Double Mastectomy

Considering I couldn’t even SPELL mastectomy the last time we talked about it, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with the idea.  A good friend asked me about the procedure yesterday, so I thought I’d give you guys the rundown.  As I understand it, after I slip into unconsciousness from the anesthesia, the surgeon will slice my chest open and remove all the breast tissue from my chest.  That’s all the milk ducts, all the lobules, all the fat (hoo-ray!), and the blood vessels and lymph channels in the area as well.  Oh, and the cancer.  Then she’ll move over to the area under my armpit and take out the fat pad (lovely term) that contains my lymph nodes.  All of the lymph nodes on that side will come out too.  The diseased skin will come off, and she will close the area with an approximately straight line.  After it heals, it will look like a straight line across my chest.  It’s called a modified radical mastectomy, and it’s what most Stage III cancer patients have.

Even though the cancer is only in one breast, I have elected to have a double mastectomy instead of a single, for several reasons.  The first is that we can’t be sure that there are no cancer cells in the left breast.  Since I was nursing when diagnosed, the MRI was somewhat ambiguous to the first reader.  The oncologist believes there was no cancer in the left breast, that it was simply increased uptake due to the active ducts, but I’ll feel better just in case.  The second reason is that because of my back pain, it wouldn’t be good for me to have one large-ish breast and one flat side.  It would torque my spine and be uncomfortable, particularly as time goes on.  And I’d always have to wear a prosthetic breast to make them “match.”  The third reason is the most important — a double mastectomy will reduce my risk of breast cancer recurrance by 15%.  Now, that may be a small figure in most circumstances, but to me it’s huge.  Since the risk of recurrance for inflammatory breast cancer patients is 90%, a reduction of 15% leaves me somewhere in the neighborhood of 75% recurrence risk.  Much better!

I am comfortable with my decision to have a double mastectomy.  There isn’t a doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do, and the right timing to do it.  I’ve had 6 months of chemo to rid the rest of my body of cancer cells and reduce the tumor burden to make the surgery possible.  I have looked forward to this for so long….

It will take several weeks for me to heal.  Three weeks before I can lift my arm above my head for 30-45 minutes.  Six weeks before I can lift my little boys into their beds or down the stairs.  But we won’t wait that long to start the next step in fighting this cancer.  After three weeks, I’ll be able to be measured and marked (my first tattoo!) for the radiation treatments and we’ll start that soon after.  I’ll get a two-day break to go to that science conference and then back to the daily radiation until we’ve done seven weeks of it.  After that, we hope, I’ll be done with all this.  But the first step is the surgery.  And now that we know I’m a good candidate for surgery, I have one thing to say … bring it on!

– Because I’ve weighed all the options, and this will give me the best chance for survival.

candidate 11days

P.S. New review up today on my review blogCleanWell foaming antibacterial handwash.  It’s yummy, it’s effective, and it’s available at Target.

41 Responses to Double Mastectomy

  1. Stimey says:

    Love the double buttons! I’m sure it’s different when you’re actually staring the decision in the face, but I think I would go for the double too. If for no reason other than the fact that I’m too anal and crazy to be asymmetrical.

    There are good (flat-chested) times ahead for you!

  2. Joanna says:

    You. Go. Girl. Seriously: thank you for the education on this. I get it and would do it too, in a heartbeat. It becomes so much about the living; I can imagine that you are empowered by the choice to actually do this procedure, and I think it’s great that you made it through all that chemo to get here. I support you and look forward to your continued awesome progress!

  3. hotfessional says:

    Thank you for the excellent explanation AND as always, for your honesty. Bring on the bra burning!

  4. canape says:

    I think you’ve made an excellent decision.

  5. SuzyQatHome says:

    Love your delight in losing all the “fat.” 🙂

    I’m quite curious now as to exactly how much breasts, glands, nodes and fat pads weigh.

    And just think – you’ll be able to hold squeeze the boys that might tighter to you afterwards!

  6. tansiekman says:

    I am so excited for you. I have faithfully and vigorously prayed for this and for you.

    I just have to find a little humor here because you’ve come so far and are about to reach the end of the boat you’ve been on … it’s almost over, can you believe it? So how about “Boobless in DC” ……. Yay Boobs! You’re Goners!

    Take care and hang in there. I’m counting the days with you!

    By the way, smart lady to do a double!

