Waiting to meet my new surgeon was a completely different experience. There was none of the angst of waiting for a diagnosis. I knew what that was…I have breast cancer…so tell me what’s next, PLEASE.
The door of the examining room opened and in came one of the most energetic, confident and enthusiastic people I’ve ever met. She introduced herself with a firm handshake. Thank god. Here was someone I could relate to. She pulled up a chair right beside me and we got down to business. She reviewed my diagnosis with me, brought out some charts and photos to show and explain to me the type of breast cancer I had ( there are many kinds) and talked about the type of procedure I would have to undergo.
We talked about the fact that I had initially seen another surgeon and she asked why I had now come to see her. My answer was simple. ” I need to feel that I am in good hands. I want to deal with a surgeon that specializes in cancer. And I want to deal with a surgeon that has the confidence to look me in the eye and discuss my diagnosis, treatment and prognosis”. She smiled and said, “Good for you. Everyone needs to feel comfortable with the team that will be looking after them. And you will have a TEAM here.” Then she said something that I didn’t expect. She said, “not that I want to scare or upset you, but have you considered a double mastectomy?”
I had asked the first surgeon, who was a “general” surgeon, in other words she could be performing an appendectomy in the morning and cutting me open in the afternoon, about a bilateral mastectomy as the the MRI had revealed that I had lesions in my right breast too but that they looked to be benign at this time. However, she said I would have to be closely monitored and that if they did turn cancerous then I would have to go through this all over again….but she would not agree to perform a double mastectomy. I said, “But I don’t want to live with the fear that my remaining breast may have the start of something that could turn cancerous too. If there are already growths that you need to monitor wouldn’t it be better to remove them at the same time?”
Her answer was NO.
Now I was in front of a surgical oncologist, a surgeon who only dealt with cancer, telling me that she recommends that I consider a double mastectomy. On one hand I felt very reassured that my surgeon had my best interest and that as an expert she was advising me to be safe rather than sorry. On the other hand, I was now being told that I was not only going to lose one breast, but two. They would be removing my sentinel lymph nodes and then all the tissue from my armpit to my breastbone and from the top of my ribs to my collarbone. My nipples would be gone and where my breasts once were would be a flat, scarred area. That image, which I couldn’t get out of my mind, frightened the hell out of me. She told me to think about it. Did I have to think about it? No. My answer to a bilateral mastectomy was…
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President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.