There are some things you don't think about until you're told they're going to be taken away.
I was diagnosed with DCIS which is basically cancer cells in the ducts of your breast. The area that had those cells was pretty substantial which is why my doc recommended the mastectomy. You see, I have never been what you would call ‘well endowed'. So simply having a lumpectomy wasn't really going to work.
It would have been disfiguring. So the mastectomy was a better option aesthetically because I could get reconstruction.
So then why would I choose a DOUBLE mastectomy? If I only had cancer in one breast why have both removed?
Why choose a DOUBLE mastectomy?
I will be honest with you, hearing that I had cancer was scary. Hearing that I should have a mastectomy was traumatic. At first.
As I mentioned before I was not a big chested girl. Think pointy pancakes more than melons. And I was totally fine with that. I never wore a bra, I didn't care that they weren't big. Honestly, they were more of a nuisance to me than anything else.
Until I was told that I would need to lose one. Then they became more for some reason. Hearing that I would need to have a mastectomy made me feel something I had never experienced.
I felt like I was losing something that made me a woman. It sounds ridiculous to me even as I type it out, but that is truly how I felt.
Then immediately after hearing that my doctor asked me about the possibility of having a double mastectomy.
WHAT?!?! You want to take both of them?!?!
I almost couldn't process that. I didn't understand why she would even ask me that!
Then she started talking with me about a lot of other options and the various things I could do if I didn't do a mastectomy. A lumpectomy (which would be disfiguring), radiation treatments which had their own side effects.
I would rather change the way I look than worry about dying.
Ultimately after hearing all of the options I did decide on the double mastectomy and reconstruction. I did so for several reasons:
- There was no guarantee that a lumpectomy would get all the cancer cells and I would possibly be in the same situation in the future.
- I didn't want to be disfigured. I know that my breasts weren't my pride and joy BUT I didn't want them to look any wonkier than they already did.
- If I only did one and got the reconstruction I wouldn't match. (They don't make implants in saggy ‘I've had three kids' pointy pancake size.)
- And the BIGGEST reason – I didn't want to have to worry about doing this all over again on the other side in 6 month or a year or whenever.
As a single mom I need to have the best solution with the best possible outcome and the least amount of down time. Having a double mastectomy was that option.
If you're faced with having a mastectomy, don't think you're going to come back after a week or 2. It will kick your ass.
Please be sure to listen to the podcast where I go into more detail about the surgery and recovery because it is really too much to write here.
BUT I will tell you this – if you are faced with having a mastectomy make sure you prepare yourself. Not just for the physical aspects of it but the practical ones. For some reason I thought that I would be all better and back to normal after a couple weeks.
Told my clients and friends that it was no big deal and I would be back at it in no time. NO! This is major surgery, I am not sure why I thought it wasn't. It took me months to get back to even HALF speed. So give yourself some grace, make sure you have help and here are a few other tips to help you.
- Buy comfortable FRONT closing sports bras. Trust me you will want out of the grandma bras as soon as your doctor tells you that you can. I got these and loved them AND still use them.
- Before your surgery put anything you will be needing – dishes, clothes, toiletries etc at mid level. You won't be able to lift your arms for a while.
- Make sure you have body cleansing wipes and dry shampoo – you will not be able to shower for a while if you have drains put in. (PS. That first shower after you have been cleared to take one is GLORIOUS)
- Get a bunch of front button up shirts – I got a ton of them from good will in the men's section. Again, you won't be able to lift your arms to change your shirt so button ups will be a life saver.
- REST. It takes longer to heal if you don't rest and let your body do the work it needs.
Your body is putting in a lot of energy to heal. It doesn't seem like it, but when you start doing other things, it makes you really tired.
Also, remember that even though you had to go through this, the only thing you lost is the cancer.
You have not lost your womanhood. You are still feminine. You are still YOU!
And if you get reconstruction like I did, you may even end up with better boobs than when you started. I sure did.
Above all, remember that you are doing what you need to survive and keep living. Our bodies don't make us who we are. I lost cancer. Other than that, I haven't lost anything. I'm still me.
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