weakness after tram flap reconstruction

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New Member

Date Joined Sep 2007
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 9/4/2007 9:40 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi.  I am new to this group.  I was wondering if you knew anyone who is a ballerina or other dancer (or avid about yoga or pilates) and has had tram flap reconstruction.  I am attempting to be a high-level ballroom dance competitor and I use my abdominal muscles a lot when I dance.  I don't know if I can trust the doctors and patients who say that the other muscles will take over enough to compensate for the damage to the rectus abdominus muscles.  I sure would like to believe it because, after radiation, that may be my only option for reconstruction.  thanks!

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 9/5/2007 6:58 AM (GMT -7)   
If you want a completely honest answer, I would say you will never be the same after a tram. I had real bad problems with infection in my abdominal wall and lost all my muscles both rectus and side muscles, but that was due to the infection from contaminated sutures from the factory. I am not basing my answer solely on my experience. My daughter also had a tram flap, she was 39 at the time. After eight years she still has midriff area discomfort and that area is certainly not smooth and tight enough to fit into dresses a ball room dancer would wear. She has horses and cows and lugs feed and hay to them, so her abdomen should be good and tight from all her work and exercise.

I am guessing from seeing ballroom dancing on PBS that you are thin and have a wonderful shape, most likely small busted? Perhaps prosthesis could be sewn into your costumes to make it easier for you to move without worrying about them moving the other direction. I know there are bathing suits constructed this way.

Good luck and God bless your decision. Breast cancer changes our lives, no one will dispute that.

Hugs, Mary K.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 1564
   Posted 9/5/2007 7:28 PM (GMT -7)   
I agree with MK...if you want a really honest answer, I would say what the doctors give as "word" is not completely correct. I had a TRAM many years ago. I was told that I would be back to my normal self in 6 to 8 weeks, and that I would not only get a bonus "tummy tuck," I would never have to do sit-ups again. I was 5'3", about 115 pounds, and 36 at the time. I really didn't need a "tummy tuck," but I did want to be even, and implants were getting a lot of bad press at the time. I didn't have the option of having both breasts removed...no law guaranteeing that back then.

They had to take both RA muscles to build one breast because I was so thin. I asked about going to physical therapy. I was told that it wasn't necessary, that my other muscles would just "take over," and I would be fine. I couldn't get in my own bed for 5 months, I was so darned tight. I later developed scoliosis from the pull of the muscles on the reconstructed side. I've blown six discs as a result of the scoliosis. Physical therapy every other year or so and religious exercise are all that keep me going.

I will say this: I think, had I gone to physical therapy to begin with (and someoone who specializes in ortho and spine), my story could be different.

You are a dancer. Your obliques and core stabilizing muscles are probably really strong, which would definitely be in your favor...I will admit, I never had great posture, and my core stability has always lacked something. I'm sure this contributed to my later problems.

The therapists I use now, and I went to several before I found someone who was really able to help me and keep me going, use a Pilates-based system. They also use stability balls alot. My obliques are nice and tight now, but the damage to my spine cannot be "fixed." The damage is irreparable, aside from having surgery, and then there are no guarantees, 50/50 chance of being better or worse with surgery, and possibly putting a steel rod in to stabilize the spine. I prefer to stick with the exercise!

My advice would be: get a referral to a really good PT who specializes in ortho and spine rehab. Talk to them about what you are considering, what you want to be able to do, and see if they can keep you doing what you love to do. Then start going to PT as soon after surgery as possible!

I don't think the doctors mean to be dishonest. They just don't understand something they have never experienced. Ironically, my plastic surgeon's nurse was diagnosed with breast cancer about two years after I was. I went in for my annual appointment, and I asked her if she was feeling okay. She told me she had been diagnosed, was going through chemo, and had had a TRAM about 6 months previous. She said, "you know, I am still just so uncomfortably tight...when does that feeling go away???" I had to tell her that, after two years, I was finally feeling less discomfort.

I don't want to discourage you, but please make sure you have good info from someone besides the surgeon and plastic surgeon before making your decision, and a course of action to get back where you want to be, physically.

Sorry so long! Hope this helps.

"There's a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker."  --Charles Schulz

Veteran Member

Date Joined Oct 2004
Total Posts : 826
   Posted 9/12/2007 8:22 PM (GMT -7)   
I had a TRAM flap done in Jan 06.  It does take a long time to get rid of the tightness, certainly longer than 6-8 weeks.  I can't remember exactly when the tightness subsided, but it's pretty much gone.  Unfortunately, I've gained some weight and so the flatness isn't what it was (which angers me to no end), but I will work on that soon.  As for abdominal strength, it will never be the same.  Even though I only had one side done, there are times I have difficulty sitting up from a lying position.  The side that the muscle was taken from is what I call mushy to the tough.  And the strangest thing that no one has mentioned is when you tighten your abs, the side that's missing puffs up because there is nothing to hold the skin and fat down.  I kind of freaked out the first time I noticed it.  LOL  I don't know about the other muscles taking over. 
Just do your research and be as informed as you can.  And get the best PS you can possibly get.  Good luck!
L & H,

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