Today was my first appointment with one of the plastic surgeons that was chosen for me by my breast surgeon based on my other medical issues. This surgeon was Dr. Michael Beckenstein in Birmingham, AL. First, and one of the most annoying things about this trip actually had nothing to do with the doctor, and everything to do with our recent move and insurance.
Unfortunately my Blue Cross insurance decided that it could just do whatever it wanted (as if its a living entity) and they didn't notify us that our policy was changed and we now needed to have a referral not from my breast surgeon but from a primary care doctor. For everything. So even if one specialist refers me to another, I STILL have to go back to a primary doctor in order to get that referral. That was stressful.
Aside from the insurance headaches, when we first got to the office, it was very homey and comfortable. Andrew and I were taken in to watch a video on breast reconstruction.
That's Andrew. He likes to smile. And this is the room we watched the video in. So the video didn't really tell us anything that we hadn't found out during our research. Once we were done we were taken into the next room into a very cozy consultation room to meet Dr. Beckenstein. Side note: All through the office were awards that he has been given as well as albums FILLED to the brim with notes from hundreds and hundreds of women telling him how much they loved him and how thankful they were to have him work on them. It was very reassuring. I liked the doctor. He took the time to listen to me as a woman. He answered every question that I had without me having to ask it.
This is the room. It was pretty dimly lit, so you can't see much, but I would say it's designed with the impression of letting you see just exactly how good he is at his job. He performed around 600 of these in 2015.
We discussed my Hughes Syndrome as well as keeping my blood "good" after the surgery. For me, he wanted to think about limiting the amount of times I go under the knife and so he is going to try to do the mastectomy and the reconstruction at the same time. My first thought was "YAY!". It will depend of course on my body once he opens me up and the ability of my skin to stretch. I discussed with him my desire to go up a size to a C. I mean, if I'm going to get my boobs amputated, I'd like some cleavage to show for it.
Of course, if he gets into the surgery and decides my skin won't stretch then this will be a longer process than it would be if it would be one surgery. That means he would place tissue expanders and once I heal he would start to fill the expanders with saline every couple of weeks until we get to my optimal size. Once we are at the size I want, we'll wait four to six weeks to let my skin get used to it and then schedule a second surgery to switch it out. Here's hoping for one surgery. After the consultation they did my first exam. I got to see the implants he uses.
These are Natrelle implants. One is saline and the other is silicone. He said for me he would prefer the one on the right. They are round and would be placed under the muscle. I really liked the way the one on the right feels. The one on the left not so much. They have a lifetime warranty but they tend to crack after ten or twelve years so we may have to do some more stuff later in life. They took photos of my breasts and he discussed more about the complications and monitoring for breast cancer once everything is done and reconstructed.
They gave me a few booklets to make sure Andrew and I have all of the information I need and we will go back once the insurance approves the procedure to talk some more and schedule the appointment. When I checked out I also got a nifty Hershey's bar with my name on it and a letter as well as the booklets.
Some people will be wondering why I didn't choose to consult with another surgeon. Honestly, first I went with my gut. I believe that your intuition will tell you what you need to know about a person. Second, I've spoken with a couple of patients of his that were very happy. Also, I forgot to mention that one his website the photos of patients with reconstruction looked AMAZING. Dr. Beckenstein said that those were "standard results". Not the best. So that's encouraging. Another reason that I didn't consult with someone else was because in previous years I've consulted with other doctors in town and honestly, they sent me running home to wait another 8 years before doing this.
All in all it was a good appointment. I feel confident that we can handle my Hughes. Andrew is worried about blood clots (Of course, because that's our life). Doc thinks that we can handle the Hughes with close monitoring and only one surgery. So here's to hoping and praying that my skin will stretch and behave. I wonder if I should start lotioning...
Not much else going on except that all of this is happening during finals so that's fun. I am scheduled to take my LSAT (Law School Admissions Test) on June 6th so hopefully we can be scheduled for either really soon after school ends (like next week) or for right after June 6th. We'll see. He knows about my time frame and school and thought we could probably have most everything done by the time school starts again in the fall.
Happy spring everyone and I'll update when I have more information.