January 15, 2021

#208 — The Rest of the Story — Spontaneous Combustion

Note: If you haven’t read the first part of Spontaneous Combustion, this post won’t make sense to you. Take a look at that one and then come back here!

The day after we returned home, I went to see my doctor in Virginia. (By the way, he’s cute too.) When he walked into the room he said, “So your implant burst?” I said no, it didn’t. I had a feeling that is what the doc in Texas would tell him so I reached into my purse, pulled out my implant, and put it in his hand. He was surprised that I brought the implant back with me. “You kept it?” he said. Admittedly, it was a little odd. I told him that I wanted to be clear that the implant had not ruptured and that I didn’t trust that the doc in Texas would accurately convey that information. I was right. He said that what happened to me is definitely rare, but it can happen, although he’s never heard of it happening before. But, because my skin had been through radiation it’s thin, and thin skin just isn’t that strong. Radiation patients usually have trouble with reconstruction. I knew this going into it, but as usual, I thought I’d be different or special somehow. I have no idea why I thought that way.

Ultimately, Virginia doc decided that I had developed a hematoma (I had not) that kept filling and expanding with old blood and fluid and there was nowhere for it to go but out, which is why my breast blew up. Hmmmmm. Given all the red I saw during the “explosion” it wasn’t old blood, it was definitely new. If it was old, why the transfusion?

I reminded him that all of this happened starting with breakfast, to the ambulance, to the hospital, to the explosion, in 90 minutes. How is that possible?

He checked the sutured incision to make sure it was okay. Now, I am very thankful that the doc in Texas could close the wound. But if I’m honest, I’ve seen female dogs with incisions from a spaying procedure that looked better than my suture job — seriously.

Not one to criticize another doctor’s work he just said it would be okay, that I should rest for a week and we’ll put the implant back in over the next two weeks. That didn’t make sense to me. Hadn’t I lost skin in this process? Was I getting new skin? Cadaver skin? He was on to the next patient before I could gather myself to ask those questions. To be clear, I trust this doctor and I’m not one to second guess him.

So, I rested for a week and was scheduled for the reimplantation on June 21st. I decided that in the meantime, I’d remain lopsided. No chicken cutlets for me! For some reason, stuffing my bra on top of all of this was just one step too far.

My uneasiness led me to cancel my surgery and seek out another path. I just had a nagging feeling I needed to do something else. Over that weekend, I got a call from one of the senior executives from MD Anderson Cancer Center, which is not the hospital in Texas that I’ve referenced in my previous posts. It wasn’t a random call, I just haven’t gone into that story. Long story short (too late!) I flew to Houston to see their team of reconstructionists. I’m sure that isn’t what they are called, but I like the way it sounds. During that trip, I learned more about what happened. What’s consistent is that it is very rare — only two people (including me) had something similar occur, but only one blew up — me.

Lest I forget to tell you, this plastic surgeon was better looking than all of them. What is it with these doctors?

If you’re wondering what happened to the Akris Punto dress, my husband took it to the dry cleaners and they said no way, no how. I think there was some concern about it being a biohazard and/or they thought he had committed a gruesome murder and was trying to get rid of the evidence. Either way, they weren’t touching it. But, all was not lost. He soaked the dress in cold water in the bathtub at the hotel for more than an hour and carefully pulled out all the blood clots. Gross! If that’s not love, I don’t know what is. The dress is now good as new and the only remaining stain is on the label. In fact, it is the dress that I am wearing in the main picture of this blog! It just seemed symbolic.

All in all, I’m less scared than I was (I think) and all my thoughts of being mangled for the rest of my life are mostly gone. The doctor at MD Anderson operated on my half-boob in July, placed in a tissue expander and (bonus) took a little fat (not nearly enough) and put it under my arm where I had lymph nodes removed. The fat should help stave off lymphedema which I’m borderline for. You might have noticed the compression sleeve I’m wearing in the main photo. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, this whole episode was worth two bracelets.

When I started this bracelet-milestone project, I was so excited! I thought I’d be glancing at my wrist, smiling in awe because it would remind me of what I’ve overcome and how strong I was. Like Almighty Isis (the female superhero) or something. Instead, at least for now, I look at my wrist and it just reminds me of all the shit I’ve gone through and the shit that awaits me. I sound bitter, I know, but I’m really not. I’m just very, very tired and I don’t know when the end will be in sight.

Re-reconstruction is scheduled for November 13, 2018! Stay Tuned!



SEPTEMBER 1, 2018 AT 11:29 PM

Thank you so much for sharing this cousin. I continue to send prayers your way. Your strength is very uplifting xoxo

Juliette Qureshi

SEPTEMBER 2, 2018 AT 4:47 PM

I love that dress even more now that I know it is the one. And I love Greg more too, now that I picture him on his knees hanging over the side of a hotel bathtub heroically doing what he knows will cheer you. I love how you listened to your heart and that little bit of uneasiness—that stupor of thought—and looked for alternatives when their solutions didn’t feel right to you. I am convinced that is how God shows us the way to go, through the Holy Spirit, and the better we get at recognizing and acknowledging Him, the easier it is for Him to work with us! It’s easier to grasp when love, joy, optimism, peace and gratitude are fruits of the Spirit, but listening when there is a warning or an alternate—but less convenient—course is such a vital skill to develop in our quest to trust in the Lord and lean not on our own understanding. I love you, Char! Thank you for taking the time to share your journey.

Mike Doble

SEPTEMBER 23, 2018 AT 2:10 PM

I always knew there was steel beneath that beautiful veneer. I had no idea the ordeal you were going through and am in awe of your strength and candor. My wife is a cancer survivor too and I still marvel at her ability to face multiple surgeries, radiation and all the residual effects. Saying a prayer for success in November