My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women


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The Grass Is Always Greener

I had another pouty session for myself recently.  I got the results of my blood test back from my oncologist and, for right now, they are reading as post-menopausal.  When your cancer is ER+, this is the news you want to hear.  You want your body to be making as little estrogen as possible.  I have be purposefully and likely permanently put into menopause.  While I suppose this is good news, I’m really very depressed by it.  I never minded getting my period that much.  It’s not like I liked it or anything (I had terrible cramps and crazy mood swings) but getting it every month let me know that my body was still working and healthy.  It was something I could count on.  I knew exactly when it was coming (often down to the hour) and it made me feel like a woman.

I haven’t gotten my period in nearly two years.  Sometimes I mention this and a woman’s first response is “Oh, that’s so awesome!!!!”  I can see why one would say that.  But the loss of my period is directly linked to my loss of femininity.  Not only is that thing that made me a woman, that I could count on every month, gone, but so is my ability to have more children.  And that just fucking sucks.

Sometimes I forget that, in reality, I’m really very lucky.  Yes, cancer was shit and it’s the gift that keeps on giving but, I’m here and, at least for now, I’m not going anywhere.  While I complain about being forced into menopause, I know that there are many women who wish they could be on medications like Tamoxifen or Zoladex (which I’m off of right now) to keep cancer at bay.  Women who are triple negative or diagnosed stage IV.  But sometimes I think about the women who are not ER+, (who would give their right leg to be on this medication) and think, well, at least they have a shot of having a baby (if chemo didn’t force them into menopause).  It’s stupid.  It’s insensitive.  But it’s how I think sometimes.

Sometimes the grass seems greener on the other side.

 

But knowing that in many ways I have it good, I don’t want to forget that this can change tomorrow.  My luck could run out and I might wish for the days of hot flashes and infertility being my biggest worry.  I know that at any time I could become one of the 30%.

So, to continue with this October breast cancer month thing that we’re in, I want to highlight a couple of organizations that are working on a cure for the only breast cancer that kills, stage IV.  While all breast cancer sucks and the treatments for it have the most awful effects, there is no cure for stage IV, only treatment and management.  This needs to change.  Like, yesterday!!!!!!  These organizations are fighting the good fight and are dedicated completely to finding a cure.  There are no fancy advertisements.  No pink boas or ribbons.  Just research, research, research.  If you have some money that you have been aching to donate, I urge you to consider donating to METavivor and Metup.

Here’s METavivor’s mission.

METAvivor is dedicated to the specific fight of women and men living with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. At the time of METAvivor’s founding, no organization was dedicated to funding research for the disease and no patient groups were speaking out about the dearth of stage 4 cancer research.  While more and more people have taken up the cry for more stage 4 research, METAvivor remains the sole US organization dedicated to awarding annual stage 4 breast cancer research.

Here’s Metup’s Mission

MET UP is committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action. We protest and demonstrate; we meet with government and health officials and researchers; we support research into metastatic disease; and we speak out against the sexualizing of breast cancer. We are convinced that the deaths of women and men from metastatic breast cancer are a paramount issue, and we pledge ourselves to oppose all who deny the reality of the 522,000 people who will die from metastatic breast cancer globally every year while waiting for a cure to be found.

 


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15 Random Facts + WTF!!!????? (a new blog post)

Hello fellow bloggers.  It’s been a lazy summer, at least for blogging.  I haven’t been around much to write or read.  I’m hoping to change that soon.  I’m not working too much but with the work I do have, I’m pretty busy with prep so, by the time I’m done, I still have all of my home stuff and exercise to do.  It’s not leaving room for other things like writing.  But I’m making time now.

I’d like to start with the blogging challenge from Nancy’s Point, one of my favorite breast cancer blogs.  Last year I wrote random facts about myself so I will try to be innovative.  I’m pretty much an open book.  But, here it goes.

