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Mastectomy Or Not…That Is The Question

It’s not like I go around flashing my bare breasts around for the world to see. For the most part, that part of my body is covered up with clothing and the appropriate undergarment. The undergarments that I wear are typically more for function than for show, as in the seamless underwire kind that generally look good under just about everything. Even though my breasts are covered up, other people notice them, even comment on them. Especially men in certain situations.

Society puts a big emphasis on women’s breasts. We’re taught early on it’s on of the ways you differenate a male from a female. Bare breasts can generate millions of dollars for companies in a well adorned bra or bikini top. Breasts are a big deal.

I know it was a big deal for me to decide what kind of surgery to have to remove my cancer – one of the biggest and hardest decisions I ever had to make in my life.

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There are so many options to chose from and things to consider. Should I have a mastectomy of the breast that has cancer and just leave the other one in tact and then get a prosthesis, implant or reconstruction for that side? Should I simply have the mass removed and always have to worry about whether the mass will return or not? That can happen even with a full mastectomy. Have a partial mastectomy? If I have a partial mastectomy, should I have reconstruction or just walk around as, how a gal in the breast cancer survivor group put it, a kitty with half a titty? Just have both breasts removed and get implants or reconstruction, or just simply not have breasts at all? It’s a lot to think about.

It would almost be easier if I didn’t have a choice and the pathology report dictated what needed to be done. Yet, I am grateful for the choice.

Having a choice has led me to research the options, ask my healthcare team questions I may not have known to ask and learn more about the cancer I have. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to others who have been in my ”bra” about what options/surgery they had. In a way, I’ve taken my breasts for granted. I’ve just accepted them as a part of life and figured that they’d always be there.

My breasts have never bothered me, except for the hassle of not always being able to find clothing that fits appropriately in that area of my body. You know, the button that won’t stay buttoned or button at all, the fabric that accentuates in the wrong place. I think that most women can relate to that.

For some one that doesn’t flash their bare breasts around or hasn’t really put a lot of thought into their breasts, I care about what happens to them – a lot. In fact, I’ve surprised myself at how much I do care.

Since I’m in my 30′s, I think that’s normal. I think that if I were older, say in my 70′s or  80′s, I wouldn’t care if I had breasts or not. After weighing all the options, talking with other breast cancer survivors and patients, my healthcare team and reading the books given to me by the Breast Navigator at the hospital where I will have a lot of my care performed at, I decided to have a partial mastectomy. I made this decision for many reasons which include the size of my cancer mass, my overall health outlook, family history, and the amount of existing breast tissue I have now and will have after the surgery.

Some of the options I could chose from included having surgery on the unaffected breast to make them symmetrical. I don’t believe in having surgery done if you don’t need it, and this would be additional surgery and time off from work that I simply can’t afford to take.

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It helped to have my entire healthcare team (including breast surgeon, her nurse, breast navigator, and oncologist) support my decision and be there to answer any question I had. In fact, my oncologist told me having a mastectomy of both breasts would be like killing a knat with a bazooka; I couldn’t agree more. In the end, I know that I’ve made the best decision for me and that’s all that counts.

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mastectomy girllouiseLeanne WillcutsjeannetteNatesMomma09 Recent comment authors
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Tina Jbara Pierzynski
Guest

Amazing! Your quote about part of you wishing you had not had the option of a choice, was something I had actually said myself. I’m glad I was lucky enough to have a choice, however it was a tough decision to make. I was 40 when diagnosed in Dec of 2011. I took over a month to figure out what to do. It was really my 3 daughters that helped me to choose what to do. They were 13, 12, and 9. I was very up front with them. They knew everything I knew. They did not have the same attachment to breasts that I did, they have not seen them as a symbol of their own body image yet either. For them it seemed a no brainier, as they said. It was all about my health. I went with the bi-lat mastectomy. Even though I only had Cancer in… Read more »

Butterfly197555
Guest
Butterfly197555

I am to have my mastectomy next week. I am very scared. I just want to run away. but i know in my mind and heart it will not go away.. Even though i am haveing reconstruction.. but i am so scared..

DKIMBROUGH4
Guest
DKIMBROUGH4

Hold your head up high and keep the faith. I am starting my journey now,my prayer are with you.

mickey dupont
Guest
mickey dupont

SUCH COURAGE–STAY IN FAITH THERE IS A GREAT PLAN FOR YOU THAT ONLY GOD KNOWS== MANY PRAYERS TO YOU. MY HUSBAND HAD COLON CANCER 3 YR. AGO AND THEN IT SPREAD TO THE LIVER MD. ANDERSON CANCER SAVED HIS LIFE….

