After learning that Lumpy the Unwelcome House Guest (the name I gave the lump in my boob) was cancer, I knew he had to leave. Although I’d never had surgery before, this was a no-brainer for me: evict Lumpy’s ass at once! Still, I was consumed with worry what my surgeon would recommend. I was comfortable with surgery to address the tumor, but not comfortable with additional surgery as a preventative measure.
The day I met my surgeon provided me with relief and confidence (albeit temporarily; until I found out one of my lymph nodes tested positive as well). She was a teeny, tiny lady with the most magnificent brain, skill and bedside manner. The minute she spoke, I knew I was with the exact surgeon I was meant to have. I was initially presented with two recommended options; a sectional, breast sparing mastectomy (a lumpectomy) or a mastectomy; both options included the removal of the sentinal lymph nodes that are also tested for cancer after surgery.
I chose the lumpectomy for a number of reasons:
- I like my boobs and want to keep both of them
- The tumor was small (1.4 cm) and my breast is larger. There were good margins surrounding the mass. During surgery, they remove the tissue immediately surrounding the tumor as well, and having more to flesh to work with meant I had more to leave with;
- I am in excellent health otherwise, young, no genetic markers or family history of this disease which made the whole thing seem like total fluke to begin with;
- There’s a whole lot of perfectly good reasons to keep an otherwise healthy body part on an otherwise healthy body.
As an added bonus, if the situation is straightforward the surgery is very quick (day surgery; in and out) and, depending on the situation and location of the tumor, surgeons can often remove the necessary tissue and lymph nodes in just one incision.
The decision on what type of surgery to have is very personal and women have many different reasons for their choices. Some of those reasons could be family history, genetic markers, fear about recurrence and leaving loved ones behind, fear of spreading, peace of mind, gut instinct – whatever the reasons – the possibilities for choices are endless and very personal. Every woman makes the exact right decision for her whether that is a mastectomy, bilateral mastectomy, lumpectomy or slapping a pizza on it and hoping it goes away (I’m just kidding – please do not ever expect that putting pizza on your boob and relying on hope is an effective strategy for making something this serious go away).
That said, what I was looking for when I was going through this were some helpful facts to help me decide what to do that weren’t based on anyone else’s personal choices or even misinformation. My surgeon gave me some great advice, along with explanations about mastectomy and double mastectomy which helped reinforce my decisions for ME.
- Cancer does not just spread from one breast to the next. It will spread through sentinal lymph nodes and unfortunately, if not stopped can become life threatening if it spreads to bones or organs such as liver, brain, lungs etc.
- Removing an entire breast or both as a preventative does not mean there is no chance for cancer in the area or for it to reoccur.
- Well meaning people with the absolute best of intentions may want to help you with your choices based on their own experience or that of someone close to them. Every cancer, breast, woman, and risks are different. You must make the best decision for YOU.
- Breast cancer is HIGHLY treatable and survivable when caught early. Survival rates long term are very favorable.
My surgery went extremely well and I recovered like a boss. I was running on my treadmill 5 weeks post-op. I did not have any reconstructive work done and I don’t plan to. Part of this experience (again, for me – everyone’s decisions are their own and they are correct) has been about learning to love myself exactly as I am and to be honest, I love myself, my boobs and my body more than ever before. My scar is a reminder of the love and grace I discovered in and around me during this experience and I feel more beautiful and fortunate now than I ever have in my life.