I Want To Live
Posted January 22, 2016 by Prairie Wife - 25 comments
The doctor walked into the room, shook mine and The Cowboy’s hands and sat down. He adjusted his glasses, looked at me and asked “Why are you here?” I wrapped my arms tighter around LittleMissH and she burrowed her head into my chest. “I want to live as long as possible.”
Many of our readers are aware that frequent contributor TexasTwoSteppin’ is my big sister. She is also a breast cancer survivor. Her diagnosis meant that I needed to be extra vigilant. My doctors recommendation was to start getting regular mammograms 5 years before the age she was at her diagnosis (which would mean when I turned 33). Because I was nursing LittleMissH I was unable to start monitoring at the exact suggested time. But, my doctor and I both agreed that we would begin as soon as she was weaned.
Then, last year, Ma was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a lumpectomy and 6 weeks of radiation.
When I next met with my OB, I told her about Ma. I was shocked by her reaction. I figured she would add it to my chart and simply tell me that I need to make sure to be extra vigilant with my monthly exams and mammogram schedule. Instead, she recommended genetic counseling to find out my exact risk.
I scheduled an appointment and sat down for over an hour with a genetic counselor. We went over every family member I knew of and all of their various diseases. From my Uncle who passed away from ALS to the removal of my Great Great Grandmother’s thyroid, we covered it all!
Weeks later I received a letter in the mail stating that my risk of developing breast cancer was 40%. I called my OB and sent the information on to her. She left me a message saying that we needed to meet.
I have to admit I sort of brushed it off. I figured that we were just meeting to talk about doing MRI’s instead of mammograms and moving the frequency up to every six months (something we had discussed previously in her office). When I finally called, I had to wait another few weeks to get in and then I had to cancel and reschedule due to sick kids…
When we eventually met I knew right away that things were serious. She said that she had reached out to the local breast cancer specialist in town because she felt that she was out of her comfort zone. She laid it out on the line…
If I were to develop breast cancer, we could hope to catch it early through monitoring or, we could try to prevent it all together. She talked about Tamoxifen, a drug that would put me into menopause and that could reduce my risk. I balked…and teared up. It finally hit home that this was serious…really really serious…
At her suggestion we scheduled an appointment with an oncologist specializing in breast cancer risk and reduction in Denver, CO.
Which brings me back to the beginning of my post.
It turns out this is all a game of numbers and odds. Right now I have a 40% risk of getting breast cancer. If I take the Tamoxifen my risk would be reduced to 20% and would come along with all the side effects of being put into menopause at the age of 33 (including but not limited to: uterine cancer, osteoporosis, and all the not so fun side effects that come with menopause). Or, I could undergo a prophylactic mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, and reduce my risk to 2%.
I am choosing to undergo a prophylactic mastectomy, and The Cowboy wholeheartedly supports my decision.
Despite my upbeat attitude when I’ve shared my choice with close friends and family, I am under no illusion that this will be easy.
This is not a boob job, it’s an amputation.
It will likely involve at least three surgeries that stretch out over the course of almost a year. I will have an extremely limited ability to use my arms for 6 weeks after the first surgery. While the thought of not cooking or vacuuming for 6 weeks does have some small appeal, the thought of not being able to pick up my children or care for my family has me terrified.
Breast tissue is from your collar bone to your armpits and my breast surgeon will be cutting open my breasts and taking out as much of it as she can. I chose to try to save my nipples (that’s a choice I never thought I’d have to make) but in the end it will be skin over implants (here are some patient before and after pictures). There won’t be breast tissue and fat helping to shape and camouflage my implants.
I hope that after I am done healing I will look nice in clothes, and that the scars and end result won’t keep The Cowboy from coming home on the weekends.
As I sit on the hotel floor typing this (we are down in Denver yet again finalizing plans) I watch LittleMissH toddle over to me. She plants a big old slobbery booger filled kiss on my mouth…and I know that I will do anything I have to do, to have ten more years, five more weeks, one more day, with my children.
Thank you to my friends and family for their support.
Thank you to those of you that don’t agree with my decisions and are supporting me anyway.
