Wednesday, October 2, 2013

In Honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Most people know that October is breast cancer awareness month. 
And I believe that most of you know that I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with stage one, invasive, estrogen + cancer on November 22, 2011. 
I am going to share with you something very personal. Most women struggle with making this decision when they are diagnosed with breast cancer and their doctors tell them that it would be in their best interest to have a mastectomy or in my case a double mastectomy. 
What they won't tell you is WHY YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE RECONSTRUCTIVE SURGERY AND those benefits are. 
What I would like to focus on now is why I chose to not have reconstructive surgery done.
This was the most difficult decision that I have ever had to make in my life!
At the time of my initial diagnosis, I thought stage one breast cancer. No big deal. After I had the biopsy and the MRI, my doctor told me that she would recommend that I have a double mastectomy along with removing my ovaries. She told me not to make my decision based on my emotions, but to think about what I would or would not regret doing ten, fifteen, or twenty years in the future.
I decided to take this advice to heart and apply it to other areas of my life. My last appointment before committing to surgery was with a plastic surgeon. My doctor explained ALL of the wonderful benefits of transflap surgery. My breasts would be reconstructed using my belly fat. It sounded exciting and scary at the same time.
I met with the plastic surgeon and he determined that I did not have enough belly fat to replace my breasts and suggested, or should I say insisted that silicon implants would be the best way to go. He didn't want to discuss with me the downside to silicon implants. I had not heard anything good about them. I suggested using saline and told me that silicon would give me a more natural look and feel. He showed me pictures and let me handle one too. I was not convinced.He kept telling me that I would look and feel like a woman again.
After I finished my normal evening routine, I decided to get on the internet and research the long-term satisfaction rate of women who had undergone reconstructive surgery using silicon implants. I spent 5 long, very emotional hours researching this subject.
The conclusion that I arrived at was: 93% of the women surveyed wished that they had not had the surgery 10 years later and 50% had had complications, some of them major during the first 5 years.
December 16th of this year will mark my 2 year anniversary of having my double mastectomy. January 11, 2014 will mark my 2nd anniversary as a survivor.
Here is a list of the benefits that I have experienced from NOT HAVING reconstructive surgery:
1. Not having reconstructive surgery is A LOT cheaper. Reconstructive surgery IS expensive. Depending on where you live it can cost up to sixteen thousand dollars WITHOUT medical insurance. Since most insurance companies cover the cost for breast cancer patients, they pay eighty per cent of the bill leaving the patient to pay twenty percent. Twenty percent of sixteen thousand dollars is A LOT of money! The cost of my prostheses and 3 bras was less than $700. After my insurance paid their portion of the bill, my cost was $97.30.
2. Reconstructive surgery IS NOT medically necessary. You can live a very healthy life without breasts.
3. There are fewer complications from NOT HAVING reconstructive surgery done. There ARE MORE complications with having reconstructive surgery done. Up to fifty percent of the women who have had reconstructive surgery done suffer major complications during the first five years. Most of these include infections or the implant rupturing. (I know I have already said this, but it bears repeating.)
4. It takes less time to recover from. Without reconstructive surgery, the recovery time is six to eight weeks. (I completely recovered in nine weeks.) With reconstructive surgery, it could take six months or longer.
5. I have A LOT more options when it comes to picking out a Halloween costume. Last year was THE BEST Halloween I had had in several years. I felt like a kid again.

6. Sleeping is A LOT more comfortable. You know how good it feels to take your bra off before you go to bed, but YOU CAN NOT IMAGINE HOW GREAT it feels to removed your breasts! (I was fitted with my prostheses on March 1, 2012.)
7. People now make eye contact with me. I can count on one hand the number of people that I know personally that KNOW what color my eyes are. Nobody stares at my chest any more and it feels wonderful!
8. Shopping for clothes is A LOT more fun! (With breasts, although I wore a size 10, my shoulders were a size 6. So if I found a blouse or dress that fit me in the shoulders, it was usually too small for my breasts. If it fit my breasts, it was usually too big in the shoulders.)
10. I am now a lean, mean, hula hooping machine! (I was pretty good before I had surgery, but I am unstoppable now! There is NOTHING to get in the way!)

I could go on, but I think you've got a good idea of the benefits. If you need more convincing, feel free to contact me. I LOVE to talk on the phone and this is a subject that I am very passionate about.

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