With only four more to go, I am starting to think about what is going to happen post-chemo. A lot will depend on what my scans reveal when everything is said and done, but I will definitely have decisions to make. Decisions that are neither simple nor black and white.
This is the point in this blog when I am going to talk about my boobs. It may end up being more than you want to know about your sister's/daughter's/cousin's/niece's/friend's boobs, so feel free to stop reading this now.
I have always been rather large-chested. Since puberty, I have had a rack. Size D cup, to be precise. At various times through my life, I have hated my boobs. They get in the way. They don't stand at attention like I think they should. They maybe have made me appear larger than I am at times (in my skinnier days). They are impossible to tuck neatly into a sports bra. When I lay on my back, they tend to take cover in my armpits. I could go on and on. There are numerous ways in which I have not appreciated the endowedness I have been granted.
Perhaps it's the fact that my boobs have turned to the Dark Side and are now trying to kill me. Maybe that makes the difference. In some sicko, twisted, neurotically masochistic way that I am sure Freud could explain much better than me, I feel somehow closer to my boobs since they turned all nefarious on me. I feel like I need to save them somehow. Turn them back to the light. Use The Force to redeem them and pull off the mask of evil to reveal the benign, bald little troll beneath it.
I was always a sucker for a redemption story.
But I can't make decisions with my heart. I can't decide the fate of my boobs compassionately. I have to think like a dispenser of justice. These breasts tried to kill me and now they must pay the ultimate price. It's tough love.
In other words, I am leaning toward a double mastectomy. Of course, I will take the recommendation of my surgeon into consideration when making a decision as big as this one. But come on...the cancer is rampant in my left breast and has infiltrated all three levels of lymph nodes on that side. At least that was the case prior to chemo. Barring a chemotherapy-induced miracle, I don't see a lumpectomy as a viable option. And because the cancer has been so aggressive in my left breast, I don't want to run the risk of it returning in my right and using that breast as a jumping off point to metastasize throughout my body. My right boob, unfortunately, is guilty by association. Yes, that's unfair, but no one ever said breast cancer was benevolent.
So once I make a decision about surgery, I also have to consider reconstruction. The initial reconstruction may be done while I am knocked out for the mastectomy surgery. In that case, the decision will have to be made prior to that surgery. If I require radiation (which I likely will, but it is not definite yet), the surgery would be postponed until after the radiation. So that would mean additional surgeries. I am more on the fence about reconstruction than anything else.
I mean, why do I need boobs? I am 43 years old. I am married. I am not out looking to date anyone or impress anyone with my hot bod. My children are pretty far removed from suckling and I'd probably box them in the ears if they tried. So really, what purpose do boobs serve for me?
Part of me thinks that I just really don't give a shit about reconstruction. I will have been with my wife for 20 years this December. Though she is fond of my boobs, I have the distinct feeling that she would not be going anywhere if they were to disappear. She would love me boobless just as much she does fully boobed, I am pretty sure. So as important as she is to me, my wife is not really a consideration in my decision.
It would be nice to be done once the mastectomy is complete. To have a quicker recovery time. No flap hacked from my hip or back to create boobs. No tissue expander (doesn't that sound horrible??). No saline implants. No additional surgeries. No more procedures. No more visits to Regions Hospital and it's horrendous parking garage. And no more boobs. Part of me would be completely and totally okay with that. Like I said before, I have not always been their biggest fan.
But then there is the consideration of how I will look in clothes. Do I "live flat" or do I wear breast forms that have to be inserted and removed? With adhesives or magnets? What about polyurethane nipples? They are adhesive, but what if one falls off while I am at work or out to dinner with friends. How do I explain a nipple suddenly bouncing around on the dinner table? (These are the things I think about.) And what about special (translation: expensive) bras? And if I decide to live flat - because I am also endowed with wide hips and large thighs - will I end up looking like the Weebles from my childhood? You know the ones...they weeble and they wobble, but they don't fall down. And what about bathing suits? Will I weeble and wobble down the beach?
Then there is another part of me that wonders if I will still feel like a woman if I am boobless. I'm a feminist, so this thought is abhorrent to me and I want to throttle myself for even thinking it. A woman is not defined by the size or shape of her boobs. I mean....obviously. But there is a shallow, petty part of me that can't help but wonder. And it won't shut up no matter how hard I try to gag the bitch. I wasn't exactly fond of my period starting when I was 12 years old, but getting real, honest-to-goodness boobs almost made up for it. Almost. I felt like a woman when the boobs arrived. Will I still feel like a woman when the leave again? Will I feel whole without them? I don't know the answer to that question, but it is one that plagues me.
So I am nearing the end of my chemotherapy run, which I am beyond thrilled to report. Chemotherapy sucks. There is no way around it. It just sucks.
But I am beginning to wonder if the hardest part is not still to come...