[Disclaimer: none of this is meant to offend any woman who has already gone through a mastectomy. These are just my honest feelings about it right now, and these feelings seem to change by the hour.]
A friend asked how I was handling the upcoming mastectomy part of the whole process. I thought I was OK with all of it. “Just take it/them off; I don’t care. Who needs it/them anyways. I’ve never used them for their actual purpose anyways, blahblahblah.” on and on and on.
I was talking in very flip ways about having a mastectomy, in fact; making jokes — pretty sick, dark humor going there. Now, those who know me understand that this is my way of coping and that I’m also prone to hyperbole.
So anyways, I was talking about this in a very flip, casual way — all along actually knowing deep down that it wasn’t really flip or casual. I hadn’t done any research about it at all until the other night when I googled some mastectomy images, and realized that it’s going to be harder than I thought. They are . . . disfiguring. I’m going to be disfigured. Again, no offense whatsoever to women who have been through this; I imagine it just takes some getting used to, or at least it will for me. *sigh*
Of course, take a breast, take them both, if it means saving my life. I would much rather live. According to my oncologist, Dr. Funky Glasses, they just need to take my left breast and not my right. She said that the chances of the cancer spreading to my right breast are 1%/year and that it’s more likely that the cancer will spread to other parts of my body. Having a blunt oncologist is a mixed blessing, but I’m sure overall I need to know what I’m up against. At first I was convinced that I wanted them to take both, but after seeing the images, now I’m not so sure.
Having looked at the images more than once at this point, I’m getting more used to them. I’ve also done more research on what type of mastectomy they typically do for an Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) patient because that’s one of the questions that I forgot to ask Dr. Funky Glasses when we were there talking to her.
I’ve never been gung-ho on having big breasts or anything. Dr. FG, who says I’m “busty,” (though I’m not that busty) said that could be one way to get them both off and have insurance cover it — that maybe having symmetry would be better for my back, etc. And get this — insurance will cover a breast reduction but often not a double mastectomy. Ohhhhh, don’t we all just love (GACK!!) insurance! I really think the only reason I’m “busty” is that I’m overweight. I would only be sorta “busty” if I were normal-size. Yanno?
Of course, if I get one off, I’ll wear a prosthesis until I can get breast reconstruction which would be a year from the mastectomy — the recommended time for IBC patients. I hope that year gives me time and motivation to get in better shape. I’ll say “better” and not “great,” so I don’t set myself up for failure.
Anyways, I do have some emotional work to do with this, however it turns out. I am resolute about the mastectomy because it simply has to be done on the left breast to save my life. The right breast? I’m still thinking about that, particularly because of something that happened more recently.
This is going back to my post about nighttime cuddles. While Nate was wrapped around me, head on my chest, I couldn’t help thinking that Moms are soft and squishy and that’s what kids like about Moms. I remember putting my head against my mom’s chest when I was a little girl. When I was with Nate, I thought to myself, “if I get both of my breasts off, my chest will be just like Frank’s, and Nate won’t have anything soft and squishy to lay his head against.” I don’t know if that sounds weird or what . . . . but it’s almost like I wouldn’t be quite as MOM-like.
It would be a whole different thing if, for my health, I had to get both breasts off, but I think I’ve been having a visceral, knee-jerk reaction to the whole thing, and I really don’t have to have them both off.
I’ll probably change my mind 500 times before the actual surgery, but in that moment, I realized that in taking away both of my breasts, it wouldn’t just affect me, but it would also affect my little boy. It would make me physically harder. Not soft and squishy how he’s used to me being. I know I’d wear the prosthesis and that would work most of the time, but if I’m in my pajamas and don’t want to wear the prosthesis, maybe I still want my boy to be able to cuddle up to me and have something soft and squishy and familiar to hug. Something to fall asleep against. Something Mom-like.
Maybe it’s not all about me.