Thank you so much for the support, positive thoughts and prayers. I have been overwhelmed by your kind comments and blog shout outs and appreciate every one of them!
For the first Boob Report, click here.
When it finally sunk in that I have breast cancer, I realized my name would soon have the attachment, breast cancer survivor. When other women have been introduced that way, it has always intimidated me. I mean, what had I survived in comparison?
“This is my friend Janie. She’s a breast cancer survivor.”
I would rack my brain and think to myself, “I’m Susie Lindau. I am a yeast infection survivor.”
The most horrible reality to all of this is that cancer will always be associated with my name. Sheesh! I am a Wild Rider. I am an upbeat and happy person. I don’t want this heavy mantle hanging over my shoulders.
I figure that if I can’t change the fact that I have cancer, I can try to change the way people think about it.
For one thing, my breasts and the subsequent testing continue to have their funny moments.
Who knew boobs could be so funny?
The next step in the diagnosis was having an MRI, but it made me very nervous. I am claustrophobic and had worried about hitting the panic button. I would have to go back and do it again. I couldn’t imagine looking around, encapsulated in the small chamber. My daughter loaded my MP3 player with Muse and the doctor prescribed Valium, so I relaxed.
The morning of the appointment, I jumped into the car and the MP3 player battery was dead. I FREAKED OUT!
After arriving at the hospital, the Valium kicked in. I undressed and put on the gown. (Don’t worry. I was in the examining room.) One of the nurses led me to the MRI and said, “How you lay down on the bed is pretty self-explanatory.”
I looked over at the two huge empty cans plated in copper recessed into the bed and then looked back at her. “I’m sorry, but I am going to have a problem with this.”
“What’s wrong?” She looked very concerned.
I stared back and said, “My humongous breasts won’t possibly fit into these small cans.”
The two nurses looked at my breasts and laughed.
She placed ear plugs in my ears. I lay down face first on a soft cushion and mumbled, “When does the massage begin?”
The MRI banged in very loud staccato beats. I focused on my second book in The Foreboding series. I don’t know if it was the banging or the Valium, but the craziest idea popped into my mind for the climax of my story. Who knew there would be fringe benefits to the MRI!
“While having my MRI, I came up with the best climax!” They both started laughing. I didn’t understand, so I said it again only louder. “I figured out my first small climax, but my second climax is huge!” It took a minute to realize everyone around us was staring. They told me to stop saying the word “climax.”
My left breast which is a little bigger is cancer-free while my right one is smaller and has cancer. What the heck? I kept getting them mixed up in the beginning since I couldn’t believe my right breast was small AND it contained a tumor. How could that be?
At first, my doctor thought I would only need a lumpectomy. I have very dense breast tissue which makes tumors hard to find. The results of the MRI showed a second, but much smaller mass a centimeter away and a third one on the other side of my breast. If the third was cancerous, I would need a mastectomy.
I remembered my doctor’s advice from my first appointment. “If you are a worrier, you might consider a double mastectomy.” I worry about everything!
He told me that the risk of recurrence in the good breast would be 30%. It doesn’t sound bad until you think about it as a 1 out of 3 chance. Hey. I am that 1 out of 10 women who got breast cancer. Out of that 10%, I am in the 5 percentile who have a rare form called lobular cancer. 95% of breast cancer is ductile.
I won’t be going to Vegas anytime soon.
Days later, when I had my second biopsy, I asked the radiologist about my risk of getting cancer in my healthy breast. He said, “You will be at the highest risk for getting breast cancer again.”
Well it didn’t take a brain surgeon to make my decision and I graduated in art.
I went home and asked Danny about it. “Wouldn’t it be weird to have one really perky fake-out boob and one soft real one that will eventually get saggy and shrink dinky? They won’t match.”
He looked at me for a minute and replied, “Your breasts have never matched.” We laughed so hard, but for the first time, I considered getting rid of both of them.
I would lower my risk and I would have a matched set. Bonus!
I worried about my sexuality. Why am I in such a minority? I couldn’t think of any movie stars or sex symbols who had openly gone through a bi-lateral mastectomy. I didn’t remember Christina Applegate until days later. I desperately needed a role model. I was 95% sure I would have them both “offed,” but I still needed the results of the second biopsy and wanted to hear my surgeon’s opinion.
The next morning, I turned on the television after Danny went to work. There was Angelina Jolie announcing her elective prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy. Her specific Jewish heredity has the highest rate of breast and ovarian cancer and her DNA test came back positive for the BRCA1 gene. I had so much admiration for her, I sobbed. I couldn’t believe the timing of her announcement.
The following afternoon, my surgeon said they found pre-cancer cells in the biopsy, but he believed the radiologist probably missed the cancerous mass since it was so small.
I asked him about recurrence after a double mastectomy. He said, “Your risk would be less than 1%.” I would go from the highest risk factor to the very lowest with a double mastectomy.
A double mastectomy it is.
My surgery is Friday May 31st at 9:30 am. I am still praying that my lymph nodes are clear. I will be Wild Riding again in no time!
I had so many questions for the reconstructive surgeon. Nipples? No nipples? How do they do it? Are there one, two, or three surgeries? Is the implant safe? What about the nipple tattoos I had heard about?
I will be in good hands. Literally.
Oh man, you are really going on a Wild Ride!
Am I changing how you think about breast cancer?
Danny will post a Boob Report on Friday after the surgery.