I am Michael Jackson

So I spent the afternoon in a hyperbaric chamber at Capital Health System in NJ. If you had asked me two months ago, “Cara, do you think that, in two months, you’ll be diagnosed with breast cancer, have a double mastectomy, and spend two hours in a hyperbaric chamber breathing pure oxygen?” I’d have said, “Hell no.”

I guess stranger things have happened.

I took a "dive" in one of these hyperbaric chambers this afternoon.

Basically, my plastic surgeon is not happy with how the skin on my left breast is healing. I have a very large area under my nipple down to my incision (which is at the bottom fold of my breast) that has turned a waxy white, kind of like a third degree burn. She described it as full-thickness skin loss, and in layman’s terms I think that means that the surgeon just removed so much breast tissue that my remaining skin is too thin to reconnect to a blood supply, so it is dying off.

I saw the plastic surgeon on Monday and she said she was still not happy and would like to schedule a revision surgery. I cried like a baby. I just felt like things were coming crashing down around me again. My surgery went so well otherwise and I was so disappointed that my skin didn’t get the memo that I was supposed to heal with no complications! I was also terribly frustrated to have this setback when I had already moved on to my next step in this whole breast cancer journey,  embryo retrieval. Everyone says to take things one step at a time, and I thought the surgery step was over, so to have this setback made me really upset.

When I was done crying, though, I put things into perspective and realized it isn’t so terrible. I am cancer free. All negative nodes. My right breast looks great. I can handle some skin removal and perhaps having a lopsided chest for a while because my surgeon will have to take down my left side expander to let the skin heal. I can also probably do the retrieval at the same time. Deep breaths.

Back to the hyperbaric chamber – my wonderful father who will do absolutely anything for me suggested it and fast-tracked me to the wound care department at the hospital he works at so I could see the vascular surgeon about whether hyperbaric therapy would help my skin heal. The surgeon said he thought it would be beneficial, so now I’m making like Jacko and taking a daily ride on the hyperbaric highway.

Anyone else know people who have had this therapy after surgery? I read about it on one message board but I’d love to hear from others. Or just others who had to lose skin after mastectomy. It’s apparently pretty common and it is pretty traumatizing especially on top of everything else a breast cancer patient goes through.


4 thoughts on “I am Michael Jackson

  1. I just came across this post and thought I would comment. I too was diagnosed with breast cancer (both breasts and some lymph nodes). I had chemotherapy and radiation then started reconstruction. I had to have a latissimus flap surgery on the left side and hoped to have a “normal reconstruction on the right. Nothing quite worked out that way…. the radiation damaged my skin so that the incision from the final implant surgery on the left would not heal and the radiation caused my skin to fail and the right side. I had another latissimus flap sugery to repair the right side and had 30 hyperbaric treatments to help heal the left.

    Good news! The treatments seem to have worked – the wound is healed and even the radiated skin looks much improved. I didn’t believe this was going to work but it did!!!!

    I am back at work and hopefully done with treatments!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Vicki! So glad the treatments worked for you. I didn’t stick with them long enough to see any real results, but I’m happy with the way things turned out after it’s all said and done. Best of luck to you!

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