  1. I have a dent in my head because of a freak zip lining accident I had in Costa Rica.  The guide forgot to put the brake out for me and I hit a tree.  I needed stitches which I got in a shack in the jungle.  It was the first time I ever tried something adventurous and the last.
  2. My husband and I decided to try to have a baby while folding laundry in a 24 hour laundromat.  I always wanted children when I was young but after grad school, I wasn’t sure.  I’m glad we made the choice to try because 3 months later, I was pregnant with Oliver.
  3. I hoped for a natural birth; no drugs, no IV, with a whirlpool tub and candlelight.  What I got was a completely medicalized birth.  My blood pressure skyrocketed 2 weeks before delivering and my organs started freaking out.  Oliver was 16 days late so I had 5 methods of induction.  The nurses were all over me constantly.  After 23 hours of trying, I finally gave in and got an epidural.  Three hours later, I had a c-section.  Totally not the experience I hoped for.  One of the things that makes me sad is that I’ll never know what it is like to deliver naturally.
  4. I don’t own a home but desperately want to.
  5. I have never lived outside of New York City.  I even went to college here.  If I could move anywhere, I’d love to live in Portland, Oregon.
  6. I hated Lord of the Rings.  The movie.  While beautiful, it bored me to tears.  I think I’m the only one who feels this way.
  7. I love fresh, baked chocolate chip cookies and can eat the whole cookie tray in one sitting.
  8. I’m envious of people who get to travel globally for work and wish I got to travel much more.
  9. I’m like a sponge for other people’s emotions.  If someone is in pain, depressed, excited, I immediately pick up on in and take on that emotion.  I can easily put myself in someone else’s shoes.
  10. I want to be a zombie on The Walking Dead.
  11. If I could have an affair with any star, past or present, it would be Gene Kelly.  I love everything about him.
  12. I get motion sick very easily.  The worst is on boats.  I won’t go on a boat in choppy water.
  13. I’m sickened by the state of the world right now.  I don’t know how humans can treat each other with such disdain and disrespect.  I look at pictures of Syrian, Afghani, Iraqi refugees and I feel so uncontrollably desperate to save them.  I know that is not possible.
  14. When I’m stressed out, I need to cry before I can find a solution.
  15. I can’t dance.  Seriously.  My top half and bottom half won’t coordinate.  But in my mind, I’ve got rhythm and grace.
  16. BONUS:  I love farmer’s markets.  They are my happy place.  I can’t get enough of all the fresh produce.  I think it’s beautiful.

 

Now for some of the stupid, breast cancer related shit I’ve been dealing with.   For the last (almost) 2 years, I’ve heard and read about women complaining about treatment related weight gain, whether it be from chemotherapy or tamoxifen or other drugs.  I’ve considered myself among the lucky.  I managed to lose a little bit of weight during chemo (not much and it was because everything tasted gross) and, even on tamoxifen, I managed to drop one size last summer due to exercise and healthy eating.  After my DIEP Flap reconstruction this year, I decided to be a little lax with my food choices.  That, mixed with not moving around much led to some weight gain.  I knew that was going to happen but I figured I’d deal with it when I recovered.  What I didn’t take into account or realize was that my new medication, Zoladex, could also play a role in weight gain.

When I tried my summer clothes on this spring and realized just how much weight I truly gained, I decided to take  my health very seriously.  I began exercising 4-6 times a week, eating smaller portions and eating more fruits and vegetables.  I figured that, by mid-summer, if I kept this up, I’d be back to my previous weight and down some more.  After 2 months of consistent exercise and healthy eating, I didn’t notice too much change in my body so, I decided to weigh myself again.  Not only had I not lost weight, I had gained 6 pounds.

WTF!!!!!?????!!!!

Let me tell you what upsets me about this.  Aside from my feelings about my physical appearance (which I do not like right now), I’m really pissed about my lack of control.  You see, I hate running.  I hate it!  But it’s all I really have the time and money for.  It’s free and I can be outside.  But I hate doing it.  What I loved about it was that I felt like I was taking control of my health.  When it comes to breast cancer, there is so little we have control over so when I can control something, I feel omnipotent.  So, to find out that I have been working so hard and that it has yielded no results, well, I lost my shit.

As my therapist commented, “it’s a bitch and a half.”  To work at something day after day.  Something that all the books and magazines PROMISE will get you results.  But I am the fucking exception to the rule.  Hard work is not rewarded when you’re on an ovarian suppressor or dealing with other breast cancer treatment.

It never ceases to amaze me.  That no matter how far I get from my diagnosis date, breast cancer still creeps up in my life to remind me who is boss.  It reminds me that life really isn’t in my control.  It reminds me that my body no longer belongs to me.  That no matter how hard I try, it will never be mine again.

ee223caec3d86bfee48b9d712dedfd64


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Zoladex: The Ovarian Suppressor and It’s Side Effects

Last week I received my third monthly injection of Zoladex.  Since I am on a two year regimen (for now, the new recommendation is five years), I only have 21 injections to go!!!  Yay!

