I used to sound very flip when I thought about losing a boob. Because, you see, I’ve known since the beginning of my treatment that I would be having a mastectomy after the chemotherapy. That’s the difference when you have Inflammatory Breast Cancer — it’s necessary to have chemotherapy first, then the mastectomy. I’ve often had people ask about that: “Oh, I thought they usually did surgery first,” or “I guess some doctors do things differently.” I typically didn’t want to get into long, drawn-out educational sessions about IBC so I would say something like:
With my kind of cancer, they have to do chemotherapy first. It is much more successful doing chemo first and surgery second.
Get someone who really pushes and you can be really blunt:
Well, with my kind of cancer, they used to do surgery first, but they had a 100% mortality rate, so chemotherapy first has really improved the success rates.
You have to be careful with that one, though. That’s a conversation stopper, so I really didn’t use it much.
But as I was saying, I was very flip at the beginning about losing a boob.
Oh, take it off, take them both off. What do I need them for? They’re a nuisance anyway. I always get food on them when I’m eating, I call them “the shelf” for food, I mean COME ON, they’ve never been used for their proper purpose anyways!
But you see, humor is one of my best coping mechanisms and can hide very great pain — even from me — so for the longest time, I didn’t think it bothered me at all.
In one way, it doesn’t. It’s being done to save my life, after all. So, take it. If they had to take both, that would be fine too. Take them. Living is more important than having one or two boobs. My goodness, I love my life, I want to live as long as I can. Take the breast.
It’s just not as flip and “nothing” as I once thought it would be. I’ve thought about it, I’ve seen pictures, and I will be disfigured. I will be lopsided until I get a prosthesis. I will be lopsided for real unless/until I get reconstruction done. It will be different, definitely something to get used to. Will I grieve my breast? I don’t know. For the longest time during treatment I’ve hated it. I’ve wanted it gone. As I said to my husband, “it tried to kill me.” Even writing that, tears well up in my eyes because in a way, that’s really the truth. I guess realistically, it’s not the breast that tried to kill me, it’s the cancer in the breast, but it’s hard to separate the two. The cancer in the breast has tried to kill me, so the breast needs to go. Why grieve it? Why not just want it gone, and as soon as possible? *The tears continue to fall.* The cancer in that breast spread to other parts of my body and gave me that awful Stage 4 rating. The cancer in that breast has tried to take me away from my son, my husband, my extended family, my loving friends, all of you here, the life I love so much, so many people that I love who love me. The cancer in that breast has to go. *Tears continue to fall*
When I put it that way, it all becomes very simple. The breast has to go. I guess the grief is for the previous breast, the history of the breast, the pre-cancer breast that was a nice breast, that didn’t give me any trouble except for getting food spilled on it when I was eating, thereby getting dubbed (by me) “the shelf.”
I guess it’s hard to think of any part of yourself being there at one time — on Wednesday morning there, and when I wake up later on Wednesday, it will be gone. But so will the cancer in it, so will the cancer. That’s what I have to remember, that’s what I have to focus on.
My wise therapist did tell me that it would be emotional for me. My wise and incredibly kind surgeon said that it’s an emotional thing for women to go through. My therapist said:
You don’t have to look at it right away, you may feel sad, and that’s OK. Even though you know that this is for the best health-wise, you may still grieve this loss. That’s OK. Let yourself. Frank and Nate may have some emotions around you losing your breast too. It may be a difficult time for your family.
Then she told me to call her if I needed to talk. I love my therapist. My surgeon? — I think I’ve hit the jackpot with him. What a kind, compassionate man.
So it’s all very mixed.
It has to go. I want it gone. I may grieve it; I don’t know yet.
I’ll rely on the love of my family, my friends. I’ll rely on prayer and good thoughts — mine and others. And as always, I’ll rely on my faith.
For God is with me through all of this — through the tears, the anxiety, and will be through the surgery. I can tell a difference, you know. I am anxious, but a different anxious than if this surgery had happened seven or eight months ago. I’m anxious, yes, but it’s not an out-of-control anxiety that I used to go to. It’s an anxious with a deep belief that God is with me every step of the way, and that ultimately calms me somewhat.
As new bracelet states, to remind me always:
Never will I leave you or forsake you.
cross posted at Just Enjoy Him