It may sound dumb but one of my biggest worries about not getting reconstruction is that I’ll look funny. I’ll have a flat chest but a buddha belly. I’m more scared about the buddha belly than I am about the flat chest.
I know my choice for surgery. I know I ‘want’ a double-mastectomy. Want is such an odd word here – need might be more appropriate. I know I do NOT want to be hacked up and left oddly deformed, which is what a breast sparing lumpectomy would do. I also know that I do not want radiation. My skin is so very sensitive, that the idea of radiation burns freaks me out. So, for me, the best option is the double-mastectomy.
I also know that I do not want to go through 2-3 years of additional surgeries. When you are first diagnosed with breast cancer, the surgeon presents you with one bit of “good news”. That “good news” is that insurance is required to cover reconstruction. What they don’t tell you is that reconstruction is not easy. You are not reconstructing healthy breasts. It isn’t a simple “boob job”. Reconstruction happens after they remove parts (or all) of your breasts, and then use radiation treatments to make sure that the cancer is gone. So they begin reconstruction with less than ideal material – you are not starting with healthy breasts, you are starting with damaged breasts. The reconstruction process can (and usually does) involve several additional surgeries, all done under general anesthetic. Each brings in new risks of infection and complications.
Maybe, if I had a small mass in one breast, I might opt for a simple cosmetic surgery that in essence evens out my breasts – maybe. But I don’t have that option. I have two areas of cancer in my left breast, one rather large … which doesn’t leave much to work with. Plus I have cancer in the right breast. So radiation would mean radiation on both sides – a double whammy.
So, for me, the best possible outcome is a single surgery – double-mastectomy with nice clean matching / symmetric scars. No extra lumps and bumps, but nice and flat.
That much I know. But what scares me is the buddha belly. I have a great body image right now. I’m happy with how I look. I’m pretty sure I’ll still be happy without breasts (they are trying to kill me after all). But the belly … now that might be the challenge. I will need a new identity – perhaps after BCBecky (Breast Cancer Becky) I will become BBBecky (Buddha Belly Becky). Maybe if I can find some pride in that identity, I can be happy with my new body image. [i’m laughing through my tears as i write this].
What also scars me is metastasis. So far, all signs are that I do not have node involvement. We won’t know until after surgery. The first line of treatment for node involvement is chemo – which I’m already doing. The second line is radiation. So, if surgery finds node involvement, I may need radiation (ugh). Once that is determine, we then start to look beyond the breasts for spread. Women can live for years with metastatic disease (like 10 years). Metastatic disease is often treated with chemo that is designed to slow the spread of the disease, but the quality of life with sustaining chemo scars me. Chemo is hard. I can do it now, because I have hope that it means that when I’m done with chemo and surgery that the disease will be gone. I watch other women live with metastatic disease and go through chemo so that they can live a little longer, mostly to watch their children grow up. For them, the pain, the yuckiness of chemo is worth it. I don’t think I could do that. For the first time in my life, I truly appreciate what quality of life means. I cannot see making myself feel awful (chemo) just to live longer feeling awful the whole time. I do not have kids, I do not have a reason to want to hold on. And I could not bare to have Scott see me suffer for years just to live an unhappy life. Now, this isn’t something I need to worry about now. My prognosis doesn’t look like that … from all signs I do not have metastatic disease, but these are thoughts that I do have … and I promised myself when I started this blog that I would write these thoughts and share them, regardless of how difficult they might be read or write.
So, here is to living a long healthy life as Buddha Belly Becky … whoever that may be!