Donna
Guest
Donna

Just made this very decision this morning. Surgery scheduled for next Thursday. Reading this makes me feel so much more sure that I am making the right decision for me.

Melanie Harris
Guest
Melanie Harris

Surgery is always a risk, but older women often have reconstruction. I had a mastectomy and Diep reconstruction. I can't imagine making any other choice. I went to sleep with breasts and woke up with them. I'm sure you have made the right decision for you. We have to follow our hearts in these things, combined with our doctor's advice. I had been younger, my approach may have been different, though I'm not sure. I killed the gnat with the Bazooka.

Tammy Gorichky
Guest
Tammy Gorichky

wow you seem to have a terrific attitude which is 99% of the battle! I admire your courage and the fact that you did your research…so many just put faith in one doctor…it pays to get ALL the info you can. I was dx in April with dcis stage 2 and took 8 weeks to choose my treatment plan. I had several areas across my breast so partial was not an option and I opted for double mastectomy with reconstruc. I do not want this in my life ever again. I am 4 weeks post op and healing, but still a long road for the reconstruct. I am praying for you and hope to see updates on how you are doing. Remember we are all SISTERS out here, a club we did not want to join, but will embrace each other now. Be strong, be healthy. Tammy G.

102859
Guest
102859

I agree with you that having a choice was good….very hard..but good. I had pagets disease (which is cancer of the nipple) when you came down to it, the only real choice I had was a mastectomy. Fortunately I did not need rad or chemo. My body rejected the expander placed at the time of my mastectomy leaving me with many complications. Four surguries later, and the one which brought me to another tough decisioon, the Latisimuss Doris Flap, my breast is now complete (well one more little procedure to do but need to wait at least 6 months). “Yes all these choices !”…and am very happy to say 'we have choices'. To those who have choices to make, look into each and everyone. My choice was to be a Survivor!! I am a Survivor!!!!! Stay strong & keep the faith, my prayers are with you all. Robbin 🙂

louise
Guest
louise

i had the same problem with the breast extenders.four surgeries and many infections later,I.m still without breasts.Its been a year and a half…I thought I was the only one that had this many problems with reconstruction,,you have given me hope,thank you

Sheryl
Guest
Sheryl

I know exactly what your going through. On May 27th I found out I had breast cancer. On June 1st I had the exact same surgery you had. Luckily My cancer is no life threatening it is not in my lymph nodes. Unfortunately my cancer was too close to the edge; so I have to go back for more surgery. My second surgery is August 6th. I hope your are recovering as well as I did from my surgery. It's a real scary thing to be facing. Luckily I will not have to have chemmo or radiation. Keep your head up lean on your supporters and stay strong. May God Bless you and may he help you recover from this.

Steffistephens
Guest
Steffistephens

Sweetie~~
18.5 yrs ago i was diagnosed 17 yrs ago right now it came back to my lungs petrified yes but look now at the number of years ~~ I celebrate everyday in some small way~~ and most importantly keep up the good attitude ~and most of all from my best friend chemo buddy[we drove the nurses crazy] ~~~~ you do not have cancer on weekends or holidays ~just like a bank 9-5 m-f best wishes and good thoughts

ruth
Guest
ruth

my prayers and thoughts are with you. i am a 4 year survior. i have stage three breast cancer. i went the a year of chemo and 8 weeks of ragiation.my journey was hard but my family and friends were there to help me thru.i made my left brest removed and all my lymph nodes removed.i was on tamoxifin for 3 years.now i am on a new medicine.i have been great.and i know you will do great to.just keepyour spirts up .god and your family and friends are with you. god bless

Amy
Guest
Amy

I hope your surgery went well and that your resting and surrounded by family and friends who can help.

Jodie
Guest
Jodie

Reading your blog was like looking back on my life 2yrs. ago I was also diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and my surgery was on July 3rd. The cancer did not spread to my Lymph Nodes and I received 4 treatments of Chemo and 27 of Radiation. It's a journey one never forgets or the wonderful people you will meet, whether they are staff or patients they will forever be a part of you. Good health to you Katie for your positive attitude will carry you through!!

Kathy Bruins
Guest
Kathy Bruins

Praying for you, Katie. I also had a partial mastectomy, then chemo, and then radiation. I am now on tamoxifin. It all went fine. Keep looking up. God bless you!

michelle renee' smith
Guest
michelle renee' smith

All of us cancer survivors are with you. It is important to stay positive and keep toxic people away from you now. It is time to heal..time to give to yourself and nurture yourself. This is VERY Important. Breasts = nurturing. I had a double mastectomy in june of last year and had to go through 6 months of chemo and herceptin treatments for a year. Today is my last Herceptin treatment and I am a year survivor. I made it through with Reiki, positive energy, supportive people and time to heal. Best wishes to you and know that you have us to talk to if you need to. Michelle Renee' Smith

Staindpearlygirl
Guest
Staindpearlygirl

God Bless you Katie. I am just a few steps ahead of you. I go for my 2nd chemo July 7th. My thoughts are with you and keep your positive attitude. Fight to Win!!

