I got to meet my Care Team, and I feel very fortunate. Each of them seemed genuinely interested in me beating this cancer. Each of them seemed competent and knowledgeable; which made me confident.
I was put in an exam room with a checklist outside the door, so the doctors could check off who had already been in to see me. Apparently, they had all met together to discuss my case before I arrived. The first doctor I met was my Medical Oncologist who talked to me about the possibilities of radiation and chemo. She also told me that because they found both estrogen and progesterone in my cancer, I would have to do hormone blockers after whatever treatment we’d need to do. I was emotionless for most of this. At one point she asked if I had any questions, but most of them couldn’t be answered until they knew more about what we were dealing with; which meant I wouldn’t know until after I’d had surgery. But I ended up telling her two things. The first one had to do with a billboard I pass daily that said, “Everything you want is right around the corner.” (reference to a new community being built near where I live.) I told her that this billboard made me sad because it simply wasn’t true. I wanted two things: I wanted a real shower. And I wanted to be cancer-free. She thanked me and said that I’d given her a perspective that doctors don’t always consider. It really seemed to touch her that I simply wanted to be able to take a shower (which I hadn’t been able to do since June due to my inability to stand in the shower with a broken foot.).
The next doctor dealt with the radiation side of things. I didn’t learn much from him, other than the fact that I’d be referred out for radiation if that was necessary.
Then the surgeon came in and told me a little about my cancer: there was estrogen & progesterone present, it had the attributes of two different types of breast cancer, and that it had taken over my breast. And one other thing: the cancer had taken my nipple. It had sucked it in, and I would lose both my nipple & aereola in the surgery. But at least they could still do a skin-saving mastectomy so I could have reconstruction. But she also said she doesn’t see any need for radiation at this time. There was nothing on any of my scans that indicated that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Now that can change based on what she finds during the surgery, but for right now, she thinks we caught it early enough.
It turns out that my cancer’s aggressiveness is a two on a scale of one to three. And it’s invasive. There are multiple tumors, taking over a majority of my breast. So I was given one option: mastectomy. But I guess, when you only have one option, it’s not really an option anymore, is it? Though I could choose to do nothing, but I think my chances of surviving that go way down. Mastectomy, it is.
I ended up meeting two plastic surgeons, because after the first went through her whole talk, I mentioned when my surgery was and she wasn’t available that day. So she brought in the other plastic surgeon and he talked to me for a bit. He was the only doctor who told me he was praying for me. I liked that.
I’ve now mentioned surgery a couple times. Because it’s happening. And quickly. One week. That’s all I was given to prepare; one week.
I don’t think it’s really hit me yet as hard as it’s going to hit me. But it will. I don’t know if it will be the night before surgery; or if it will be when I wake up and a part of me is no longer there. I think that’s going to be hard.
I was given one choice: reconstruction or none. I chose reconstruction. I know from my support group that this can be a divisive topic. But since it’s a single mastectomy, I feel it really is the best option for me. When discussing my reconstruction, my plastic surgeon told me that after his work was done, he could send me to a tattoo artist who specializes in helping women look and feel like they did before their mastectomies. He actually tattoos the nipple and aereola onto the reconstructed breast so that it looks like it used to. Who knew this was even a thing?! But it is. I got to see samples of his work and he does a good job! I’ll never look exactly the same again, but if he can make me look closer to the way I am now, it will go a long way to helping me heal.
Now don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about vanity. Yes, I know that very few people will ever see it. But I will. Cancer is traumatic. I’m starting to see how it’s changing everything around me. Having the ability to have part of me back to the way it was before cancer is something I’m thinking will help me move on.
I want to be me and do the things that I can my way. But I also want to feel normal; whatever today’s definition of that word is. Cancer steals a lot. It robs us of a lot. And while I’ll never be able to go back to my life before cancer, I want my life after cancer to be as typical as I can make it. I want to do more than survive…
See all posts on my breast cancer journey here.
This post, My Care Team, first appeared on heathergaffney.com. Copyright 2020; all rights reserved.