My Point of Heu
After I was told that I had a very high genetic predisposition to breast cancer, I knew immediately I wanted to take measures to reduce my risk as much as possible. I could very well have had an 8 out of 10 chance of developing breast cancer in my lifetime and I've seen the struggle, pain, agony and plight that commences when you are faced with fighting this disease. So, I opted to reduce my risk by over 90%, having a simple bilateral mastectomy was daunting, but I felt supremely confident that this is what I needed to do, to have a healthy life and to live with peace of mind. Nothing in life is a guarantee, but with this I know that I did my best to prevent cancer and live a full and enriched existence.
After deciding to remove both of my breasts, I also felt from my inner being that I didn't want to have my natural breasts replaced with implants. I had this strange feeling that if I put something foreign into my body that it would reject it. After seeing my primary care physician, who had been along with me on this journey of fielding the cancer calls, and seeing family members, friends and my mother die from the disease... she supported me in the effort to have my breasts surgically removed. But as the process began almost everyone involved confidently suggested that I have reconstruction done.
My surgeon, whom I love and adore, was firm that I review all my options. I saw additional surgeons who went over the methods of reconstruction and each time I left with supreme confidence that I did not want to have new breasts created or put in.
Essentially there were 4 different breast reconstruction options:
1. Expanders that are later replaced with a permanent implant.
2. Flap surgery - replacing with tissue from another part of your body.
3. Fat Grafting (I didn't qualify for this option)
4. Immediate Reconstruction - as soon as the breast is taken out an implant with skin and etc is put in.
To be completely honest, I wanted this to not consume my life. I wanted to heal as quickly as possible and go back to my active self. The stats showed the easiest way to bounce back within a few months was to just go flat. Assessing the recovery time and levels of satisfaction and success of these other procedures was concerning to me. The expanders is the most common process, but also involves going to the hospital weekly to have them filled and increased in size gradually, then after that is complete another surgery is done to take the expanders out and put the implants in. The flap surgery is a newer version and combined with the mastectomy seemed so long (to be asleep) and also involved cutting into my back and taking tissue from their and putting it in my breast pocket which would not have a nipple anyway. I was told I was too lean for the fat grafting option - oh well, LOL. And the success rates of the immediate reconstruction didn't seem to entice me at all.
I spoke with half a dozen mastectomy patients and all 100% of the ones that had reconstruction had issues with it, or had to have the implants taken out and/or another surgery (sometimes they will call that a touch-up). I am not saying reconstruction is wrong or a bad decision, I just didn't believe it was the right decision for me. And, honestly if down the road I wanted to have implants put in I could do it later. It's just suggested to have this process started when you have the initial surgery because it is a tad easier and speeds up the process.
In the end I am still confident, comfortable in my own skin and truly content with my body. My steadfastness to go flat was the only decision I was comfortable with and I am extremely happy with it. Surprisingly (my flat chest) isn't noticed at all by others and I feel empowered, strong and supremely positive. You can always opt for prosthetics, padded bras and other means to make it look like you have curves, but it's simpler, easier and such a breeze getting dressed now not having to worry about a bra...and my clothes fit fine, although I do try to wear more tops with ruffles or those that flow instead of the form fitted ones. I believe when it comes to your mind and your body, they go hand in and hand and you have to trust your instincts.
A few months ago I made a decision to prolong my life... Instead of living with an extremely high risk of breast cancer, I opted to reduce this risk by over 90%. I had a simple bilateral mastectomy. What this means is I had a preventative surgery involving having both of my natural breasts removed. Yes, I opted to surgically remove both of my breasts in an effort to live a longer, healthier, happier and more productive life. With that I also opted not to undergo reconstruction (get implants), so I went completely flat.
You might be wondering why someone under the age of 40, living a highly active lifestyle and in stellar shape would decide to have this done. Well, first and foremost I am an only child to a single parent, so I don't know anything about my paternal side of the family, but what I can tell you about my maternal family is a bit alarming. When I was just about to enter high school my mom's youngest sister died from cancer at the age of 34. I remember this because I was still living at home and my mom said it had spread from her breasts to her bones and literally everywhere. This was the first time I had heard about someone with cancer in our family. Then when I was working at KHON I remember taking a call from my grandmother and she was undergoing radiation for breast cancer. Again on my maternal side cancer begins to rear its ugly head.
In 2016, my mother told me that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight and after it had metastasized to her scull, liver, and etc she passed away in 2018. Since then my medical attempts at prevention began to increase. I had already been receiving a mammogram and MRI every six months, but they opted to do more testing. It turns out I tested positive for a genetic mutation called the RAD50 gene abnormality. This is a newer gene, compared to the commonly known BRCA1 and BRCA2, that is associated with an increased chance to develop female breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and possibly other types of cancer. They said it was very likely that my mother passed this genetic mutation on to me. In the midst of all this cancer talk and drama, I was scheduled for my mammogram. As luck would have it they found something in my left breast. Lucky for me it was deemed benign and life goes on right?
I had hoped that life would go on as long as possible and as long as I would like it to, so I decided to tackle the risk and opted to have my breasts surgically removed. I did a ton of research, saw several reconstructive surgeons, spoke to about a dozen breast cancer survivors and opted to have my surgery in the spring. It was an emotional time... nipple sparing wasn't an option because of the breast size and it was the anniversary of my mother's passing, my first time in the hospital (as I have never broken a bone or had surgery, I've never been under anesthesia and yes, I was scared) and it was the first time I would be staring cancer face on and saying NO.
My husband encouraged me to document the process, I initially didn't want to but he noted that I could help so many people in the future. So, I took videos from the day before my surgery through the entire recovery and so on. Overall, the procedure went perfectly. My recovery was pleasant and now I am back to my old self again, with some limited range of motion of my arms and I lost 5 pounds from my chest... But I am doing well. I don't miss my breasts, I don't regret what I did, I am open to talking about it and interested in sharing my experience in time.
Boobs don't define you, they didn't define me and honestly when I am out in public no one seems to notice they are gone. Mainly folks who know me will say I look like I lost weight, but the majority of the time no one says anything because they don't see anything. I am healed now and able to tell my story and when the time is right I will do so with courage and will continue to wear my scars with pride.