In March, 2002 my diagnosis with breast cancer came at a time that I was unprepared to give it much thought. I was tired from the previous year and the few months prior to my diagnosis were devastating to our family. Any decisions that were made were made based on few facts and no real thoughts.
I was given the option of having a lumpectomy with radiation as well as chemo or a mastectomy with chemo. I was advised that there were really no differences in the percentages of outcome. I gave it no thought whatsoever. I pointed to the lumpectomy on his piece of paper and gave it no further thought at the time. Some of my friends were wondering why on earth I would not have my breast removed. I simply didn't see the need. I had enough on my plate at the time and that seemed like an unnecessary surgery. At that time - it was the right choice for me. I don't regret or second guess that decision.
Two years after my radiation I could feel some hard tissue in my breast area. I pointed the area out to my surgeon at my checkup and he could also feel the area. Went for a mammogram and ultrasound and there it was - an abnormal spot. AGAIN. Scheduled a biopsy and it was benign. It was necrosis. Tissue that had hardened due to radiation.
Another year passes by and there is yet another spot showing up on the mammogram and ultrasound. This time I decide against another biopsy. I felt it was the same exact thing and we would look at it again in a few months. What cancer survivor waits and watches a lump?????????????? That would be me! There really was never a change so I just didn't bother worrying about it. I was, after all, taking Tamoxifen and getting boob exams every three months.
During this same time period my dear friends breast cancer returned and her battle for life began. I prayed with and for her and watched her fight the battle to the very end. She never wanted to give up. That proved to be a very difficult thing to swallow. I was seeing more and more women having a recurrence. These same women were diagnosed at the same time or around the time I was diagnosed.
I did lots and lots of research through the years after my initial diagnosis and just felt that I had more options. I thought that at my five year mark things would be different. I thought all of my concerns would be laid to rest. That was not the case. I just had the nagging feeling that I could still do more.
I started researching and reading and connecting with women that had bilateral mastectomies with reconstruction. I made up my mind and knew what I wanted to do. My breast cancer was highly positive for estrogen and progesterone. I had taken shots for 5 years to keep my ovaries shut down but low and behold those suckers were resilient. They were still putting off hormones. So, they were expendable as well. I had no need for ovaries or boobs. My mind was made up.
I went in for my quarterly check up and told my Oncologist that it was time to go drastic. I wanted a bilateral mastectomy with tram flap reconstruction and bilateral oopherectomy at the same time. He never blinked an eye - simply said "I agree". It was decided and I was ready.
I made a phone call and was put in good hands with a group in Atlanta. My first consult in Mississippi left me rather frustrated. No groups in my area or proximity would even consider doing the entire surgery. So - I hauled off to Atlanta and they fully understood. They told me to pick the day and go for it. It was almost too easy.
I planned the procedure around my work and family as I had done every other procedure or chemo. I was blessed to have an awesome friend to live there and agree to take me in as her patient for a week. (I sure do love that lady). So in early June, 2008 I had the whole thing. One surgeon removed both breasts. (simple mastectomy) Another surgeon began removing stomach tissue to create my new boobies! He also removed abdominal muscle to place in my breasts in order to have blood flow. After he removed the muscle another surgeon stepped in and removed my ovaries and tubes. The plastic surgeon then completed the remainder of the procedure. I left the hospital three days later with six or eight drains (I can't remember now) and a new set of boobs.
This was not an easy procedure to bounce back from. Six weeks was needed to feel good again. But I would do that all over again tomorrow to have the peace of mind that I have. It is a good feeling to realize that you don't have to feel around on those boobs and wonder when the beast will return.
There is nothing that gives a 100% guarantee. But there were options and I took advantage of them. The choice I made gave me freedom from fear. I know that it can still return. I know that I can have another kind of cancer. I also know that I can have a heart attack or a stroke or a car wreck. I can lay my head on my pillow at night and know that I did everything that I could to prevent it. The rest is in God's hands. He is my strength and my comfort. In Him is my trust. He gave me a peace about the procedure. I didn't feel it was a lack of faith in Him. I just felt that I needed to let go of the breast cancer and that was how I did it.
I posted earlier this year that my cancerversary passed and I didn't realize it. That is a good feeling. I no longer hate my boobs. I love them - scars and all! Heck I have scars everywhere these days - but they tell a story. They are part of who I am. I am a survivor.
I love you guys.
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