Zoladex, or Goselerin, is similar to a hormone made in the body, LHRH (luteinizing hormone, releasing hormone).  It’s purpose in women is to decrease the production of estrogen so that it can stop the growth of ER+ cancer cells.  The medication is an implant which is injected by a large needle into the abdomen just below the naval.  The medication is released in the body over the period of a month.

This drug has done well in clinical trials with pre-menopausal women, particularly under the age of 35 (but, according to my oncologist, it is now recommended for all pre-menopausal women with ER+ breast cancer) in conjunction with Tamoxifen.  This added protection against recurrence is a great thing, but great things in cancerland rarely come free.  Side effects can include: hot flashes, dizziness, headache, sweating, trouble sleeping, nausea, mood changes, and vaginal dryness.  Sound like fun?  What cancer treatment isn’t?

So far, I have been experiencing intense hot flashes, sweating and fatigue.  Maybe a little moodiness but that can be from being so freaking tired all the time.  Who knows?  The hot flashes are awful.  It feels like I am a radiator, and when a hot flash starts, I’m being heating up from the inside out, until I am burning hot all over.  My face turns really red when it happens.  I’ve had several people apologize to me during a hot flash, asking how they’ve embarrassed me!!!!  Now, that’s embarrassing.  And the worst thing about a hot flash is that there’s nothing you can do to stop it.  It’s like being on a rollercoaster and going down hill.  You just have to get through it.  There’s no stopping it once it starts.  There’s no stopping it before it starts.  It’s a constant ride but I never know where and when it’s going to begin.  It’s awful.

devil

This is what a hot flash feels like.

The shot itself, well, is way more than a shot, really.  One person on my Facebook page  described it as a “harpoon.”  I think if you tried to look it up, you could find what the needle looks like but I can’t bare to know.  I think if I ever saw the needle, I’d never get it again.  The injection doesn’t hurt me.  I’m still pretty numb from my DIEP flap so, that’s good, I guess.  It must hurt others because the nurses always cringe when they have to give it to me.  You know it’s a huge fucking needle when even the nurses, whose job it is to stick you with needles all day, recoil at the thought of giving this injection.  And while I haven’t seen the needle itself, I have seen the size of the box.  It’s huge!!!!

I spoke to my oncologist about my side effects.  She wants me to start acupuncture to help with the hot flashes.  I like this alternative idea to medicine to help with my symptoms.  I don’t like that I have to find yet more time and money to manage my side effects.  With the lymphedema, depression, anxiety and now hot flashes, managing my symptoms is becoming another job.  A very expensive job.  Ugh!!!!!!

Cancer.  The gift that keeps on giving.  Were truer words ever spoken?

Are you on Zoladex?  What side effects are you experiencing?

Have you tried to manage your symptoms with acupuncture?  If so, how is it working for you?


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Zoladex Was Supposed To Be A Pain In The Ass (Plus Another Anniversary)

needle

I have to admit, I’ve been planning the title of this post for several weeks, ever since I last saw my oncologist we decided to get me started on Zoladex.  The title was supposed to be, Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass, but it can’t be anymore.  I’ll explain why.

Zoladex is a drug administered by monthly injection and in combination with Tamoxifen in premenopausal women, lowers the risk of recurrence when diagnosed with early stage, hormone positive breast cancer.  It is an ovarian suppressor so it stop the ovaries (or lowers) production of estrogen.  This will put me in complete menopause.

My oncologist has been bringing up this drug to me for over six months now and I have been very resistant.  “Why,” I asked on many occasions,”do I need to do something else?  Why do I need to put another drug in my body?  Haven’t I done enough?”  It was really that last question I was asking.  “Haven’t I done enough?”  Why isn’t a mastectomy, chemotherapy, herceptin, radiation and tamoxifen enough to keep my cancer at bay?

The answer she gave me is that Zoladex is one more thing that can help prevent recurrence.  While it doesn’t improve my chances a huge amount, my oncologist feels that the benefit it is statistically significant in women who were diagnosed under the age of 35 (I was 37 so, close enough) when in combination with all of the treatment I have had.  It took a long time for me to come to the conclusion to try it but I promised my son that I would do everything…EVERYTHING…to make sure this cancer never happens again.  So, I need to at least try it.

I had heard that there is a “technique” for administering the injection so I was very curious about that, so I asked my oncologist.  Her reply was, “How graphic do you want me to get?  Are you sure you want to know?”  I felt the blood leave my head but I said that I’m not good with surprises and that I’d rather know than be caught off guard.  So she informed me.

WARNING:  If you do not want to know how this is done, stop reading now.  I acknowledge that this information is not helpful for all.

