Last week I had my appointment with the plastic sturgeon who is going to do my reconstruction, etc. after my mastectomy. I have been doing my due diligence in my research regarding breast cancer and all of the options that there are for all of us traveling down this path. Trust me when I tell you that I have done my research.
I went into this appointment armed with what I want to have happen to my body…at least I wanted to have some control over something body-related since I heard the dreaded, “I hate to tell you this…but you have cancer” sentence. I have hated the loss of control that I have felt since Thanksgiving. I wanted to be as pro-active in my treatment and recovery plan as possible.
I’m sitting in the waiting room and I just cannot help but wonder about everyone who is sitting around me. I found myself saying a prayer for them and their families because I know what they are going through, and it’s a struggle. A struggle to find answers, a struggle to have answers to the questions asked by those around us, a struggle to make sense of what my body will look like after this surgery is done, a struggle to understand why my body did not fight off this tumor, a struggle with my self-esteem, a struggle to know what the future holds, a struggle to face and be strong for those that I love when I just want to cry, a struggle to know what to tell my co-workers, a struggle for so many various reasons, a struggle to understand why every time I walk through these doors my blood pressure raises above normal (the nurse called it Roswell syndrome), just a struggle… It is important to say that I have an amazing support system who help make that struggle more manageable!
I’m sitting in this cold office, in my gown that opens in the front, waiting and waiting. The doctor and nurse come in to discuss the plan of attack. I told him all about my research and how I want to proceed with my reconstruction and recovery. And once again, I have done a ton of research because I like being informed and knowing what my options are going to be. The look on his face was troubling to me and then he proceeded to tell me detailed reasons why “my options” for reconstruction would not work right now.
Have I said lately how much I HATE cancer!!
He told me that my best option would be to have the spacers put in for implants instead of doing the TRAM or DIEP flap which would use my own tissue and fat to construct my new boob. I explained to him that I do NOT want to face the possibility of having a rejection issue with the implants. I have had rejection problems with cadaver bones after my second neck surgery. I want the nipple sparring procedure done because I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy with my own body image. He told me that my body mass index (BMI) is too high and he is worried about complications with preforming either of the flap reconstruction surgeries and possibly the nipple sparring too. So in essence, I weigh too much to have the surgery that I want to feel my best about my body!
This was devastating news because nowhere during my research did it say anything about BMI and/or weight being a consideration for these procedures. The research told me that there could be immediate reconstruction after the mastectomy but I guess that is not necessarily the case. He told me that I would have to loss about 70 lbs….this means that I will only have one boob for quite awhile!!
I am having such a hard time wrapping my head around this new development. We live in a society that focuses on what I call the three “B’s.” Beauty, Body, and Boobs. Our society often times forgets about the most important “B,” Brains! I know that I do not need my boobs to live. I am beyond thankful that the cancer was discovered early. So don’t get me wrong, I am blessed. I am just worried about how others will perceive me and let’s be honest…I worry about how I will perceive myself. I am not sure how I will feel the first time I have to look at myself in the mirror and see only one boob.
It is time to start breaking down these body image barriers for the health and safety of everyone who is struggling with these barriers. It is time to stop banning and removing pictures of women who have decided to “expose themselves” to the world on FB so others will have a better understanding of breast cancer and what happens to our bodies after the surgeries.
The key for me is to educate men and women across this country, and the world for that matter, about the importance of self-exams, mammograms, and breast care in general. We cannot effectively education the masses when society, directly and/or indirectly, puts such stigmas on what we should look like, and that anything other than ‘perfection’ is outside the norm. As I stated earlier, we can live without our boobs!! However, it is dealing with the backlash from those in our society that can often times create a pressure cooker due to fear driven by a body image culture!
At the end of the day, I will live my life!! I will see my granddaughters grow up, I will be able to love, laugh, and travel, I will finish my degree and get my dream job, I will continue to help others in need, I will continue to use my experiences to teach, I will be able to check more things off my Bucket List, I will continue to make mistakes and grow from them, I will learn to live without a boob until I lose the weight, I will be healthier because of this cancer, I will live life to the fullest, I will…the list goes on and on!
I want my experiences with this disease to help others make the decision to get a mammogram and do self-exams, no matter if you are a man or woman, to make sure that people know that you do not need to feel something in order to have something wrong, to make the decision that fear will not rule your life, to take this opportunity to educate, educate, and educate some more, AND to work on breaking down the societal culture regarding our bodies and what they should look like!!
Please schedule your mammogram today…if you have dense breast tissue, please opt for a 3D mammogram. My doctor said they would not have found my tumor without the 3D procedure!
Strive to be your own best advocate when it comes to your health, stick to your plan even if it means not getting the immediate results that you desire, follow your gut as it is usually right, and love yourself no matter what society says about you!!
This cancer will NOT define me…I will define it! #CancerSucks