With every step I get closer to finishing chemo, that’s another step closer to my mastectomy surgery. The closer I get, the more real it becomes. I really wish I didn’t have to do this part. But I do. I have to. I was given the option of a lumpectomy by my surgeon, but with all sorts of cautions and caveats. And Dr. Paul, my medical oncologist doesn’t recommend it at all. A lumpectomy is not the way to cure my cancer. It’s just a partial step. My risk of recurrence would increase by a lot. So mastectomy is the way to go. And you might think it’s a no brainer. Well, it is and it isn’t. It is because OF COURSE I am going to choose the treatments that give me the highest cure rate. But once I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy performed, I took pause. It’s permanent, and I’m only 43. I feel like I’m about 23. So it’s not a no brainer because giving up a body part is a big deal. Especially one so noticeable and associated with being a woman. They’re not like tonsils. They don’t reconstruct tonsils so that “they look very natural in a bathing suit.”
People have said to me “Well, now you can choose the boobs you’ve always wanted.” Well, guess what? THESE are the boobs I’ve always wanted! I like being petite. I am a runner, a yogi and all of my shirts currently fit. I have made it extremely clear to my reconstructive surgeon that I want to be as close to my inherent size as possible while still looking natural. He tells me that he may have to increase my size somewhat due to the area of the chest that needs to be filled. At the same time, he understands my desire to look and feel like me.
I’ve never really been the kind of person to half-ass things. If I’m in, I’m in 100%. So I guess it’s sort of like jumping off the high dive — I’ll take a deep breath and trust myself that I chose the right surgeons and I’ll be as happy as possible with the result. The song that comes to mind is “I swear I lived” by One Direction: “Hoping you take that jump but don’t fear the fall … with every broken bone, I swear I lived.”
I guess it’s harder for me to talk about than I realized. This morning, I opened my mouth to explain to a client that I’d be taking a medical leave of absence for a few months, and I started to cry when he offered his understanding and best wishes. (Dammit! There’s no crying in baseball!) It’s not as simple as “you have to do this, so stop bawling about it.” I know I have to do this, and I will. I will also bawl about it. I’ll also try to mentally prepare myself (if there is such a thing). Trust me, I know I’m lucky to have cancer in a place that CAN be removed. Many others aren’t as fortunate. So I get it. But at the same time, I think this is where my learning has come into play. Through the course of having cancer, I’ve gotten much better at empathizing — with other people and situations foreign to me, but most importantly with myself. I’ve always been a “suck it up” person. Well, I’m tired of sucking it up. It’s an awful way to force yourself to live. While I’m dealing with the reality of having to undergo a bilateral mastectomy to save my life, I’m also dealing with the reality that it will be very difficult and I wish it wasn’t necessary. But I will have the surgery because I can. Because I want to. And because I was given a choice.