“Well, it’s a big needle.  A really big needle.  Whatever you do, don’t look at it.  Because it’s a big needle, after sticking it in the skin it needs to be twisted.  Then we inject the liquid which is more vicious that others.  It is going to hurt but only going in.  And when it’s done, it’s done.  That’s it.  And we inject it into your backside.”

My ass!!!!  MY ASS!!!!  They wanted to stick a huge needle into my ass?

Hence, the title I’ve been planning for weeks.  Zoladex Is A Pain In The Ass.

But, yesterday, when I got the injection, I was informed I was going to get it in my belly and not my bum.  “Are you sure,” I asked my nurse?  She was positive.  I was simultaneously elated and disappointed; elated because I got to keep my pants up and avoid the humiliation of getting a shot in the ass but, disappointed because what was the title of this post going to be?

I informed my nurse, Nina my chemo nurse, of course, that I didn’t want to see the needle.  She agreed it was not a good idea.  But let me tell you what I did see.  The box!!!!  I saw the box the needle came in.

I am of the belief that anything that is going to enter your body in any way while you are still conscious should not come in a box that size.  I started to sweat.  I wasn’t sure I could do it.  But amazing Nina kept me talking (probably so I wouldn’t faint), sprayed some numbing solution on my skin and did it.

It didn’t hurt.  Maybe a slight pinch but that’s nothing.  And it was done in seconds.  In fact, it hurt more after (a little soreness) than actually getting the injection.  It was done.  Now I just have to see if I get any side effects…more hot flashes, night sweats, that sort of thing.

I had been psyching myself out for weeks over this injection.  In my mind, the needle looked something like this.

needle 2

Or worse, this one.

needle 3

My imagination really got the best of me.  I’m still happy that I was prepared for what was coming.  If I had seen that box and didn’t know what was in store, I think I would have flipped out.

It’s also ironic that I started this new treatment on the anniversary of my last chemo treatment.  I can’t believe that one year ago, I said goodbye to chemotherapy (hopefully) forever!  What’s amazing to me is how quickly this year has gone by.  From the time I was diagnosed and throughout treatment, it felt like the world stopped turning and I was stuck in time.  And since then the world has been spinning uncontrollably forward.  This is good in the sense that I have been getting back to normal life, to the best of my ability.  But it’s also had me scrambling to catch up.  More on that in another post.

But today, I want to celebrate how far I’ve come.  Even though I’m starting a new treatment and I don’t know what the side effects will be like, I have to remain hopeful.  I have to trust that it’s one more thing keeping me safe.  It’s one more thing ensuring that I see my son graduate college, get married and have his own children.  And for that, you can stick any size needle into me whenever you want (not really but yes really).

Enjoy some images taken one year ago.  And you can read about my last chemo day and how I celebrated here and here.

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When Is Enough, Enough?

AAN3PY 1950 1950s WOMAN SITTING IN FRONT OF FAN WIPING FOREHEAD VERY HOT

AAN3PY 1950 1950s WOMAN SITTING IN FRONT OF FAN WIPING FOREHEAD VERY HOT

I thought I’ve done it all.  Said yes to everything I could possibly agree to.  That there was nothing left to do.  I’d done my job and now I get to live a cancer free life.  But no.  It’s not that easy.

Three weeks ago, I met my new oncologist, Dr. Marlene Meyers at NYU.  She’s wonderful, caring and open to listening to me and my needs.  But, she suggested that, in addition to the Tamoxifen I’m taking, I also start on a regimen of Zoladex.

Zoladex, a form of hormone therapy is an ovarian suppressor.  The drug stops the ovaries from producing estrogen or as some doctors call it, “medical ovarian shutdown”, and can be used by women with ER+ breast cancer who are pre-menopausal.   It is given as a monthly injection.  So, what is the difference between Tamoxifen, and aromatase inhibitor and and ovarian suppressor?

Tamoxifen is a type of hormone therapy known as a SERM (selective oestrogen receptor modulator) and its job is to block the effect that estrogen has on tissue receptors.  Aromatase inhibitors reduces hormone levels but does not block estrogen from being produced by the ovaries.  Because of this, aromatase inhibitors will only work on women who are post-menopausal or who have had ovaries removed.  Zoladex literally shuts the ovaries down so that they are unable to produce estrogen.  The only other way to prevent the ovaries from doing this would be to remove them altogether.

While Zoladex, in addition to Tamoxifen (according to my oncologist) prevents recurrence by only a few statistical points, she said that it did very well in trials for women age 35 and younger with ER+ and node negative tumors.  While I do not “have to” take this drug, she is strongly recommending it.

