Cadaver skin – Wikipedia definition:

A cadaver, also called corpse (singular) in medical, literary, and legal usage, or when intended for dissection, is a deceased body.

I know it sounds gross but it’s not! Let me explain, cadaver skin was surgically placed in my body during a 3-hour long mastectomy surgery and reconstruction.

Over the past few years’ advances in breast cancer reconstructive surgery has taken a giant leap in minimizing multiple surgeries and reducing risks that go along with them by doing it both at the same time.

Here is what happened during my surgery on December 18, 2013:

The surgical oncologist starts the surgery. She cut me open and scrapped out all of my breast tissue, including my nipples (along with my bye bye boobies party, I think I’m going to have to call it instead ~ bye bye boobies, bye bye nipples, bye bye lymph nodes, bye bye ovaries – Hello Menopause!)…

Anyway, once she completes her part and while I was still ‘under’, about half way through the plastic surgeon takes over and starts to rebuild the breasts. How you ask?? She sewed in cadaver skin on each side to create a pocket that acts as a holder for the expanders….in my mind I picture a small basket.

Pretty cool, right!? I think so.

So today I’m going to repost the article I wrote about this a while ago because I think it’s taboo to talk about cadavers….and I think it shouldn’t be…it’s usage in the breast cancer world is vital for us both psychologically and physically. It’s a gift when you’ve lost all control and look forward to the day when you can feel normal again.

make you feel my love ~ March 20, 2015

Since my kids are on March break this week and my husband is working, I’ve only been to the pool once during the public swim. I’ve been to public swimming sessions before but I forgot how obnoxious they are. You know how people have an imaginary personal space surrounding themselves? Basically like a 20ish inch bubble covering the entire perimeter of your body, and if a stranger steps close and crosses this barrier your horrified and sometimes disgusted – well this happened to me about 50 times during the 2 hours I was there. It’s wall to wall people in bathing suites accidentally touching underwater or rubbing up against each other. GROSS. I would not recommend this situation for a person who suffers from Agoraphobia. The good news is that the kids loved it and it tires them out, any parent will appreciate this. I hadn’t noticed before but the pool has a giant hook on the ceiling that attaches to a large rope so the kids (and some crazy adults!) can swing and jump into the deep end like Tarzan. Great feature.

Other good news is I splurged and bought myself a FINIS Neptune, which is an underwater mp3 player. It’s really cool because the sound of the music is bone conducting. The piece sits on both of your cheeks and the sound travels into your ear once it’s submerged underwater up to 10 meters in. How cool is that!. So no traditional headphones. I was able to figure out how to convert my itunes songs to mp3 files and load it up fairly easily. If I have great music to listen to while working out I can tack on at least an extra 30 minutes. I’ll let you know how this goes. I think I’ll test it out in the bathtub first so I don’t have to fumble around with it for an hour in front of people, especially the boooored lifeguard atop her condescending tower – who may even give me stink eye. whatever.

I want to give you a description of the beginning portion of reconstructive surgery, and a detail that at first I didn’t want anyone to know but now I think it’s totally cool. This is where I tell you that not all patients go for this option for many reasons. It’s a personal choice and one that I only had about one week to determine. FML. Anyway, here is the cool part – the plastic surgeon used what they call Alloderm. Alloderm is created from donated human skin and helps to provide coverage of the tissue expander, and also to create a pocket that holds the temporary tissue expander then eventually the silicone implant aka ‘Gummy bear breast implants’. My PS told me a lot of women decide not to go with this option because of the Alloderm. They are not comfortable with the thought of having a deceased person’s skin in their body. At first, when I thought I could do the procedure that used only my own fat/tissue (tram flap aka tummy tuck) and not have to go the implant route, I was glad because I also found it weird to ha donor tissue in MY body. But then when I found out I couldn’t do the tram flap, I decided I was ok with it because –  why the f*ck not. Some people are happily walking around with other people’s lungs and hearts. Perspective was also a factor….really… I thought scientists and doctors are trying to save my life and give me back what basically is an amputation of sacred body parts. So I’d like to thank the person who selflessly gave their body to science so that others could benefit from their generosity and love. I feel the love which has given me the gift of trying to rebuild my post-cancerous self both mentally and physically. I am eternally grateful to you.


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