Ever since I went public with my diagnosis I have been inundated with questions from friends, family…even total strangers. Somehow people feel that they can ask you anything and everything and you should gladly answer. Maybe that’s a good thing. I obviously want to share my journey hence this blog, but it amazes me the questions that I get asked. Last night I was lying in bed watching the ceiling fan go round, wishing the nerve pain in my legs would subside enough to get even a few fleeting hours of sleep and I started to imagine myself at a press conference. I have attended and been part of several over the years. Sitting on a stage at a long table with a microphone pushed in front of your face. Audience members, hands raised high, jostling to have their question asked and answered. Everyone listening intently to hear something riveting that they haven’t heard before; taking notes and writing their stories based on yours. So, imagine if you will that today I am holding a “breast conference”. I’m primed and ready to answer all or most of your questions.
“Yes, you in the front. What’s your question?”
“Thank you Patti. I’d like to know, how was your cancer discovered?”
“Good question. I woke up in the middle of the night in late March 2018 with terrible chest pains. I thought I was having a heart attack, then realized it was my breast that was hurting. I went into the bathroom and saw that I had blood coming out of my left nipple. I saw my family doctor the next day and was sent for a mammogram and ultrasound. On April 9, I had an MRI, followed by a biopsy on the 19th. I received my diagnosis April 30th. Next question….yes you sir, in the back.”
” If there was a tumor in only one breast, why did you have both breasts removed?”
“Removing just one breast did not guarantee that the cancer would not spread to my remaining breast. During the ultrasound and MRI, other growths were detected in my right breast, although they were deemed to be non-cancerous, at the time. I was told that I would have to be monitored very carefully from now on, and there was a distinct possibility that the cancer may develop in my other breast. The first surgeon I saw who gave me my diagnosis would not give me the option of bilateral mastectomy, but the surgeon at the Juravinski Cancer Centre did. For me there was no question. I wanted to go through this traumatic surgery and recovery once and that’s it. I knew I could not live with the anxiety that cancer may be growing in my other breast and the thought of undergoing a second mastectomy down the road seemed crazy. I just wanted to be cancer free and to move on with my life! To me, there was no other option.
Question from the middle row?”
” You have talked about undergoing reconstruction using tissue expanders first and then having implants inserted. Have you decided what size you want your new breasts to be?”
“And there it is. The question that has been on everyone’s mind. I get this question a lot. The answer is, I am not sure yet. The reconstruction is a long slow process. The skin that is left on my chest has to be stretched over time as it is thin and very sensitive. I was what you would say, well endowed, before my mastectomy. That said, implants will be a lot firmer and perkier than what nature gave me, so I will just have to wait and see. My reconstructive surgeon and I will discuss size as my expanders get inflated and we will make a decision that looks and feels right for my body. As soon as I decide…I’ll let you know!”
“What about nipples?”
“What about them?”
“Are you going to have them? If so, how will they be achieved?”
“Wow, we really are getting personal now. Well, again, I have not decided. There are a lot of steps to go through before I have to deal with whether I want them or not. There are several options available to me. One, is not to have them at all. I mean really what’s the ‘point’. They won’t be real. They will have no feeling and I think I’ve missed the boat on becoming a Victoria’s Secret model so are they really necessary? Aesthetically my foobs, fake boobs, will ‘look’ better I guess, but I haven’t wrapped my head around that yet. If I decide I want nipples, I can have an areola and nipple created from my own skin. For this, the surgeon uses skin from another part of my body that has the same texture and colouring. In this case, they would cut off part of my labia to recreate the area. Yep, you heard me right. I am NOT going that route. That’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. No thanks. Another option is to cut the skin on my newly built breasts, left up a small area and sew it into a nib to create the ‘nipple’. Then I can have an areola tattooed and colour added to the newly formed nipple. If I choose not to have an actual ‘nipple’ that sticks out, then I can get a 3D tattoo that looks extremely lifelike. There are some amazing tattoo artists that do incredible work. SO again, I will cross that bridge when I get to it I guess.
That’s all the time I have for questions today. I want to thank you all for coming to my breast conference. I hope I was able to answer your questions and I will be available to answer any others in the future. Be sure to follow me on tatacancer and thanks again for your time.”
Patti exits stage left
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.