Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Reconstruction Via Tissue Expanders
And I mean everything
I had so many questions when it came to breast reconstruction - over or under the muscle? Nipple sparing? What are expanders?? I’m by no means an expert but, as always, thought it would be helpful to share my personal experiences and insight! I’m planning on updating this post soon with a video that shows exactly what happens in the fill process - so make sure you’re subscribed to updates and following me on Instagram.
Before I begin, I want to note that breast reconstruction is an extremely individualized and personal choice. What’s right for me, may not be what’s right for you, and vice versa. There’s always the option of no reconstruction (aka, “going flat”) which many women have opted for. Be sure to keep all of your options in mind and to go through every scenario with your doctor.
Have a question that I didn’t cover below? Shoot me an email or DM! Always happy to help.
The Details: Nipple sparing double mastectomy, with delayed reconstruction. Expanders were placed over the muscle at the time of surgery. My plastic surgeon filled my implants to 150cc at the time of my surgery, so I did not wake up completely flat.
Follow along with the slideshow above for progress pics!
Fill #1: My implants were filled to 150cc while I underwent my double mastectomy. When I woke up, I had a little bit of boobs, which I really didn’t expect! Again, this fill happened while under anesthesia, so I don’t really have anything to say about it.
Fill #2: Starting with this fill, I was filled an additional 60cc each visit (every 3 weeks, to coincide with my trips home for Herceptin & Perjeta infusions.) I want to note here that you can technically be filled up to 100cc with each visit and typical patients are filled every other week, versus every 3 weeks. The amount you’re filled to per visit will depend on your physical size, as well as your goal implant size, among other factors. My doctors wanted me to get back to Miami and my normal life, so we did things a little different for me.
This fill expanded me to 210cc. It was also the fill that I got my drains out for. I almost passed out from seeing the drain come out and then seeing a needle poked through my nipple (even though I couldn’t feel it)… it was all a little much for me and I almost vomited. I definitely recommend that if you’re like me and tend to get a little queasy, to lay down while getting filled and don’t look. I had to learn that one the hard way. This is one of the only fills that I was actually sore after. The first one is always the worst and it definitely got better from here!
Fill #3: I was expanded to 270cc. I didn’t experience the soreness I did after the first fill, just slightly uncomfortable. It takes a while to adjust to the new size during the expansion process but, as I found with my first fill, it got better.
Fill #4: From this point on, fills were no big deal to me! I was expanded an addition 60cc to 330cc total. This is the part where I started to feel different and “big”. It makes sense because I was probably right around this size naturally, before my surgery.
Fill #5: After this fill, I was like, “okay, we’re done here.” This was about the point (390cc) when I started feeling like I had rocks in my chest at all times. I also started working out more intensely right before and after this fill, so I think it might have made me more aware of the changes. I still sleep on my side/stomach, but this fill made it a lot harder to do that. When I was a bit smaller, I could get away with not sleeping in my big pregnancy pillow if I had a night when I was traveling or something, but not anymore! It’s really tough to not have some sort of body pillow on either side of me to help with sleeping because it just feels like I’m laying on rocks and is not only uncomfortable, but painful.
Fill #6: The last one! We expanded me to 450cc. I have over the muscle reconstruction, which means my implant will be anywhere from 75-100cc bigger than the expanded size. For reference, the size you see in the photos equates to a full B cup and my final implant size will be a full C cup. It’s important to keep in mind that breast reconstruction is very different from your standard boob job. When you have existing tissue, an implant that’s the same size as mine could end up being a G cup!! Not having any of that breast tissue ends up in a much different result, look and feel, so do keep that in mind when talking to family, friends and, of course, your surgeon.
*Note: Disregard the weird coloration on my boobs in this pic… I’m in between spray tans and haven’t scrubbed my old one off yet LOL*