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.