When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in July, I spent some time thinking about my breasts. I started thinking back to all the insecurities I felt in my teens and twenties about my body. As women, we tend to pick apart our bodies so much that we are left feeling unhappy with the body we live in. We beat ourselves up for not looking like a Victoria Secret model. As I began to discuss the surgery options ahead, I realized that I never truly appreciated my body enough and I was out of time to make up for it. My boob was killing me and I had no choice but to remove it as soon as possible.
A lumpectomy was not an option for me due to the size of my tumor as compared to the overall size of my breast. So it came down to one boob or two. I spent less than 10 minutes, deciding which surgery to proceed with. Yep, you read it correctly...10 minutes.
This is where I will stop and say that whatever surgery you choose, will be right for you. You know yourself and you know what’s best for you (taking into consideration your doctor’s recommendations of course). No one is in a place to judge you for the decision you make. Personally, I did not think that I could live with the fear of the cancer coming back in my other breast and there was an 80% chance that it would. I didn’t think I could take the added stress of ultrasounds every 6 months, and the constant unknown. So I decided to go with a double mastectomy. I wanted all the cancer gone and I wanted to eliminate as much risk of recurrence as possible. On this side of the surgery, I couldn't be more thankful that I confidently made such a decision -- the pathology performed upon my surgery identified 15 additional spots of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
So how does one emotionally prepare for a mastectomy? I tried reading blogs, medical websites, books and talking to survivors, but nothing prepared for me the experience. I will do a separate post with specifics about what to bring to the hospital, clothing choices and tips for after surgery. I read one blog that referred to the mastectomy as an amputation and I think that was the most helpful way for me to look at it. You are quite literally removing a part of your body and while you may not need that part of your body to live, losing it will have a profound impact on your life. Before the surgery, I expected not to have an emotional response with my new body, but I woke up from surgery and realized that a piece of me was gone. Two pieces to be exact. All joking aside, I had to keep reminding myself that there was a bigger reason for my surgery; that surgery saved my life. Though I have to admit, I feel a little Frankenstein-y, pieced together with stitches and glue. Appropriate for the season, I suppose. No doubt, I am beginning to look at my body differently. I am beginning to accept this chance to love myself again and embrace this body that has given me a second chance at life.
I know I have a long road ahead of me: chemo maybe, definitely another surgery and reconstruction. I think this first surgery has changed my life forever. Never again will I look at my body the same. Never again will I take for granted this body I have and the life it allows me to live. I hope that other people can take my experience and reflect on their bodies. I can’t tell you enough how beautiful you are. You have to appreciate your body, flaws and all, - it's a gift - because you never know when something might come along that will change the way you see yourself forever.