A Mother and her Two Daughters

28 September 2010

Restoring My Shadow

During my the third grade year, I can remember going to the cafeteria for a special performance of shadow puppetry, probably a demonstration from the nearby University.  The only thing I can actually recall is that there was an Asian flair to the show, not knowing then that shadow puppetry is an ancient form of storytelling that originated in China. 

Still a form of entertainment today, master puppeteers use the illumination of shadows to create heroes and villains, animals and clowns, to tell tales that have been told and retold for thousands of years.  In Ancient China, the court magician created the first shadow puppetry show using a small flame and a cloth screen. 

It would be many years later that I would be reminded of that show so long ago when seeing another demonstration of shadow puppetry at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, France. 

Well let me just say this . . . since wrestling with the myriad of mastectomy issues, I’ve told my reconstruction surgeon that I just want my shadow back.  For me, it’s my gift to myself after the heartache of cancer, the process of restoring my silhouette to what it once was.  As I explained to one male colleague in the office, if you had your ears surgically removed and weeks later the doctor told you that you could get replacement ears, what would you do?  Naturally, my colleague said he would want new ears.  And such is the case for me.  I want my shadow back. 

So today I will begin the process of recreating my shadow, or restoring the shape of the breasts after a mastectomy is performed.  The process involves saline injections once a week into the artificial chest wall, or the tissue expander, until the desired shadow is created. 

Because I was unable to have the reconstructive surgery at the same time as the mastectomy, this takes time due to the process of expanding the skin that has since tightened since July.  So it’s a gradual process that takes several weeks.  While plastic surgeons use the same breast implants for cosmetic augmentation as they do in breast reconstruction after mastectomy, the surgical process and outcomes are very different.  After mastectomy, the damage to and healing properties of the chest wall are quite different than for a person who hasn’t undergone prior breast surgery.  That means the potential complications and outcomes are quite different. 

The sisterhood has told me that the saline injection sessions can be quite painful, and also the days that follow.  Let me tell you, my tolerance for pain is tenfold what it was prior to cancer, so I will survive and get through this treatment chapter too. 

My hair is coming back, my eyelashes too.  And today I’ll begin to restore my shadow.  While some may not think my shadow was very perfect to begin with, I’ll be quite happy to get back to where I was.  It was mine, I was used to it, and I miss my old shadow. 

Wish me luck! 

1 comment:

  1. A few words from a "sister" that's been there... I didn't find the injections to be painful - just a weird pressure feeling. I did have tenderness for the 1st 24 hours, but it was no different than having my braces tightened as a kid. Sometimes I would take a sleeping pill the first night just as a luxury to help me rest - not becauase I HAD to have it. Another thing you may have going for you is that Klimberg has pioneered the process of using botox in the chest wall to decrease pain and spasms. Ask Yuen if you received any during your surgery.

    Also - I kept trying on my old clothes throughout the expansion process trying to use them as a benchmark for recreating my previous size and shape. But the high profile of the expanders just doesn't really lend itself to that test, so don't rely on that measure too much. It's an odd thing trying to decide what size you want your new boobs to be!

    Good luck.
    Sherri Jo


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