    Tanya
    The Dairy Wife

  7. Melissa says:

    Love the double buttons! Good luck with your surgery and recovery!!!

    I agree with SuzieQ about being able to hold your children that much closer to you…

    God Bless!!

  8. NYfriend says:

    Love the double buttons – quite a funny image given the topic at hand. 🙂

    I’m glad you are comfortable with your decision, for that’s the opinion that matters most, of course. But for what it’s worth, I too would totally go for the double.

    ‘Night!

  9. Ally says:

    I think you are one smart mama to go in for the double. The day is quickly approaching! My thoughts, and prayers, and cyber hugs are with you!

  10. Robin says:

    You’re getting SO much closer to your healthy future – bring it on!

  11. You go girl! Sounds like the right decision – sending PRAYERS!!!!!!!

  12. Yep, the double is absolutely and undoubtedly the right way to go, for sure.

    11 days to CANCER-FREE!! Wow!!

    xo CGF

  13. whymommy says:

    Thanks, guys. I am totally comfortable with it now and am just waiting for the day!

    Now, off to make the most of our weekend!

  14. Sandy says:

    I am so glad you finally got to this place. It is always nice to see the light at the end of the tunnel as it makes dealing with any hardships until then easier to manage. I know it must be a huge relief just to get to this point! It is good you are comfortable with the decision as well…your breasts do not define you so there is really no reason to keep one even if it was healthy.

    Think of it this way…so you have to wear falsies…but you can be any size you want depending on the day!!! Gone will be the days where you can’t buy something because your boobs are too big. 🙂

  15. delilah says:

    A very wise decision. Love the buttons, by the way.

  16. ohthejoys says:

    I’ll be thinking of you and praying that everything goes perfectly — and that you are in the 25% for ever more. Done. Finished with it.

    Much love,
    OTJ

  17. A brave and intelligent decision. But I would expect nothing less. Good for you–I am sending prayers and good thoughts. Eleven days to cancer-free!!! YAY! Have a great weekend.

  18. Strugi says:

    You have made a great choice! We are all here to cheer you on and help with some support.

    (I have been lurking here since you posted comments on askmoxie. I am also a scientist, in your geographic area with a January 07 boy-many of your stories resonate with me)

    Enjoy your weekend-it will help you heal.

  19. Imstell says:

    I so wanted to do a double from the get-go and let them talk me out of it. Ended up with one anyway. Just had to be all lop-sided for 7 months. Humph! My first question when I came to after the surgery was “How much did it weigh?” Don’t tell me you’re not curious. It’s the quickest weight loss program going. 😉

  20. You are such an inspiration to many darlin’. Your decision makes so much sense – thank you for sharing everything like this. You’ve probably helped more women than you know.
    Much love, strength and success in everything!

  21. N. Taber says:

    Thanks for the great description of what you’re facing. I’m just mystified as to what the radiation will be focused on, once all the breast tissue is gone…

    Happy weekend!

  22. JoC says:

    Bring it on. indeed. Yes, holding those boys even closer…. Happy New Year!

  23. Jenifer says:

    Thanks for the information. It is one of those things that I have wondered about, but never really sat and did the research. I pray that all goes well for you. You have such an amazing attitude about this and I truely believe that is what will get you thru….along with the medical help. My mother in law has been fighting ovarain cancer for the past year and just got the results from her blood test that she is currently cancer free. Praise God. Looking forward to reading your cancer free post!

  24. Angela says:

    No one ever wants to ask these questions of anyone who might have the real answers. Your willingness to share this is such a gift to anyone who reads, and especially, I know, for others who are fighting the same battle that you are.

    And that said, I love your double buttons too ; )

  25. whymommy says:

    Really? You girls want to know stuff like this? I’m happy to share what I know … if you have other questions, please ask! I’ll answer if I can. (The radiation stuff will be covered later. I just don’t know the answers yet, but I’ll be cramming soon, since I start in about 4 weeks!)

  26. My prayers for you, woman.

  27. Bon says:

    we really do want to know stuff like this. both to understand – as best we can – what you’re really gearing up for, but also because, well…it is, sadly, likely to be useful and necessary information for many of us over the course of our lifetimes, if we or our mothers or sisters or friends are diagnosed with breast cancer.

    you have a long road ahead, yet, but a clear plan and courage and it gives me joy that you’ve gotten here. we will be with you every step, the rest of the way.

    and i love the double buttons, too.

