Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What's Up With Me

The last few days have been a little overwhelming for me. Circulating in my mind is the constant hum of my diagnosis, floating in the periphery of every thought and task before me. I can't say that I am never thinking about it. It's always there, coming up for air at the most inopportune moments.

This weekend we told our families about my need for a mastectomy and chemo. Retelling the story over and over again drained both of us. Each session was followed by dozens of questions and opinions about me, my breast, and I(that kind of sounds like a catchy, feminist, book title--Me, My Breast, and I).

I have consumed volumes of information about breast cancer, pathology, staging, treatment, and theories about treatment--both online and in book format. The best overall resource by far has been Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, not an imaginative title, but a very thorough, readable book that I think any woman with breast cancer should buy. It goes beyond the basic introduction to breast cancer and really explains things in great detail, without requiring a pathology background. It was written for people just like me who want to know more than a brief synopsis of the disease and desire to be educated as much as possible about the statistics of treatment, survival, tumor type, and how breast cancer can behave in the body. I love it. Several questions I had a difficult time finding answers to online were laid out nicely in the book. Great!

Emotionally, I think I am beginning to turn a corner. It's been difficult to shake myself out of the disappointment and shock that I have felt during the last week. Describing everything to our family really ground me down as I tried to walk a tightrope between my own fears and trying to alieve the fears of my parents. Always the adult in the relationship, I had to reassure them that I was going to be OK, and that losing my breast was worth living longer.

Those conversations were interesting. I was very surprised that both my mother and father, separately because they're divorced, seemed so focused on the loss of my breast, rather than the state of the cancer in my body. They seemed very interested in the reconstruction process and the need for me to have it. Really weird.

What's ironic is that I have come to the completely opposite conclusion about my mastectomy and whether or not I will try to have breast reconstruction surgery. Right now I am leaning heavily towards no reconstruction. Being somewhat well-endowed, the process would require not only multiple surgeries for the reconstructed breast, but would also mean surgery for the other side to make it "match". That, combined with the many complications that can arise from either implants, or using muscle and tissue from another area of my body, has made me think that I might be happier getting through this process and returning to a body that is completely healthy, free of foreign objects, and just happens to be missing one breast.

After all, what's the point of reconstruction? While it will make me seem whole to other people while I am dressed, I cannot labor under the assumption that it will look beautiful, or even "normal" while undressed. Even the most talented plastic surgeon won't be able to hide the multiple scars. The new "breast" will have no feeling in it. It will literally be a mound of flesh, or saline, that makes getting dressed easier. I might completely change my mind about this, but right now this is what I'm thinking.

Here's a site that shows the process of reconstruction. I think there's a reason the photos are in black and white. It's a little graphic, but accurate.

As an aside, while looking into breast prosthesis, I accidentally was directed to a site for cross-dressers selling breasts for men with titles like"big sisters". I laughed for about five minutes on that one. It was almost as funny as the time my husband and I were looking into buying a treadmill and accidentally typed in the wrong web address for Dick's Sporting Goods, which is and not d!

funny times....funny times.

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