Harry turns 19 today and, as the first week of my second year after diagnosis progresses, I wake up rather late. Last night I had an allergy attack and took a Phenergan. It must have knocked me out as I feel like I've been run over by a railway train.
Harry is camping on Moreton Island with Robyn and I have already given him his (very practical) loot - a sports bag, some teeshirts and undies, a voucher to get himself some decent shoes.
It's 10.30 am by the time I drag my sorry butt out of bed, in time to hear Anne at the door. She is here to drop off the money for a fundraising cruise I'm helping to organise. I barely think twice as I greet her in the kitchen in my mismatched Elmo pyjamas and one boob untidily outlined under the skimpy garment. My eyes are red and shadowed underneath as usual. My hair has tightened into the curls I loathe.
It's only afterwards as I head to the shower that I catch sight of my reflection in the mirror. All in all, I look pretty goddamn awful and I realise that I should have covered up to greet Anne who was as usual immaculate in her professional attire. (Later I will call her to apologise for this insult to her eyeballs.)
The fact is that general attractiveness or lack thereof is somewhat top of mind today.
Today I have an appointment with Dr Chin at the Wesley.
Today I hope to be given an alternative to the rather gruesome Lattisimus Dorsi operation previously discussed with Dr Lily.
Here's the story.
Not long after my visit to Dr Lily, my mum saw a story on "A Current Affair" about a new breast reconstruction procedure involving the use of stem cells. It's only about 18-months old and it's offered by just one practitioner in Australia, Dr Chin who happens to operate in Brisbane.
My mum and both my sisters, Nicky and Fiona, are dead set against the Lattisimum operation, a major procedure that involves rearranging a muscle and could possibly lead to long-term issues with mobility.
Nicky suggests that I should embrace my scars much as anyone does after a bad accident.
Fiona is horrified at the scale of the operation involved.
Mum says that in Japan (where she lived for three years in her youth), all the women are flat-chested and get by in padded bras. She knows I'm not vain. "I've never given you bad advice," says my Mum, who is never shy of self-congratulation.
But Mum seemed to think Dr Chin's option could be worth considering.
Al just wants me to do what makes me happy and he says we will find the money somehow to cover whatever I need. (You can see why I love that man!).
I drive to the Wesley, ruefully glancing at my hideous reflection in the mirror. As is usual after an allergy attack, my nose has taken on Aboriginal proportions. A pimple is sprouting above my lip. I am less Miranda Kerr than JOHN Kerr. :(
At the hospital I grab a coffee as I still feel drugged and sluggish.
Making my way to Dr Chin's medical suite, I sit in a waiting room where I ponder human incompetence. (One of the receptionists seems quite old and seems quite disorganised. She even stuffed up my appointment. I toy with making a complaint but decide she's really quite lovely and besides, she's wearing a nice jacket).
I play a game of Chicktionary on my Iphone. (I bet you didn't know that "Filbert" is a word - it's the name of a type of nut tree).
Then I follow Dr Chin into his waiting room. He is a handsome shortish fellow who initially sits ona stool right next to me to question me. It's a bit disconcerting. I notice he has a smooth untarnished face.
Dr Lambley has already sent ahead a referral and Dr Chin first clarifies that I intend to have the other breast removed.
It's true. I hate being unsymmetrical and that is one decision I've made. Paris is done for. I am sick of my prophylactic and especially, the ugly, cumbersome bras that are needed to carry it around.
Dr Chin asks me to go into a changing room where I am to strip down to my bra and knickers. He tells me that he needs to see if I have enough body fat as FAT is the key to this procedure.
Undressed, I sit quite uncomfortably in a chair staring at a closed door. I notice a cardboard box in which are contained the models of long bones. For the man who has everything, I suppose.
When Dr Chin comes back in, he doesn't feel me up like Lily did but just looks at me. At once he shakes his head. "Not enough fat!" he observes. Then he says: "Would you be able to put on 10 kilos for me?"
"10 Kilos!" I exclaim (note the subtle use of the exclamation mark). "I've never been 10 kilos overweight before."
Then he says he will make do with 5 or 6 minimum. This is what is needed for some smallish mounds.
Once I am dressed again and sitting at his desk, Dr Chin explains that he needs me to have my mastectomy first as he needs two even scars to work with.
He explains what this procedure involves and runs me quickly through a few slides on a power point. Here's what I discover:
This procedure is called Stem cell-enriched fat therapy which regenerates the required tissue from autologous (Self) 'stem cells'.
This natural augmentation procedure uses fat obtained from another part of the body using liposuction. Extracted stem cells are used to regenerate the required tissue to reconstruct the breasts (10 grams of stem cells can help manufacture 700 grams of potential fat).
The procedure basically includes an implant around which the fat is placed.
Only one operation is needed and the most uncomfortable part is the liposuction. (I will need to wear compression bandages for six weeks afterwards).
Instead of manufacturing nipples out of skin flaps, there are now stick on varieties available which can last up to 6 weeks including bathing.
In between, I discover that Dr Chin grew up and was educated in Dublin. He doesn't have an Irish accent unless he's drunk. In my view, he could also work on his bedside manner. He is quite brusque and really, I find he could do with lightening up a little.
As it is, I manage to ask only a few questions, and then he hustles me out to see the nurse who I must say is a lot more informative.
Here are the pros of this procedure compared to the Lattisimus Dorsi operation:
1. It's less invasive. No parts of my body will need to be moved, removed or restitched.
2. It's quicker. Only one operation is needed.
3. I'll be fully mobile in a relatively shorter space of time.
4. I will end up with a flatter stomach and maybe even skinnier thighs! (Bonus!)
5. Fat can be 'cultivated' so a thin person can be briefly fat in order to generate the raw material required.
6. For the first time in my life, I can eat crap with impunity. (I am already salivating over that McDonalds Hot Choc Sundae: the one I've avoided for 19 years... I used to pig out on them when I was pregnant with Harry).
Here are the cons:
1. It's much more expensive. The cost is $10-$12000 compared to $3000 under Dr Lily.
2. I have to put on 10 Kilos!
3. I must spend 6 weeks in compression bandages.
4. I might get used to eating (even more) crap.
5. Unfortunately, I still won't look like Miranda Kerr.
My dilemma is compounded by the fact that, by November, I should be back to my optimal weight thanks to the hard work I've been doing to satisfy Dr Cam's research.
There's also that huge psychological barrier for me where weight gain is concerned: FAT is considered to be the one, universally acknowledged factor contributing to the risk of cancer recurrence.
It will all come down to how badly I want two lumps to fill out a dress. Keep in mind that these lumps will be insensate, anyway.
Really, what difference will some smaller lumps on my chest make to the overall quality of my life? I mean, check out Miranda Kerr (ugly cow):
For that matter, check out Keira Knightly.
Or Sienna Miller:
Or for that matter Jack Nicholson!
Boobs! Who really needs them?
This is the 10AA question I need to consider in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, I do hope you'll forgive me if you find me leering at your cleavage.
Just put my lechery down to research.