Friday, February 19, 2010

Running and Revision

Last Saturday, I saw my plastic surgeon for a check-up. The meeting was notable for two things: 1) He told me I was free to run again (more on that in a moment), and 2) That I should probably consider having revision surgery.

Let's start there. My breasts were wildly uneven before surgery. Lefty was the runt of the litter, and righty was leader of the pack. After surgery, the reverse is true: lefty is full and voluptuous, and righty is, well, a little deflated. The asymmetry is not as bad as it was pre-surgery, but things are definitely a little off. The problem is that, because more tissue was taken from my right breast than my left, the pocket that was left was larger and isn't filled completely by the implant; the solution would be to swap out the implant I have for a slightly larger model and sew 'er back up. My doctor said the procedure would take about 30 minutes (which is astonishing to me, but OK) and that I would be back to work the next day (which, again, just having gone through major surgery and a long recovery, seems unfathomable). And from a plastic surgeon's perspective, I can see why he thinks I should have a revision: he is trying to create perfection. But I'm not so anxious to go under the knife again, not matter how simple a surgery it might be. Because in this fundamental way, my goal is very different from his: I don't want to be perfect, I just don't want to get breast cancer. And I think I've accomplished that (at least the statistics, which put my risk at 1/17th of my pre-surgery risk, bear that out).

I found myself thinking about the opportunity to swap out my implant today while I walked to get lunch and had one of those Talking Heads' "well, how did I get here?" moments. Implants? Who wha huh? I don't have implants. Brief emotional short circuiting. Wisps of smoke come out of my ears. One foot in front of the other. Realization: I do have implants. And that's the disconnect: I don't call my breasts by the material they're constructed of; I just call them my new breasts. And no matter what they are propped up with, I don't want anyone pointing knives at them again anytime soon. I'm happy and whole and imperfect. Enough said.

The other exciting development is that I'm back on the treadmill again. I don't consider myself a runner so much as some who runs, and there is a big difference there. A runner is much more serious about running than I am and identifies themselves by their participation in that activity. I'm just someone who, to stay fit, runs. And to be honest, I don't even like running all that much. I find it really hard. It hurts. I rarely want to do it before I'm actually doing it. But it is immensely satisfying: I feel incredibly powerful and capable when I'm running, and even when it feels bad, I feel like I've accomplished something great. The other problem with running is that I will abandon the pursuit for months at a time. I didn't run for weeks before my surgery. And over the past year, I can think of a dozen mini-hiatuses I've taken. But yet, to be told I can't run (rather than chose not to) was terrifying. I remember one of my first questions when I first decided to consider surgery was how long will it be before I can run again? (Such a strange thought, given, again, I am not a runner.) The answer, it turns out, was about eight weeks.

Now, a runner would have bounded out of her plastic surgeon's office and laced up her shoes. But I waited two days to go for a jog (in my defense, I had plans Saturday afternoon after my appointment that quickly turned excessively boozy and I was hungover all day Sunday, so you know, I have my reasons). Reader, it sucked. I hobble-jogged two miles and called it a day. The next day, my quads felt as if they'd been swapped with slabs of concrete and my knees replaced with unbending steel poles. I could barely walk, let alone run. But I tried it again last night. Progress! I ran three miles and felt good: spent but accomplished. It'll take weeks still until I can reclaim my stamina, and my legs will likely protest, but I'm glad to be back to it again. Oh, and my boobs? Didn't even notice them. They don't move at all. Lesson: running with fake boobs is in no way different than running with real ones. It's your out-of-shape legs you've got to pay attention to.


  1. Good luck with your decision on the implants. That's tough. Just remember that it's your decision, your boobs, your life, and not that of the PS (though I'm quite sure that no one needs to tell you that).

    Congratulations on getting back to running! I do identify as a "runner" -- not a fast one, but someone who really loves running, road races, and improving PRs, who has run a few marathons and sees plenty in the future. I don't really think there's any special criteria by which to identify oneself with that label; if there is, it would be purpose and passion, in my opinion, at least. Until two years ago, the idea of not running for eight weeks voluntarily would have been terrifying. Then I injured one of my achilles tendons through overuse, I tried several treatments that didn't work (what did finally work was going to a great athlete-centered physical therapy center), and I couldn't really run again until a few months ago, and I'm STILL spending far more time on the elliptical and road bike than actually running. My reaction to reading your post was odd. As a BRCA+ woman who has not yet gotten surgery, the idea of eight weeks off is at once immensely frustrating (starting from scratch AGAIN?), but also very doable (I just did close to two years off and my resolve to get back to running is still strong!). It's really inspiring to hear that you're getting back out there after the surgery, though, and I'm VERY VERY happy to hear that running with the fake boobs is not bothersome at all (also a worry for me). It's quite reassuring to read this post, actually, so thank you for sharing this.

  2. For my procedure, a Stage 2, or revision surgery is just par for the course - so weirdly I haven't even thought about not doing it - but I'm going to have some other things that need fixing too. I'm really happy to hear you are back to running. I'm not a big runner, in fact, I'm terrible at it, but I've been so excited to get this new lease on life that once I'm healed I have every intention of starting a workout routine, even if it's only 30 minutes a day. Something about having freed myself from the risk of breast and ovarian cancer has made me want to take better care of myself than ever. I didn't extend my life just to die of some other avoidable health condition. :)


  3. I awarded you TWO blog awards - you have to come by to check them out. :)

  4. Three miles! I'm impressed! Glad you are up and running.