Cancer – Half a Breast or A Whole One?

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.

facebookboobmeme  Because it can never be said enough.

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.

robotboobs  I’ll admit -these would be kind of cool.

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. 


internet hug

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.

417551_166000880221416_1010668555_n  Well yes, but you still have to drink butterflies.

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.

spock boobs

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.

23 Comments on Cancer – Half a Breast or A Whole One?

  1. Tamar
    April 26, 2013 at 1:21 pm (2 years ago)

    The disclaimer that says this is not an inspirational story? No truth in advertisement. You are inspirational, because you are teaching me it is ok to cry, and mourn, and be angry, and be sad. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. I’m so sorry everyone is telling you what you should do and that kids can be adopted. I don’t have breast cancer – but I lost my dad to cancer after a long battle, and my mom is currently having a huge cancer scare (and we’re waiting on the biopsy results that keeps getting delayed – can’t be a good) sign and… cancer sucks. And I’m so sorry. Sending you a hug.

    • Laura
      April 28, 2013 at 1:20 am (1 year ago)

      What she said. Well except the family experience, but you are inspirational.

      • Kristina
        May 1, 2013 at 1:25 pm (1 year ago)

        Thanks Laura – I don’t feel like my bitching and whining is inspirational, but thank you so much for saying that.

    • Kristina
      May 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm (1 year ago)

      Thanks Tamar – I guess I’m just used to people wanting those of us with cancer to be fighters and warriors and show everyone how strong we are. Luckily there are a few other blogs that have a more realistic approach. I’m exhausted. I’m scared. I’m confused. I’d love to have a burning bush that would tell me what to do. I have no idea how a single mom could do this, and I hurt for them.

      • Kristina
        May 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm (1 year ago)

        And for some reason I hit return. I’m so sorry about your Dad, and I hope everything works out ok. Big hug back to you.

  2. Shane
    April 26, 2013 at 1:23 pm (2 years ago)

    I did not know that about the tattoo. I also wish I could un-know it. You still rock. So there’s that. Hugs!

    • Kristina
      May 1, 2013 at 1:26 pm (1 year ago)

      You will never not know that. Ever. I will make sure to remind you if it ever starts to fade from your memory. Because that’s how I roll.

  3. Jenny Hartin
    April 26, 2013 at 1:28 pm (2 years ago)

    I hate that shit is happening to you.

    • Kristina
      May 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm (1 year ago)

      Me too, Jenny. Me too. Sometimes like serves you a giant shit sandwich, and there’s no other choice than to eat it.

  4. Sherri
    April 26, 2013 at 1:53 pm (2 years ago)

    I’m really sorry. Life can be so unfair.

    (THANK YOU for the insight as to what to say to people. I have people in my life going through similar issues, and I appreciate your sharing what is helpful to say and what is not…..)

    • Kristina
      May 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much for the hug. And I think most people who say these things are trying to be comforting. It just comes out of their both all wrong. :)

  5. Darlynne
    April 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm (1 year ago)

    “I think it would just distract from my amazing wit.”

    Yes, it’s going to be impossible for people who meet you not to wonder if Colleen is on the right or left. Imagine if you went with the full tattoo (beautiful as the actual artwork is); they’d never hear a word you said.

    I hate with the fire of 10,000 suns that this is happening to you. Shopping for a bigger umbrella, possibly bed-sheet size Kleenex, is on my to-do list. My arms are already wrapped around this monitor.

  6. Johanna Lynne
    April 26, 2013 at 4:29 pm (1 year ago)

    Seriously, fuck this. Fuck all of it. Fuck it.
    It sucks. It sucks and I can’t even make a manatee joke, or tell you that the way you feel about showing an areola tattoo is the same way I feel about a tattoo on my hip (with enough bourbon, I’ll show you for free!)
    But I’ll make Hugh’s cape and mask, if you’d like. And I’ll make you a mask and cape that match.

  7. cheryl arkison
    April 26, 2013 at 4:54 pm (1 year ago)

    I’ve been following your tweets up until now. Damn girl, you are funny. And I am a white woman who just said that. That disclaimer is about the most honest and awesome thing about cancer I’ve ever seen written.

    I just gave me phone a hug, just a gentle squeeze around the sides. Hope you felt that.

  8. Dafogle
    April 26, 2013 at 5:22 pm (1 year ago)

    Sending you tons of hugs …

  9. Alicia (foodycat)
    April 26, 2013 at 5:40 pm (1 year ago)

    Glad you’ve got the man in boobs building your new one! God knows where an amateur would put it.

    My mum was told they couldn’t reconstruct one as big as her healthy boob, so she’d have to have the other one pruned to size. So she didn’t get the reconstruction and stuck with one amazing one and one very impressive scar.

  10. Marta Brysha
    April 26, 2013 at 7:36 pm (1 year ago)

    How can any woman know what they would do in your position? Sadly it is a decision you have to make alone and it’s not going to be an easy one. It sucks that you have to deal with this. Good on you for giving that poor woman a hug. I’m sure she will remember and be thankful for that kindness for the rest of her life.

  11. elizabeth
    April 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm (1 year ago)

    I offer every single hug I can over the internet to you. For reals. Because fuck this shit. Fuck cancer.

  12. Laura
    April 28, 2013 at 1:25 am (1 year ago)

    Big BIG HUGS to you.

    Your story about the woman killed me. I am so glad you hugged her. You rock.

  13. Lisa
    April 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm (1 year ago)

    I’m just catching up on your blog (death and stress in our family). I’m heartbroken to know you’re going through this, and I’m angry. I know I don’t know you in real life, but I feel very invested in your life since I’ve read your blog for so long. I’m also invested because of your ability to translate human emotions, even the bad ones, to words so effectively. You have a real gift, and I hope you remember that while you’re going through this. It looks like lots of your readers agree. We’re all pulling for you, and you’re in my thoughts and prayers.

  14. Deborah White
    April 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm (1 year ago)

    Cry all you want, we will cry with you and may our tears form a river that keeps you afloat.

  15. Jenni
    May 8, 2013 at 8:24 pm (1 year ago)

    Kristina, this whole thing is the suckiest. I love you.

  16. The Modern Gal
    May 19, 2013 at 9:40 am (1 year ago)

    You are such an amazing person. I’m so glad you decided to give that woman a hug. I hope many people have been giving you hugs lately.


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