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Small Talk: Ready to close the book on breast cancer

Well, patient readers, get ready for a “tellgood.” That’s what an old priest nicknamed “Papa Goose” called sharing good news.

This, I firmly believe, is the final chapter in the not-so-much-fun tale of my daughter’s breast cancer. She discovered the tumor herself 19 months ago, at the age of 29. They removed her left breast, found it had not gone into the lymph glands (can I get a hallelujah?) and set her on an aggressive four months of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment. She shut down her reproductive system, threw up, lost her hair, got poked with endless needles and just did what she had to do, with amazing grace.

She is now recovering from the reconstruction of her missing breast, and, again, is doing fabulously. Breast reconstruction, after a mastectomy, usually means using and replacing spacers. While that’s not an easy thing, my girl had a bigger challenge. The radiation treatment renders the skin in that area unusable. It will no longer stretch.

Given two options, she chose what is called a DIEP flap surgery, which for you medical term junkies, is the deep inferior epigastric perforator — the artery that runs through the abdomen. The surgeon (or magician, as we like to call him) takes a lot of tissue from your belly and creates a new breast with it. (I volunteered some of my belly, but they said no.) It requires detaching and reattaching a number of what they referred to as “angel-hair-spaghetti-sized blood vessels.” It took seven hours (and that’s when everything goes right) and two days in the ICU, making sure the newly attached spaghetti is pumping blood properly. It is every bit as astounding as it sounds.

So, yes, she got a tummy tuck out of the deal, which ain’t bad, but she was seriously bandaged up, neck to nethers, with three drains to tend to for two weeks. We both thank God for modern medicine and powerful painkillers. And, I have to say, the new breast is pretty spectacular. My full-bodied daughter has her cleavage back and all will soon be right with the world.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who doesn’t like surprises, but is a big fan of miracles. Contact her at [email protected]