  28. Emily says:

    I may have missed it, but I believe you have a policy of not giving your contact info so people can send you something. If you are sharing contact info, please do post it.

    Thanks, babe.

  29. Susan K says:

    Hey just occurred to me…

    You can take up ARCHERY!!!

    It should be much easier now… hee hee

    Good choice on the double I think, for all the reasons you mention.

    Will be thinking of you on the 22nd. (and before and after of course.

  30. Sounds like you have made the right choice for you and that is what counts. You are very brave and I admire you so much. I am thinking of you! Good luck, my strong lady!

  31. Lauren says:

    My friend who has recently had her mastectomy and is now facing her reconstruction surgery put it so wonderfully to her son.

    She told him that it will feel weird to hug her at first but this way she will be able to have him closer to her heart when she hugs him.

    I know she worded it a bit better but that was the jist of it. She opted for the double also and has not regretted it one bit.

    If you are not already, you should get used to sleeping on your back and/or propped up.

    good luck

  32. I just came across your website. I had a double mastectomy in December. I am almost finished with tissue expansion and will begin radiation in a few weeks.

    I had inflammatory cancer and invasive ductal carcinoma that was Her 2+. I have 2 young boys and found a physical therapist that had me back to lifting and doing in no time.

  33. […] When I started this series of posts on reasons I’m looking forward to surgery tomorrow, the double mastectomy that will remove my cancer and give me better odds against recurrence, I first thought, oh no, […]

  34. Karen says:

    I also have IBC (diagnosed Dec. 2006) and like you chose the double mastectomy, for all the same reasons. One of my fellow support group gals shared with me her survival mantra: “I may have lost the boobs, but I gained the balls!”

    Mine was “B-cup for sports, C-cup for professional, and D-cup for glamour!” After wearing “granny bras” for most of my life (I was huge & reduction was not an insurance option), I now can have fun🙂

    Hang in there!
    Karen

  35. Karen says:

    By the way, I don’t blog (don’t really have the time) but if I can answer questions or help you anticipate the next step in the journey, just shoot me an email.

    I was up & around within a couple of days after discharge from the mastectomies, back at work in 4 days (I work from home), and actually attended a board meeting (Drains, tubes and all) 2 wks later!! I found the 7 wks of radiation more taxing than the surgery!

    And weight loss? HA! The big joke in the house is that the surgeon didn’t remove the girls, she just slid them down to my waistline! Seriously, they weighed roughly 20 pounds, and that is just about the weight I have put on in the form of jelly belly (hormones side effect)!

  36. […] my reasons for having a double mastectomy last week?  Remember that my first surgeon didn’t want to remove the second breast in this […]

  37. marge1920 says:

    I am facing a double mastectomy on September 9th. I have cancer stage 3 on my right breast and decided that both will come off. I am hoping this will end with this operation. I have no idea what is ahead as far as healing. Anyone can help me?

  38. My sister just had a double mastectomy on October 9, 2008. She had cancer in one breast 2 years ago and had a lumpectomy. This time the cancer was more aggressive and she and I agree she did the right thing. May God Bless you.

  39. Update – my sister Gail June had the mastecomy on October 9, 2008. She had implants at the time of surgery. Her body rejected them, she went through hell, infections, sick, implants got hard as a rock. Her doctor is taking them out – waiting 6 months – until she is stronger and healthier and she will go back to Dr. and have them put back in.

  40. Angel Crosby says:

    Hello, First I am glad to hear others have made the choice to do the double. I too am going to be doing this procedure in April. I am going to finish my chemo first. This is because at first I chose a lumpectomy. I have regreted it since. I turned 30 on Sept 10 and not even 2 weeks later was diagnosed. I too have 3 little girls. My genetic tests showed high risk for reoccurrence, well 4 get that I hate CHEMO. and I will do whatever it takes to stay here with my girls. My question to you is are you going to have reconstructive surgery? Good luck to all

  41. whymommy says:

    Hi, Angela. I hear you! I too decided to do whatever it takes. It’s good to meet another mom who feels the same way.

    You might want to meet some other moms with cancer — go check out http://motherswithcancer.com to meet 20 more. We’re out there —

    As for me, I decided not to do reconstruction. Many people do, but for me? I didn’t want it or need it, and I wanted to keep the skin clear in case of recurrence.

    It’s your decision — good luck!

    (also sent by email)

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