As a woman I am sure you never imagine you will utter the words " I miss my breast", but I do very much. The months following the surgery and cancer treatments you are caught up in the world wind that now is your life. When the treatments stop and you slow down you are left with the reality of what now is your body, your new existence. Words like self acceptance, sexuality, femininity all encompassing as you grapple with moving on and living your life in the wake of your experience.
I remember the day I had my follow-up with the surgeon who performed my mastectomy. He said to me as we finished up " we will be watching that other breast". I left that appointment with an uneasy feeling. My remaining breast had actually been the one to give me all the grief in the past couple of years. Gifting me with mastitis infections and big bouncy cysts, but in the end it was my right side that had the cancer. I always thought that was weird but this gave me an opportunity to think about things.
On my second last appointment with my oncologist I had asked her what she thought about my remaining side. She stated that I had a low chance of reoccurrence but agreed I had a complicated boob. I also had cancer that did not grow in the standard lump and the last bout hid behind and around my cysts. Sneaky bugger. I don't qualify for yearly MRI's. My cancer could not be seen on mammogram. She referred me to a surgical oncologist.
My thinking going into this whole thing was " I wanted a new boob" that was a given for me. I did however want to discuss whether I should be thinking about my other breast. I knew my chance of reoccurrence was low in my remaining boob, in actual fact I have a higher chance of getting cancer again on the already removed side. I did know that I had an aggressive cancer. I did know I had more than one type of cancer initially. Does that put me at higher risk? My life a matter of percentages and statistics now. The surgeon was open and direct with me and understanding to my fears. In the end it would be my decision to remove my other breast but based on my history and current lumpy conditions the doctor concurred that it was reasonable. He spoke to me about a certain technique they could perform that would help keep my breast looking somewhat like it currently is.
I did not go into the meeting with the surgeon thinking " cut it off ". I really had no choice the first time I lost a part of my body. This time I do. Its not really just about that though. Its about the rest of your life. How you want to live it and worrying about how long that life will be. Whats best for me? In the end, as you sit alone, you need to be okay with your life and decisions you make. This was a big one.
I thought about things for the next couple of days. I think I already knew though what I was going to do. It just seemed like the right decision. I met with the plastic surgeon and discussed moving forward with the surgery to reconstruct and shared with him that I met with the surgical oncologist. He agreed to performing a nipple sparing mastectomy on my left side with the other surgeon as well as beginning the process of rebuilding my right breast. I signed the papers. Now I wait for a date.
I feel pretty good about my decision. Somehow seems exactly right for me. I have no illusions of what I will look like down the road when its all said and done. I don't look like me anymore anyways, my new body powerful at every glance I take.
You adapt and move on but you are forever changed.