Having a bilateral mastectomy is meant to be life altering. We are supposed to mourn the loss of our breasts. It is supposed to be devastating.
At least for me.
I was diagnosed with cancer the first time in September of 2001. I had many surgeries and radiation and my left breast had seen better days. I was proud of my cancer scar but not of all the other ones from the surgeries that had to be performed because of radiation and other biopsies. But my cancer scar was something like a purple heart and I earned it.
Then I was diagnosed in February of 2007 and this time it was in the other breast. This time I needed a bilateral mastectomy. Everything would be gone. I had a long wait from diagnosis to surgery and it was frightening to me. I looked at my right breast as poison because it was harboring three cancerous tumors.
Now, a week after my mastectomies and the removal of my lymph nodes I have discovered a few things:
The first is that no one should ever attempt to do this on just Tylenol for pain relief! But I have no choice since I cannot tolerate pain meds.
The second is that I had bigger tumors than they thought and the cancer spread to my lymph nodes. Four of them.
But there are no lymph nodes any more. My wonderful breast surgeon removed them all. And there is no cancerous breast tissue anymore. He also removed every last bit of it but saved my skin. So I have no cancer anymore, maybe microscopically, but that is what chemo is for... but as for breasts- they are gone- so no breast cancer.
And then there is the unveiling. Was it hard to look at the new me? Yes, it is hard to look at the drains and the bruises and the swelling. But what do I really see when I look beyond that?
I see two new breasts that are clean. No cancer. Nothing evil inside them waiting to kill me.
I think they are beautiful, more beautiful than my original set. And I am not even halfway done with reconstruction yet!
But here is the best part to me, the part that makes me feel proud and makes me feel like I am still me...my wonderful surgeons saved all my skin. So when I look down at my new breasts, in the exact same place it always was, is my scar from September, 2001. The badge of honor of that first cancer I beat. I am happy to see they kept it. For it is a part of me and always will be.
This new cancer is just that- a NEW CANCER. It is not a recurrance. I beat my first cancer. And I fully intend to beat this one. And I have a head start with two beautiful new breasts that are a clean slate ready to fight again. And I still have my purple heart and I am hoping that scar will scare the beast and remind it that it tried to take me once and failed and this time will be no different.