Once upon a time there was a girl with long ginger hair. Her name was gingerlocks and she was searching for a plastic surgeon.
I now know that finding a great plastic surgeon is the biggest part of the prophylactic mastectomy puzzle. I didn't think it would be that big of deal, I can get along with generally everyone, I find myself to be a pretty amiable person, however, I didn't realize that I was going to be this picky or observant about my plastic surgeon.
First impressions are really important and were really great indicators of the plastic surgeon themselves. Over the span of 6 month, I ended up meeting with three plastic surgeons, and it is true what they say - 3rd time was a charm.
When I got off the phone with Dr. T's scheduling assistant, I already knew that it would be a pleasant experience. The woman on the phone was kind, compassionate, interested, and helpful. They were able to get me a consultation only a few weeks after the initial referral from Dr. Rable's (my breast surgeon) office. A few days later, I received the paperwork and a letter stating that this was not a child friendly environment - so please leave the kids at home. This was a HUGE statement for me. Being nervous about reconstruction in general, it really eased my nerves knowing that only serious adult patients will be sharing the waiting room space with me and my husband. My husband, best friend, and I arrived a bit early to make sure all of the paperwork was in place, we were directed to a comfortable room filled with plush chairs and couches. The scent of lavender and mint filled the room. We were the only ones in the waiting room - it was for a 4;00 pm appointment. There were a few staff members around - dressed like they worked in a spa, elegant scrubs, quiet shoes, simple hair styles with minimal makeup. The rest of the appointment was much like that first impression. I was put in a plush cape during my exam. During the consult, the three of us set comfortably with Dr. T and chatted well past the 5:00 hour. She was energetic, knowledgeable, and confident. She has been doing this for quite some time, specializing in reconstruction and breast cancer patients. It was clear that she and her staff were used to working with the WHOLE woman during the reconstruction process. I really like Dr. T, even though she was kind of kooky - Tim said she was like a hyperactive cocker spaniel. Not a bad experience for my first plastic surgeon appointment and definitely gave me the tools to be able to ask questions at follow up appointments. Also, I really want one of those boob capes she had. So fancy.
Dr. B couldn't fit me in for a consultation for 3 months. THREE MONTHS! Once my appointment came around - I actually had the flu with a 101* fever, so I had to call to reschedule. I was forced to voicemail, and then the recorded message told me that they don't listen to voicemails, so not to leave a message. I had to email the general email account that had sent me an appointment reminder. Another month went by before someone called to schedule a follow up and then another month before they could fit me in again. The day before my scheduled appointment, they called to see if I could come in a different time, I told them NO, I had already scheduled my week around this one appointment. They huffed and puffed and I could HEAR the eyeroll from my end of the phone. Their waiting room was very clinical - basic plastic, black chairs with really unfriendly staff. No shocker that the doctor was exactly like her waiting room - cold, uninterested, and with a giant, tacky leg tattoo visible due to her short skirt and no leggings or hose. I immediately didn't like Dr. B (for her last name, not for her being a BITCH, but she WAS one...). She was cold, rude, and her robes were the itchy paper kind. She spent, maybe, 15 minutes with me. I left her appointment in tears and just sat in the car in the parking lot questioning my entire life and the choices I had made so far. DEFINITELY NOT A GOOD FIT. After waiting over five months for this second consultation, I was angry that I let someone drag me along like that.
I immediately called Dr. Rable's office expressing my discomfort, dissatisfaction and need for another consultation with a plastic surgeon so I could make an informed decision. They were not surprised to hear my review of Dr. B and gave me the number for a Dr. Masters - he's young and new to an established practice in the city but greatly impressed Dr. Rable by his initiative and interest in working with her patients. I called his office while I was STILL sitting in the parking lot of Dr. B's practice. Dr. Masters was able to get me in the next week - he would work me into his schedule since I was one of Dr. Rable's patients.
They got me in the NEXT WEEK! I was already impressed - and still crying from the Dr. B appointment.
Dr. Masters is wonderful. His staff and facilities are comfortable and welcoming. They have been accommodating and patient. Their robes are comfy and cozy. They have hot tea. Dr. Masters has made sure that all of my questions have been answered. He uses the newest technologies and was the only doctor to recommend a direct to implant procedure (DTI, more on that later). Tim and I left that first appointment asking ourselves "was this too good to be true"? When I called Dr. Rable about the DTI, she was giddy with excitement and glad that Dr. Masters will be performing that procedure on one of her patients. Her excitement, led to my excitement and within the month we had schedule my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. Dr. Masters ended up being the plastic surgeon that was JUST RIGHT for me: the perfect combination of compassion, confidence, and perfectly quaffed hair.
I can't wait to show off his work. I know I will be happy with the reconstruction, and if I'm not, I know he will do everything in his abilities to make it better - and I can't ask for more out of a surgeon!
We'll chat later about the Direct to Implant versus other reconstruction options. I still won't know until I wake up in recovery what I will be walking out with, but I trust my doctors and that's all I can do right now.
Christina Mallory Chicoraske - a 30 year old, 4th generation Okie, diagnosed BRCA2+ and undergoing a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. This is the tale of my journey with hopes to inform and encourage other young women searching for answers after a BRCA1/2 gene mutation discovery.