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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.

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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