On December 25, 2013, I found out I had breast cancer as I was speaking to my cardiologist about which heart valve I should get. I was having an aortic valve replacement that day. (By the way, I picked the bovine valve.) At that time, I really couldn’t deal with my breast cancer diagnosis because I was being wheeled into the operating room. Fast-forward to a year later and I was in the same hospital being wheeled in to surgery for a double mastectomy.
Breast Cancer Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with stage 0-1 breast cancer. My treatment choices were lumpectomy and radiation five days a week for eight weeks, or a double mastectomy. My older sister had breast cancer twice and decided to have lumpectomies both times. I tested negative for the BRCA gene, but the geneticist said I had some sort of breast cancer gene because my sister had it twice under the age of 60 – and I was only 47. The chances of getting breast cancer again were high and it might be more aggressive the next time.
Why I Chose a Double Mastectomy
I didn’t want to go through the mental agony every single time I got a mammogram, worrying “What if they find something?,” so I opted for the double mastectomy. I knew it was radical. Some of my friends tried to talk me into a lumpectomy because of the early stage I was in. One compared it to “If you hurt your hand, would you cut it off?” People say strange things when they are not in your position. My choice was not made lightly. I had a year to think about it. The reason I waited a year was because six months after my heart surgery I developed an abscess in my chest and the doctors had to go back in and remove it. I needed to physically recover from that surgery first.
The Day of Surgery
I had a Latissimus Dorsi Flap reconstruction. Basically, they took skin from my back and reconstructed the breast with it. I was shown pictures and everything was explained to me. Right before I was wheeled into surgery, my doctor began drawing on my body. He was circling this, drawing a line there, putting dashes on my body. I felt like a connect the dot puzzle. There is nothing attractive about standing there having your body drawn on while you are in your not-so-sexy underwear!!!
Pushing Through the Pain
I am a strong girl. I had open heart surgery. I gave birth twice – once with no drugs (another story lol). But I was not prepared for the amount of pain I was going to be in. I had eight drains coming out of my body, I couldn’t move, and the pain was unbearable even with medication. The day after my surgery a nurse told me I had to get up and move around. My surgery wasn’t even 24 hours ago. She told me, “Sweetie you are going to hate me now but you will love me later.” I cursed at her; I told her I wished she would die. I said any mean thing I could think of. She was right though, and I have since apologized to her!
I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor
It’s been almost two years now since my mastectomy. I had a few complications along the way, both mentally and physically. No one warns you about the physical pain and the depression you might go through after. But it’s real. And it’s hard. It has not been an easy road to get to where I am now, and I have lost friends over it. I went through dark months. Not everyone will go through what I have been through, as everyone’s experience is different. But this was my journey and I’m happy I can stand tall and say “I’m a breast cancer survivor.”
Image via Flickr by maf04