(sent via e-mail June 3, 2011)
Everything, these last couple of months, has been put into perspective while playing a cruel game of “Would you rather”. Ever play that game? Or the other version, I’d play in bars, on the bus or at work to pass the time, “Who would you do?” where you choose between the guy sporting a mullet with long fingernails or his friend the comb-over dude who may not have showered for 3 weeks. My girlfriends/co-workers would protest they didn’t want to choose but I would insist “No, that’s not allowed, the game is YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE!” So, we would sit there at the convention/on set/bar and mull over the lesser of both evils. It’s a lot of fun, lots of laughter ensues while analyzing our choices, and 4 hours of boredom seems to pass within minutes.
Having breast cancer and how I go about deciding what to do is very akin to playing “Would you rather”. Here is what played in my head in the last little while, (play along, if you want, I would love to know your answers.)
1. Would you rather let your body be consumed with cancer or would you rather get rid of the cancer in your breast? My answer: get rid of the cancer in my breast. Obviously.
2. Would you rather have a lumpectomy or would you rather have a mastectomy? My answer: lumpectomy, all the way!
3. We found more cancer in your breast, which brings us back to revise question #1. Would you rather your body be consumed with cancer or would you have a mastectomy? My answer: mastectomy, because any sane person would choose this, right? Even though, the thought of it is driving me mad, right?
4. Would you rather live with one breast or would you rather have your breast reconstructed so you can go on living with two breasts? My answer: reconstructed, to look symmetrical, because let’s face it, when this whole thing is said and done, I will still have to find a job by going to interviews wearing something non-fleecy or non-bag-like. Women will check out what I’m wearing at the interview. Men may not notice so much what I wear in the interview, but I they will notice whether I have one boob or two boobs. Reconstructed breast, it is!
5. Would you live without a breast for 6-8 months while you do chemo/radiation or would you wear a prosthesis breast for 6-8 months while you do chemo/radiation. Answer: Neither. “YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE!” I declare, STALEMATE. I’m not budging on this one… “But that’s not allowed, YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE ONE!” NO!! And now you know, at which point of the game, where I have totally cracked… but let’s move on because there isn’t a lot of time for insanity, and I have to decide on more stuff FAST.
6. Would you rather a “natural breast” using your tummy fat, with a longer recovery time but you’ll never have to have another breast surgery again or would you rather have an implant which requires less recovery time but perhaps further maintenance down the road and possible capsular contracture (Posh Spice boobs) along with other scary things that come with implants? My answer: Well, you all know what my failed choice was…
My friend Dawn came with me to meet Dr. Beber, my plastic surgeon, last Monday. Yes, he was cute, but he wasn’t our type. We sat and listened to all the various procedures to reconstruct a breast. I would look over at Dawn, a couple of times, for reassurance Dr. Beber was saying all good things! Only the look on her face was just as incredulous as mine, when I had squeamishly read up on the procedures, the days leading up to our meeting. All the breast reconstruction, would have to wait until after chemo and radiation. Especially radiation, as this affects the elasticity of skin and it affects the implant maintaining its shape. And none of the procedures, are same day procedures with the mastectomy.
It was a bit of a low point for me and I kind of broke down, but not before I told the surgeon, “I don’t like any of these choices. I’m happy with my own breast. I’d rather not do any of this and keep my breast.” Or something to that effect, which is further indication I’m f-cked in the head over this, right? Because why would anyone keep a diseased breast?
Anyhow, I don’t really remember what more was said, but I proceeded to be measured by Dr. Beber. The way I was measured was the first time I was a little fascinated by this whole reconstruction business. He measured from; under the chin, on the collarbone there are two points that jut out, the measuring tape was placed on the left point following diagonally to the right nipple, and then the same from the right point diagonally to the left nipple. I thought, “OMG, this is just like how you shape eyebrows!” (google it, I’m not explaining how to tweeze your brows). He barely, poked my stomach and said, “Yep, you’re in shape. No tummy tuck for you.” Which didn’t show me he was being all, complimentary and nice (which I will give him credit for) but that he was briefed by Nurse Helen because I never told him I wanted the T-flap/same day/natural breast reconstruction. Which is good because I realize they are all working together to get me comfortable with having them work on me. Dr. Beber assured me he would talk to Dr. Cil to see when my reconstruction could start. Great, whatever; is all I thought at this point, my bad attitude is back.
We waited another hour to see my breast surgeon, Dr. Cil, and I can’t be thankful enough to my friends, who come with me to these appointments. Thank god, Dawn was there listening and taking notes, because I had mentally checked out after Dr. Beber said they usually wait until after radiation to start reconstruction work. I mean, really, why should I care when I’m not going to be given any option until 6-8 months from now.
I thought my meeting with Dr. Cil would be to set a date for surgery and for me to sign my breast away. But Dr. Cil said she discussed with Dr. B about some procedure where it’s done mostly in the States but not here because they need to determine the radiation factor and she kept on talking about these tissue expanders, Dr. B. had talked about in our meeting. And then she asked what I thought, which was bad. Well, because I wasn’t really listening anymore. I thought my stalemate card was useless. So, I told her I guess we would proceed with the mastectomy and do chemo and radiation and then start on the expanders, where skin from my back is taken to replace the radiated skin to create a new breast, if that was the only option. That’s when Dawn stepped in and pointed out that’s not what Dr. Cil is implying. Dr. Cil and Dr. Beber decided I could have tissue expanders inserted the same day as my mastectomy because the decision for radiation may not present itself after chemo. The expander will inflate my breast wall for the 6-8 months I do chemo. After chemo they remove the expander and insert an implant. This cuts out a third surgery and the skin from my breast is saved. However, if I do go through radiation, the third surgery will be done using the skin from my back. But the thought of eliminating a surgery and moving this process along 6-8 months earlier than scheduled brought tears to my eyes. I was actually HAPPY! It was easier for me to sign the release form for my operation!!
Cancer is a motherf-cker. I feel like I’m getting everything I DON’T WANT but I’m happy with it. Is this crazy? It’s crazy, isn’t it? It is the lesser of all the evils to me. That’s why I’m happy, right?
7. Would you rather have no breast for 6-8 months or would you rather have a lump to fit your implant in after 6-8 months? My answer: the lump to fit my implant, of course. Pfft. Weird.
It’s surreal to play “Would you rather” with real life stuff. It’s not as funny analyzing and making the decisions and there is not enough time to make decisions I am comfortable with. Meh, I guess I HAVE to get comfortable with these decisions. I need to move on.
Dr. Cil and Dr. Beber have decided on a date when they can both work on me, together on the same day. I’m happy both surgeons will be there to work collaboratively, because the “cosmetic results may be enhanced” when they are working as a team rather than sequentially.
The date of my surgery is tentative but it’s this month and I still need to meet with Dr. B for more measurements and to sign a release. I will let you know when everything is confirmed.