a distraught email to Dr. Festekjian. I texted Bryce a very cryptic “my boobs look bad I’m sad leave me alone” kind of text, posted a quick “OMG” message to the Facebook previvor group, then cried myself back to sleep.

A few hours later I woke up to a reply from Dr. Festekjian and a bunch of comforting messages on Facebook. Apparently I was the only person in the world who did not know that you cannot judge the implants’ appearance immediately following surgery. Things are swollen, bruised, tight, uneven. They need to settle, and that takes time–weeks to months, even.

In addition to his email reply, Dr. Festekjian called later that day. He explained in detail that my left side had more scar tissue from the infection, so he did much more work on that side. Over time that side will drop and adjust to match the right side.

Well…that makes sense. The more he explained, the more I understood. He said he was still very happy with the results and could see symmetry in the breast folds. I don’t particularly know what that means, but a happy Dr. Festekjian is never a bad thing.

The reason I didn’t post on my blog that day or even the day after is that I didn’t want to be too emotional and scary. Emotion is good–and it’s honest–but I didn’t want my uneducated, post-surgery freakout to worry someone else who might be having the surgery. I hope that makes sense.

Yesterday I had a post-op appointment with Dr. Festekjian. Already he can tell that the left side is settling more. He said I should give it about eight weeks to relax into place, and that my right side will not drop anymore. We discussed options for after that eight weeks is up, incase I’m still not happy with the results. Fat grafting could be done to fill out “bumpy” areas (such as underneath the breast) and nipple alignment could also be adjusted. Insurance will cover those procedures since they are still a part of breast reconstruction.

I’m very pleased to know that I have options in the near future if I’m still not happy. But for now I’ll try to give it a rest and let nature take its course. Dr. Festekjian advised me to “stop thinking about your breasts for a little while.” I’m not so sure I’ll ever be able to do that, but I’ll try.

For now I leave you with these two comparison shots of the tissue expanders and implants. The implant shots were taken this evening.


20 thoughts on “Ten days after my implant exchange surgery

  1. I understand the emotion on the reveal…I had a similar experience. Give it time. SO glad things seem to be settling into place.

  2. You are fantastic, I hope you’re enjoying your new boobs!

    I will admit to the same disappointment after my exchange surgery. People kept warning me that they would never be the same and it really sinks in over time that they are completely different than regular ones. Mine are at different heights and the nipples just aren’t the same. And they look SUPER weird whenever I flex my pectoral muscles…during yoga, brushing my teeth. But they look indistinguishable in clothes, that’s really what the goal is. We’ll have a lifetime of goofy looking boobs, but if all goes well, that lifetime will be much longer because of it. And I have to keep reminding myself of that every day.

    You’re awesome!

  3. Great write-up, Rachel. I was so pleased to see how much progress your North Pole made towards your South Pole last Monday. Here’s hoping they’ll be together by the New Year. Love you lots!

  4. Rachel, I totally understand the jumble of emotions post-exchange β€” including disappointment.
    I knew my feelings were going to surface (I had been warned), but I was still unprepared for how downright depressed I was when I finally saw myself. (North and South pole over here too.) It’s been 3 months since my exchange, and I still have a ways to go, but I no longer think about “them.”

    Here’s to healing quickly and getting your energy back and forgetting all about your foobs! πŸ™‚

  5. okay, I’m going to rant because I’m allowed to rant because I’ve been here, I’m still here, and its not fun.

    FIRST… someone (PS) should have told you they won’t look even. I got mad when I read that but thats probably because I’m the queen of uneven.

    More monkey ranting: I haven’t posted this on my blog yet but … I DON’T LIKE MY IMPLANTS.

    It’s 9 weeks post exchange with alloderm because DICDOC (my original PS) F’d mine up. The alloderm is used as a sling to hold my implants in place but I still experience discomfort. Over the weekend I think I ripped something on the inside of my right one – or at least thats what it feels like. They’re … heavy and the alloderm means they’re less squishy and squishy is nice. I also started getting rippling so my next surgery (scheduled sometime this month due to end of the year insurance issues) will be nipples and fat grafting. Will it work? nothing else has so I’m struggling to find hope.

    Oh and the vein thing SUCKS!!! I also have a problem but I’m not as bad as you. They have to put the IV in my foot and this is always a problem. I get so worked up about it every time I go in. But during my last surgery (#5) it was easy as pie and I credit it to the massive amounts of coconut water I drank.

    Anyway… back to you sweet lady. You have an amazing spirit and you are in inspiration to us all!


  6. Thank you for this post. I just had my implant exchange on Feb 6, 2014 and the big reveal was yesterday Feb. Q10. I was all alone and so nervous to unwrap myself that I had to face time my sister just to work up the courage to unwrap. I was, well, I wasn’t sure what I was. I also didn’t realize that I needed to give them time to settle. I was a bit underwhelmed with what they looked like. I feel like my nipples are low. So, thank you for this post. It has helped remind me to be patient and give it time.

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