Thank you to my readers that will be going on this journey with me over the course of this year.
And thank you to my doctors for helping me through this process with so much compassion.
Read more Prophylactic Mastectomy: Let’s Get This Thing Started
Categories: Preventive Mastectomy, Support
Tags: , breast cancer, breast cancer risks, breast cancer support, breast reconstruction, breast surgery, genetics, mastectomy, preventive mastectomy, prophylactic mastectomy
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25 thoughts on "I Want To Live"
Please be sure to discuss and be as vigilant about uterine cancer as well. It is also carried on the BrCa gene. I will be praying for you and your family.
Thank you Sherrie for your parayers! You are correct about the uterine cancer but, I did not test for the BrCa gene so it’s not a concern for me personally. I will be sure to mention it in a future post for the readers it may apply to 🙂
You and Angelina Jolie—virtual sisters. Prayers and Zen thoughts being sent to you and your family!
Right…only there isn’t a twitter account dedicated to my leg (at least not yet)! Thanks for the prayers AND zen I’ll need them both I’m sure!
I always knew you were tough. I just wish you didn’t have to keep proving it.
Thanks Pa, I come by the toughness honestly 😉
Prayers for you and yours my friend!!! #onetoughcookie
Thanks so much! #wegotthis
This moves me. Love you.
Thanks mama, for your support, love…everything 🙂
I hope that you will never feel alone throughout this journey, and I pray that you feel confident in your healing so much that you never lose your sense of being the amazing, attractive, strong and feminine woman that you are. Thank you for sharing this journey–we are all here for you!
Thank you for sharing! You are such a strong amazing woman and I’m glad to call you my best friend! I’m praying for you for a safe surgery and healthy recovery. I think you are making the best choice even though it’s the hardest!
? love you! I’ll be happy to help you, my dear! So proud of how brave you are!
Cathy, I am praying for you and support you 100%. Please, if there si anything you need- vacuuming, grocery grabbing- helping with the kids in any way- or anything else- I am here! You are a brave woman and I have every hope it will turn out well. xo
I am so proud and thankful to count such a strong, beautiful soul a part of my family. You got this chickadee. Sending lots of love your way today and everyday.
Good luck with your surgery, I’m sure it will go well. It will be a tough 6 weeks (if not a little longer) but you can do it, you are one tough cookie. Hang in there and dictate your blog to your nanny Mary Poppins. We’re here for you and will be thinking of you.
Just think, at some point you’ll say you miss being able to do housework, yard work, etc., but 6 months from now you’ll be complaining about it again. 😉
I want you to know how much your writing about your choice and your procedure has changed my response to the future. My parents told me this weekend that due to findings from my dad’s latest colonoscopy (precancerous polyps that could never do anything or that could), he is urged to have his kids get their first at 40 not 50. While part of me dreads that will mean in 3 years rather than 13, my first response was to whip out my Google calendar and mark a date in advance of my 40th to schedule it. Your “I want to live.. for my kids” was echoing in my head, kicking the wimpy “I don’t want to do this” to the curb. [My 33yo sibling is totally going to blow it off, I’m sure]. Thank you for helping me prepare to be brave.
Thank you so much for sharing, hearing this gives ME strength to keep sharing my journey! My sis had colon cancer as well and so as part of my surgery prep I had to so a colonoscopy and have to continue to do so every three years. Its no fun drinking the nasty stuff and “purging” for 24hr but, use it as an excuse to lock yourself in your bedroom and binge watch TV for a day 😉 thanks again Jenn and best of luck to you and your family!
I’m so glad I came across your post! Your writing really spoke to me because I felt like you were inside my head! I had this exact surgery in January, I have two young kids and I’m 33.
Wishing you so much luck! My surgery went really well and I’m very happy with the results! I just underwent a second surgery to fill them in and they look great! You’ll do great!!
I’m looking forward to following your journey!
Welcome Jillian! Thanks so much for sharing your story with me, I love hearing happy endings from other women that have had the surgery too 🙂
Thank you so much for sharing this! You are such a strong individual and writer! Thank you!