I have done some basic research, and maybe I’m not finding the latest papers that have been released but, according to the results of the ZIPP trial, “although the effect of goserelin was smaller (and not statistically significant) among women who took tamoxifen, a difference in risk of 2-3 percentage points in absolute risk at 15 years might be important, given the high incidence of early breast cancer. This would correspond to treating 33-50 women with tamoxifen and goserelin to avoid one woman having a recurrence, new tumor, or death. Indeed, the number needed to treat at 15 years was 18 in women younger than 40 years who also took tamoxifen.”

As I think I have mentioned before, my aunt Vickie works in medical publishing so she has been asking around for second opinions for me.  One has come back so far stating that she is in agreement with my oncologist and that Zoladex would be beneficial for me.

So here’s the thing.  When I started on Tamoxifen, the side effects were pretty harsh: terrible night sweats (I’d wake up several times during the night completely soaked through.  My side of the bed felt like an overactive heating pad), constant insomnia (I was a walking zombie, with the moodiness to match) and hot flashes, which I still suffer from on a daily basis.  I am terrified by the side effects that will be accompanied by Zoladex.  While they are not permanent, because the injection is given monthly, I would have to live with any negative effects for at least a month.  This could mean more night sweats, more insomnia, more hot flashes, loss of sex drive (what sex drive?)…this doesn’t include the osteoporosis, bone pain and depression.

This all sounds awful and it might be (it also might not be that bad) but there is also the psychological issues that have come with receiving this information.  I was once again thrown for a loop with information I was not expecting.  I knew I was going to have to take Tamoxifen for 10 years but now I need to (should) be on yet something else?  When does it end?  When is enough, enough?  When can I say, “I’ve done six months of chemotherapy, fifteen sessions of radiation, a year of herceptin and 10 years of Tamoxifen, changed my diet, got back into exercising…and that’s enough!!!!”  I will never get to say that because there is always more.  More.  More.  More!!!  And I’m done!  I don’t want to do anymore!!!

But…I swore on day one that I would do everything in my power to make sure that I beat this thing.  What if I decided not to take the Zoladex and the cancer returns?  Will I always wonder if I had just done one more thing, if that would have been the thing that saved me?  Am I willing to do this, suffer all of the side effects to ensure I will be here to watch Oliver have his own children?  Isn’t that the definition of a mother?  To do anything and everything necessary, to sacrifice the self for her child?

These are the questions I’ve been battling lately.  There is no right answer.  There is no good answer.  I just need to choose.  Have I done enough?  Can I do more?

Have you been offered a treatment that you weren’t sure you were going to take part in?  What was the struggle for you?


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A 10 Year Sentence

Photo from cartoonstock.com

Photo from cartoonstock.com

Chemo sucks.  Radiation sucks, too.  But one thing I can say about them is that they are administered for a relatively short time.  Their effects can last far beyond the end of treatment but the hell endured during treatment ends soon after the last dose is given.

To prevent my cancer from growing any further, I have gotten a mastectomy with axillary lymph node removal, five months of chemotherapy, three weeks of radiation and a year of Herceptin infusions for my clinical trial.  The next and, I think, final method of prevention is Tamoxifen, a pill I need to take every day for the next 10 years.

Tamoxifen is a form of hormone therapy that is used for women who have a breast cancer that is estrogen receptor positive (ER+).  When a breast cancer is ER+ it means that it feeds off estrogen like cookie monster at an Oreo factory.  Tamoxifen attaches to the attaches to the hormone receptor in the cancer cell and blocks estrogen from attaching to that receptor, denying the cancer of it’s favorite treat.

photo from riverpharmacy.ca

photo from riverpharmacy.ca

Image from Susan G. Komen

Image from Susan G. Komen

The benefits of Tamoxifen can last long after the last pill is taken.  According to an article on the Susan G. Komen website “findings from a large randomized clinical trial showed that taking tamoxifen for an additional five years (for a total of 10 years) further reduced the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death [60]. For this reason, there is increasing use of treatment with tamoxifen for more than five years, especially among premenopausal women who cannot take aromatase inhibitors.”  That is why almost all women with ER+ breast cancer will be offered the pill.  It can also be used as a preventative for women who have not developed breast cancer but are considered high risk.

Side effects of Tamoxifen can include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, weight gain, disruption of the menstrual cycle, risk of blood clots, stroke, cataracts, mood swings, bone loss and risk of endometrian and uteran cancers.  Premenopausal women are advised to not get pregnant while taking Tamoxifen due to potential harm of the fetus so using those eggs I harvested and saved is out of the question.