Dee
Guest
Dee

Good luck, have been there myself for the last year. It is a hard journey but you sound like a strong and postive person. Good luck.

Nannacat
Guest
Nannacat

Katie, Stay positive and as u go through this journey. Rely on friends and family to help where they can. Praying that the cancer has not spread to lymph nodes. Best wishes for a speedy recovery! Will keep u in my thoughts and prayers.

Ethan Dschaak
Guest
Ethan Dschaak

Katie,
So glad you are staying so positive about all of this. I also read that there was no cancer found in your lymph nodes. That is WONDERFUL news. Hope your recovery goes well, stay strong.

Ethan Dschaak

Darlene
Guest
Darlene

I had Stage I breast cancer in my right breast at age 39, discovered by a mammogram that my doctor ordered because I had gone to him with other concerns. Luckily he sent me for a mammogram a year earlier than recommended. Had a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy, had eight weeks of radiation and five years of tamoxifen. At my yearly mammogram at age 47 we discovered an abnormality in the right breast again, biopsy, cancer. And with a PEM scan discovered an abnormality in the left breast but didn't biopsy it. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. Turned out the right breast was invasive, the left was also cancerous, but non-invasive. Stage II, chemotherapy here we come. Turns out the chemo brought back all the side effects experienced with radiation in the right breast. It was a tough road, but one I would take again even knowing… Read more »

Jamie Stopher
Member

Loved this blog. Very honest. I think most women go through very similar emotions whether they will admit it or not. Thanks for bit of humor embedded into a very emotional topic.

shirley mead
Guest
shirley mead

Actually, being older may still make it a difficult decision. At 66 I was faced with the decision, and suddenly, I really cared about those breasts. It was a very primitive reaction. It also was very important to me what my husband felt, and how he would react. Another very primitive reaction. Couples are still sexually active in their 60s, 70s, and beyond, so yes, breasts matter at any age. But the biggest question had to do with survival. Which was best, balanced with which was the harder surgery. Like you, I was faced with options, and also like you, I am glad I had a choice.

Judi ruff
Guest
Judi ruff

I was diagnosed with Stage 1 almost 3 years ago. I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction and have never regretted my decision. I'm proud of the new girls!!!

Denise-johnson
Guest
Denise-johnson

Katie….you are a gift 🙂 I am honored to call you my friend. Thanks for giving my the courage to get my mammogram done……tomorrows the day!

NatesMomma09
Guest
NatesMomma09

KP you are truly amazing and I admire your courage and how you are handling all of this. You have my number, call any time, day or night, doesn't matter to me if you just need to talk.

jeannette
Guest
jeannette

I had a lumpectomy 5 years ago, when I found out that I had breast cancer. My thought was if you have to take my breast then take it, I would rather be alive with no breast than dead with my breast. I done chemo & radiation and am cancer free with breast intact. I think I had a different outlook on things than other people but that's what got me through a tough time in my life.

Leanne Willcuts
Guest
Leanne Willcuts

I am 5 years in remission, with 1 scare last July. I had a partial Mastectomy or lumpectomy when i had my tumor removed, but i was not given a choice really…everything happened so fast because the tumor was so big and i was already in late stage 4, not to mention i was only 32 years old and didn't have a clue what Cancer really was. So my surgeon did what he felt was best and removed the tumor while in there doing a biopsy…personally for me, I think if I had it to do over again, I would have had a mastectomy, for a few reasons. One, and the very biggest reason, is the smaller chance of reoccurance when you remove the whole breast. I am very young to be a Breast Cancer Patient…and it is not something I picked up in my gene pool, so those scares… Read more »

mastectomy girl
Guest
mastectomy girl

I am 33 now. I just had a double mastectomy last year at 32. It is hard to find women our age going through this. I just had my final (for now) implants placed less than 2 weeks ago. I had expanders after the mastectomy, and that was hell! It felt like 2 months of torture as I went in for my expansions. I then battled myself with the idea of silicone vs. saline. The saline expanders were like rocks. This, talking to my friens, my Drs, my husband, and some self reflection led me to choose silicone. I am as happy as I can be with this choice. I am learning to except my new body. It is hard, but I am sure it will come in time. One of the hardest things for me is I did not have cancer, but rather a very rare disorder that few… Read more »

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