I truly believe that God leads us to where we NEED to be not necessarily we WANT to be. Through this journey, I have discovered that we do not really notice His voice or pay attention to where He is leading us in life until we are brought to our knees sometimes in the form of a tragedy or diagnosis and it is only then we look upward and fix our gaze towards Him and in the silence of our prayers asking Him to heal us it is then that we hear His words or look for His guidance.
It took one meeting with the surgical oncologist after diagnosis to make me feel uncomfortable with this choice and one visit to the local plastics guy that I was sent to for a consultation to know God was leading me elsewhere. This was not an easy decision to think of leaving the local hospital system where I was diagnosed. I did not even know how or if I could leave the system. Doesn't that sound crazy? I felt stuck. I was told by the nurse navigator (who was wonderful) that I was now in the system and all would now flow smoothly and I did not need to worry about anything. All of my appointments were set. The consultation for reconstruction was set...all I had to do was just show up. This is supposed to make you feel better as a patient and take the burden off of you. But to me I felt like a widget in a line of 1 in 8 other widgets. It did not feel right. But how could it not? This town is where I have grew up. This is the hospital I had previous surgeries at and where I visited my nieces and nephews when they were born. It is the hospital where I had both of my own children and where my pediatrician works. I trust this hospital. But something did not feel right for this decision. Maybe this decision felt more dire. Maybe it was the pull to remain alive to see my babies grow up and get married and the desire to be a grandma one day. I was not sure how far I would go or even how to go about looking elsewhere but I knew I had to. Should I go to MD Anderson? Should I travel to Los Angeles and beg Dr. Dubrow to "fix" me before the local guy BOTCHED me. I mean after all this way we could just cut out the middle man. I don't know if it was the comment of "you will look like you have been reconstructed but it is better than nothing" that I got from the plastics guy as I was standing in his office shirtless and holding on to hope that implants would somehow make this all seem less abnormal at my age or maybe it was remembering the "entourage" comment from the surgical oncologist I posted about earlier but either way I knew I was 41 years old and I watch BOTCHED (sorry that's 2 Dr. Dubrow references LOL!) and I know we are so advanced in medicine and plastic surgery that there had to be better outcomes than what I was being told. So my husband (8000 miles away in the Middle East) and I reached out to his colleagues at Mentor (an implant line with J&J) to see if they had any advice they could give. It only took one phone call and the question we all want to know..."If this was your wife who would you send her to?" That is what led us to Graper Harper Cosmetics and to Dr. Garrett Harper in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The next day I called Dr. Harpers office. Everything about the initial conversation was different then my experiences here. They scheduled me a consultation within a week of that initial phone call and even called me back when I was concerned about insurance not paying for reconstruction (oh yea did I mention that little fun fact!) and they said "Dr. Harper said just come up to meet with him yall can worry about that later." I drove to Charlotte alone for that consultation not wanting to get my hopes up- they had been dashed so many times lately and the reality of breast cancer and what was to come started to weigh so heavy on me. After all it was within the past 2 months I was diagnosed with breast cancer, found out I would have a double mastectomy, poked and prodded more than I have ever been even having been pregnant twice and have been told that I would look reconstructed but I should just be happy with that. I did not have much hope that this consultation would be much different...but is was!
The moment Dr. Harper walked in he was different. He is a handsome man with tattoos and a longer hairstyle then the majority of doctors I have seen. He was light hearted and fun and he made me feel instantly comfortable. I liked that he was younger and I liked his tattoos...not because I am a tattoo girl (although my hubby has killer ones) but because it made me feel like he was up on the times and would know how someone my age would want to look and feel after this surgery. He talked with me for a bit about his heart for reconstruction and how it really is an art form. He told me how different it is then just implants and you need a good surgical oncologist for his work to look the best after a mastectomy. He then examined me he asked me what size I wanted to be. I knew after talking to the other plastics guy to want to remain a 34 D was out of the question. I told him "I know I cant be a 34D again so..." he quickly stopped me. He asked me why I said I cant be a 34D. I told him the story of the other plastics guy in my hometown and mid story he stopped me and he said "Ok we are not ever going to mention him again because that is ridiculous what he said to you. Now again what size do you want to be?" I could feel the hope coming back to me. I could feel that I did not have to settle for being cancer free but I could have the desire to look like I used to and that was ok. He told me about his procedure and how he would lipo (praise Jesus for this little benefit!) fat from wherever I wanted (oh let me count the places) it from and then put that fat in my breast area to act as tissue covering the implant since the mastectomy would take the tissue and this would give me a more natural look. I told him in that case I wanted to look like Jessica Rabbit...I mean after all DREAM BIG GIRL DREAM BIG!
Upon leaving this consultation Dr. Harper gave me the name of the surgical oncologist he partners with (because good flaps make all the difference- check out another one of my posts on what to ask and look for regarding this) at Novant Health in Charlotte. I called Dr. Peter Turk that evening and got a an appointment with him that week. I left Graper Harper in tears but for the first time in a long time they were tears of joy and hope! I knew then...he was my surgeon!