I have been experiencing hot flashes since my third chemotherapy treatment but they were starting to subside with time.  Ever since starting Tamoxifen, my instance of hot flashes and night sweats have increased.  I have also been experiencing insomnia for the first time in my life and/or restless, interrupted sleep, likely as a result of the the discomfort from the night sweats.  I try to wear light pajamas to bed and we now use a fan with the window open.  This has lessened the severity of the night sweats however I still wake up clammy but very cold…and hot at the same time.

I don’t know how long these side effects will last.  I hope that I will not have to endure ten years of waking up in sweat soaked pajamas.  I don’t think I could live like that.  The question is, do the benefits outweigh the side effects?  Oncologists seem to think so.

So far, I have served a month and a half of my Tamoxifen sentence.  Nine years and ten and a half months to go.

If you have been on Tamoxifen, what strategies have you used to combat the side effects?  Do they change over time?


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Single or Double?

single or double

Photo from examiner.com

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer on August 1st, I knew for sure that I had to masses in my right breast which had also invaded the lymph nodes.  I was not surprised about the lumps which I had found myself, but was very surprised about the lymph nodes.  What was even more surprising was that the doctor said that he had also seen some calcifications in the left breast.  A complete shocker since there was no sign of a lump.

Images taken from breastcancer.org.  These are not my mammograms and to not highlight my particular cancer.  I tried to get mine online but might have to ask for them.

Images taken from breastcancer.org. These are not my mammograms and to not highlight my particular cancer. I tried to get mine online but might have to ask for them.

Breast calcifications are “calcium deposits within the breast tissue” that can show up on mammograms.  They are often benign (non-cancerous) but others may indicate breast cancer.  Because I had also had a biopsy of the right breast that confirmed my cancer, that is how we knew that my calcifications were in fact cancerous.  But we had not done any biopsies of the left and I was terrified.  Would I need a double?

It would be more than two weeks before I found out through more thorough mammograms that what the original doctor had seen was calcifications indicating normal breast tissue (possibly due to breastfeeding?) but we have to keep an eye on them. If they begin to form clusters, that is when we will have to do a biopsy to be sure.

But in between the time I found out about my diagnosis and the possible breast cancer in both breasts until I found out that it was isolated to the one, I had convinced myself that I was going to get a double mastectomy no matter what.  Why would I risk going through this again?  I just wanted them gone.  I wanted them off.

Then my mom came across this article in the NY Times and it was speaking about me.  That initial panic of getting cancer and like having roaches all over you, you scream “Get them off!  Get them off!”  What’s a couple of boobs when it means I get to watch my son walk into his first day of Kindergarten, see his high school graduation, get married, have his own children?  That was what was important.

My breast surgeon said that she would do a double if I wanted one, but it would only be for peace of mind, not for any medical reasons.   Since no one in my family had tested positive for the BRCA 1 or 2 gene mutation (although I still need to undergo genetic counseling) there was no reason to think lightening would strike twice.  I had a lot of trouble wrapping my brain around this.  If I had it once, what’s stopping me from getting it again?  Just because we haven’t isolated the gene mutation that is in my family, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.  I still wanted the double.

When I finally got the results from my MRI (clean in the left breast), PET scan (no spreading of the cancer) and final mammograms (benign calcifications), I asked my surgeon again.  Why should I do a single and not a double?  Why should I take the risk?

Everything is a risk but, she felt that it was highly unlikely that this could happen again (not impossible).  If the calcifications were in fact the beginnings of cancer, the chemo should kill them.  Then I will be on Tamoxifen for 10 years which acts as a preventative.  But this was the most convincing argument for me.  Let’s say I did end up getting breast cancer again in 15-20 years.  Techniques and treatments are changing drastically and how I am treated now will not be how I’m treated later.  And I am going to be screened very, VERY carefully for the rest of my life.

So, in a matter of two weeks, I went from being sure that I was going to do a double mastectomy to doing the single.  Being just over a week out of surgery, I can’t even imagine what recovery must be like for a double.  To those of you who had a double mastectomy either by choice or necessity, I bow to you.  You are so strong.  In the end, I think I did what was best for me.  I just hope it was the right choice.

*All information was taken from reputable websites such as The Mayo Clinic and BreastCancer.org.  These are sites that both my surgeon and oncologist suggested I get my information since it is up to date and non-alarmist.*