Tissue Expanders: Exactly as Pleasant as it Sounds

About a month after radiation, early 2015, I started the process of having the tissue expanders in my chest filled.

So here’s how that worked: mastectomy removed the breast tissue, plastic surgeon put the tissue expanders underneath my pectoral muscle. Super weird feeling. It felt like my body was in a permanent push up.

In a normal female body it’s: chest wall, pectoral muscle, breast tissue, skin. But it’d look super weird to have tissue expanders right next to your skin. This might be obvious, but I didn’t understand what the heck a tissue expander was before they put them in. They are designed to help your body prepare for reconstructive surgery so that that area of your body and skin done contract and make later surgery incredibly painful or nearly impossible. All I know is that they hurt and feel super weird.

So in January of 2015, I go in and have the expanders “filled up” with saline. The expanders have a magnet at the opening, so the nurses would use a magnet to find the opening and mark it and take giant needles and fill up the expanders, usually 100 mg to 150 mg in each expander.

We’d do this every few weeks until March to gradually have the skin expand. This was my least favorite part of the entire process. Though, the nurses at “Fill-up Fridays” (yes, that’s what they called it) were super awesome and hilarious (and they laughed at my jokes).