Happy New Year Everyone. As I kick off this new year with my next surgery looming, I have realized that there are still people that don't really get what I have done so far, or why. I get these inquisitive looks like, "why are you having another surgery?" So I'm not going to sugar coat this, but here is some clarification.
NO, I did NOT have cancer. I have a glitch in my DNA, something I was born with and will have until the day I die, called BRCA2. Please know I have done my research and again what I tried to do, as a single mother, was beat cancer to the punch. Do all people with a positive gene mutation for BRCA get cancer? NO. But the percentages are so low, around 5%, I was not willing to take that gamble. I'm sure it's difficult to understand why someone would make the decision to remove two rather healthy breasts. Whether one has a cancer diagnosis or has a 95% chance of getting cancer, the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy is daunting. It's one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. But a change of diet, or increase in exercise does NOT get rid of this gene. Nor does chemotherapy or radiation. Nothing gets rid of this gene. It's apart of me and also makes me susceptible to other cancers including breast and ovarian.
So I had my healthy breasts removed last September. I do not have implants or expanders. My surgery was so long, over 18 hours, because I chose a DIEP flap for my immediate reconstruction. If you want to know further about this, google it or read the September posts where both me and my mom have tried to explain this procedure. I used my own tissue and blood vessels as a transplant. Another huge decision that I'm sure most do not understand. Especially now in the news with a certain TV personality that chose to have a bilateral mastectomy and her surgery was something like 4 hours. Some have said to me that maybe my surgery was extreme or unwarranted. I will not beat this dead horse. I know what I did and why I did it. I know what my options were and I too had the choice of the shorter surgery, but I chose to have the DIEP flap. The last few months, I have had my surgery compared to others breasts augmentations, tummy tucks, C-Sections, tumors, and scar tissue removal. My medical history includes cosmetic surgery, an appendectomy, C-Section (after carrying around a 10 lb baby), and over 100 skin biopsies, some being basel cells and one melanoma. I know surgery, I know pain and nothing I have had done compares to a mastectomy. I would never tell a person who's had their chest cracked open for heart surgery that I know what it feels like or I know what they went through, so unless you've walked in my shoes, you really have no idea.
For anybody reading this that is looking at a BRCA diagnosis and is scared to death, please know that you can do this. I don't have a husband to carry me in and out of bed or assist me with my seat belt. In fact I was taking care of my son about a week and 1/2 after surgery because I had to. I'm no superwoman and I'm not saying this to get any brownie points from anybody. I'm just here to tell you that it's very possible to save your life and get back to life. I'm not going to lie. It hurts like a motherf-er. The pain in the beginning is almost unbearable. ALMOST. And then with time you move on. The emotional toll is almost more difficult than the physical. It all sucks no matter what! But you too can do it! In the big picture it is about saving your life.
My next surgery is all about "fixing" me and making nipples. I've actually had a few people tell me nipples are over-rated. Like my friend said, "I don't care if I'm 80, I want my nipples." I couldn't agree more. I'm 42 years old. I want breasts and nipples and to resemble what a woman looks like and I don't believe this is superficial at all.
I still have a long year ahead of me. I knew none of this would come easy for me. I knew this change I have talked about was going to take work but I'm a stubborn bull and change does not come easy for me. I can't help but being pissed off and sad and a whole lot of other emotions. I know one day I will look back at this experience and it will be a distant memory, but for now it's real. This is my life, with everything else going on and trust me, there are more days than not that I feel like I have failed in some way. So I take to my self-help books, favorite quotes and prayer.
Some favorites: "The old has to die so that the new growth can come through. You have to let go of what was to awaken anew." (Letting go..still trying).
"You may not be able to see why life has gone the way it has, just listen and the answer will come, when you are ready." (I really want to be ready).
"Someday life will make perfect sense, so laugh through the confusion, smile through the tears and remember everything happens for a reason." (This too shall pass).
"Attitude is vastly important, because it presents your image to the world and is the driving force behind behavior." (When you can't change your situation, change your ATTITUDE).
And last..."The scars of life tell a story of your ability to overcome adversity, knowing this, you know what lies ahead is achievable." (I AM a strong woman).
Happy 2012. May you be happy and HEALTHY,