Note: If for some strange reason google has sent you here for an inspirational story about fighting cancer, you probably are going to be disappointed. I don’t plan to battle, fight or kick cancer’s ass. I’ll let the doctors and researchers do that. My goal is to get through it as best as I can, while wearing as little pink as I can, and mocking cancer and me as much as I can. I want cancer to slink away because its feelings are hurt. I also want to warn you that there is a picture of a woman bare chested in this post. She decided to get tattoo instead of reconstruction.
I got the final surgical evaluation of my breast last week. I listened and asked questions and was as calm and cool as a robot. I giggled in the back of my mind at the fact that a 50-ish year old man was drawing boobies on a dry erase board. Got a picture of it all for further reference. Got to hear how my MRI concerns them because it’s a bit confusing. And then went home and cried.
So the details on what’s going to happen to Colleen? For those of you just showing up – my boobs have names. I figure I can name my breasts if so many men can name their penises. I have two choices.
I can get a very invasive partial mastectomy. That would be followed up by 7 weeks of radiation five time a week. There is a possibility that the tiniest bit of cancer would be left and I might have to deal with a full mastectomy at some point anyway. And they would have to use skin from my back because the skin on my chest would be too damaged.
I can get a modified radical full mastectomy. This involves taking my whole breast, putting in an expander, and getting a new boob later. The other breast would need a slight tuck and maybe (but probably not) a small implant. The idea of me with breast implants boggles my mind. I could also get my other breast removed so my boobs would be perfectly matched, but no thanks. I’ll take my chances with the other one and retain some of my god-given rack.
I know this is my decision and everyone who loves me respects that. But other people who love me do play factors in it. My husband wants me to have the full mastectomy. As does my Mom. I could get the partial and then have to go through all of this again and end up getting a full mastectomy done. I asked my doctor what he would tell his wife or daughter to do. He said he’d recommend a full mastectomy.
Wednesday, I got a genetic test to make sure that I don’t have one of the myriad of genes that directly affect breast cancer. I’ll talk about that later in another post. Luckily TNCare will pay for it. If I have a gene that greatly increases my risk for breast cancer (like BRCA1 or BRCA2), I’ll probably have to have both breasts removed and possible my ovaries. I’m trying not to think about that right now. It takes a couple of weeks to get the test results back.
There have been a lot of discussions of fertility, adoption and foster care in my family the past week or two. I’d like to offer some advice to some of you on the way you should treat women who are infertile or who might not be able to have kids due to a medical condition. They don’t want to hear that there are so many ways to have kids besides the normal route. They already know that. It’s insulting – many of you chose to have a biological child instead of adopting, surrogacy or taking in foster kids. Seriously – shut up. Just shut up. Do you know how much it costs to adopt a child, either here or from another country? And do you know how heartbreaking it can be to try to adopt within the foster care system. Unless you’re willing to offer up your healthy uterus for surrogacy, please just tell that woman you’re sorry and life can be so unfair sometimes. Give her a hug. I hope you’ve all noticed that I’m pretty big on the idea of not repeating platitudes, listening instead of talking and hugs.
I got a CT and bone scan done last week. While I was waiting for the scan, I noticed this woman just trying to hold tears back. No one was with her. My heart just hurt for her, but I didn’t want to intrude on her or seem pushy. And then I thought, “You know what? Fuck it – she’s hurting. Don’t be a coward”. I went up to her and asked her if I could give her a hug. She burst into tears and put her arms around me and just cried. I cried with her. Her husband had suffered a fall and hurt his leg and shoulder. A couple of weeks after this happened, he started acting mean towards her and telling her he was going to divorce her. It was obvious her husband had suffered a brain injury of some kind. She couldn’t even be back with him when he was waiting to get these tests done because he hated her so much. Can you even imagine? To have the love of your life fall and change so much that he hates the sight of you? I don’t even want to give her first name out, but anything you feel comfortable sending to this women and her husband (prayers, mojo, love, healing thoughts. etc) please do. She hugged me back and told me I was just a baby – that there was no reason why I should have to deal with breast cancer. And then they rolled her husband out from his tests and she had to leave. I’ve decided that I’d rather deal with the embarrassment of someone telling me that they don’t need a hug, than ignoring someone crying in front of me. Both of my CT and bone scans turned out fine which was a huge relief.
I also went to visit a plastic surgeon last week. He’s known as the boob man here in Knoxville and specializes in reconstructive surgeries. I got into my little tie-front robe and talked to him about what would exactly happen if I had a full mastectomy. Then it was robe off and boobs out. I swear I’m at the point where I’m just about ready to whip my boobs out to anyone. I was at the orthopedist the other day and felt so strange sitting there fully clothed. I stood in front of this very attractive doctor while he measured my boobs. My husband sat there on the couch.
I heard about my options and what would happen. Basically my surgery oncologist does his thing and the plastic surgeon takes over. I get a new nipple constructed for me. More importantly I had to learn this interesting tidbit and can never go back to the place where I didn’t know this. I feel like it’s my duty to inform as many people as possible about this fact now. The areola? It gets tattooed on. I’m terrified of needles, so I never made any bad tattoo decisions in my 20s. My first tattoo will be an areola. If you ask nicely enough and are willing to tip me, I’m at the point where I’ll be happy to show you.
Than I got what I like to refer to as breast mugshots taken. Front view. Angle View. Side Views. Back View. And I was shown pictures of women who had work done because of breast cancer. This doctor does very nice work. He’s known for it. But the girl who never had a desire to have breast implants will now have at least one and I will always have a scar on my breast.
Again – this is another topic that people feel like they have right to comment on. Why don’t I just cut them both off so I can get a matching set? Because I really would prefer to have one boob that has some sensation in it. Why don’t I get a giant set of boobs? Because my husband has no desire for them to be bigger and I am so short that I would look like I was constantly falling over. Why don’t I get them both done so my boobs will match? You know what? I heard my measurements. I already have very symmetrical boobs. When my doctor told me that, I kind of felt like I got a B+ on my boob test. Why should I get reconstruction at all and just get a really cool tattoo there? Because I like to save my badassery for the things I say, not for the things attached to my chest. I think it would just distract from my amazing wit.
As I got dressed, my husband told me “That was a lot less weird than I thought it would be”. He paused and followed it up with “I guess that’s the closest we’ll get to having a threesome”. I laughed hysterically. We left the office, got in the car and I burst into tears. I cried the 30 minutes to my parents’ house and for about an hour more while I was there. I don’t want a new boob. I want my old one. And I have very little choice in the matter.
I still can’t believe this is happening to me. In a few short weeks, we went from baby making plans to how much boob should be removed plans. Last week was not a week full of very many good cancer jokes. Sometimes shit happens.